I had a few conversations this week that led me to my place of rage against the man. Most people know that there are egregious toxins in our environment and we should avoid them at all costs; radiation, asbestos, carbon monoxide, heavy metal exposure, the list goes on. Coming in contact with these toxins can cause serious health complications, including death. Toxins are bad! However, when the unpronounceable compound is on a food ingredient label, many people assume that it's fine to consume. What?! That's the LAST place you want these compounds. THE LAST. I won't bash the FDA, the governing agency for food, drugs and cosmetics. They do the best they can to regulate and oversee a load beyond their workday, and the legislation in place often times does not entirely protect consumers. This system is not entirely functionally, but it's also not entirely to blame. Back to why the hell is this poison in our food, and why is everyone so OK with it.
When processed foods came on the scene, the role was small, and part of an existing wholesome diet, albeit high in meat and potatoes, but home cooked. Behind the scenes, the perfect storm was brewing. As women were going back into the workforce in higher numbers and wanting to provide a meal for the family to prove they could do it all in a never let them see you sweat world, food manufacturers stepped up to the plate. Some may say a pre-calculated slow trickle of sugar was simultaneously introduced to the American population. (A great conspiracy theory we should all look into - the sugar plan in the vault) And, when the government warned of heart disease from saturated fats, the food manufacturers jumped on the low fat trend. Removing fats from foods makes them taste like you took the flavor out, because you did, and so insert sugar and salt. Our taste buds went crazy for the stuff. We wanted more. We are wired to love both, and together, forget it! US agencies still warned of heart disease as the leading killer and recommended cutting back on sodium to help tackle the blood pressure issues. Food manufacturing again pulling through for us. Low sodium. No problem. Then, diabetes. Low sugar. You got it. (Years later, we now have a functional MRI of the brain to show us a comparison of a brain exposed to cocaine and a brain exposed to sugar. Identical response.) In a scientists dream scramble, a whole population wanted their low fat, sugarless cake to be sweet and taste good. Off to work for the food scientist, who undoubtedly had a blast figuring out how to preserve, stabilize, extend and create new foods that tasted good from...not food.
Fast forward to the present day. No one cares that there is BHT in their gum that they chew every day, or sodium benzoate in their lemonade. The manufacturers aren hiding it - it's right on the label. Less than 2%. The FDA recognizes the low concentration of most of these preservatives, extenders and food stuffs, and typically determines a level for low dose exposure using a term Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). The consumer agrees, and happily chews and sips away. While accurate, what happens when the concentration is magnified by sheer user design. What happens when I choose :
a low fat, frozen egg breakfast sandwich with only a handful of preservatives so must be better than the others with the long list, and an iced coffee with flavored creamer (sugars and chemicals) for breakfast
grilled chicken (marinated in a dressing with BHT and high fructose corn syrup) salad for lunch and a cocktail of other chemicals on the other salad ingredients
afternoon snack of a soda and a few pieces of chocolate since I've been good all day
healthy dinner of take out with questionable sourced oils, sauces, flavors, proteins - not even entertaining whether or not the crops where GMO or antibiotic free or what my chicken ate or was injected with
and then just a 1/2 scoop of low fat slow churned ice cream with
- oh good grief, I just googled the ingredients of one of the more popular slow churns and found more offenders than I can actually list without boring everyone to tears. The highlights: corn syrup, sugar, corn syrup, coconut oil, cream, high fructose corn syrup, mono and diglycerides, (NEW WAY TO SAY TRANS FAT) baking soda, (WHY) propylene glycol (COMMONLY FOUND IN LIPSTICK), monostearate, guar gum, natural flavor, (THIS COULD BE ANYTHING FROM MSG TO BUG SHELLS) monoglycerides, xanathan gum, carrageenan, polysorbate 80... So I don't bore with details on each compound, let's just assume that if you see the above on an ingredient list, try to avoid eating that food
A confused and misguided population tries to eat well, slowly poisons itself...
My gruesome point here, is that nearly 60% of Americans are overweight and almost 40% obese. There are so few people at their ideal body weight that they are typically outnumbered. Being overweight does not stand out as often or as soon, creating a devastating environment. Confusing discrimination for health concerns has also led us a stray in managing this massive problem. Americans are getting heavier and sicker in an environment where no one wants to offend anyone. Overweight and obesity are clinical markers that something is not ok in our body - just like a cholesterol panel gives you data, so does your weight. There are many reasons that people overeat, and we have now created an environment where it's ok, don't talk about it what's the point, just medicate it and continue to let food chemicals increase our rates of auto immune disease, allergies, spectrum disorders, cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hashimotos disease, the list goes on, AGAIN. The consumer will always get what they ask for - remember low fat, sodium and sugars. Unfortunately, at our weakest and sickest, we have to find the strength and power to demand better. We have to be the ones to ask for a healthier food supply free of toxins, pesticides, and sugars. Pharma, fitness, supplements and weight loss industries work together in a perfect symphony of dysfunction of failing health. Demand better.
Assignment: Observe people around you. Notice what they eat and drink, if they are sedentary or active, and at what level of stress they run. Notice the health concerns, injuries and chronic diseases and see if you can find a pattern. You likely won't take long to find that people who eat wholesome, home cooked meals mostly with family, who are relatively active and who manage stress well have a lower incidence of chronic illness, joint problems requiring surgical interventions and live a better quality of life than their counterparts who are sedentary, eat mostly processed foods and who always seem to have an unmanaged drama.
While many of us are carrying extra pounds, remember that this is a signal from your body. Judgement free. The point is NOT to point out that you are a few pounds overweight, and you need to change. You are probably amazing, as is. The point IS, the habits that typically leave you overweight are the same ones that lead to chronic diseases and injuries. Lets wake up and boycott foods that contain known toxins, and focus on wholesome foods. The changes can be challenging, but you are worth it!