By Dr. Mary Riggin – FitFM – Family Wellness

This is so simple, yet so profound.  I discovered this nutritional secret to permanent weight loss 5 years ago, and haven’t looked back since.  Also, my neck and back aches and pains are just about non-existent.  It’s not that complicated, and comes down to simply understanding the definition of the word food.


Misunderstanding the definition of the word food can lead to various health problems including weight gain and all the chronic illnesses that go along with being overweight.  This seems simplistic, but our society does not know what the word food really means.  The common definition is simply something we eat and enjoy; it doesn’t include understanding the ingredients.  As long as government agencies have approved the ingredients, we assume they are OK for us.  Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly true.  In fact, when you actually look at the definition of the word food you may be surprised by what you find.

By definition, “food” is: any substance that can be metabolized (broken down by the body) to give energy and build tissue.  (source: WordNet; Princeton University.)

In order to understand this definition, it’s important to know a little about how your body works and what it means to build tissue.  According to the American Heritage Science Dictionary, “tissue” means: A large mass of similar cells that make up a part of an organism and perform a specific function. The internal organs and connective structures (including muscle, bone and cartilage) are made up of different types of tissue. So, in order for the things we eat to qualify as food, they must build tissue.

Every single day, various cells in your body die off and every day, new cells are rebuilding tissue. The fuel our body uses to rebuild new cells is directly related to the things we put into our mouth.  If you put processed, dead, and genetically modified things that have been tainted with chemicals, growth hormones and antibiotics into your mouth; that is what your body is going to use to build new tissue.  If you stop and think about it for a moment; do you really want to give your body substandard fuel to build new tissue?  On the other hand, if you put unprocessed, live, chemical-free, clean, organic things into your mouth, that is what your body will use to build new cells.  Food, by definition, is supposed to build tissue what we eat is what our bodies use to make themselves — including our brains, other organs, bones, muscles, skin, etc.  The question now becomes, “What do you want your body to use to make itself?  Good material or junk?”  The choice now becomes easier; however, it can be very challenging.


If you actually start to apply the definition of food to what you eat, you will be surprised to learn how much of it isn’t really food!  You must start asking the question, will this “food-like substance” help my body build healthy tissue, or will it create mutated, diseased tissue?

Short-term studies have been conducted to see if anyone gets sick from consuming certain chemical agents, like artificial sweeteners or artificial flavors and colors.  Sure, nobody’s keeling over dead when they consume these items, but do they meet the definition of food?  The answer is a resounding NO!  These things don’t build tissue; in fact, they actually stress various organs, like your brain, liver, and pancreas.  All of the processed sugars, grains, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), etc, don’t meet the definition of food either, because these items also stress the pancreas, liver, and brain.  Look at how type II diabetes is rising at an epidemic rate.

So, if it isn’t food, then what is this stuff?  Food is supposed to help rebuild our body.  If what you are eating (or drinking) isn’t building tissue, and the various chemicals found in processed items people eat (and drink), are actually suppressing function, I think it’s just easier to call them POISON!  So, the question now becomes, if it isn’t food, and it’s really some kind of low dose poison, do I really want to eat it?  Sometimes the answer is still yes!  Believe it or not, we will still choose to eat poison sometimes.  But, understanding that it is poison is a good start, because now there is an awareness that wasn’t there before, and this can be life changing.

When I started to apply the definition of the word food to everything I ate, I was shocked to find there was very little food in the grocery store!  If it sits in a box or bag on a shelf, it probably isn’t food.  Anything with nutrition labels has to be scrutinized closely; especially if it has more than four ingredients.  Ingredients with numbers in them or words that are difficult to pronounce are no longer on the food list they must be moved to the poison list.

The NY Times best selling author Michael Pollan gave a great piece of advice in his book, In Defense of Food – if your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, it probably isn’t, so don’t eat it!   I try to follow this rule of thumb.

If you’d like more information about this topic, listen to Food is the First Medicine in Tampa Bay on WTAN 1340AM Sundays at 11PM 

Dr. Mary Riggin

Dr. Mary Riggin,LAc,  FitFM - Family Wellness

Executive Director, Acupuncture Physician

Dr. Riggin is  FitFM - Family Wellness , is the Founder and Director of Healing Touch Oriental Medicine. As an inspiring health educator, in-demand speaker and doctor of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, Dr. Mary has helped thousands of people completely turn their health around.

Dr. Mary co-hosts and produces the wildly popular radio show "Food is the First Medicine" and her presentations and viewpoints on natural healthcare have made her an in-demand and innovative expert in the natural health world.

Dr. Mary Riggin, produces and hosts Food is the First Medicine Talk Radio Show, and is a popular speaker.She has practices natural medicine in the Tampa Bay area; her passion and purpose is to help as many people as possible. Listen to her weekly on TanTalk 1340AM in Tampa Bay, or online anytime, anywhere at

She is former Vice Chair of the Florida State Board of Acupuncture. She has been featured on various TV and radio shows and frequently teaches free classes at community and recreation centers throughout Pinellas County.

She is a published author and was featured in the book A Woman's Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and Alternative Healing, writes and publishes educational newsletters and brochures, and was elected to serve two consecutive terms as President of the Florida State Oriental Medical Association.
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