(NaturalNews) Appetite and diet are highly personal matters, and many people struggle with weight problems. Often, people feel harshly judged for their habits and choices. Diet, and the weight that comes and goes, is a lifelong struggle for most. In our upside-down world we are all highly susceptible to the massive influences of social conditioning and marketing. What we present here may shock you, anger you, or even elicit a reaction of denial. We are not advocating or criticizing any particular dietary lifestyle, only encouraging people to become aware of what their food choices can lead to.
Barry hits a fast-food drive-thru on the way in to work and scores an omelet sandwich, hash browns, and what he thinks is a healthy carton of orange juice. He gobbles down the breakfast as he drives, navigating to his favorite coffeehouse. Mmm... tasty. Barry isn't thinking about low carbs, low-fat, or nonfat when he orders his usual caffeinated beverage -- a grande mocha double espresso supreme with light crème. He buys an innocent looking raspberry scone for later and pays his $5.50. Later comes about sixty seconds after he's back in his car. Dee-licious!
Around 10:30 Barry visits the vending machine in the office for a little pick-me-up. He buys a soft drink and a bag of potato chips. For lunch Barry cruises to a burger joint where he inhales a bacon double cheeseburger, a set of fries and a Coke. "Oh, and what the heck, super-size that bad boy, would ya?"
Some afternoons Barry is good and resists the siren call of the vending machine. But usually around 3:30 his cravings rumble pretty hard and he finds himself looking longingly through the glass at the candy bars.
It's Barry's turn to pick up dinner, Italian, and he's got his heart set on spaghetti with meatballs, a dinner salad and garlic bread. Fantastico! To prove to himself that he's serious about reining in his expanding waistline, Barry doesn't order dessert. That would be just too decadent.
The Diet and the Damage Done
Let's take a closer look at Barry's average eating day. It's about as pretty as video footage of a quadruple angioplasty.
In one day, Barry has consumed almost 3 times the calories, 5 times the fat, and 4.5 times the sodium recommended by the food industry-friendly USDA -- and 7 times the amount of sugar recommended by the World Health Organization (amazingly, the USDA hasn't bothered to make a recommendation for daily sugar intake). It's too scary to mention the cholesterol and carbs he's ingested.
But Barry doesn't think about the food he consumes. He eats while he drives, while he works, while he talks on the phone, while he watches TV. He senses no connection between the food he puts in his body and the way he feels. Feeling tired, suffering from acid reflux and daily headaches, which he blames on his stressful job, Barry went for a checkup recently. The physical didn't go too well. The doctor told him his lifestyle puts him at risk for heart disease and type-2 diabetes. In other words, his diet is killing him. The doctor advised him to lay off the caffeine, soda pop, processed foods and red meat.
Barry listened politely and asked for medication to cure his ailments. The physician raised an eyebrow and wrote Barry three prescriptions as he warned him to take better care of himself. Since then Barry has ignored the advice. It's his life, his body, and he'll live anyway he darn well pleases. Barry is proud of his defiance. Nobody is going to tell him what to do.
Thanks for the Memories
Like most Americans, Barry views food in a two-dimensional way -- first and foremost for its taste, and occasionally -- after he's had to open his belt another notch -- for what it does to his weight. If food tastes good, we eat it. If it doesn't, we avoid it. But our relationship with food has always been more complex. Certain aromas and tastes bring forth vivid memories and powerful emotions that anchor us to the past and connect us to friends and family. Just thinking of these foods can spark succulent imagery and a desire to eat: Sunday morning buttery pancakes with syrup and sausage. Roasted turkey and dressing with mashed potatoes and gravy. Hot cocoa with marshmallows on a cold winter's eve. Or a simmering pot of homemade vegetable soup and a loaf of fresh-baked bread.
The conversion from nutritious meals at home to food on the run started simply enough. Forty years ago, going out to eat -- even to a fast food joint -- was a relatively rare experience to be savored and appreciated. A visit to McDonalds was a treat, maybe even a reward for kids who did their chores. But what was once a reward has become commonplace; we are a Kid's Meal, Value Meal, Happy Meal culture. The meals make us happy, yes: but healthy -- not so much. Americans are hooked on fast food and casual dining to the tune of $270 billion a year. Let's represent that a different way... $270,000,000,000 per year. To wash all that food down, we consume in excess of thirteen billion gallons of carbonated soft drinks annually. Burp! Pardon us.
