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.

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Poetry & tiny beads

Last Wednesday, a writer friend unexpectedly took me to a poetry reading.  As it happened, she also gave me a belated holiday gift, a collection of poems by the same poet, her favorite, Billy Collins.  If you don’t know his work, please check it out…

I thanked her the next day, for taking me ‘to another realm’.   Laughter, beauty and inspiration, I told her, were the things that I dis- or re- covered there.  Like fresh air, water or an open, silent vista.  What I needed, when I needed it, but didn’t know that I did.  I presume and hope you have sometime had that experience.  The reading was at Symphony Hall, an elegant setting, although I had never been quite so far from a reading poet before… I actually watched him on the ‘Jumbo-tron-style’ screen!  His generous gifts of story and poem were not at all diminished by the distance.  5171172_f260

That simple and most excellent evening was the cause of my delay, posting here on Thursday morning, instead of my self-imposed deadline of Wednesday evening.  Thursday passed by as many days do, filled with tasks and such.  Risking TMI, I will share that a nasty GI bug or food poisoning (my own cooking?) awoke me overnight and I spent Friday and Saturday abed.  Weak, tired and bored, I had the opportunity to read his poems (and others) and to think in the manner only stretches of un-busy-ness allow.  That is to say, deeply, which I believe implies calmly.  To be ‘relieved’ of even the brain power to plan “what I will do when I feel better” was at first frustrating, then allowed a deeper sinking into self.

Please know that I have no idea what courage, stamina and spirit it must take to survive a truly lengthy recovery from serious accident or illness.  I only wish to say how this string of events has unfolded for me, from a seat in the second balcony in Symphony Hall, to physical distress to bed rest.

There are on-topic things that I could write about and post today.  Mark Bittman had an excellent Op-Ed in the NY Times last week, which I want to discuss.   Here’s the first paragraph, for a taste.  There are so many reasons to admire this man: a chef with a global view.

In the last few years, it’s become increasingly clear that food companies engineer hyper-processed foods in ways precisely geared to most appeal to our tastes. This technologically advanced engineering is done, of course, with the goal of maximizing profits, regardless of the effects of the resulting foods on consumer health, natural resources, the environment or anything else.

Among other things, his piece led me to a new book called Lethal, but Legal, whose author discusses the ‘Corporate Consumption Complex’.  What a delightful surprise to encounter unknown kin of my ‘Processed Food Industrial Complex’!  Written by an academician, the book contains the results of mountains of research that I barely dreamed of attempting.  Many thanks to Professor Nicholas Freudenberg, whose words I will surely be sharing here, as I read about the Triple C.

In conclusion, however, here is what I wanted to share with you today.  The aforementioned string of events in my personal life has become a simple necklace, with four tiny, hand-molded beads.  In the past few days, I have written drafts of four small poems.  They are not especially good; in fact they are not yet poems, really and they may never reach that goal.  There are a few nice images and a nice ‘turn of phrase’ or two.  But the thing is – I wrote them.  A little fissure into the inner world of image and emotion, wrought by chance.  images-4

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.

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

In My Humble Opinion

You may remember a post I wrote about a month ago, about Maria King’s ‘fat-bashing’ Facebook post.  Well, this week in the Boston Globe there was an Op-Ed piece championing Ms. King’s viewpoint.  The headline reads:  “Pro-fat is an unhealthy status quo”.   I must say, Globe editors, unless the author, Cathy Young chose that title, it seems like a provocative choice of words. The Globe is fairly consistent about presenting both sides of political issues, but there was no balancing opinion piece on this topic.  Which raises the question of whether the American attitude toward fat people is a political concern…

Ms. Young’s point appears to be that the ‘fat acceptance’ movement is dangerous.  As she critiques the promotion of ‘fat pride’ and the normalization and celebration of body size acceptance, I would ask Ms. Young to consider three questions.

