One bit of news that got a lot of attention last week was the World Health Organization report saying that processed meats are carcinogenic. Hot dogs, bacon and bologna, sausages, salami and ham; these generally salty, flavorful meat products have been staples of the American diet for many years. Let me quote a bit from the October 26, 2015, BBC News item:

“Processed meat has been modified to either extend its shelf life or change the taste… It is the chemicals involved in the processing which could be increasing the risk of cancer.” (Emphasis mine)

If you have read any of my blog posts over the last couple of years, you might remember my commentary on the PFIC, which is my code name for the Processed Food Industrial Complex. Well, here you have it in action. I think one of the most offensive and appalling aspects of the food industry is their method of finding ways to make more money by ‘re-purposing’ waste products. And processed meats are a classic example. Here is some info from the Clear Food website. (It’s an interesting site to check out, if you are interested in knowing what is really in your food. Warning: you may learn some things you wish you hadn’t!)

“… hot dogs are usually processed in factories, where meat trimmings, spices and other ingredients are chopped and blended into an emulsification… If variety meats, such as livers, kidneys and hearts are among the ingredients… the particular ingredient should be listed on the label.” (But often they are not!)

As a side note, Clear Food also found that 10% of the vegetarian products they tested contained meat. What?

I’ve named today’s post Waste for a few reasons. The first, as stated above, is the nefarious use of waste or byproducts by the PFIC to increase profits. There is a wealth of documentation on this common practice in books like Michael Moss’s Salt, Sugar, Fat and elsewhere. The modification and chemical additives which the WHO report tags as likely causes of carcinogenic effects, are ubiquitous (ah, I always wanted to use that word) in the processed food industry. They spend millions of dollars on scientific research into the development and use of said ‘modifications and additives’, because they are in the business of making food products taste so good that we crave them (say, bacon, bacon, bacon.)

This research, purely to enhance profit, is another form of waste, in my opinion. If redirected, the human brainpower and financial investment could make amazing contributions to the health and wellness of the world’s population. Instead, unhealthy processed food products are marketed to consumers all over the planet.

And a final reason that I chose the title Waste… Initially the PFIC was the PPFIC (Packaged & Processed Food Industrial Complex.) I dropped the first ‘P’ after realizing that it was redundant. All processed food is packaged, because it is necessary for an ‘extended shelf life’. Sometimes the amount of packaging is obscene; it’s always wasteful.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the processed meat story – or any other idea sparks or sparks of joy that you want to share. Thanks.

NaBloPoMo November 2015


NaBloPoMo_1114_298x255_blogrollNo, this is not an essay about the iconic dessert for the upcoming family holiday (which is unfortunately, but unquestionably based upon a brutal, genocidal piece of ‘American’ history.) After all, the website where this blog finds it’s home, is named Eating Art Work, with the subtitle: A Food Life Story conversation. So it is logical to talk about food, or at least use food as an image or metaphor, right?

Actually, I was wondering which sort of pie you pictured when I wrote about pie charts a few days ago: dessert pie or pizza pie? I grew up in northern New Jersey (and as previously stated: ‘you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you cannot take the Jersey out of the girl’ – and that is so true, but why? Tangent.) In my hometown, pizza was definitively called pizza pie. In fact my parents would talk about ‘getting a pie for supper’, never mentioning the word pizza. Now I have spent my adult life here in New England, where ‘pie’ refers to a rolled crust with sweet, preferably fruit based filling.

Be that as it may… before I get totally lost in that lovely digression about food pies, savory and sweet, let me return to the pie chart, which is, of course, merely a circle, drawn on paper and divided geometrically into sections. In my post entitled Alone, I was reflecting on the desire (need) for more private time. The pie slices which I discussed were arbitrarily defined and so I’ve been thinking about what I said, what I want my life to look like and how, in fact, things are currently configured.

In a delicious bite of irony, the ostensible topic of my NaBloPoMo posts, Friendship (or Relationships) has been the area of my life that has taken the greatest ‘hit’ in the past 21 days. Writing daily blog posts takes a chunk of time out of my days and that has to come from somewhere, right? Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the writing exercise, but as a ‘former English teacher’ (like being a Jersey girl, you never stop being an English teacher) I’m unable to just type and post. Grammar, flow, word choice, logic, structure and certainly correcting typographical errors are all essential parts of the process and that takes time. The other day I realized that I am essentially writing an ‘in-class essay’ everyday.

