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Get an attitude about food

Posted Feb 26 2010 12:00am
Okay, we know junk food is killing us. We can’t escape the statistics: diabetes, cancer, heart disease, all on the gallop, thanks to our overconsumption of processed food. 

So why is still so hard for us to stay away from the stuff?

Duh, because it’s delicious. I’m a diehard whole-food fan, but I still have a weak spot for certain goodies -- for example, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, especially the kinds with cookies and pretzels and who-knows-what-all mixed in. I don’t indulge very often, but when I do, I sure enjoy it.

Most of the time, though, it’s not hard for me to resist processed food. Wanna know my secret? I’ve become very cynical about food manufacturers and their profit motives.

Cynicism works. Try it!

The next time you see an ad for gooey fast-food pizza or sugar-crusted breakfast cereal, consider the fact that big food companies, for all the health claims they frequently slap on their packaging, really don’t give a damn about your health. Their goal is to sell as much of their product as possible, and if that means convincing you it’s good for you, they’ll gladly do what it takes.

Wonder why you crave processed food and not broccoli? That’s entirely by design. In his book The End of Overeating , former FDA commissioner David Kessler explains how food scientists work feverishly in product-development labs to come up with just the right combination of salt and sugar and fat and artificial flavors and colors that will make their products much more addictive than anything found in nature.

One way you can break your fast-food habit, Kessler suggests, is to change your perspective. Get wise to how convenience food is produced and to the entire corrupt corporate model that produces it. (Pick up Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma , or the rent the movie Food Inc. )

Once the blinders are off, it’s hard to embrace junk food wholeheartedly anymore. You’ll find yourself muttering sarcastic remarks at fast food ads and snorting at the lame tactics corporations use to convince you their products are healthy. (The Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet? Really?)

I admit it can be tricky to achieve this awareness without also becoming something of a food crusader. You may find yourself biting your tongue a lot. Then again, you may find a surprising number of people see things the way you do. The average consumer is becoming increasingly skeptical of what Big Food is trying to sell us.

So go ahead: be cynical about processed food. Be jaded, sarcastic, snarky, or whatever it takes. In this case, having a bit of an attitude can be a good thing.
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