Fed Up

Just back from a preview showing of the movie I mentioned last week, Fed Up.

So much damning information about the PFIC (Processed Food Industrial Complex).  And I may need to revise the title I’ve given, to include the US Government’s role in this horror story.

Honestly, I can’t think right now.  My head is swimming with factoids and my heart is churning with emotional reactions.

So, for now, I am going to say, go see this film.  Here is a link to the trailer.  Here is a link to the list of theaters where it will be showing, starting in the couple of weeks.

On another topic:  I’ve been writing about corners.  More next time.

“Should.” “Don’ Wanna.”

Everything seems to be taking a little longer today.  I am out-of-sorts and easily irritated. “Should, Don’ Wanna” is my theme song.

Is there a pressing should?  Well, I could do X, Y or Z. Yeah. I could.  I try to remember to say ‘could’ instead of ‘should’.  It’s definitely a less violent word than should, but still triggers an apathetic “but I don’ wanna”.

Where am I going with this?  Into a dark, self-defeating hole.  Think I’ll stop now.  I’ll come back to this negative chant – which can be viewed from a more positive angle in terms of choice – some other day.

I do have a piece of (potentially exciting) news to share. Here is some information about a new movie called FED UP, that’s coming out in May. It’s clearly promotional hype, but there is one sentence, which I have highlighted below, lest you miss it (grin) that speaks directly to so much I have been trying to say in this blog. I am so, so eager to find out the veracity and the source of this statistic.

Thirty years ago the U.S. Government issued its first ever dietary guidelines and with it one of the greatest health epidemics of our time ensued. In her documentary feature debut, executive producer and narrator Katie Couric joins Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth), Regina Scully (The Invisible War) and Stephanie Soechtig (Tapped) to explore why, despite media attention and government policies to combat childhood obesity, generations of kids will now live shorter lives than their parents.

Upending the conventional wisdom of why we gain weight and how to lose it, FED UP unearths the dirty little secret the food industry doesn’t want you to know — far more of us are sick from what we are eating than anyone has ever realized.

The truth is, only 30% of people suffering from diet-related diseases are actually obese; while 70% of us — even those of us who look thin and trim on the outside — are facing the same consequences, fighting the same medical battles as the obese among us.

Following a group of children for more than two years, director Stephanie Soechtig achieves a profound intimacy with them as they document their uphill battles to follow the conventional wisdom, ‘diet and exercise’, in order to live healthier, fuller lives. They are undertaking a mission impossible. In riveting interviews with the country’s leading experts, FED UP lays bare a decades-long misinformation campaign orchestrated by Big Food and aided and abetted by the U.S. Government.

Here is a link to the trailer, which doesn’t address the 30% and 70% statistic, but it’s worth a look.  Sugars

 

 

Unapologetic

I’ve always apologized too much; that is I have reflexively said “I’m sorry” several thousand times when it was inappropriate.  My mother said those words frequently and it is only in retrospect that I understand how bitterly and sarcastically she often said them.  Thanks to a dear friend, who is similarly afflicted with the ‘sorry-reflex disease’, I’ve become more conscious of my habitual use of the phrase.  This has helped me to curb its compulsive appearance in my dialog with the world.

The word ‘dis-ease’, which I used above, reminds me that these unnecessary apologies burst from my lips primarily when I am ill at ease or uneasy.  Case in point:  recently, while struggling awkwardly to remove a difficult sock, I said ‘I’m sorry’ to my spousal witness.  When asked, logically, ‘What for?’ the only response I could muster was… ‘For being alive?’

A quick check of online definitions yields two items:  first, a definition:                     regretful acknowledgment of offense or failure.

My goodness, that sounds an awful lot like shame, doesn’t it?   I also learn about  National Sorry Day, an annual event held in Australia since 1998, to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the continent’s indigenous population.  Now that’s an appropriate use of the word.

