About 8 years ago, when I was 23, I was cooking a (super basic) meal — stir fry topped with Trader Joe’s teriyaki sauce and took a picture of it. I hopped online, and created a blog that I shared with no one.
It was around this same time that I started running regularly and feeling the effects of nutrition and exercise on my body. Like with any passion, it grows, shifts, and transforms over time. For me, the idea that health and wellness was about food and exercise was just a launch pad for an expansion of interests.
Over time, it’s transformed into a broad array of high-level topics like socioeconomics of hunger and food, mental health, the joy of food, the mind-body connection, the energetics of food, the power of relationships, environmental well-being, functional medicine… plus so many more.
Part of engaging these interests is a constant desire to learn. Aside from studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, one of my favorite ways to keep learning is to watch documentaries.
It’s important to remember that when you’re watching a documentary, or engaging with any media for that matter, there’s a person (or organization) with purpose, passion, and intention to persuade behind it — which means you’re probably just getting one side of the story. That being said, I encourage you to find the other side and develop your own belief system based on your knowledge. Here are a few of my favorites:
A Place at the Table
Narrated by Jeff Bridges addressing hunger in the United States, this is nothing short of powerful. I remember how I felt and how moved I was the first time I saw this. We live in a country where we’re overfed and undernourished — in 2012, when the film was made, about 25 percent of children faced food insecurity. As someone who has always been fortunate enough to have food on my table, this was eye-opening and profound. You’ll learn about what food insecurity is and the socioeconomic impacts of hunger.
Nelson Mandela said “each of us, as citizens, has a role to play in creating a better world for our children,” and Sustainable helps us understand what that means in terms of taking care our planet. This film will help you deepen your understanding of your relationship with the planet, the impact of the food system, and the implications of agricultural issues — like soil loss, water depletion, and pesticide use on our choices and health.
If you like Katie Couric and Larry David, then you’re in for a real treat. Interviewing a long list of passionate experts — like former President Bill Clinton, Dr. Mark Hyman, and Michael Pollan — Fed Up sheds light on how “what we’ve been taught about diet and exercise for the last 30 years is all wrong” and shares actionable ways to live in better health and make a change.
What the Health
If you weren’t hiding under a rock last year, you probably remember What the Health?, the documentary that made everyone become a vegetarian for a week. While many feel that this film is too biased and doesn’t explain any health benefits of a carnivorous diet, it’s eye-opening to discover how we can prevent chronic disease through diet and lifestyle choices, and through the power of the plant. For me, the most powerful message was deepening my understanding of the power of big business and the mighty dollar on our health. Could it be hurting us rather than helping us?
“Eat real food, mostly plants.”
Michael Pollen’s most recent documentary, Cooked, is about the restoration of values and connection that is found when we make our way back to the tradition of cooking. The others are In Defense of Food and The Botany of Desire. While they have different angles, they both look at our relationship with food — namely plants — and how we can utilize traditional wisdom to fix our health and prevent chronic disease.
Happiness — something we all strive for. But what makes us happy? Is there a universal happiness quotient or is it individual? Find out in this journey around the world, where the filmmaker learns what makes people happy and sheds light on mental health issues.
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
After opening his eyes to an overweight image of himself struggling with autoimmune diseases, Joe Cross realizes that conventional medicine won’t work. Through trusting the body’s ability to heal itself, Joe leaves junk food and pills behind and travels across the United States drinking just juice. What we see are interviews with hundreds of Americans about diet and lifestyle. The journey this portrays to reclaim health and vitality will change the way you think about healing.
Before the Flood
Leonardo DiCaprio — need I say more? If the topsy turvy weather isn’t enough of an indicator that we’re experiencing drastic climate change, I don’t know what is. This award-winning film explores the true threats of climate change, how we can take action, and have hope for the future. Leo says, “This documentary shows how interconnected the fate of all humanity is — but also the power we all possess as individuals to build a better future for our planet.”
Wasted! The Story of Food Waste
No, not that kind of wasted! With one of the best storytellers of our time, Anthony Bourdain, at the helm interviews people like Dan Barber, Mark Bittman, and Danny Bowien. Wasted! exposes our relationship with waste and how we can change the way we shop, eat, and recycle for a better, healthier planet. With a goal of creating a more secure food system, the celebrity chefs show how to make beautiful meals from ‘ugly’ food, and what we might consider scraps.