I love fat, sugar and salt

Posted: May 1, 2010 in food
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m addicted.

It is slowly killing me and my family.

Food, food, food – I love it! Fat, salt and sugar – I love them – and, I don’t!

Recently, I read the end of overeating by David Kessler, MD.

Dr. Kessler is a killjoy. He got to me because he got it right. Food, my fellow addicts, is a very powerful stimulant, and the American food industry is madly working to addict me and you to food’s most unhealthy forms.  

Dr. Kessler explains. Activity in the brain is stimulated by food and by food cues (ads, smells, pictures on restaurant windows) in our environment. These food cues   engage us, causing us to want to eat, and the wanting sometimes drives us to overeat  unhealthy foods.

Cue induced eating is triggered by the sight of a donut, the clink of ice cubes, the smell of pizza.  So the food industry puts the pictures and the posters and their food outlets everywhere. On the TV, on the internet, on the billboard, at the movies, on the corner, everywhere on the corners where we pass and stop. America, still a place where millions of people don’t have enough food, is saturated with food.

Starbucks, McDonalds, Mister Donut — positive emotions have become embedded in our minds by certain logos, name brands, advertizing cues and the foods they represent. And so we warm to them, and they call to us, and then we pig on “addictive” foods.

I confess. I have. I had a food incident recently.  I pigged the chips. The salt and the oil  and the sugar, delicately balanced by the makers, they pulled me in. 

But more is happening than what goes on in our mouths. As a result of eating foods layered with salt, fat and sugar, chemicals like dopamine and opioids are released in our brains, rewarding us with good feelings, and making us want to eat more of these foods.  If not careful, we become controlled by an unhealthy, industry-designed food culture, created by businesses only interested in profit, not our health.

It’s worth asking, what food cues are influencing your eating behavior or your family’s eating behavior in negative ways? For me, one eating cue is theTV. Watching TV, and not just watching the food channel, makes me want to eat. The glowing screen makes my mouth water. Watch a show, get a snack, it’s automatic.

But what I get for a snack, now there is the rub. I’m tempted by the hyperpalatable foods, overly processed, unhealthy foods.

Dr. Kessler explains how the food industry carefully designs hyperpalatable foods like chips, hamburgers, soft drinks, French fries, cookies, coffee drinks and candy bars to addict us. These profitable, superpalatable foods are often carefully layered with sugar, fat and salt; they are made highly mouthable with just the right crunch or softness; they are given high visual appeal with artificial colors; they are jazzed up with flavor enhancing chemicals, they are designed with multisensory qualities that optimized variables like sugar, fat and salt. These foods actually rewire our brains, creating an additive eating of unhealthy food.  

Interesting, wild, true!

It makes me think, and want to change. It makes me want my family to change.

I gained a few pounds this year. I’m not sure how, but those bowls of ice cream, those stops at Costco for a delicious hot dog, those evenings with too many trips back to the kitchen for a few more chips – those choices must have had something to do with it.  

Truthfully,  now that I think about it, now that Dr. K has educated me better,  I’m sick of buying and eating foods layered with salt, fat and sugar. It makes me want to cut up a tomato, eat a baked salmon and steam some asparagus.

I’ve been doing that lately, and I’m losing weight and feeling better. I’ve thought of Daniel, the Jewish wiseman, who when in excile in Babylon chose to eat only vegegetables, avoiding the king’s rich foods. Daniel and his men ended up healthier than their indulgent commrades, and through discipline and excellent physical condition they excelled.

It matters, to me, to my family and to God that I take care of myself.

I need to own this.

It’s my health.

It’s my productivity.

But what I do or don’t do is going to effect a lot of other people.

It’s about how I want to live, and I want to live healthy, happy and unaddicted to food, a wonderful, pleasurable but dangerous gift.

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