What brought this up?  An article in the newspaper, heralding the upcoming appearance of Barbie in this year’s Sports Illustrated 50th anniversary Swimsuit issue.  It is unclear whether she will be on the cover or not, however having Barbie flaunt her body in this iconic [sic] setting is part of Mattel’s “unapologetic” campaign to promote sales.  I’m not going to bother responding to the whole Barbie appearance issue; been there, done that, when my daughter was young.Barbie

What really struck me was the up-front and proud use of ‘unapologetic’.  A Mattel executive is quoted as saying “… unapologetic is a word that we use internally, [but this is the first time we are] engaging in a conversation publicly.”  I believe she means that they take pride in thumbing their collective nose at those critics who see the Barbie cult as potentially damaging for the self-image of young girls.  And more broadly, I believe the Mattel Corporation is expressing a widely held and unapologetic corporate view that profit is the driver of all decisions.

Another article, ironically placed at the top of the same page (deep in the Business section) carries forward the same theme.  It details a shift in the way the sweetener section of the Processed Food Industrial Complex is promoting its products.  Headlined: ‘The Sweetener War’, the piece describes how the combatants, team Sugar and team Corn Syrup have changed their game plans.  Less money is now going toward paying lobbyists to press their agendas with government policy makers.  In a clever (or shady?) shift, these PFIC behemoths have funded non-profit groups, billed as consumer organizations, to carry out research and ‘soft lobbying’ campaigns to influence public opinion.  Lobbyists have to be publicly registered, but non-profits are not required to reveal their donors.  Is this another Citizens United ploy?  Money talks.  Hidden money buys tremendous clout.  Manipulating or deceiving the consumer is just how the game is played.  Unapologetic.

Other recent articles have exposed the shrinking package size, but steady or rising price of packaged foods.  Unapologetic deception.  A piece about pizza consumption describes the USDA ‘dairy checkoff program’ which ‘levies a small fee on milk’, which is then used ‘to promote products like milk and cheese’.  A corporation named Dairy Management Inc., which is funded by these fees, spent ‘$35 million in a partnership with Domino’s to Chzpizzapromote pizza sales’.  Other funds from the checkoff program helped McDonalds launch new burgers with two slices of cheese.  And on and on.  This program and similar programs supporting the meat industry have been renewed in the most recent farm bill.  That’s the bill that cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.)

Unapologetic.  ‘Let them eat pizza.’

Here’s the thing… I only read this one newspaper and I know these articles represent only a small percentage of the muck that is out there to be raked up.  It makes me very tired, because there is such relentless hoopla about the ‘obesity epidemic’, which unapologetically (perhaps unintentionally) reinforces fat stigma and here ‘we’ are subsidizing the PFIC that is contributing to unhealthy eating habits.  Where’s the money, real money, to promote eating fruits and vegetables?  Where’s the money to sponsor unbiased research and publication of results that actually serve the consumer, rather than the corporation?

Returning to the personal element… I am tired of feeling apologetic for taking up space, for how I look, for ‘being alive’.  I regret all the years of reflexive apologizing.  Why do these heavy hitters, these honchos get to flaunt their unapologetic stance?  It’s all about the raging range of social inequities that confront and offend me everyday.  Well, it’s my turn.  If I have earned nothing else in my 60+ years, I’ve earned the right to healthy entitlement.  It’s my turn to be unapologetic.

Tunes and TV

In June of 1964, I graduated from sixth grade and that fall I started junior high school.       That same June, Frank Sinatra recorded the song “Wives and Lovers’, which has unfortunately been playing in my head since I woke up this morning.  Why, I do not know.  Perhaps something from my dreams triggered the association.  But I do know that the recording was played a lot during the 1960’s and the lyrics have laid claim to some of my brain cells ever since.  Along with other distorting messages of that era.

curlstart“Hey, little girl, comb your hair, fix your make-up, soon he will open the door,
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger, you needn’t try any more.
For wives should always be lovers too,
Run to his arms the moment that he comes home to you.   I’m warning you.
Day after day, there are girls at the office and the men will always be men, Don’t stand him up, with your hair still in curlers, you may not see him again…

Still deconstructing how the shame-loading occurred.  The personal experiences in my family of origin, which I have been trying to disarm by exposing them to the light, are only part of the story.  They did not, indeed, could not have existed and ‘packed the wallop’ that they did, without the persistent support of the dominant culture of the times.

