Toxic Foods And Worthless Diets
How large corporations have manipulated our hardwired metabolism for their profit, and how we can do the same thing for our health
Today in the developed world nearly everyone is fat. In the USA, eighty-six percent of adults are overweight and forty percent are obese. Fifteen percent of US children aged ten are obese. More than ten percent of US twenty-year-olds already have heart disease. US health care spending on obesity-related illnesses is more than half of all healthcare spending and now exceeds a trillion dollars per year.
As a result of being so big, we’re experiencing dramatically high rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, emphysema, type II diabetes, bone fractures, and a wide variety of aches and pains, plus all manner of unfortunate metabolic syndromes.
As a result of the inflammation that inevitably accompanies being overweight, fat people are also far more vulnerable to other diseases. For example, although worldwide it appears that more than 90% of people infected with SARS-CoV2 will experience no symptoms at all (World Health Organization data, August 11th 2020), fat people are at much greater risk of suffering symptoms and complications because of all the inflammation-related compounds circulating in their bodies.
So, being fat is a major health problem. It’s not “a valid body option” or merely some kind of perverse fashion statement. And for all the nonsense about “accepting ourselves as we are” and “being proud of being big” the hard truth is that we aren’t evolved to waddle from sofa to fridge, perpetually cramming toxic slop into our much-abused bodies. If we really want to claim we are “loving ourselves” then we need to be caring for ourselves. And that means: not being fat.
Unfortunately it’s inevitable that most attempts to lose weight will fail. This is for three main reasons.
The first reason is that food companies have learned how to manipulate our biological hardwiring to their advantage. The right balance of fat, salt, and sugar is highly addictive. It triggers all our primitive responses and if you look at the food labels of processed products you’ll see these three ingredients are everywhere. Indeed, they even add sugar (dextrose) to salt in the USA. Junk food is about as addictive as nicotine, which is very addictive indeed.
In addition, when we consume simple carbohydrates, the taste of something sweet in our mouth triggers the release of insulin from the pancreas to bind to the sugars, which otherwise would be metabolically damaging. The problem is, once we’ve mopped up all that new blood sugar we don’t feel as energetic as we did before, so… we consume more sugary stuff. It’s a vicious cycle that leads to ever-greater consumption. Which is great for the food companies; after all, this is explicitly intended to make the consumer buy more and more and keep coming back for more and more. There’s nothing as wonderful as a reliable recurring revenue stream to keep those executive bonuses coming.
The second reason it’s difficult to stop being fat is that our motivations are usually wrong. Wanting to fit into a pair of jeans or trying to lose weight for the summer or simply being told by a doctor that we need to lose twenty-five pounds are all totally wrong reasons for attempting to reduce one’s weight. The only valid and sustainable reason to alter our diet and stop punishing our body by feeding it toxic junk is health.
When we start to focus on health, rather than on superficial external factors, our mindset changes. We stop thinking in terms of “one fewer McSlop burgers at lunchtime” or “a smaller bowl of sugar-sugar-coco-sugar flakes for breakfast” and start thinking in terms of what our bodies need in order to be healthy. This will entail a total change in the way we think about food. The hard fact is that more than ninety percent of what’s on sale in a supermarket is unfit for human consumption.
Ninety percent of all those “food” products are empty calories, addictive junk designed to turn us into helpless consumers of never-ending health-harming slop that kills us slowly. All so a few food company executives can pay themselves enormous salaries. When we begin to focus on health, we stop measuring the world in terms of calories and waist-size and start thinking coherently about the nutrients our body needs in order to function as it’s evolved to do.
The last reason people consistently fail to lose weight is because, just like the food industry, the diet industry relies on a steady stream of revenue. Think about it for a moment: if a diet company really did help us lose weight and keep it off forever, what happens to their recurring revenue stream? Just like the food companies, the diet companies need to keep us tied to them for their own financial health, which for us means a never-ending succession of brief periods of weight loss followed by new weight gain.
There are very good metabolic reasons why all the briefly fashionable diets provide early losses and then, inevitably, the weight begins to creep back on again. It’s actually incredibly easy to lose weight initially; the hard part is not regaining it all again later. Fad diets are designed to create this lose-gain cycle, because the diet companies need our dollars.
Just like the food companies, diet companies use our hardwired metabolic pathways against us. Here’s what happens when we go on a calorie-restriction diet: our body reacts to the reduced intake of calories by throttling back our metabolic rate, which means we burn fewer calories throughout the day. We have less energy and we automatically look for ways to do less, even though we’re likely not aware of it. Worse yet, we begin to burn muscle to feed our need for energy, which further reduces our metabolic rate and increases our percentage bodyfat, which increases inflammation.
And the moment we falter and take in a few extra calories, the body instantly stores these calories as fat because we’ve primed the “we’re in starvation mode now so we’d better hang on to every calorie we can” mode. And of course this further increases our percentage bodyfat ratio. So it doesn’t matter whether we’re cutting out gluten, reducing portion size, focusing on animal fats, or any other nonsense. All diets are designed to fail so we keep coming back for more.
OK, so let’s take stock of the situation: we have food companies that intentionally create toxic products that get us addicted. We then focus on the wrong motivations when one day we realize we can’t actually see our own face lost somewhere inside rolls of flabby flesh. And then we try diets that are guaranteed to make the whole situation worse.