First and most importantly, as she references the ‘rise in childhood obesity’, I ask, does she mean to say that it is better for children to grow up obese and filled with shame and self-loathing?  Does she really believe that it is irresponsible to present children with models of self-acceptance, regardless of body size?  She states that fat-bullying is not okay, but in the absence of any positive role models, the fat-bashers (adult & child) would seem to have cultural approval for expressing their negative opinions.keylime

Ms. Young quotes several studies, some which support her p.o.v and another, which she disparages as flawed, which is invoked by ‘pro-fat activists.’  Her reasoning is confusing and frankly, insults the intelligence of the participants in the study.  Plus, we all know how easily one can find studies to support or debunk any point of view.

My second question for Ms. Young is whether she has done any research into the role of processed foods in childhood (and adult) obesity?  For more than half a century, the processed food industry (with near-silence – or complicity – on the part of our government) has knowingly sold/fed the American public ‘food products’ that contain heavy loads of salt, sugar and fat.  These addictive substances have fueled billions of dollars in profits for the processed food and diet industries.  I would suggest that Ms. Young read Michael Moss’s Salt Sugar Fat, or at least the opening chapters, and educate herself.

Lastly, Young disparages the ‘the left wing notion that anti-obesity stigma equals bigotry (and patriarchal oppression, when directed at women)’.  I’m sorry, but seeing the words ‘left wing’ in this argument made me chuckle.  However, I guess in a way she’s right – it is a human rights issue – albeit one that the average progressive individual may not be comfortable espousing.  Be that as it may, I ask Ms. Young:  do you really, honestly contend that sexism/patriarchal oppression is not a factor in fat stigma?  There are thousands of studies that confirm that girls and women are judged on their appearance.  They know it, from a terrifyingly young age, and they strive to meet unhealthy standards of ‘beauty’.  Yes, fat is a feminist issue, (with a nod to Susie Orbach).

Young closes by likening obesity to alcoholism.  There may be parallels, but I would say that to call either ‘condition’ a ‘self-inflicted’ one demonstrates a lack of sensitivity and insight on her part.  She is simply incorrect when she closes with the accusation that promoting self-acceptance is ‘assist[ing] in denial’.  In my opinion, health, in every meaning of the word, requires a foundation of self-acceptance and pride, not shame.

Jump start

The end is in sight.  The end of NaBloPoMo raises a question…what shall I do on December 1st?  Right now, I think the answer is:  keep writing.  In fact, I know that’s the answer.  The jump-start I was looking for has taken effect; engine is humming and I am off down the road.  I supposed the general understanding of a jump-start is hooking cables from the battery of a running car to the battery posts of a car that is out of juice.  That image works a bit.  But what I’m really remembering is the jump-start that was possible before cars had computers, automatic transmissions and all that.

Indulge me.  A car with a standard transmission, circa 1966.  A Volkswagen beetle or my old 122S Volvo.  Dead battery.  Get that car pointed down hill on an incline.  Doesn’t even need to be a hill.  Release the hand brake and start rolling.  Pop the clutch and shift into first gear.  The engine kicks in.  Give it a little gas, and go.  Bee-U-ti-full, every time.  That purring sound, forward motion and an exhilarating sense of power, control & freedom.  Yep, that’s what this month of blogging has done for me.  Took a while to get the car into the proper position, but now…

I know what I need to do next, how to approach the ideas I want to express and I’m more ready than I’ve ever been.  I think my blog postings will go down to twice a week for the time being, so that I can put daily writing time into the larger piece.  Truth is, some of what I need to write is exploratory and personal in a way that isn’t ready to be shared.  Some of it can be, but I see now that the major work is to be done privately for a while.

My writing allies in W3 ‘uttched’ (nudged, pushed) me toward clarity yesterday, with their thoughtful, caring questions.  Thank you E, L & L for all that we share.  And while I’m at it, thank you to the (one or two) regular readers of this month’s EAW blog.  Your support means a lot to me.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve done an awful lot of writing over the years that has never been shared.  Hitting that ‘Publish‘ button every day this month has eased me over that roadblock to public writing.  Actually, the image is more like a wind-up car or toy that makes its way into a corner and gets stuck there.  The whining noise continues, the wheels or legs keep moving, but the nose is stuck against the wall and stays there till the spring runs down.  Hmm, writing with my nose in a corner.  Interesting.

