Earlier this week I attempting to move at speed through my local supermarket. My flow was soon interrupted by a six-foot wall of soda stacked on pallets. One sugar spike side-stepped, and I’m immediately presented with another. Brightly colored cakes, cookies, and pastries, all neatly lined up to whisper sweet nothings in my ear.
Full speed ahead and I can’t help but notice there’s another isle that resembles a well stocked candy store. Making a hard left, I cruise past the boxed cereals, yup, all heavily laced with more sugar.
Up past the freezer section and I’m forced to do mental combat with the ice cream and popsicles peddlers. Finally, I find what I’m looking for and head to the checkout. As I stand in line I can’t help but notice there’s a glass-doored refrigerator to my right. Its another sugar trap bursting at the seams with soda and fruit juice. To my left, it’s a full-on sales pitch from the bubble gum and candy reps.
As I shuffle forward the checkout lady glances up at me and smiles. She then asks if I’d like to donate a dollar to diabetes research? I know, right? You can’t make this stuff up!
First, we have to give credit where it’s due. Supermarkets really do know how to sell us a product. All too often we don’t even realize that we are being sold to!
Supermarket floor plans are purposefully arranged to make us go wherever they want us to go with the sole intention of getting us to part with hard cash. Colors and labels are arranged not by chance but in a calculated bid to grab our attention. The longer we are in the store the more we are unwittingly influenced to buy things we didn’t know we needed. Ever go into a store for lettuce and leave with a pair of socks?
Make no mistake, the food industry is hugely profitable, as such it can afford to run marketing campaigns at peak meal times. This ensures that most of our dietary information comes from the people we should trust the least: those with a product to sell us!
At best this can information is a conflict of interest, at worst, it’s a form of manipulation. I’m sure we’ve all heard the classics “Grains fortified with vitamins for a healthy heart” or “Low fat to stop you from getting fat”
The timing of these commercials is ultra slick and their effectiveness can stretch across generations. I suspect if we dug a little deeper, we’d soon learn that much of the nutritional advice we own today was handed down to us by our well-meaning parents. “Drink your milk up, it’s good for bones.”If only it were that easy.
Let’s strive to keep this simple. There are only two types of foods of interest to us, those foods that keep us healthy and those foods that keep us sick.
Here’s the rub.
Ask most people if they eat healthily and you will usually get this response, “Yup, I eat fairly healthy.” Now we see the problem for what it is. A fairly healthy diet is a perception or a belief system that’s built on the back of misinformation.
Few people think, hmm, best I nip myself down to the shop and load up on some toxic anti-nutrients and sugar. Nope, that idea is often gifted to us by the people selling us our food in the form of subliminal advertising.
So this idea that we have “a fairly good diet” is a dangerous one. Those in the first flush of youth may get away with it for a while. But the longer we allow ourselves to listen to this mainstream hogwash the sicker we all become.
To be clear, the food industry is in business to make a profit. There’s nothing wrong with making a profit especially if it creates “meaningful” employment. But it’s important to understand the laws of business are simple. Cheap and quality cannot coexist in the same product.
Ever notice how supermarkets are constantly trying to undercut their competition? On the surface, this might seem like a good deal for the consumer, but from a health point of view, it a race to the bottom. Maybe it’s time we stopped asking why healthy food is so expensive and start asking why junk food is so cheap?
Discount supermarkets are missing out on a huge opportunity. A strong undercurrent of better-informed consumers is now walking through their doors every day. People are waking up to the idea that sugar and preservatives solve one problem, but cause another of greater magnitude.
Alas, rather than take the bold move to sell quality rather than price, supermarkets are hell-bent on trying to trick us into buying more of the wrong foods. In a classic bait and switch routine, we are encouraged to count calories rather than look at nutritional content. Such supermarket trickery is well planned and executed with seamless perfection.
It might surprise you to know that the food industry employs teams of highly paid psychologists. Whoa! Why would a supermarket want to hire someone that studies human emotions and behavior on the payroll?
The answer to that question is simple: supermarkets are keen to find the best way to tap into your brain-reward-system. The brain-reward-system is well documented and involves several parts of the brain. Once they have this mapped out they can hack into your spending habits.
THE BRAIN REWARD SYSTEM
Before time became a thing, the reward system was hardwired into your brain as a way to help you survive. Back then, it wasn’t possible to find sweet tasting fruit that was out of season. The reward for finding certain foods that tasted of salt, fat, and sugar was an instant hit of dopamine.
Today we can pick up strawberries in the dead of winter and dopamine still rewards us with a hit of pleasure. But there’s a problem, can you see it?
Whenever the brain-reward-system kicks in it changes brain chemistry in a way that drives people to over-consume. This is good news for food industry profits, but not so good for anyone trying to break the junk food cycle. Hence overindulgence has an addictive quality to it. It’s also the reason why you can’t eat just one cookie.
The word “addiction” is derived from a Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to.” Anyone struggling to overcome a sugar addiction will understand the challenge this brings. According to USDA Economic Research Service, the average child under twelve is now addicted to consuming, on average, forty-nine pounds of sugar per year!