A dear friend recently sent me a copy of Appetites by Caroline Knapp.  It is a rich and painful book to read.  Here is one insight that really caught my attention:  “… the visual image [began] to supplant text as culture’s primary mode of communication.”  She goes on to note that images “are immediate, they hit you at levels way beneath intellect…”   So true, I thought.  She then highlights some wild stats:

In 1950’s, TV screen images changed every 12-15 seconds; by the 80’s, the speed increased to seven seconds.  “Today, [which was 2003 when her book was published] the image on the average TV commercial can change as quickly as once every 1.5 seconds, an assaulting speed, one that’s impossible to thoroughly process or integrate… they get wedged inside… insidious… come to feel like truth.

She goes on:  “This is the subliminal ooze of culture and misogyny, the source of its grip.  Images of beauty and directives about the body make women feel inadequate…” Tears sprang to my eyes and chills on my spine when she brought it home to my life today.  “Visuals operate like ‘heat-seeking-missiles’… honing in on a prior pang of insecurity or judgment…”   The images that bombard me/us daily reawaken hurtful memories of adolescence, the time when I came to understand about the “physical haves and have nots’…”

So, where does this excerpt take me?  Are these ideas a part of de-constructing shame?  Well, yes, anything that validates the misogyny and appearance-only-valuing of American culture in my lifetime can be liberating.  The sources of our shame are many and unmasking them is one of my goals here.  The poison has been a slow, intravenous drip for my entire life, for the lifetime of every girl & woman in this country (and elsewhere also.)

I can’t speak for men.  I know that there are stultifying, damaging messages about male appearance and behavior that must be damaging.  And, as I think most contemporary feminists would agree, the messages about what and how females should look and behave have been subcutaneously injected into boys and men also.  These inoculations inevitably limit male understanding of girls and women and undermine the possibility of developing healthy, balanced relationships, intimate or not.

So, yes, these insights are part of understanding and rejecting shame.  They give me a clearer understanding of the inadequacy that I felt.  There was no time to process or understand, much less critique this propaganda; the images just burrowed into my budding identity.  And then there was the audio component, worming its way into my emerging self with catchy tunes and rhyming lyrics.  Although, I guess I was doing some questioning of the Bacharach & David tune quoted above… curlend I never could understand why a woman would have her hair in curlers at the end of the day…

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

DeConSha

DeConstructingShame is the name of the game.  Name of the blog, name of the job.  And you know what?  It’s hard work.  Picture a hard-hatted woman (yes, there is a hard head under the hard-hat), wearing overalls and work gloves.  Digging into a moldy, smelly, rotting foundation; taking it apart brick-by-brick. Bricks

The de-‘construction site’ metaphor may not be a perfect description, but I’m going with it for now.  Because shame has to have sources, doesn’t it?  The supplies come from lumber yards, cement mixers, plumbing, electrical and hardware supply warehouses.  The shame messages were passed along, almost slyly, unobtrusively, ubiquitously, by my grandparent’s and parent’s generations, and updated, (essentially unchanged) by Seventeen Magazine and it’s media cohort.

In my daily writing on DeConSha, I’ve been exploring the impossible task of achieving adolescence in the late 1960’s, where fitting in & looking good (the requirements haven’t changed much for the teens of today) inevitably led to sexual harassment and shame.  Gotcha comin’ and goin’, I say.  But nobody said that to me, to us, then.  We were displayed in our mini-skirts and it was open season for boys and men to evaluate us.  To follow the hunting metaphor, they took pot-shots at us.  My grandfather, my father, my Geometry teacher and every boy or man seemed to feel confidently superior in their maleness and comfortably entitled to rate, berate, mock or praise us.