Real cars and toy cars; not what I expected to be writing about today, but it’s always satisfying to find metaphors that really feel accurate.  As my local food pantry preps to hand out turkeys and trimmings tomorrow evening; grocery stores and kitchens overflow with (mostly) real food for the food-focused holiday this week;  I find that I have less appetite for spitting nails at and about the PPFIC.  I’m not done with that, but for now I more drawn to a compassionate consideration of food and addiction.  Here’s an old drawing of a sweet potato chip to close this post.

SwtPot         Sweet Potato = autumnal harvest.   Chip = addictive food loaded with S S & F.

Process notes

Thank you NaBloPoMo.

I have learned so much, or shall I say I’m learning so much.  My evaluation of yesterday’s post, on a scale of 1 – 10, was zero.  Okay, maybe one.  (After all, I did include my old sketch of Oreos – actually the Newman knock-off sandwich cookies.)

I do believe that one of the ‘reasons’ why I gave myself such a low score was the topic…not only difficult, but also gigantic.  And there were other factors at play:  a busy day and fatigue… In truth I didn’t want to write or post anything, but… I am stubborn and I’ve made a commitment to do NaBloPoMo, so, even though I didn’t like what I was posting, I hit publish and went to bed.

In the night (so much happens then, ‘intelligence gathering’, I call it, except that it’s intelligence of the unconscious, not the thinking mind) I realized that what I posted (published still seems like a different thing altogether) were simply my preliminary notes on the subject.  Which is fine, actually.  Yes, I sort of wish I had known, or seen, that that’s what they were at the time,  but hey…so be it.

When I hurried down here to write this morning, the Brené Brown book from which I have been quoting arose from the chaos of my desk.  Subtitle:  “Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”.         Oh.       Yeah.

For decades, in my work as a writing coach and teacher, I have been telling students & clients the wisdom of the writing sages. They all say it in one way or another.  “Basically it’s about practice (like everything).  You have to do some lame, lousy, crappy  ‘bad’ writing to get to the good writing.”   Well, coach, listen to thyself.

So, in fact I’m glad that I did (wrote & posted) what I did yesterday.  Woke me up, in a way.  Yes, this challenge to my self, to push and begin wrangling with the more dense elements of my topic has been/is really great.  I’m much further along that I was 24 days ago.  But “progress not perfection” has long been a mantra of mine and I am invoking it again on this cold November morning.    purpear

Bad timing

At 6:15 this morning, while still in bed, I started laughing.  Nice way to start the day; albeit feeling a little nutty, since I was laughing aloud at my own silent thoughts.  I don’t think that I can translate my train of thoughts in a way to make anyone else laugh, but I will try to explain some of the train.

Since taking up this NaBloPoMo self-challenge, I find myself, not surprisingly, thinking about what I’ve written (or what I am going to write.)  The phrase I used a couple of days ago, that I was “barely chubby” at age eight, echoed in my mind. Then I remembered something that I learned when my daughter was growing up.  Basically it is that children grow in more or less alternating cycles of width and height.

It’s a generalization, of course, but think about it, if you can picture a young child you know or have known.  One day they are roly-poly little babies, then they seem to stretch out as they become toddlers.  The waves of growth continue; as a preteen, there’s often some chunkiness going on, and then ‘phtt‘, growth spurt.  Interesting that the expression ‘growth spurt’ is used almost exclusively for height spurts.

Okay, before I get lost in my ramble, I’ll go back to my 6:00 AM thought.  It wasn’t that I was chubby, I was actually in a normal growth stage.  So it wasn’t my weight that triggered the over-reaction of parents & doctor; it was my body type!  Like I said, you may not be able to get the laugh here, but what cracked me up was thinking of the supermodel of the 1960’s:  Twiggy.  twig

That’s when I thought, ‘bad timing’, as in, what an unfortunate time to be a prepubescent girl.  My parental units were frightened, ashamed & concerned about my size, and it was completely unnecessary.  If only they could have waited a bit & let me grow normally.

There are other elements to the ‘bad timing’ idea, of course.   I think I’ll skip the factors that were most specific to my family, although the self-loathing of my mother and the mysogynistic attitude of my father (both culturally-reinforced) were certainly powerful.  Not to mention the overt sexism of Dr P, who told me , straight out, that “boys would not be interested in [me] because of [my] weight…”. Well, to a young person, a doctor was an unquestioned authority figure.  He must know, right?