This is why 86% of US citizens are fat and why 40% are obese. This is why in the USA alone annual healthcare spending on obesity-related diseases exceeds a trillion dollars. And of course it is a major part of the reason why the average US citizen aged fifty consumes 17 different medications per year. Needless to say, the pharmaceutical companies love this situation too.
But what about us? What can we do when we’ve realized we have a problem and we’ve stopped pretending that it’s not our fault? What can we do when we cast aside all the politically correct nonsense about “it’s the person inside who counts” and we’ve understood that just because everyone we know is huge doesn’t mean this is how we’re supposed to be?
Here’s the good news: just as the food companies and the diet companies exploit our hardwired metabolic responses, we can do exactly the same thing.
It may come as a surprise to many, but we didn’t evolve to sit on the sofa gawping at Netflix while cramming slop into our bodies. Nor did we evolve to drive everywhere. Nor did we evolve to be able to control shiny new toys with voice commands, thus sparing ourselves the enormous effort of walking three paces across a room to press a button.
Like all other animals, we evolved to move around. A lot. When we don’t move around a lot, everything in our metabolic hardwiring goes haywire. So the first and most important step towards becoming healthy is simply this: we have to become active.
At first this is actually quite difficult. Our muscles are totally flabby and unused to enabling us to do much of anything. Even a 300-yard walk can leave us panting for breath, our legs trembling, and our heart racing. Our heart and arteries, clogged with fat, can’t perform the basic task of supplying enough oxygenated blood to those shocked muscles. And our lungs, compressed by all the blubber we’re carrying, can’t expand. So we feel like shit. It’s no surprise that most of us avoid doing anything even remotely resembling exercise.
But if we persevere, we discover something truly amazing: we begin to get better at moving around, and our appetite for toxic slop begins to diminish. Once we can jog for a couple of miles and lift a few light weights every day, we find our bodies begin to crave real foods such as vegetables and unprocessed fish and meats and we can tolerate much less salt-sugar-fat than we were accustomed to. As we begin to eat more healthily we discover we can do more exercise, which in turn makes our bodies crave even more healthy food and want the toxic slop even less.
Best of all, we stop focusing on weight and focus instead on what really matters: our health. We begin to think in terms of miles jogged and weights lifted, not in terms of pounds and inches of waistline.
At this point a lot of people step on the scales and give up. Why? Because muscle weighs more than fat. When we’re obsessed about weight, it looks like our new routine is sabotaging us. We’ve actually gained some weight! What a disaster!
But if we stop panicking and pause to think, we’ll realize this is an excellent sign. More muscle means fewer joint pains, fewer bone fractures, and more mobility. More muscle means a higher metabolic rate which means we’re burning more calories per hour even when we’re just sitting down. And when we persevere, we begin to find the fat slowly going away. And because we’re focusing on health, we don’t self-sabotage by imagining that we can lose weight in one or two particular places such as waist or butt. The fact is, we lose fat all over, gradually. Disappointed that your thighs are still huge? Well, they’re smaller than they were in terms of subcutaneous lipid, and all the fat crushing your internal organs is also slowly going away. Remember: it’s all about health.
Furthermore, many fat people have low thyroid function because their bodies, unaccustomed to doing much of anything, have dialed down their metabolic rate to a very low level. As we exercise and begin to eat real food, our thyroid function picks up. So we have more energy, our mood is enhanced, and we become less vulnerable to thyroid-related illnesses like Lupus.
If we can stick at it, exercising daily and slowly dialing up the intensity as we grow fitter, we’ll discover that weight loss happens as a side-effect of being more healthy. Slowly but surely the fat will begin to disappear, replaced by firm muscle. We’ll be able to do more, we’ll feel better, and we’ll have fewer ailments. If we’ve been fat for years, our skin will always be wrinkly and like a plucked chicken; there are no miracles in life and if we’ve abused our bodies for years we can’t expect there not to be lasting consequences. But our health isn’t determined by stretched skin, and it’s truly all about health.
Another upside: if we persevere, we discover we can begin to trust ourselves more. We really don’t have to go to the fridge at 2 am for that must-have slice of cheesecake. We don’t have to buy that family-sized bag of potato chips when we’re out shopping. We begin to develop more confidence in ourselves because we’re no longer merely passive automata obliged to obey the food companies’ commands.
So if we really want to lose weight, there’s only one way that works: we have to get up off the sofa and start doing things and keep on doing them even when we just want to slump back on the sofa with a gallon of chocolate-chip peanut caramel maple-syrup swirl. Washed down with a sugary drink, of course.
Think about it: why should any of us be crippled with fat and all the sicknesses it brings, merely in order to ensure large incomes for a few food company executives and diet company CEOs? Why should we kill ourselves by consuming endless toxic slop because the CEO of Kraft Foods likes to fly around in his corporate jet? Why should we pretend it is normal to be grossly unhealthy, just so McSlop can pour more product down our throats? Why should we keep lying to ourselves about how it’s not our fault, about how we “can’t afford” to eat healthily, about how we’re “big boned” and all the other nonsense we tell ourselves in order to avoid the truth?
It’s time we stopped being nothing more than buckets into which huge corporations pour their toxic sludge. It’s time we began to think about our health.