CHILDREN GETTING HIT HARD
As adults, we get to make our own decisions and live by them. But children are getting a sugar hit from all angles. Who’s going to say no to birthday cake, Halloween candy, or the ice cream truck on a hot day? Kids are then systematically targeted by TV commercials that encourage them to eat sugary cereals for breakfast. To add to the problem well-meaning family members often have a steady supply of sugary treats on hand. Hey, thanks for the cavities Grandma.
You might be wondering how adding sugar to the food supply (as a way to increase profits) is even legal. But with one in four kids now thought to be diabetic or pre-diabetic the odds aren’t in your kiddos favor.
It’s easier to fool people than to convince
them that they have been fooled.
– Mark Twain
Whether you see it, or even recognize it, sugar is in just about every product on the supermarket shelf. From bacon to milk, from bread to salad dressing, no really, it’s true.
But you can’t rely on the food manufacturers to call it sugar. nope, instead they call it barley malt, dextrose, maltose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, and rice syrup — to name just a few. According to sugarscience.org, sugar comes in at least sixty-one different names! I know, right? Who the heck is running the food industry, Montgomery Burns?
THE CRUELEST CON OF ALL
Run from any food whose label boasts “All Natural” for this is the cruelest con of all. It preys on the very people that are trying to make better choices. Sadly, neither the FDA nor the USDA seems keen to police these “all-natural” labels.
As a result, food manufacturers are free to slap a “natural” label on foods that could potentially contain any number of processed ingredients. It may help to think of it this way: 100 years ago, 80% of the food found on supermarket shelves didn’t even exist.
Still not convinced, huh?
Unless you have spent the past few years living in a creepy apartment with the curtains closed, you might have also noticed the rest of the outside world is experiencing a surge in food allergies. Maybe it’s not food that is the problem, but what’s been done to the food that’s the problem.
If the bugs won’t go near it with a 12ft pole, why are we rushing to fill our carts with it? What is it that the bugs know that we don’t? Let’s take a closer look.
The food industry is quick to tell us that GMO crops are safe. While this might even be true, this technology is still in its infancy. As yet, nobody has conducted any long-term studies to back that bold statement up.
As it stands, what we do know is that companies have begun splicing animal bacteria and viral genes with our raw vegetables and fruit. This is something that has never been done before in our history. I know, right? Man messing with our food, what could possibly go wrong?
It’s fair to say a good quote will stand the test of time. Who hasn’t heard the now famous quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”? If we are still quoting Hippocrates almost 2500 years later, maybe he knew a thing or two after all. Hippocrates did not say, “Spray thy food with chemicals and then splice it with the bacteria of an animal.” Surely that would be utter nonsense.
As you walk the supermarket food aisle, keep in mind that the average vegetable now travels approximately 1500 miles to get to your dinner plate. Then compare it to the food found at your local farmer’s market.
To our ancestors, sending food on a 1500 miles trip would have seemed like wasteful folly. Our ancestors understood the value of eating real food and not what today we perceive as food. Keep in mind the Roman army marched on its stomach, not Captain Crunchy.
STALK A SENIOR
Slowly we are moving toward exploring the idea that there are foods that heal and foods that absolutely don’t. How do we find the foods that heal? One way to find a diet that works for you is to keep reading my blogs. Another is to find a senior over the age of sixty who still looks healthy.
Think about it, the body can’t take six decades of eating junk food and still work and look good. Young people can get away with it and still look good on the outside. Or as Bernard Shaw once said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I digress.
Typically, anyone who’s over 60 that is still active has to be doing something right, am I right? If you approach people in the right way, most will be glad to share what it is that keeps them healthy. Be respectful and some seniors may even be flattered that you’ve even noticed.
Maybe the next time you are standing in line at the supermarket, be on the lookout for anyone who’s over sixty and still looks to have radiant health. Don’t be stalking now, just smile and take a discreet glance at the things they are buying. Don’t be surprised to see a lack of processed foods in their shopping carts.
The most heavily processed foods are pre-made meals — obviously, these include things like frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners. Microwave meals are cheap and quick to make, but cheap food is an illusion, if it makes you ill over time. The microwave is the consolation prize in our struggle to understand physics. –Jason Love.
PLEASE DON’T PROD
Now, back in the supermarket line, do you also see that other person, yup, you know the one I’m talking about. The guy whose kids are bouncing off the walls high on sugar. And how does his cart look?
If discretion is a new tool to you, please refrain from pointing or, God forbid, giving in to the urge to start prodding with your organic cucumber. The struggle is real, it happens.
Making poor choices in the supermarket all but guarantees that poor choices will be made in the kitchen. Astonishingly enough, there is a strong connection between whatever we put into the shopping cart and what ends up in our mouths.
What did we learn from this?
The perception of what is healthy can dramatically vary from one person to another.
Supermarkets are designed to conspire against our subconscious and have become masters of distraction. Sugar is now routinely added to lots of foods, but it’s not always called sugar.