Industrial food, America’s biggest drug dealer, pushes “anti-diet” propaganda – Daily Kos

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The Washington Post published an article “As obesity rises, Big Food and dietitians push ‘anti-diet’ advice” (the paywall should be down). In the article, the paper explores yet another example of an American corporation profiting from the harm they cause their customers.

The piece starts by featuring Jaye Rochon, a woman who had struggled to lose weight for years. But who now “felt as if a burden had lifted when she discovered YouTube influencers advocating ‘health at every size’ — urging her to stop dieting and start listening to her mental hunger’.” Sadly, the story goes on to report that Rochon,

“stopped avoiding favorite foods such as cupcakes and Nutella. “They made me feel like I was safe eating whatever the hell I wanted,” said Rochon, 51, a video editor in Wausau, Wisc. In two months, she regained 50 pounds. As her weight neared 300 pounds, she began to worry about her health.”

It is easy to dismiss Rochon as an unintelligent self-saboteur who prefers to get advice from internet “experts,” rather than doctors who know things. But the deck is stacked against her. As WaPo goes on to report:

“The videos that Rochon encountered are part of the so-called “anti-diet” movement, a social media juggernaut that began as an effort to combat weight stigma and an unhealthy obsession with thinness. But now global food marketers are seeking to cash in on the trend.

One company in particular, General Mills, maker of Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms cereals, has launched a multi-pronged campaign that capitalizes on the teachings of the anti-diet movement, an investigation by The Washington Post and The Examination, a nonprofit newsroom that covers global public health, has found.

Business is easy. You make something people want and sell it to them. Cars, cigarettes, computers, and carbohydrates are all the same to an accountant. And in the marketplace, industrial food places no more value in morality than a tobacco company — or a meth dealer. They go where the profit is. And in the supermarket, there is a lot more margin in selling Apple Jacks than in selling apples.

In 2022, Americans spent $2.4 trillion on food. After housing and transportation, it is the third largest category of personal expenditure — more than entertainment, clothing, and education combined. Paradoxically, the money spent on food has increased as the price of producing an edible calorie has decreased.

Compounding the problem is that it is cheaper for industrial food to produce unhealthy calories than healthy food.

Bearing those stats in mind, it is no surprise that in 2002, the average American adult was 25 pounds heavier than in 1960 (they were also an inch taller — silver lining). And kids are not getting any smaller. By 2020, the average man had added another self-reported 10 pounds.

There have been two reactions by consumers to this skyrocketing avoirdupois. On the one hand, they have adopted various diet and exercise regimes — so far with dismal results — to lose this extra weight. And on the other, they have increasingly embraced a laissez-faire, body-positive approach to their bigger bulk. (Note. I cast no aspersions. My dreams of being a heroin-chic male model ended when I was 22. And no one mistakes me for a marathoner).

Industrial food has bet on both approaches. These billion-dollar companies have developed a slew of “healthy alternatives,” along with “low-fat” and “reduced-calorie options”. And General Mills advertises Cheerios (with its added sugar) as a valuable resource in a “heart healthy diet’ — while they continue to market Trix, Lucky Charms, Count Chocola, and Cocoa Puffs to the “fuck it” crowd.

You have to admire the chutzpah of these people. They profit by making their customers fat, then double dip off those consumers who feel guilty about the results of eating their products. Imagine your meth dealer running a rehab clinic.

Americans have an unlimited capacity for self-delusion — it is how Republicans win elections. Now, they increasingly view being significantly overweight as no biggie. And criticize those who say people should maintain a healthy weight as “body-shamers.” The medical community is concerned this resigned approach to the problem is shortening life spans.

Industrial food does not care — any more than the tobacco and lead industries cared about their victims.

Some might say that we are born with a brain. The government mandates nutritional data on all food products. The consumer has all the information they need to make good decisions. However, that is not the way the human mind works. Evolution has wired us to seek out food. And that wiring was laid down when food insecurity in pre-historical savannas made eating whenever food was available an imperative.

Early humans also had to expend calories to consume calories — and move around to find new food supplies. There were no desk jobs 100,000 years ago.

We are also slaves to marketing. Some philosopher once said that advertising is the art of convincing a consumer they have always wanted something they have just heard of. Food companies hire marketing PhDs and spend billions to seduce people to eat their higher margin (aka more processed) offerings.

Industrial food also layers deception into its promotional strategy. Take one example. Coca-Cola is highly motivated to shift the blame for obesity onto something other than empty calories. So in 2014, they set up and funded the blandly-named Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN). Not that you could find their name anywhere on the site. (Note: The backlash was so severe that Coke pulled the plug on GEBN in 2015. But now it is back in a modified form.)

Its VP, Steven Blair, talked about what he says are mistaken assumptions about the cause of obesity — and blamed the victim.

“They’re eating too much, blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on, and there’s virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact is the cause.”

(Bolding mine)

It is the same rhetoric the tobacco lobby once used to cast doubt on the link between cigarettes and health. The fossil fuel lobby now uses it to blunt the scientific consensus that global warming exists and that we are the cause.

Soda taxes are another anathema to Industrial Food. And they are equally duplicitous on that health-improving measure. When New York proposed a tax on sugar in 2010, a group calling itself New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes characterized it as an unnecessary cost to consumers who were paying too much for food as it was.

Rational people could argue that if the cost of food was too high, New Yorkers could save money by not buying soda. But the group’s concern about New Yorkers’ pocketbooks did not go that far. This limit to their advocacy was not a surprise, as the group had little to do with New Yorkers. It was a front for the National Beverage Association, supermarket industry groups, and convenience store shills.

Anyone with a sweet tooth — which is most of us — knows how hard it is to kick the sugar habit. Our innate inclination to enjoy the sweet stuff was assisted, starting in the 1960s, by the Sugar Lobby’s campaign to shift the blame for heart disease from sugar to fat. The Journal of American Medicine reported on this nutritional shell game thus:

Early warning signals of the coronary heart disease (CHD) risk of sugar (sucrose) emerged in the 1950s. We examined the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) internal documents, historical reports, and statements relevant to early debates about the dietary causes of CHD and assembled findings chronologically into a narrative case study.

he SRF sponsored its first CHD research project in 1965, a literature review published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which singled out fat and cholesterol as the dietary causes of CHD and downplayed evidence that sucrose consumption was also a risk factor.  

The SRF was wildly successful. By the 1980s “lo-fat” was the rage. Then nutritional scientists discovered that the right kind of fats were essential for health, including brain development. Too late. The American consumer was hooked on fat reduction, no matter how much sugar it added to their diet.

Industrial food mainly relies on three ingredients for flavor: fat, sugar, and salt. As fat consumption declined, white crystalline powders picked up the slack. And if you do not think they are a drug, ask yourself why food manufacturers hire people to hand out freebies at the supermarket. And then contemplate why none of these freebies is a carrot.

Opioids get the press. However, less than 10% of the population uses opioids legally or illegally, including the occasional user. On the other hand, almost everyone eats — every day. And many of us will admit we overeat and are trying to cut back without success. If that is not an addiction, what is? And if we are addicts, who is our dealer?

This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned in the title of this site

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