Culture

Food Idolatry: Why Our Lust for Cheap Food Will Kill Us

It’s complicated.

Blame it on advertising. Blame it on the industry. It really doesn’t matter who or what you point to. The evidence is everywhere: the vast majority of Americans have a fantasy relationship with food.

What we eat is an extremely intimate, personal relationship with ourselves. It is precisely how we maintain the partnership between the soul that we are, and the body we live in.

It took half a century for me to grasp the fact that the stability of my mind, vitality, and longevity all depend heavily on what I eat.

It’s the same for you. Although our diets vary vastly, that statement still holds true.

However, like most people, I always thought of my diet, only in the narrow terms of “dieting.” Rather than the food we routinely eat, let alone its nutritional value.

Our weight and overall health is, more often than not, a direct reflection of our high expectations and extremely low standards of the food we eat.

Without realizing it, the manufactured food we crave, even desire, is carefully designed to reach our “bliss spot.”

“Pleasure from food is not a diffuse concept. It can be measured just as the physical, chemical, and nutritional factors can be measured. With more concrete status, the capacity of food flavors to evoke pleasure may start to be regarded as a real, tangible property of products, along with their nutritional status.”

 — Australian psychologist , Robert McBride  In the presentation, “The Bliss Point: Implication for Product Choice”

The bliss point is a natural phenomenon. It is the point where we get to “more-ish-ness” when eating a food product. We’ve all been there. Place a morsel in your mouth, then another, and it happens.

A small neon sign flashes in the back of your brain saying “warning, warning…you’ve had enough…stop eating…stop…” but all your other senses from your mouth overload your brain, screaming MORE. Yeah… that’s the elusive climax the food industry spends untold amounts of money on research hoping to discover the right formula that will ensure you reach yours.

That point is scientifically measured and calculated not only to bring you to the height of satisfaction, but also to induce cravings so you’ll be back for more, again and again. This is euphemistically called “customer satisfaction.” What could be wrong with that? After all, isn’t that precisely why we buy and eat our food — because we love and crave it?

If you think about it, how fast that little neon sign flashes on, is directly proportionate to how sweet or rich the taste. The reason is we are hardwired to enjoy sugar. From infancy, we delight in sweets. However, we don’t have to have a sugary treat. Anything highly refined will do the trick. Pizza or any other refined starch turns into sugar. The faster a starch becomes sugar, the faster it reaches the brain, the faster the you achieve your bliss point.

Unfortunately, like most of what we desire in life, too much without control turns into a vice and can lead to our demise.

They’ve discovered that the brain lights up for sugar the same way it does for cocaine, and this knowledge is useful, not only in formulating foods. The worlds biggest ice cream maker, Unilever, for instance, parlayed its brain research into a brilliant marketing campaign that sells the eating of ice cream as a ‘scientifically proven’ way to make ourselves happy.”

Michael Moss Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us   [Emphasis added]

I’ve known children that ask for ice cream on a daily basis — for breakfast. Although they have NEVER had it for breakfast, yet to the astonishment of their parents, they wake up and ask for it first thing in the morning- again and again.

Full disclosure: I’ve been known to sneak Rocky Road ice cream past unsuspecting children in a coffee mug. Got away with eating it right in front of them for years — that is until one of them smelled chocolate on my breath and investigated.

However, as responsible adults we would never allow a child to eat whatever, and whenever they like. Why? Because we know they will head right for the sweetest foods they can find. With few exceptions, they will bypass everything created and head directly to something manufactured especially for them. We don’t allow them to consume whatever they want, because we know they need nutrition to make them grow into healthy adults and keep their immune system strong.

And yet we allow ourselves that very freedom to eat only what entices us. As a nation we are overfed and nutritionally starved — which in turn, has made us fat and sick. Manufactured, processed foods are cheap and abundant.What is a fat, satisfied consumer to do?

Bring lawsuits against food companies for tantalizing our tastebuds, after we indulge ourselves into obesity and irreversible health issues?

Although I predict that eventually the major food manufacturers will suffer the same fate as the tobacco companies, that’s not the best solution.

We must take the individual responsibility to stop sacrificing our health on the alter of cheap and easy food. Most importantly, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of mistaking a pleasurable bliss for real, genuine, long-term happiness.