Get Fit | Eat Well | Have Fun
What are your goals for feeding yourself and your family? Like pretty much everyone around the world, you probably want a few simple things:
So, anyone else who wants those things is automatically on your team. (I would like to say right now, for the record, I am definitely on your team.) When I ask people about what keeps them from eating a healthy diet, a few misconceptions come up over and over again.
All of these misconceptions are repeated ad infinitum in advertisements for food. These ads show burgers dripping with cheese and glistening with bacon grease; they show slender women orgasmically eating yogurts (that contain more sugar than a bowl of lucky charms). They show perplexed women fumbling with their wallets at the grocery checkout, bowled over by the price of their groceries. These ads show tired moms, busy working people, kids who are starving for a snack the second they run in the door, and athletes who need a little pick-me-up to finish the game. They show Olympic athletes eating Taco Bell and McDonalds; they show people bouncing down the sidewalk, buoyed by their Dunkin’ Donuts coffee drink. Over and over again, you are being systematically and deliberately programmed to believe the statements everyone makes to me when they tell me why they don’t eat a healthy diet. To make these ads even more insidious, a tremendous number of them are aimed at children. Here’s the crux of the biscuit: food companies are not on your team. Their goals are:
You may have noticed, there is no overlap in your goals and their goals. In a recent article in the New York Times, they spoke with the inventor of Lunchables about being a food marketer, and gave this excerpt from a presentation about the field that he now gives to med students:
“Discover what consumers want to buy and give it to them with both barrels. Sell more, keep your job! How do marketers often translate these ‘rules’ into action on food? Our limbic brains love sugar, fat, salt. . . . So formulate products to deliver these. Perhaps add low-cost ingredients to boost profit margins. Then ‘supersize’ to sell more. . . . And advertise/promote to lock in ‘heavy users.’ Plenty of guilt to go around here!”
I repeat, these people are not on your team. When faced by scientists insisting the industry had to take responsibility for its role in childhood obesity, the CEOs essentially said “No way! We aren’t changing what works!”
In my class on being a savvy food consumer, we recently conducted an experiment. We made potatoes au gratin
from a package, and from scratch, and compared them in the categories of time, taste and cost. The potatoes from scratch won on all accounts. The women were shocked, especially regarding the time component. While we were waiting for the potatoes to cook, we talked about a couple of the ingredients in the packaged version of potatoes.
Why are these ingredients in your food? They help meet the above criteria of maximizing profits, minimizing cost, and getting you to keep buying the food. They provide cheap filler and addictive qualities. These are only the beginning of what is added to your food that has nothing to do with your best interest- contaminated water, ammonia and antibiotics in your meat, fertilizer byproducts in lots of processed foods, and colors that may or may not cause cancer are among the almost endless list. It’s up to you as a consumer to know what’s in your food, how it will effect you, and what it’s real costs are.
So who is on your team?
There is a lot of misinformation out there, and at Level Up we strive to only present science-based claims about food and exercise. There are a ton of other resources out there about how to make whole foods quickly and inexpensively- I love the recent salad-in-a-jar fad– it’s a great way to save time, money and your health while you’re at work! Once you put in some work de-programming the messages you’ve absorbed from advertisers about how the average person doesn’t have time or money to eat healthy food, you’ll start to find you are saving money, and once you get a system in place, saving time!
If you are eating a diet with tons of salt, sugar and fat and processed foods it will take some time your palate to adjust, but if you cut them out for a few weeks and then go back and try something loaded with sugar or salt it won’t taste right anymore!
Americans need to readjust their diets back to foods that are grown instead of engineered, and accept the real risks of junk food, or continue to face the highest rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, gout, high blood pressure, and other diet related ailments that the world has ever known. So remember who is on your team, and put your dollars toward real food, not fillers and foods engineered to ensnare you.
If you’re in the Burlington, Vermont area and want help being a savvy food consumer, send me a message to set up a grocery shopping tutorial and cooking lesson!