It's convenient, to be sure. No slaving over a hot stove, no table to clear or dishes to wash, and fewer groceries to buy. But that perceived simplicity comes at a price. In our quest to make our lives easier, we have actually speeded up, becoming more harried. How many people
can say that their lives are more content and fulfilled than their parents? We have fooled ourselves into believing that we are in charge of our lives, when in reality, we have simply opened up more time to work and less time to be with our families. Natural goodness and common sense have been sacrificed in the false name of convenience.
Just two generations ago, nearly all meals were eaten together at home around the family table. The food was carefully prepared and leisurely conversation took place. Moments and ideas were shared. No more. These days, one meal a week with the whole family is a rarity -- and that's probably at a restaurant.
As our pleasant childhood experiences of home-cooked meals are replaced with nutrient-poor fast food and snacks, our natural relationship with wholesome food is displaced by mass-produced substitutes. In our culture food has become a commodity to be eaten chiefly for pleasure, or to kill time, or to compensate for troubled emotions. Our soulful connection to food for its nurturing and healing qualities has been severed.
Table for Two, Dinner for Four
Restaurants are waging an ongoing battle for our hard earned dollars. Remember the burger wars between McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's? The cola wars between Coke and Pepsi? What were they fighting over? Us. More accurately, our disposable income. The fast food chains and manufacturers are fighting for the right to sell us high-fat, high-calorie, low-nutrition, mass-marketed, mass-produced food. As citizen-consumers we are being pounded mercilessly with advertising come-ons to live the good life of gluttony.
Like all rhetorical wars, they can't be won. They are merely part of a sales and marketing strategy to gain consumer loyalty. Their number one weapon? Large portions. No, sorry, that doesn't do it justice -- gigantic portions. Triple cheeseburgers, enormous omelets, double chili cheese fries -- and now, you can literally buy a tub of soda pop. Gulp! We are being up-sized and super-sized at the expense of our own size.
Not to be outdone, casual dining restaurants are now serving platters with oversized portions, the food hanging off the plate. We don't know about you, but we're usually full after the bread and salad, well before the entrée arrives. Further evidence of the fattening of America comes in the sheer number of all-you-can-eat restaurants and endless buffets.
Here's the deal: The more you eat, the heavier you get. The heavier you get, the more you want to eat. The mind is entrained to expect certain stimuli once they are introduced into the body. And food is one of the most potent, hard to resist cravings in the world. Eat half a package of Oreos at nine o'clock one night and the very next night you'll want another treat. Maybe not the second half of the Oreos, but something sweet.
Fast Food Junkies Unite!
Twenty years ago cigarettes, alcohol and drugs were considered "addictive." No one thought fast food was habit forming. However, a study by Brookhaven National Laboratory involving brain scans demonstrated that when people saw and smelled their favorite foods, their brains lit up in a manner similar to the reactions exhibited by people addicted to cocaine. When individuals were presented with such favorites as cheeseburgers, pizza, ice cream, and chocolate, brain metabolism increased significantly in those areas of the brain associated with addiction.
Americans are receiving nearly one-third of their calories from junk foods laden with refined sugar, chemicals and salt. It's no wonder chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and myriad cancers are so prevalent.
It's a simple process. Advertising brings us to the trough. Oversized portions laden with fat and chemicals designed to bond with our taste buds and sense receptors ensure a pleasant experience. The brain, seeking comfort, pleasure and satisfaction, entrains itself to want more of the same. Ever present advertising reinforces our desires and promises culinary nirvana again and again.
The keen marketing minds in the fast food industry have learned how to find generations of loyal lifelong consumers by targeting our kids. An example of one of the dozens of food industry marketing programs masquerading as an education initiative is Krispy Kreme's "Good Grades" program, which offers elementary school kids one doughnut for each "A." Shockingly, fast food chains have moved in to our school cafeterias. According to a 2000 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of schools sell branded fast foods from companies such as Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Subway. Fortunately, parents and state governments have started to push back. More on that later.
