The food industry drives us to eat

Thousands of years ago, when our food supply was unpredictable for our ancestors, the ones who were good at eating voraciously and retaining fat when there was food were the ones who procreated and passed their genes along to us. We are very good at storing fat because of this history. However, in our society, for the most part we have abundant food supply and the need for extreme physical work to hunt and gather food is no longer an issue.

Excess body weight raises the risk of many types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, gallbladder disease, and arthritis. We are currently experiencing what health experts call an epidemic of obesity, and many predict that because of the huge increase in childhood obesity, this will be the first generation of children who live fewer years than their parents.

 The food industry supports overeating, obesity and poor food choices in a myriad of ways. Fast food restaurants emerged in the 1960s and are now a part of most everyone’s life. Drive-throughs make eating a mindless and extremely convenient undertaking. Fast food restaurants have extended hours and cheap fast food that seems to bear no concept of portion control. The extra large portions of today of burgers, fries, drinks and dinners are not in keeping with human caloric requirements, but entice us to overeat because it is such a “great deal.” The junk food served up at fast food restaurants is far more available than fresh fruit and veggies and usually the “value meal” costs less than a salad and a water.

The other aspect of encouraging us to overeat is that the price differential between a small size and a large size is negligible. So peoplem, again thinking they are getting a better deal, will ask for the large serving and consume it all. Even the names of the products are encouraging over consumption. Names such as Big Gulp, super size, the Whopper, et cetera, all lead the consumer to think that a big serving is natural and good value. Is bigger really better in this case? Ads that promote you deserve a break or a treat today, or make a joke of over eating (I can’t believe I ate the whole thing) lead us to think that we are justified in consuming huge amounts of toxic, calorie-laden nutritionally empty “foods.”

Fast food restaurants are now at gas stations and in retail stores rather than standing alone as they used to. I’ve even been in hospitals that have fast food restaurants on their campuses. In retail stores themselves, the junk food and candy is all conveniently lined up at the checkout to promote impulse buying; even in pharmacies, to get to the medicines and health care supplies, you need to go to the back of the store, past rows and shelves of junk food.

The food industry uses the words “personal responsibility” to shift the blame from themselves and their marketing tactics to consumers. And although there may be some merit to this argument when dealing with adults, there is little we can do to protect our children against their aggressive advertising.

The answer to changing this toxic food environment is to resist the pressure of the advertising tactics of the junk food industry and get the government to change the economics of the food industry so that unhealthy food costs more, and healthy foods cost less. On Kaua‘i, we have so much potential to grow our own healthy foods with our year-round perfect growing season. We also have farmer’s markets every day. There is no excuse. In many places on the mainland, if you counted the places that offered the junk foods and drinks and then compared that with places where you could buy fresh, clean wholesome foods, you would find a very unfavorable picture.

We deserve the best today. Eat fresh and stay strong.

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