This is all going to be preaching to the choir, of course…except for those so-called “Paleos” who imagine government can modify people’s behavior through force and coercion, instead of through individuals and private institutions educating, motivating, encouraging, and setting an example. Seems as though the standard for too many is only to Do Some-thing, with little regard to lasting effectiveness and real change for the better.
So there’s two sides to this coin: let’s call it Heads or Tails—and you know what the tail represents.
I had the local KQED public radio station on and caught a segment of a Fresh Air interview with Michael Moss, author of a new book: Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. From the book description:
Increasingly, the salt-, sugar-, and fat-laden foods these companies produced were being linked to obesity, and a concerned Kraft executive took the stage to issue a warning: There would be a day of reckoning unless changes were made. This executive then launched into a damning PowerPoint presentation—114 slides in all—making the case that processed food companies could not afford to sit by, idle, as children grew sick and class-action lawyers lurked. To deny the problem, he said, is to court disaster.
When he was done, the most powerful person in the room—the CEO of General Mills—stood up to speak, clearly annoyed. And by the time he sat down, the meeting was over.
Self regulation is a good thing; competition coupled with education about why your product is better than the cheaper one is a good thing. That executives are aware is a good thing. On the other hand, here’s a quote from that General Mills CEO in the NPR / Fresh Air interview:
“[He] got up and made some very forceful points from his perspective,” Moss tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies, “and his points included this: We at General Mills have been responsible not only to consumers but to shareholders. We offer products that are low-fat, low-sugar, have whole grains in them, to people who are concerned about eating those products.
“Bottom line being, though, that we need to ensure that our products taste good, because our accountability is also to our shareholders. And there’s no way we could start down-formulating the usage of salt, sugar, fat if the end result is going to be something that people do not want to eat.”
So this highlights the double-edged-sword nature of massive, publicly traded companies where executives, officers and directors of such corporations can be punished royally by analysts, fund managers, bond and shareholders for not always putting profits first.
And let’s consider another factor. Sony, Apple, Toshiba, Samsung, Westinghouse, General Electric—and auto makers in general—are not the same as Kraft, General Mills, Philip Morris, Unilever, etc. In the first case, the race to competitive profits and market share for shareholders tends to benefit everyone and society and even to some extent, ameliorates or lessens harm to the environment over time. Better, faster, lighter, less expensive, more efficient means a lot of good things for a lot of people: employees, shareholders, consumers, society in general. But what does the race to profits mean in a competitive, mega food-producing environment? Well, I dealt with meat yesterday. Seafood is part of the picture as well.
And guess what? This isn’t your grandmother’s junk food, anymore: 9 Surprising Facts About Junk Food (Mother Jones). Here’s the 9 points, but each one is expounded upon in the article.
- The Cheeto is a modern miracle.
- Subverting “sensory-specific satiety” is the key to junk-food success.
- At least since 1999, the industry has known its products are contributing to a massive public-health crisis.
- Like the agrichemical industry, the food industry has become adept at selling questionable solutions to the problems it has generated.
- First you find a product that sells, then you find the right cheap ingredients to make it profitable. (Remarkable story about “Lunchables” here)
- Your brain reacts to sugar and cocaine in very similar ways.
- “Food manufacturers now spend nearly twice as much money on advertising their [breakfast] cereals as they do on the ingredients that go into them.” (guessing: 95 cents of every dollar spent on cerials goes to advertising, overhead, packaging, transportation and inventory)
- Tang wasn’t developed for astronauts.
- Many of the cereals of my childhood were composed of 50 percent sugar or more.
Do note that I take some of these with a grain of salt (har har) in whole or in part. For example, cocaine and sugar. Unless you can find me a specific brain region that’s called “the cocaine center,” or something like that, I’m going to remain a bit skeptical. More likely, we’re evolutionarily adapted to seek out sweet/sugar for survival and to pack on weight because carrying some extra fat is more survivable and more likely to pass on genes than a skinny runt in December during an ice age.
In short: It’s our adapted survival edge that’s being exploited, not our lack of character, whereby some can’t seem to resist white powder—unless all the powdered snow in the ice age caused some snorting adaptation we’ve yet to discover. The point is, I don’t think these analogies to drugs and whatever of some hormonal effects or some neuron signaling that are caused in some ways similar to various foods or “foods” enhances our understanding.
- We have to eat food, good or bad. We don’t have to do any drugs or other socially acceptable stimulants or depressants whatsoever. Go ahead and dump your coffee and wine…and all the hand waving about the “health benefits” are utter BULLSHIT! If you like it, have it, and if you don’t, you’re not compromising anything.
- We have to come to understand that more and more of us no longer a) live in an environment of general food scarcity, or b) have to take nearly as much time and effort to procure food, good or bad.
In a sense, it’s as simple as the recognition that sitting on the sofa watching TV, eating a bag of chips and drinking a liter of sugar water is profoundly different than spending the same afternoon standing in an ice cold stream, fly fishing a trout dinner for four—on many levels that go way beyond “eat less move more.” Now multiply that by the number of days in your life (about 19,000 so far, in my case).
We need to re-cultivate a culture of real food-sanctity through education, respect, stewardship, motivation, encouragement and above all: by example. It’s always great to hear Joel Salatin on this issue (YouTubes). On one level, perhaps the simple saying of grace before a good home-cooked meal wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Look, how many times have you been present at the saying of grace over bags from McDonald’s, warmed plastic containers from Lean Cuisine, or a pizza from Round Table? Eh, huh? Food for thought, there? See, we already know! We just need to revive it.
Heads or Tails, the Yin needs a Yang…or, somehow, we seem to have to find a way to compromise the Good with the Bad in some semblance of “balance.” Whatever the reason, here’s the bad.