Unfortunately, the results of a sedentary lifestyle coupled with over-consumption as determined in a study by Children's Hospital Boston reveal...
- Two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight, a full-one third are obese.
- 30% of American children are overweight.
- Childhood obesity has doubled in the last 25 years.
- Childhood diabetes has increased 10-fold since 1985.
But Weight! There's More!
Okay, so we've spent pages decrying the state of the American diet and you get it: The more one eats, the more one weighs. That's a personal decision, right? Indeed it is, and if one chooses to live with the consequences whatever they may be, that is certainly their personal prerogative. Again, we are not advocating or criticizing any particular lifestyle -- only that people become aware of what their food choices really mean.
The real problem is, we don't know what we are eating. We have no idea of all the ingredients, little knowledge of the nutritional value, no understanding of when it was prepared and no relationship to the chef/cook/food preparer/chemist/line worker involved in the mass production of most food products. What is most disturbing is that we absolutely have no clue what additives, preservatives, and chemicals have been put in the food to enhance its flavor or force its "freshness."
With food relegated to a commodity we do not take it as seriously as we should. We cannot be bothered to understand the chemistry that takes place in our bodies when we eat. Even though we know on a personal basis the general affect that certain foods have on us -- symptoms of lactose intolerance, migraines from chocolate, allergic reaction to peanuts, heartburn from spicy dishes -- many people do not seem able to relate to the bigger issue: What we put into our bodies on a daily basis has a huge impact on our quality of life.
To these authors, the chemical additives, preservatives, flavor enhancers and dyes are a much more dangerous and insidious assault on our health than overeating. Why? Because very few food additives have been adequately tested individually, let alone collectively to study all their possible synergistic interactions.
Artificial sweeteners designed to assist those of us with weight gain issues actually create bigger problems. Acesulfame-K, which is 200 times sweeter than sugar, is used in sugar-free baked goods, chewing gums, gelatins and soft drinks. The original studies on Acesulfame-K were flawed and more recent research indicates it causes cancer in rats. Aspartame, which goes under the names Equal and NutraSweet in the marketplace, has been the subject of much controversy and conspiratorial cover-up. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest ( www.CSPInet.org), aspartame was found to cause brain tumors in rats. However, the FDA persuaded a review panel to reverse its conclusion and declare aspartame as safe. Your tax dollars at work!
A large list of food dyes (Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, etc.) have been shown in studies to have adverse affects on lab animals and are believed by numerous medical professionals to cause Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and other forms of hyperactivity. The web site www.Diet-Studies.com is a treasure trove of scientific studies and medical papers that offer indisputable evidence of the malevolent role food additives play with our health and behavior.
"Artificial and natural flavors" is a catch-all phrase for a concoction of hundreds of chemicals used to make you think you're tasting a delicious apple or a juicy grape. Rather than take you through a boring recitation of all the junk chemicals and their nasty side affects that are in our food supply, we'll amuse you with a short running list much in the same way the food industry crams it all together in fine print on their packaging…Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO), Butylated Hydoroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), Cochineal Extract, Sodium Casseinate, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Heptyl Paraben, Hyrdrogenated Starch, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil and Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Lactitol, Maltitol, Mannitol, the infamous Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Polysorbate 60, Potassium Bromate, the bad boys of the preservative class -- Sodium Nitrate and Nitrite, Sulfites... ah, well, we're sure you have the idea by now. An excellent and more extensive read on the topic is The Hundred Year Lie by Randall Fitzgerald.
The human body is a finely tuned intricate organism. At a cellular level trillions of interactions occur each day. Yet, we think nothing of introducing foreign substances into it. The body's natural defenses do not know what these synthetic substances are and react to the best of its ability. In some people the reaction is benign, in others it triggers a range of maladies, illnesses, and symptoms that have traditional medicine confounded. Millions of people are now suffering the ill affects of an upside-down lifestyle. Could Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and acid reflux be the result of our chemical-laden, synthetic food supply?
