I hate to see people suffer, and I hate injustice. I just can’t help it! When I read about how lobbies, big corporations, and government intentionally feed the American people lies about public health and the environment, my blood starts to boil. I am a very peaceful and calm person, and so I tell myself I have to think things through carefully before I respond to any comment or situation.
There is no reason for the children and adults of the United States of America to continue to suffer from obesity and the dire health consequences that are caused by this entirely curable disorder. We have had the correct information about nutrition for the most part for decades, but this information has not been shared with the general public until recently. While our “leaders” do not want us to be healthy because they benefit financially from our suffering, we still have personal choices that we can make to rectify this situation and bring our children back to health.
For those of you who follow my blog and new readers as well, I must recommend that you watch the documentary “Fed Up” (2014) directed by Stephanie Soechtig, narrated by Katie Couric. So many thoughts and feelings ran through my mind as I watched this film: anger and outrage, frustration, and also hope.
What made me feel angry and frustrated is that the knowledge about the true causes of the obesity epidemic have been known by scientists, nutritionists, government officials, the World Health Organization, and agribusiness (producers of food) for several decades. What is even more depressing is that the greed of the industrial food, government, and healthcare / insurance complexes have consciously concealed this information from the public purposefully…in order to continue to market these disease-causing products and to increase their own wealth. Bribery, manipulation, false advertising…everything has been used to make the average person (including children) feel as if they are responsible for their weight gain. The promotion of the idea that you simply need to exercise more in order to lose weight and to eat less fatty foods is not only false information, it also causes kids to feel ashamed. No matter how hard they try, they can’t lose the weight. And this is heart-breaking.
The truth is this: the food industry has aggressively promoted products full of sugars, preservatives, unhealthy fats with long shelf life primarily to young children. Sugars are highly addictive (eight times more than cocaine), and sugar is the direct culprit in the widespread obesity epidemic, causing metabolic syndrome, early onset type-2 diabetes (normally only occurring in adults), strokes, heart disease and cancers even in children. Sugar is a toxic drug that is transformed into fat and which damages the liver.
Why would a people purposefully try to harm their own children, shortening their lifespans dramatically, and causing them to be acutely physically ill and emotionally damaged? As one commenter in the film suggests, if any outside nation were attacking our children in this manner, we would most certainly be outraged and declare war on this nation. And yet, here at home, we allow ourselves to be misled, continuing to feed our children a toxic diet primarily consisting of sugars. Would we agree to sell narcotics in vending machines and cafeterias in our schools? Would we find it acceptable to have these same drugs inexpensive to purchase and available at every shop we enter, distributed at every event attended by our children? Just the thought of this seems shocking, but it is in fact the reality of our everyday lives in America.
In addition to this fact, misguided parents and educators reward children with sugary treats on a regular basis. Parents often feel guilty about long work hours and not spending enough time with their children. Instead of devoting family time to cooking real food and teaching their children how to prepare healthy meals as quality family time, we have been conditioned to be addicted to convenience. In many other countries outside the US, students are served real, freshly prepared meals made of equally fresh ingredients, served on ceramic or metal plates with real silverware in their school cafeterias. American children are predominantly served re-heated frozen foods that have no nutritional value, all because our government leaders have been bribed by “food” producers to keep these contracts going and receive support in exchange. Are the lives of our children so little valuable to us?
After watching the heartrending testimonies of young teens who are truly suffering from extreme obesity, kids who want to lose weight and can’t despite their best efforts…I had to think deeply. The truth is, we, the American people, need to get informed, and we need to take responsibility for our own health. Our government and the food industries as well as the health care and insurance companies have nothing to gain in the current context by providing the public with accurate information. In fact, “Fed Up” informs us that insurance companies have invested billions in the American processed food industries. In other words, they have a deeply vested interest in our eating bad food and in our remaining unhealthy. Expensive medical procedures from the youngest age are the goal they have set for our youth.
Such cynicism and greed is perhaps at the heart of the spirit of capitalism, for individualism to excess as promoted by American culture does breed and encourage this type of sociopathic behavior. Nonetheless, the majority of the American people do not reflect this lack of compassion or this negativity. We do however need to wake up and take responsibility for the future of our children. We cannot trust our leaders to hold our best interests at heart.
There are many teachers and guides, such as Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, and other doctors and human beings of integrity who refuse to allow the likes of Coca Cola, Nestle, or other multinationals to pay for their research or silence their voices. It is unfortunate that First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program was reduced in effectiveness by the lobbies of Big Food, who enthusiastically offered to join ranks with her, subversively making it more difficult to bring about real change. By rebranding products to make them appear “healthier”, more and more nutritionless foods are brought onto the market, confusing people who don’t yet have the reflex to seek out healthy food. Everyone wants to take good care of their kids and to give them healthy food. The problem is, most people have been misinformed about what IS healthy food. After all, how many people know (yet) that eating a slice of bread, even whole grain bread, is as bad as drinking a soda or eating “all natural” ketchup or 100% fruit juice that contains no high fructose corn syrup?
The good news is that it is possible to prepare healthy home-cooked meals using local or organic ingredients on a limited budget. I earn less than $25,000 per year (before taxes and deductions), which means I have only a few hundred dollars each month to spend on food and a teen-aged son to feed! I do my best to buy the best ingredients I can afford. We rarely eat out, and we drink water or unsweetened tea. Each day, I try to learn more about healthy living and nutrition. It is a work in process for each of us to find and create new traditions and ways of connecting to family, tradition, and the art of eating. Comfort food is popular in America, because American culture is not very comforting. We are often alone, share little quality time with one another. We have lost the art of conversation, of friendship, of community. Cooking and eating are an art, and if we are going to heal, we are going to have to let go of a lot of convenience, slow down, and learn to find soulful pleasures in the simple joys of life. Eating a delicious meal of real food in good company is true comfort food.
Michael Pollan’s book “Food Rules”, I find, simplifies the process of eating healthy by examining traditional thoughts about food. It comes down to eating less, but eating better, real “whole” foods. The good news is that the will to change and the power of love are real. We, as a people, transformed our country by nearly eliminating the use of tobacco, a terrible public health hazard that was similarly promoted by big industry. The obesity epidemic is even more acutely distressing because it affects all of our children from birth. By becoming aware and taking action individually, we can make the entire food production system in this country change. After all, capitalism is a system based on supply and demand. If we demand fresh produce at reasonable prices, sustainably farmed without pesticides, and we refuse to buy highly processed industrial “food” products, what appears on our grocery store shelves will change.
Many of the people in charge of producing food in America don’t care about us, our health or well-being. But we, the people, are much more numerous than they are. We have to eat. And we have the power to make our children healthy and happy. Armed with the right information and the love we have for ourselves and our children, we will transform America. In the process, we will heal our environment and bring new jobs to many of those who are unemployed by creating a multitude of small businesses and farms devoted to healthy eating and green living.