Do sugar, fat and salted goodies dictate your thoughts and your food choices? Maybe we’re not as weak as we think!
For the past six months, my husband Bob and I have had the most delightful missionary opportunity with neighbors of many years. The 20-year old daughter was baptized in November and the parents have been keenly interested in knowing what the Church is all about. Our standing Tuesday night dates have become joy and laughter-filled evenings as the Elders present exceptional, personalized messages just for them.
Last week’s lesson was on the Word of Wisdom. With our friend’s great love of cats (they have four gorgeous creatures that we’ve fallen in love with), the elders brightly said, “Well … the gospel plan of health comes down to one word: CATS!” In short, the things that are most harmful for the body are:
C – Caffeine and coffee/tea
T- Tobacco, and
S – Substance Abuse through recreational drugs or anything that is habit forming or addictive
We all had a good laugh while the cats purred contentedly beside us in seeming agreement.
As our discussion continued, my mind, of course, went back to my last article “Wilt Thou Be Made Whole” and the great number of responses to it as readers confirmed how sugar has a way of consuming our thoughts and dictating food choices: at times to a point where there seems to be very little control. Hmmmm … while the over-consumption of sugar is not marijuana or vodka, if it’s running our lives, it may ruin our lives as well in terms of health consequences.
How did we get into this state? Was it always so? When Joseph Smith wrote D&C Section 89, the Word of Wisdom, back in 1833, the catalyst for the revelation was Emma being unhappy about cleaning up the horrible stink and filth of chewing tobacco after meetings.
It is interesting to note that the preface for specific instructions on what we should and should not consume is verse D&C 89:4 with its foreboding tone: Behold, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom.”
Conspiring men. Just those two words create quite a mental picture, don’t they? As we discussed with the Elders and our friends last week: who would have thought way back in 1833 that modern-day science would determine the great detrimental effects of tobacco? Who can begin to estimate the lives that would have been changed forever for the better without alcohol and its deadly impact on individuals and families? Yet “conspiring men” (the companies with billions of dollars to spend on persuasive advertising and deep pockets to legally protect themselves) are still able to keep these addictive products within reach.
Though “conspiring men” seems an obvious term for those who promote tobacco and alchohol, what about the addictive, destructive power of food? This is where my trouble lies! A fascinating book, found on the same shelf as SugarShock by Connie Bennet that I shared with you last week, confirms that the food industry has its share of conspiring men as well! The book is entitled The End of Overeating: Taking Conrol of the Insatiable American Appetite by David A. Kessler, MD. On the cover is a picture of carrot cake with thick icing juxtaposed against a picture of a carrot with its perky greens, fresh from the garden.
As I began to read it, I realized that perhaps I’m not as weak as I had thought: that there are other elements in our collective inclination to just keep eating the foods that taste SO good, even with a conscious understanding that they are detrimental to our health. The book starts with several cases that could easily be our own stories: Wonderful, intelligent, articulate, educated adults who, once the the platter of chocolate chip cookies arrives, have a hard time continuing their train of thought. Long after we’re feeling full, we’re still eating. Food is never far from our minds. No one seems to be able to explain what’s happening and how to control this eating.
The goal of this book is not to have us lose weight, but to explain why we can’t stop eating! Part One of the book is simply called Sugar, Fat, Salt. It made me think of the children’s game Rock, Paper, Scissor – which one is going to win the round today??? He documents the history of thousands of years of human body weight and how in the 1980’s things started changing drastically. A number of studies that showed this marked increase were thought to have flaws in how their facts were gathered. Repeated studies showed the same thing: Americans were quickly becoming fatter.
He creates a quick review of how fast foods and restaurant fare has become much more the norm, then launches into what is served both at restaurants and in homes. The incredible variety and availability of foods that Joseph Smith and the early saints would have considered very special treats, with sugar and colors, have become daily fare for many in the form of foods that are widely available in any supermarket.
Studies with animals showed that when rats were offered Fruit Loops, they gobbled them rapidly. After familiarizing test animals with the taste of Fruit Loops, he let them loose in an open field. Now rats prefer to stay in corners and won’t readily venture across a field to chow pellets but when Fruit Loops were available, they scurried over to them and began devouring them.
Next, they studied the effect of a “supermarket diet” The mix of foods they fed the animals could be purchased at any grocery store: sweetened condensed milk, chocolate-chip cookies, salami, cheese, bananas, marshmallows, milk chocolate, and peanut butter. After ten days, animals that were fed the supermarket diet weighed significantly more than rats that were fed bland chow. And the rats on the supermarket diet continued to gain weight, eventually becoming twice as heavy as their control counterparts. They concluded that feeding the rats a “variety of highly palatable supermarket foods was a particularly effective way of producing dietary obesity.” (Pages 15-16)
Adapted studies with humans showed similar results …. As if we didn’t know that would happen! In short, the biological system that is designed to maintain a healthy energy balance goes awry when we have easy access to a variety of foods that are high in sugar and fat.
The author’s conversation with a high-level food industry executive explains how the food industry is making millions on the findings from these studies. The man asked that his name not be used in the interview to protect his business.
“Quite simply, higher sugar, fat and salt make you want to eat more.” He then explained that the food industry intentionally creates dishes to hit what he called the “three points of the compass: sugar, fat and salt” to make a food compelling. They make it indulgent.
They make it high in hedonic (meaning pleasureable) value.
The author asked: “Do you design food specifically to be hedonic?” The reply was “Oh, absolutely! We try to bring as much of that into the equation as possible! What can I say? That’s sugar, fat and salt!”
Just as chicken becomes the carrier for fat in many foods, pizza crust is the carrier for more sugar and fat. Caesar salads are built as an excuse to carry fat and salt. We double-fry French fries, first at the manufacturing plant, and then in the restaurant. Our hamburgers are layered with bacon and cheese. We add cheese to spinach, batter our fish before frying it, and slather or Mexican food with cheese. As we do, each one of these foods “becomes more compelling, more hedonic,” said the consultant.
As the conversation wound down, he said these concluding words with the certainty of an insider. “The food industry is the manipulator of the consumer’s minds and desires.”
Conspiring men? It’s hard to think otherwise.
The book is a fascinating read, I had a hard time putting it down, wanting to share every chapter with you.
However, the conclusion was oddly unsatisfying. With all the facts in place, he had no source for how to solve the problem! That, of course, was not the intention of the book, yet I had hoped for some direction.
As I closed it, and pondered it, my mind went again to the scriptures. Though conspiring men will dictate to us what they would have us eat for their gain and profit, the Savior asks, “Wilt thou be made whole?” And for those of us who struggle with sugar, fat and salts, we know that we are not whole when they dominate our thoughts and our food choices.
As I have continued over the past several weeks with much, much, much less sugar, it is interesting to note how the desire for it has dissipated more and more with every passing week. There are many, many days when I have not had any at all and feeling the blessings in every way. For some it is going “cold turkey”. For others, it’s choosing one day of the week, or limiting things to one treat. For me, it’s enjoying my treats at a scheduled time – and then consciously seeking and praying to discover that there are other things that bring far more pleasure than chocolate.
Though conspiring men will always be with us, so will the Savior. Their desire is for us to fraction ourselves to their purposes and gain, and His? For us to be whole. Could anything be sweeter?
Carolyn Allen has been providing weight loss inspiration since 1999 both online and in community venues in the Washington, D.C. area. Her book, 60 seconds to Weight Loss Success, is available at Amazon.com Her favorite food is steamed broccoli (lots of it!) with a little butter and lemon-pepper. Learn more about her herbal health tonic at www.MyMiracleTea.com