I fully intended to write a review of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss but I need to throw in something else I’ve been reading too because it caused me to sit up and say “Yes! That’s right!”. Let me explain…
You may have seen, heard or read about Michael Moss and his book recently in one of many places. The New York Times, the Daily Show, NPR, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post and many others have interviewed Michael Moss and/or reviewed his book. Salt Sugar Fat is a bit of an expose about the food industry and how they are engineering their foods to be simply irresistible. After reading books like The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler and Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink amongst many others, I have to say the revelations in this book were not very surprising. If however you have never thought about why you keep reaching for one more chip long after you’ve had enough, you should take a look at this book.
Food companies are in the business of selling products in order to make money. No matter what they say in their marketing materials or on the packaging, you need to know that this is the bottom line. When you look into various food corporation’s mission and vision statements, they are all very similar. They put something in there about feeding people ‘better’ but there is also something to the effect of becoming an industry leader in the marketplace; industry leader = biggest profits. Although you might begin to think there is an evil conspiracy afoot when you read this book, I think it’s just old fashioned greed and competition. Things sell well when you get the right blend of salt, sugar, and fat in them. People feel compelled to keep eating something that’s right in front of them. We are all very easily led to buy certain items based on packaging and marketing.
Food companies are not concerned with your health. The number one ‘threat’ to sales listed on a Kraftfoods powerpoint I found online (they really should be more careful!) is increasing obesity rates in North America. So what can you do about it? As I’ve said before, knowledge is power. The more you educate yourself about what you and your family is consuming, the better off you’ll be. Read labels, read books like this one, talk to nutrition professionals (shameless plug) and don’t believe the hype from any companytrying to sell you a food product. While we can’t become immune to marketing and the manipulation of processed foods, the fewer processed and prepackaged foods we purchase and consume, the better off we’ll be.
The other book I’ve been reading this week is Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn & Michael Norton. What does this have to do with anything on this blog? The second principle discussed in the book is to ‘Make it a Treat’. This is something that has been on my mind for years now. We are being told daily that we deserve a treat, a cookie, a latte, a shake, an ice cream, a burger, an extra large fry, and many other things. The problem with this sentiment is not in the deserving (sure if you work hard for something you deserve something in return) but when you have that treat daily (or hourly) it is no longer a treat, it’s a habit! Not only can this habit add to our waistlines, the researchers say that it reduces the pleasure we experience! You may enjoy that ice cream cone more if you only have it once every two weeks rather than every night.
Think about all of the ‘treats’ you give yourself in any given day or week, and notice how often you justify consuming a certain food or beverage because you ‘deserve’ it. If this is happening on a regular basis, you need to come to terms with the fact that it’s a habit for you. If you are trying to lose a few pounds, want to improve your health or want to feel better, this is the perfect place to begin. As a bonus, having a genuine occasional treat tastes even better when it is truly a rare occasion!