So, I have slipped further behind than ever in my ‘responsibilities’ to friends and family. Promises to get together, unfulfilled. Personal emails, unanswered. Inquiries about health and babies, elderly parents and art shows, unspoken. I don’t like it. When I picture that pie chart and get agitated, I soothe myself with this reminder…   When I first became a mom, my older sister gave me some advice, which I have since passed on to countless other parents, when they obsess about what their child is – or is not – eating. She said words to this effect: “Do not obsess about what your child eats at each meal. Over the course of ten days, a child will eat a balanced diet.”

Honestly, I don’t know if this is precisely true, but there is a common-sense logic to the advice. First of all, stressing and obsessing does not help any situation, especially where children are involved. They pick up on the stress and things inevitably get messier, not better. Secondly, it makes sense to learn to trust the body, our own and our child’s, to express it’s needs and find balance. We are certainly subject to influences that teach us to ignore signals from our body. Letting children make choices about what they eat and when, empowers them and encourages them to practice ‘listening’ to their bodies.

Point being? I can practice trusting that things will balance out for me in terms of time spent on work (this writing) and time spent catching up with friends. And, that berating myself for being a ‘lousy friend’ is certainly not going to help me in any way.


Sugar and fat

Another article in the newspaper this morning about the sugar being pumped into processed foods:  A little extra sugar tied to fatal heart disease in study, says the headline by Lindsey Tanner of the Associated Press.Sugars

CHICAGO — The biggest study of its kind suggests that sugar can be deadly, at least when it comes to fatal heart problems.  It doesn’t take all that much extra sugar, hidden in many processed foods, to substantially raise the risk, the researchers found, and most Americans eat more than the safest amount.  … in the new study, obesity didn’t explain the link between sugary diets and death. That link was found even in normal-weight people who ate lots of added sugar.

“Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick,” said Laura Schmidt, a health policy specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

The researchers focused on sugar added to processed foods or drinks, or sprinkled in coffee or cereal. Even foods that don’t taste sweet have added sugar, including many brands of packaged bread, tomato sauce, and salad dressing.”

Why does this seem so obvious to me?  I guess the scientific world needs studies to prove things.  Prove them to whom?  The politicians who could work to regulate the processed food industry?  Or could ‘facts’ like these encourage the PFIC (processed food industrial complex) to modify their own profit-driven choices?  How can our addiction to sugar possibly be broken?  Surprisingly, the answer might include adding more healthy fats to our diet.  WHAT?

Here are some thoughts about fats from the blog of the well-known Ayurvedic practitioner and teacher, Dr John Douillard.  He notes that ancient humans

“… ate tons of fiber and didn’t eat sugar. We eat way too much sugar and have insufficient amounts of fiber to block its absorption into the blood, leaving us with raging blood sugar issues.

“As the population grew, foods were processed so they could sit on a shelf longer. This was accomplished by processing good healthy fats, rendering them unhealthy. As a result, our dietary intake of good healthy fats has dramatically declined, leaving us searching for satiety elsewhere.

Remember, that feeling of satiety and satisfaction we get after a meal is due to the fats that stick to the ribs and make us feel full.

“Without sugar in their diet, hunter-gatherers were satisfied primarily by fats, while we have been deprived of such satisfying good fats in comparison.

“To [meet] this need to feel full and satisfied, we have gravitated to a diet of carbs and sugars, which deliver a more temporary version of satiety. The feel-good, satisfied sensation is delivered much quicker – and modern humans have become addicted to it. When the food industry began using processed fats in foods that we don’t digest well, the carb content in the American diet began to soar. Foods have to be pleasing and tasty, and this was accomplished with starchier foods with less digestible or usable fats.

“The more good fats you put in your diet, the less you will crave, want or need sugar and sweets.”

To borrow, and flip on its head, a phrase from the show Iron Chef America, I am engaged in ‘Battle Sugar’.  And I know I’m not alone.  There are two major ways that the desire, the craving for sweets seems to be hard wired.  One is more biochemical, which is an addiction habit and the other is more psychological, an emotional habit.  Together they have a powerful impact, particularly if visual or olfactory stimulation is present.  See a box of chocolates?  Want it.  Smell cookies baking?  Want them.  Watch someone eating ice cream?  Where did they get it?