Without a language to understand this phenomenon, without a sense of worthiness and pride, other than attractiveness to males, where could/did I go in my confusion?  If I failed to please, or if I received ‘unwanted attention’, either way, it was my fault, I was to blame and the shame of it all settled into my being.  Having been thoroughly primed, as a child, to accept responsibility for any short-comings, the searing moments of embarrassment that clustered in those years still sting.

So, I’m digging them out.  Threw away the work gloves.  Bare hands are the only way I know to do this.  Scraped raw knuckles, dry, cracking cuticles, fingernails that never were a proper feminine accoutrement… Every day I get up and I dig in the slime of the shame and although it seems endless, I choose, I must choose, to believe that it is not.

Two other notes:
Someone showed me the recently released Special K (Kellogg’s) youtube video called ‘Shhhhut Down Fat Talk’.  Don’t know what I think about it… special-k-Fat-Talk-1

As a large woman I truly detest fat talk and it is everywhere.  But I have some uneasy feelings about a member of the PPFIC (Packaged & Processed Food Industrial Complex) trotting out this campaign.  Of course, they have the money to do the research, set up a fake store and make the video.  Would love to hear what you think…

My second note is in the “Come on, who wrote that title?” category.  In the March 2014 issue of Journal of Experimental Social Psychology there will be an article entitled “The Ironic Effects of Weight Stigma”, based on studies done at UC Santa Barbara.  Of course I haven’t read the article, so I could be over-reacting (who me?)  Somehow ironic is not the word that seems most appropriate when talking about the effects of weight stigma.  Suppose I could be glad that research is happening at all.  Same with the Kellogg’s video.

Theater seats

I’ve always liked the Cooks Illustrated magazine a lot.  I’ve previously mentioned that I enjoy reading Chris Kimball’s letters in the front of each issue.  I also love the fact that the magazine has no advertising – so no need for me to analyze their food industry politics, as I did with Cooking Light.  Their independence from sponsors is refreshing.  I enjoy the detailed walking-me-through the recipe development articles.  And I love, love, love both the “Kitchen Notes” section and the “Quick Tips” submitted by readers.  It’s all very down to earth and person-to-person.

Just spent 90 minutes at an event featuring the staff of America’s Test Kitchen, the folks who publish the magazine, as well as producing the ATK TV and radio shows and the sister magazine, Cook’s Country.  I laughed and I (figuratively) drooled and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Kimball and his crew are all very personable and I could have listened to them chat about their work for hours – if the seats in the old Brattle Theater had been slightly less painful.

I am so bitterly tired of uncomfortable seating, on planes, in restaurants and theaters.  Those new-fangled [sic] cup holderscupholder that were added to the already narrow old seats in theaters make wedging myself into the seat a real production.  And I was not the largest soul in the crowd tonight, nor in the restaurant with the in-laws on Thanksgiving.

I loved hearing a bit of the back story for each of the Test Kitchen folks tonight.  It would be such fun to interview them about their Food Life Stories.  In fact, Adam Reid, one of the ATK staff, is the friend of a friend and agreed some time ago to let me interview him.  Guess I need to get on that!  So eager to get back to my interview list, in general.  Time.

I have been able to get more deeply into the writing this week.  NaBloPoMo really did give me the jump start I had been seeking.  These twice weekly posts may have a different tone for a while, a little less soul-baring, but I have also learned, by experiencing (is there any other way to truly learn?) the value of writing in this public voice and hitting that ‘Publish’ button.  So, thank you again to WordPress & BogHer for the structured challenge.  And thank you to any readers who are curious, as I am, to see where this Food Life Story project will take me.