Since that meeting in 1999, when executives declined to craft an industrywide standard for more healthful products, some companies, like Kraft, have tackled the issue unilaterally, altering recipes to cut down on salt, sugar and fat. Moss’ research, however, indicates that government regulation may be necessary to implement industrywide standards in the interest of public health.
“I was surprised to hear from the former CEO of Philip Morris, who is no friend of government, no friend of government regulation,” says Moss, “to tell me that, ‘Look, Michael, in the case of the processed food industry, what you’re looking at is a total inability on their part to collectively decide to do the right thing by consumers on the health profile of their products. In this case, I can see how you might need government regulation if [for] nothing else [than] to give the companies cover from the pressure of Wall Street.’ ”
You know what? Fuck that. Translation: if we go out on our own and make only reasonably good quality food products, exclusively, at a price that returns a profit to investors, we’ll underperform the market—those who don’t follow suit—and Wall Street will hammer us.
I say, leave the stupid and the ignorant to the stupid and the ignorant—because you can never fix it…you have to Darwin yourself out of it (death or enlightenment)—and let Wall Street make as much money as they can off of it. Stop subsidizing health care to treat the downstream consequences. You want an analogy to drugs? Here’s one. How about set up tables everywhere with huge free doses of cocaine, crack, meth, and heroine? Let’s just get this shit over with and focus on those who actually benefit others and society.
Evolve—get smart, cure your ignorance and change your behavior—or die.
Food executives: In the end, you have to decide what sort of food company you’re going to be; a good, wholesome, real food company or a junk food company. If you’re a junk food company, then transition, diversify and eventually shut down your garbage peddling operations. Leave it to the others—leave them to feed the stupid and ignorant and hopefully face the scorn of a more enlightened society in due time. Educate, respect, steward, motivate, encourage and set an example. Who are you, anyway? “We help to destroy people’s lives because everyone does it and we don’t want to be outcompeted in debilitation, disease, destruction and harm?” Really? Because that’s the short of what you’re saying in so many unnecessary words.
…And while you’re at it, execs, check into a Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, or other similar growing chains (oh, yea…that’s probably where you shop for yourselves and your families, right?) and observe that a) none of your products are on the shelves, and b) those who show some real care about what they sell are profitable, growing and above all, command a high level of respect in spite of selling at a higher average price point.
This final item is a bit of Heads or Tails in a political context. Again, props to my buddy Karen De Coster who gets her second link in a single post: Palin Went Paleo-Primal.
Heads, from the examiner.com article.
“Our family is writing a book on fitness and self-discipline focusing on where we get our energy and balance as we still eat our beloved homemade comfort foods,” said Palin, who didn’t say whether she has a book contract yet or when it will be published.
“We promise you what we do works and allows a fulfilling quality of life and sustenance anyone can enjoy.”
Palin, a mother of five, is a longtime runner who follows a high-protein, low-carb diet. “Conventional running is my sanity,” Sarah told Runner’s World in 2009. For most of her adult life, Sarah ran 5-10 miles almost every day, except during her pregnancies, when she switched to aerobic classes.
“My family and I eat a healthy diet heavy in wild Alaskan seafood, moose, caribou and fresh fruit,” said Palin in 2010. [emphasis added]
Tails, for an interesting contrast, given that Palin came close to ending up as VP of these US. Here’s Palin from the same piece (this is Heads, still, but she highlights the Tails).
Despite her own strict workout and diet regimen, Palin has slammed First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity program as an example of the Obamas trying to take away Americans’ “God-given rights to make our own decisions.”
Sarah quipped: “Instead of a government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician or politician’s wife priorities, just leave us alone. Get off our back!”
So in spite of what you think of her philosophy, politics, or political aspirations, seems to me she’s actually leading by example and only example, instead of commanding, strutting around acting the big-butt-cheese.
They’re at it again.
The latest public rant against Michelle Obama’s effort to promote low-calorie school lunches was recently caught on tape in Alabama — the usual protest against the federal government meddling in local business. And then it quickly found its way around to the first lady’s posterior.
“Fat butt Michelle Obama,” said Bob Grisham, a high school football coach who was surreptitiously recorded by one of his students. “Look at her. She looks like she weighs 185 or 190. She’s overweight.”
Grisham, who was suspended Monday, is neither the first nor the most high-profile person to feel moved to comment on the first lady’s physique. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly called her Michelle “My Butt” Obama. And Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican, issued an apology after he was caught commenting on her “large posterior.” (Grisham has also said he misspoke.)
I actually think Michelle Obama is rather attractive, in spite of a moderate excess of body fat that deposits in her posterior to the exclusion of most everywhere else. She’s by no means obese and there are plenty of the opposite sex who prefer the full-figure look, even to the point of a bit of plump. Different strokes.
So, to my mind, she ought to either shut up about childhood obesity or, set an example of personal progress, encouragement and motivation. After all, if she’s following the guidelines she suggests to impose or offer-you-can’t-refuse upon food manufacturers, it ‘aint workin’. How about find something that actually works, Michelle? Bury the pride and consult with Sarah. Then, perhaps you’ll see that the food manufacturers can’t help you, but that you can help others in spite of them.
Because from where I sit, Michelle, it looks to me like you’re just as bad as they are—them seeking profits at the expense of respect for being great public companies that benefit society; you, seeking power and prestige at the expense of respect for being a high-profile public figure that sets an example others might be compelled to follow to their benefit.
As it is, Michelle, you’re the junk food manufacturers’ best friend. I’m sure you’ll figure out a way to make this work for both of you: more profits for them, more power and prestige for you and there’s only upside. It’s not like any of this is going to have a political memory.