With many thanks (not) to the advertising industry, we are bombarded with images of sweets, real or artificial, everywhere we look.  And painstakingly created chemical scents (and sometimes tastes) that mimic the delicious natural chemistry of butter and sugar attract us like little wavy cartoon lines.  Sensuous sells.  I love to share pet peeves here… the TV ads for Lindt chocolate truffles, where the image of a male chef, dripping molten chocolate from a large whisk, is followed by the picture of a woman swooning. Another candy maker has an ad showing a woman nibbling on a tiny corner of a small piece of chocolate also swooning.  Really?  Women are so easily satisfied…

Anyway, with a major chocolate holiday approaching next week, here is an early Eating Art Work drawing of a Valentine heart.

Choc heart

On healthy & bodies

Writing is going well.  More connections keep sprouting, from my little head, the newspaper, the Internet and books.  I’m going to offer a couple of things for you to watch/read & consider.  Here is something worth watching:

Beautiful, heartbreaking, and ‘moving’ as the friend who posted it on FB said.  Because who is perfect?   Accepting and honoring the body we each have, our vehicle in this lifetime, that’s the goal.  I thank the Gods and Goddesses for artists, humanitarians, Europeans…

And here is a link to a wordpress blogger who caught my attention with a post called ‘Bikini Body’, back in April.  Here is what she posted today.   She says it very well!             I’ll keep on reading her blog…

I’ve been reading a cookbook, called True Food from Dr. Andrew Weil’s restaurants of the same name, that I found at the library.  Always resisted the hype around this man, but some of what he (and the other authors) has to say is spot-on in terms of healthy food vs. PPFIC food products. I’ll definitely be trying some of the recipes.

And finally, here is an excerpt from a book that will be published in a couple of days, called  The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight, and Live Better, by Jonathan Bailor.  I’m not keen on the subtitle; I have visceral reaction to  words like:  “Lose Weight”, but what he has to say in this scrap is interesting. (Emphases mine)

Calorie Myth #3: All Foods Are Fine in Moderation

Most diets suggest that we can eat whatever we want and be fine as long as we monitor our portion sizes and don’t eat too many calories. But as we’ve discussed, calories are not all that matter. What comes along with calories can disrupt our fundamental biology for generations. So why do we hear so much about calories and eating “everything” in moderation? One reason is that many of the institutions perpetuating this myth are funded by companies that produce processed foods. These institutions can keep their corporate benefactors happy and appear reasonable by preaching a message of moderation.(The “foods” aren’t bad—your willpower is!  It’s your “personal responsibility”to resist them!) Now anyone can sell anything and everyone is happy—except for the consumers whose biology is being broken.

Why Hormones Matter More than Moderation

When we are told to focus on calories and moderation instead of food and biology, “healthy” quickly becomes a highly relative term. For example, a popular fast food chain celebrates the health benefits of its offerings that contain less than 400 calories. Never mind the high fructose corn syrup, refined flour, trans fats, and pink slime in these edible products we collectively refer to as “food,” they’re low calorie and therefore “smart” choices.

We know this is absurd. We know that the nutritional and hormonal impact of calories matters immensely. But we can see why the calorie craze is perpetuated. Want to sell anything and call it healthy?  Convince people calories are all that matter. Then mix together the cheapest and most shelf-stable ingredients you can find and call it edible. Finally, shrink the serving size until you can call it low calorie and therefore“healthy.” One-hundred-calorie snack packs for everyone!

Misguided recommendations around moderation are not new. Just a few decades ago we were given a message of smoking in moderation, but then the science linking smoking to addiction and disease became clear. The link between inSANE foods addiction and disease is now clear.

As Yale University’s Kelly Brownell puts it, “By 1964, there was sufficient scientific evidence . . . [but] many years passed and many millions died before decisive action was taken to [turn the tide against smoking]…. Repeating this history with food and obesity would be tragic.”

Will a single soda or candy bar every once in awhile kill us? Of course not. But neither will a single cigarette every once in a while. The question is what we should be recommending. The message of moderation and calories is rooted in money, not science. Accurate recommendations would revolve around food quality and hormones, not calorie count and moderation…

Again, I haven’t read this guy Bailor’s book, so I’m not recommending it or endorsing his theories… but I do appreciate his take on the PPFIC and it’s food products.

Happy New Year.  Next post will be on 1-1-14