What’s really being processed?
Anyone living and eating in the modern world, and paying even a little attention, knows that we are a very long way from eating food, not too much, mostly plants. Not only does our food come mostly in bags, boxes, bottles, jars and cans — but mostly, it isn’t really food. It’s food stuff. It doesn’t come from an animal or plant; it’s made in a plant. It rolls off an assembly line.
That seems a bit ominous on its own, but of course the plot is much thicker than that. As told recently by Michael Moss, that food is not processed haphazardly — it’s processed to very clear specifications. It’s processed to be addictive. We may have thought “betcha’ can’t eat just one!” was a clever marketing slogan, but it’s clearly been much more than that for years. It was a performance measure for Big Food’s R&D departments. If we could only eat just one, somebody probably lost their job.
This story has been out there for years. But even as we were hearing about it, we just kept succumbing to it — as did our kids. And the result is that fully a third of the calories in the typical American diet come from… junk. For our kids, it may be as much as half.
We are buying junk. We are eating junk. We are feeding our children… junk! It’s almost unbelievable. Of course we love our children and grandchildren. But we all look on passively as they derive construction material for those precious bodies from… junk.
Are we really supposed to be OK with this?
What it all really means is that we have long since left the era of processed food in the rearview mirror of cultural inertia. We are now well into the realm of processing… people. We are processing you, and me. We are processing our kids. How else could the notion that “junk” — which would not be suitable to build a home, make a dress, fuel a car — is a legitimate food group ever have been established?
For food to be addictive by design, it can’t be only the food that’s being processed. Addiction, and every variation on that theme, resides in our nervous systems. There is no question: We are being processed. Our taste buds are being co-opted. Our preferences are being programmed.
Our cultural definition of food, itself, is being processed. I remember one twilight at a gas station not too long ago. I was filling my tank, staring pretty vacantly as one does under such circumstances. I saw a young man come out of the mini-mart with a big bag of some kind of processed snack food. And by that fading light, I could have sworn whatever it was glowed in the dark. And yet, he had been conditioned to think of that as food.
Folks, if it glows in the dark — step away from the box, and nobody will get hurt.
Food has long been processed — initially for some good. Cooking and preservation methods are processing of a sort, and they have helped make food safer and more digestible for the most part. But over recent years, processing has run amok, and done a whole lot of ill.
But in this era, the processing of the people eating the food, the ills are greatly compounded. And we can tally them up in epidemics, in years of life, in life from years, and in dollars changing hands.
I recall a vintage (original series) Star Trek episode. The Enterprise was called in to help get critically-needed medication to a population suffering a planet-wide plague. The medication controlled the condition — but when doses wore off, the condition would resurge, up to the point of death.
What we learned over the course of that hour of science fiction drama is that the plague was no plague — it was an addiction, created by a cartel that provided the treatment. In essence, they addicted everyone to their drug — and then pretended the drug was a treatment for a condition that just happened. Our heroes from Star Fleet outed the conspirators, and as ever, saved the day.
I can’t help but think: Where is Star Fleet now? We have epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases — fueled by ever more calories, sugar, salt, atherogenic fats, and processed starch. But we need that sugar, salt, starch, bad fat and calories — because we’ve been conditioned to crave them. So we “treat” our condition with the very stuff that created it in the first place, and created epidemic chronic disease as a byproduct. Big Food treats our cravings; Big Pharma treats the rest. We translate years of life and life in years into dollars, and hand them over. It’s all just part of the… process.
But it doesn’t need to be! Not anymore than that imaginary Star Trek population needed to take the drug that caused their disease. They could wean off of it — and so can we. We can send our taste buds to rehab! We can free ourselves of “The Process.”
And to that end, my associates and I are proud to offer up the second in the “UnJunk Yourself” music video series: “The PROCESS.” We want you, and your kids, to know what’s going on. We want you to know that they’ve been processing food — and now they’re processing you! And we want to put a stop to it.
Awareness may not be complete knowledge, but it’s a start. Knowledge may not be all we need for power, but it is a prerequisite. So please watch, and share widely. Let’s create awareness — along with some righteous indignation — among kids and adults alike.
The benefits of eating real food are well established, and profound. We can break our addiction to junk — and learn to love food that loves us back. We can get to a place of less processed food, but only if we wake up to a contrived reality we have tolerated for far too long — and start unprocessing ourselves. Welcome to the real world!