In a brilliant & wonderfully shot documentary chronicling the 1974 Giro d’Italia, the voice over tells the view, as we watch a thin man skillfully consume his breakfast, that, “The cyclist must pay careful attention to his organism.” As Ole Ritter slices and eats his steak, the deftly peels an orange with a knife, we watch as he stocks his body with the nutrients and calories he’ll burn during that day’s stage, which is an individual time trial. In the “race against the clock,” each many is exposed for exactly what he is, unable to rely on the pace of the peloton to carry him along or even the assistance of teammates. The cyclist is stripped bare by this test of his abilities. Anything might go wrong to derail his efforts, from a slipped chain to an overzealous cornering of a hairpin turn. Even his body could fail him, whether due to a lingering injury or even a miscalculation in fueling. The race can be lost at the breakfast table, Ole knows. And now, the viewer knows as well, realizing that the intensity of the cyclist as he eats his breakfast reveals his knowledge that what he eats is crucial to his performance that day. His food is not simply the various items on his plate, but it is a central cog in his performance, and a part of his livelihood as a cyclist. Eat improperly, and you are doomed, Ole Ritter knows.

The question then comes yelling down the mountain to all of us, “Why don’t you take better care of your organism?” Americans today will spend thousands of dollars on doctor visits, pills, potions, ointments and tinctures, all in the hopes of taking care of their body, but yet, the food the consume is failing their organism’s needs. When grocery stores are mazes of corn-based products, it’s important to stop and ask how much we truly value our bodies, our organisms, if we feed them junk. That’s right, most of us feed our organism junk. Yet, we expect our bodies to work for us each day, sustaining us through the workday, through exercise, through time with our family and friends, and stay healthy and hale no matter what. The contradiction could not be more stark: people expect their organism to serve them well, yet they serve their organism improperly.

While many people do not rely as directly on their body for their profession as a cyclist, all of us, no matter what, rely on our organism. We need it to perform hundreds of minor duties in order for us to perform our daily duties. Eating is essential, but yet people eat what they think they want, not what they know their body wants. Sure, many people are uninformed or poorly informed about what their body needs. Sometimes the seemingly truthful information we receive is even deceiving, since food and drug companies are selling a product, not selling a healthy body. But, there are also many well-informed people who fuel their body poorly, improperly, or even detrimentally.

Why? All of us should pay close attention to what our organism is saying and telling us. We must listen to how it feels on a daily basis, consider what it needs to perform for the tasks we engage in, and treat it as if it is the highly-complex, intricate system we know it to be. We must ask our body what it needs and provide that. But somewhere along the way to modernity and our high-tech food system, we have lost sight of the basic needs for a balanced, fresh, wholesome diet. We ignore our organism and try to placate it with purchased cure-alls. It seems dubious, even crazy, but people refuse to see the direct connection between their food choices and the results. The organism of most Americans is torpid, fleshy, rotund, and oxygen-deprvied. People refuse to listen to their body and instead listen to commercials. They listen to billboards. They listen to their stomach as it rests against their steering wheel and they think that fast-food from a greasy, concrete box set in the middle of a parking lot will satiate their needs. But it won’t. And the results are staggering, not only from the perspective of seeing so many morbidly obese people on a daily basis, but from the perspective of what it is costing us economically, socially, and even culturally.

The alarms have been blaring for years, but we have continued to ignore them. Each of us must take special care of our organism, listening to what it is telling us and heeding those requests. The faster we can do this, the faster we can truly reverse the course we are currently following. At the moment, we are strangling our organism beneath a pile of fast food, and it can’t survive much longer.