His biases apparently overrode any knowledge of the medical fact that bodies change frequently as children grow.  But, perhaps most un-luckily for me, he was unaware of (or ignored?) the fact that putting someone on a dramatically low calorie diet (especially a child, for heavens sake!) wreaks havoc with their metabolism.  The now-prevalent understanding that ‘starvation‘ diets alter the metabolic set-point of an individual, was perhaps not yet common knowledge.  When the body registers caloric deprivation, it goes into crisis mode:  “Emergency!  Starvation risk!  Stockpile calories for energy!  Store Fat!

I have previously noted another ‘bad timing‘ element for me; that I was born at the same time that the PPFIC was taking off, big time.  [I’m really having fun with my acronym:  Packaged, Processed Food Industrial Complex.]  The exhilarating explosion of scientific research, post WWII, was harnessed by the PPFIC to create and utilize more versions of the big three:  salt, sugar and fat.

Cheaper and more addictive foods = more heavy users = way more profit.

Okay, so I’ve come back again to Pushers and Addiction.  I’ll close with this, from The American Society of Addiction Medicine.  Lots of intriguing language here, to be discussed another day.  For now, remember the Oreo cookie study...

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.
Genetic factors account for about half of the likelihood that an individual will develop addiction. Environmental factors interact with the person’s biology and affect the extent to which genetic factors exert their influence. Resiliencies the individual acquires (through parenting or later life experiences) can affect the extent to which genetic predispositions lead to the behavioral and other manifestations of addiction. Culture also plays a role in how addiction becomes actualized in persons with biological vulnerabilities to the development of addiction.”

Ms. Betty

Let’s talk about Betty Crocker, shall we?
Was she a real person?  That would be “No.”  BCspoon

She was a delightful persona, invented by Gold Medal Flour/General Foods to speak for the food industry in the voice of a wise & helpful next door neighbor.

She was a, perhaps the, leading character in the food industry campaign to convince women that they really wanted to use the new prepared food products that were pouring out of factories and into markets in the years following WWII.  Much of her story can be found in Laura Shapiro’s gem, Something From the Oven, published in 2004.

Independent research done at the time revealed, again and again, that women did not hate cooking and were not begging for these ‘ready-mix’ products.  (Shapiro, pp. 44-48)  But in the 1950‘s, the newspapers, women’s magazines and radio shows like Betty’s all proclaimed that women no longer wanted to cook, did not have the time to cook and the industry was there to save the day.

Some factory prepared food products were already a common sight in American kitchens.  “Canned meats, soups, fruits and vegetables, along with ketchup, pancake mix… were among the earliest products [late 19th and early 20th century] to become familiar and then indispensable.”, says Shapiro in her introduction.

The door was open and the American palate was already becoming accustomed to the taste of processed food;  “… a long tradition of using… packaged foods had encouraged Americans to develop a… sense of taste… that tended to perceive imitation [flavoring] as plenty good enough.”  (Shapiro, pp. 56)  The opening wedge of using artificial flavors to mask the offensive tastes of factory cooking.  Salt, sugar and fat to follow.

The industry was primed and began to crank out dozens of new packaged foods (some of which failed dismally.)  In this flurry of innovation, Betty was a reassuring presence, an authority that home cooks could turn to with their questions.  Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cookbook was given to me in the late 1950’s.  Still on my shelf, it is splattered and stained, with notes detailing when I made a dish, changes I made and the response of diners.

Looking at the cookbook today, I am surprised (but shouldn’t be) by the appearance of a prepared food item in virtually every recipe.  Sometimes several canned products and Bisquick combine to make an entree.  Mini-marshmallows and canned pineapple show up a lot.  Fact is, it all scares me a little.  But.

But, what I can’t explain is the sensation of support and encouragement that still arises from these pages.  I am transported back to the seven-year-old child who could, and did, learn to cook with the help of Betty Crocker.  She was not real, she was packaged, just like the food she was created to sell, but…      BCface

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.