Word Count: 1452 words Reading Time: Between five and six minutes
Do you know what you’re eating? I don’t mean the recipes or what restaurants, but what your food actually is made of? Do you know if the cheese you are eating is real? How about that microwave popcorn? Most of us are aware that foods like the Twinkie or Zesty Cheese Doritos are bad for you, but do you know what’s actually in them? Well, just a warning, you may not want to know! And the food industry definitely doesn’t want you to.
Food is Now Science
Did you know that the Doritos are manufactured not to taste good or satisfy your hunger but to keep you eating more? Doritos are scientifically-designed to maximize pleasure – with little regard for nutritional value. Even the fact that the food is scientifically designed should give us all pause. Real food is not designed.
They use tricks such as flour grinding for their ‘cheesy’ powder, ensuring every nook and cranny is filled, maximizing the amount that will contact your saliva. In fact, food scientist Steven A. Witherly, author of the book Why Humans Like Junk Food, says that licking the dust off your fingers without a chip gives an even larger boost of flavour.
In fact, these food fraudsters (including Coca-Cola) balance the flavours so well that it’s actually unforgettable. That’s right, unforgettable! Though these fake foods have powerful tastes, they balance the flavour so well, no one taste lingers, avoiding sensory-specific satiety, or the feeling of fullness. That’s right – so you’ll eat more, and if you’re like most people, more often!
From artificial colours to the use of MSG mixed with salt (oh so much salt), food companies are just that, companies. They are no longer the farmers and grocers of our grandparent’s generation (or for you millennials, great-grandparents).
So, while you may be thinking, “ok, so Doritos are bad for you, I get it, that’s no surprise.” I write this to show how manufactured, and profit-driven the food industry has become.
What would you say if I told you that even foods you thought were healthy, well weren’t quite what you thought? Did you know that strawberries in Quaker’s Strawberries & Cream are actually apples with red food colouring? And while that may not sound ominous, just the fact they need to use food colouring when they could dehydrate actual strawberries shows how devious the industry can be.
Perhaps the best examples of fake food are Kraft Singles (cheese slices) – they don’t have just the three ingredients required for cheese (raw milk, salt, rennet), but have 24 other ingredients! In a disturbing self-experiment, CBC’s Sook-Yin Lee left a slice of processed cheese for a year and a half stuck to an outside window. And well, not much happened. It didn’t rot, it didn’t even attract insects or critters, it didn’t even mould – after 18 months!
If this doesn’t make you take a closer look at what you are feeding your body (your only body I might add), perhaps the pictures in this article that separately shows each of the ingredients in foods like Doritos (blue powder anyone?), Twinkies, and even Campbell’s Chicken Soup? Loading up soups with monosodium, a flavouring agent that boosts appetite and causes migraines, many popular soup brands are surprisingly unhealthy.
So, What Can you Do About it?
So how do you compete with the psychologists and food scientists at food companies? The most important thing you can do is educate yourself on what you are really eating. As you may remember from childhood, School House Rock said, knowledge is Power!
There is a lot of information out there regarding food. As so much is conflicting, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and settle for what is easy, familiar, or comfortable. But, it’s not hopeless, and with some education, everyone can begin to understand the types of foods we need and where to get them. Understanding the food industry and how food is made, sold, and kept from rotting on shelves will go a long way to improving not only your health but your mindset. Here are five tips to get you started!
Changing Mindsets and perceptions around diet and lifestyle
Did you know the word diet comes from the Greek word dieta, meaning “way of life?” Eating healthy isn’t what the word ‘diet’ has come to indicate. You can eat healthy and delicious food that both satiates your hunger and your taste buds and emotional needs.
Understand what food really is
While food is definitely fuel, it is so much more than that. While most diet programs and information about food often speak of the concept of calories in/calories out (basically, fuel and how we use it), food also plays a large part in affecting our health and future health by speaking to our genes and providing them instructions. By eating real and nutrient-dense foods, we send our bodies positive instructions. With foods such as Kraft Singles, Twinkies, and even yes, even our favourite soup brands, we send our bodies instructions that negatively impact gene expression.
To simplify this, I like to look at this like we have a bunch of levers we can pull to affect the genetic code we were born with. Some of us have genes that are predisposed in specific ways, and the food we eat instructs our genes to behave in certain ways – what message do you want to send to your body? Foods like Kraft Singles confuse your body with the manufactured ingredients – our bodies have not evolved to consume these foods. For even more information on how food impacts your body, check out Dr. Mike’s video (on the Healthy transformations blog) about the Glycemic Index and the Glycemic Response.
Once you understand what food is and the instructions it provides your body, shopping and meal planning become so much easier. Depending on how your grocer is set up, you really only need to shop in a few aisles and sections, mostly around the perimeter, to get all the food you need to help your body. By keeping to the aisle or “U,” as some suggest, you will stick to the real food areas such as fruits and vegetables, the meat section, and a few of the aisles with pantry staples such as nuts and seeds. Remember, companies use bright colours and logos to capture your attention with labels that suggest health, but upon closer look, are anything but.
Understanding that the marketing usage of words such as “natural,” “whole,” or “heart-healthy” are all subjective and are meaningless without reading the ingredients and nutritional label. As well, make sure you check the source of the “organic” label and the different claims, so you understand what you are paying for.
Listen to your body
This is so important. When we have eaten poorly for longer than we care to remember (or admit), we forget that how we feel isn’t natural. Is your brain foggy? Do you often feel tired, even after a full night’s rest? Do you feel weak? Achy? Maybe it’s those pesky last ten pounds that you want to shed that you just can never seem to lose. Your body is sending you signals (physically, mentally, and emotionally).
A good way of thinking about what you are eating is to think of the process like traffic lights. Companies try to make it so easy to sail through all “green lights” to get their product into your bellies and craving more. The end result, remember, is always for them to make money off your eating habits. When you build in yellow lights between the emotion and thought of eating and actually eating, we can slow down our impulses and habits. This is especially helpful when these habits have been years in the making. By giving yourself time to process the feeling connected to eating, you begin to understand what it is your body truly needs.
Lastly, support is vital in anything we do. Humans are social creatures and not only want but thrive with proper social support. Make a goal with your spouse or best friend to learn more about food together, share recipes, and hold each accountable.
If you want expert support and knowledge that will help you learn not only the basics but to also become a food expert so that you will never doubt what your body needs again, we run the Healthy Transformations program annually. Our comprehensive program is based on a scientific and behavioural model to teach what food is, its impact on our bodies, and the behavioural connection to our food.
Check out www.healthytransformations.ca for more information or to sign up for one of our Info Sessions.
Christopher James Lawrence is a Co-Founder of the Healthy Transformations Program with Dr. Mike Breen. He is also the Chief Value Officer and Founder of Change My Life Coaching and Co-Founder of Change My Business Coaching — a fast growing whole-life, leadership and business coaching company, and the only one of it’s kind. He is also the author of “Go Beyond Passion: Discover Your Dream Job”. Christopher is a Certified Master Coach Practitioner (CMCP), trainer and facilitator, and a passionate public speaker that truly cares about the success of each and every single person he comes into contact with. You can reach him here.