Cooking Light

cooking lightI like Cooking Light magazine.  I even enjoy the regular note from the editor, Scott Mowbray.  Now, it’s also true that I like to read the letter that Christopher Kimball writes in each issue of Cook’s Illustrated and I’ve heard that not everyone enjoys his stories about Vermont so much…  So you can draw your own conclusions about my reading tastes.  They are, in truth, quite broad.
Anyway, back to Cooking Light.  I find the articles to be informative and I’ve made a good many tasty and healthy meals using their recipes.  They have a reasonable policy toward day-to-day cooking.  Meals can be relatively simple to prepare, but include a range of food-based nutrients and flavors.  Their ‘recipe make-overs’ are healthy without being ridiculously stripped down.
After discussing the loss of cheese in Cheez Whiz yesterday, I decided to take a closer look at the ads in the current (November) issue of CL.  I wondered how closely their advertising policies mirrored their sensible food philosophy.  In general, they do pretty well, with a few exceptions.  A Special Report on Sugar in this issue almost makes up for those problematic advertisers.
As you can imagine, I loved this opening in Kimberly Holland’s report:
“… Sugar … [is] everywhere in the American diet, though largely invisible.  … added to all kinds of processed foods, even those we don’t think of as sweet, such as salad dressing and marinara sauce.  Sugar, along with fat, is one of the key contributors to the caloric density of many packaged foods – the bulking up that happens when whole foods are refined, processed, flavored, and boxed.”  (pp. 39)
What follows is a lot of interesting, and some surprising, info about refined white sugar and alternative sweeteners.  For the most part their conclusions are in line with the research I’ve been reading.  You might want to take a look at the article in the library or on a magazine rack in the store.
But back to those ads…  One ‘offender‘ (in my opinion) appears right alongside some of the Sugar Special Report:  Kellogg’s “To Go” protein drink.
“…it boasts 5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein.   It forgets to boast 4.5 teaspoons of sugar though… [this] highly processed… product… [is] very cheap to make, utilizing commodity soy and whey to bump up protein, and using polydextrose and cellulose to bump up the fiber count. Polydextrose is a synthetic source of soluble fiber… And as if the product is not sweet enough with 4.5 teaspoons worth of sugar, artificial sucralose and acesulfame potassium are thrown into the mix… what is canola oil doing in the drink? Or trans fat heirs-apparent mono and di-glycerides?”  This quote is taken from the blog Fooducate; read full commentary here.  Very disappointing to see this fine, health-focused cooking mag promoting a product that scarcely contains real food ingredients.
I am even more alarmed that the November issue of CL has a three page ad for BELVIQ, a weight loss drug recently approved by the FDA. You know, it’s the the sort of pharmacological ad that needs two extra pages just to list the risks and possible side effects of the advertised drug.  Now I realize that it’s good advertising income for the magazine, but not a responsible choice of advertiser, in my humble opinion.
Consumer Reports says “skip it”.  They note that “ … the European Medicines Agency was so concerned about the drug’s safety that it rejected the drug. The drug’s manufacturer, Arena Pharmaceuticals, recently withdrew its application for the drug’s use in Europe.”    Here’s a link if you want to check out the rest of their report.
There are ads for several Campbell’s products.  Only two days ago there was a report on WBZ-TV about the possible collusion of Campbell’s and the American Heart Association. It is claimed that they have misled customers by putting the AHA’s “Heart Check of Approval” on some soups that contain questionable amounts of sodium (salt).  A lawsuit has been filed that “suggests the AHA benefits financially from awarding these seals of approval. Last year, it collected $2.7 million from food manufacturers. The association maintains this was to cover the costs of the Heart Check program.”  Here’s the link to the WBZ report.
Does it all go back to money, money, money?  Hmm.
Okay, tomorrow I will try to be more upbeat, but for now I will say that despite these questionable advertising choices, this is a great issue – a 276 page Thanksgiving Double Issue.  Now that I have finished raking muck, I can go back and enjoy reading the recipes.