From Bad to Worse
Hang with us. We only have a little more space dedicated to the bad news of the upside-down world -- the flip is on the way. Promise!
Further degradation of the food supply is found in high levels of mercury in tuna fish and other seafood. The FDA recommends that a woman weighing 130 pounds can safely eat 1/2 can of albacore tuna per week. The Environmental Working Group (www.EWG.org) states that no amount of albacore tuna is safe for a woman of this weight based on the high levels of mercury in tuna fish. Sadly, there are few freshwater or saltwater fish that are safe for human consumption on a regular basis.
Say, here's a fun tip, did you know that the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows toxic waste to be "recycled" and placed into fertilizer? Yep. Millions of pounds of toxic waste -- dioxin, lead, mercury and other hazardous wastes are spread on U.S. farmlands as fertilizer every year. Millions more pounds of insecticides, herbicides and pesticides are sprayed on our crops to accompany the fertilizers. Guess what? It ends up in your fruits and vegetables.
We don't want to leave the carnivores among us feeling slighted, so consider that fifty percent of all pharmaceuticals used in the U.S. are to treat diseases in animals caused by confined conditions on factory farms. Steroids are being used to produce larger and fatter livestock faster. Bovine Growth Hormone is being injected into dairy cows in order to induce increased milk production. Along with that production comes increased mastitis and the need for more antibiotics to treat the diseased cows. Of course, if it's in the cow, it's in the milk, so milk drinkers beware.
By now, we've all heard about mad cow disease, salmonella, campylobacter, listeria, and e-coli. According the Center for Disease Control and Prevention ( www.CDC.gov) food-borne diseases cause 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
Does this seem like our food supply is healthy and safe? Okay, trick question. Really, we'll be describing the flip shortly, have faith. For now, the point is, that while government agencies such as the USDA, the FDA, and the EPA are made up of good people trying to do good work and keep us safe, the heads of these organizations are political appointees. The party in power is always beholden to the corporate interests who put them there. They install former lobbyists, industry advocates, and former corporate executives to oversee the very agencies that regulate their businesses.
Conflict of interest? You bet. Who benefits? Food manufacturers, fast food chains, chemical manufacturers, multinational corporations and politicians.
Who loses? The American people: children, the elderly, your parents, your friends, your neighbors. We all lose in this game of commerce that seeks to push product and profit at the expense of people.
Multinational corporations like Monsanto and Cargill are patenting seeds and creating genetically modified organisms (GMO) (including new strains of corn, soy, rice, and wheat) to create "Frankenfoods" that could pose staggering health, disease and lifestyle consequences on a societal and personal level. By 2003, there were 167 million acres of farmland in 18 countries growing GMO crops.
Opponents of GMOs rightly state that once these new organisms are placed in fields, we lose control of the pollination process with unpredictable consequences for other species in the plant, animal and insect kingdoms. Proponents of GMOs state that they are trying to bring food to the world to stamp out hunger. This is a noble cause. However, if the food manufacturers were truly intent on ending starvation, they would arrange for better distribution channels so the ample supplies of food we already have would make it to those who desperately need it. The problem isn't that there isn't enough food, the problem is that it isn't equitably distributed.
The real motivator behind the multinational food conglomerates creation of GMOs are patents and the monopolistic fortunes they bring. In the summer of 2005, Monsanto filed several patents on the pig -- specifically its gene sequence. It's sheer madness.
A significant symptom of an upside-down world is when millions of people are overfed and simultaneously malnourished. Instead of nutritious food provided by the bounty of the earth we consume high calorie food invented in laboratories. But our relationship to food is in the process of a huge flip.
Read more at TruthPublishing.com, where you can purchase this book and learn how to turn your world around with essays on love, relationships, health, business and the environment by philosophers, doctors and actors. Anyone can make the Flip! Check out the contest at TheFlip.net, and submit your own true story of personal transformation. It’s your chance to inspire someone else to make The Flip by sharing how you changed your world -- and you could win a Personal Transformation Library with over 65 books, CDs and DVDs!