June 7, 2009

HUNGRY FOR CHANGE?

TIRED OF OVER-PROCESSED, GENETICALLY ENGINEERED, CORPORATE-GREED MANIPULATED FOOD OPTIONS? LOOKING FOR A DIFFERENT WAY, SOME SOUND RESEARCH, A WAY TO BE INFORMED? WANT SOMETHING BETTER FOR OUR CHILDREN? THE FOLLOWING BOOKS ARE NOT ONLY GOOD-READS, BUT ARE LOADED WITH INSIGHT, RESEARCH, AND REVALATIONS ABOUT OUR NATION'S CURRENT WAY OF EATING THAT HAS LEAD TO AN EXPLOSION IN OBESITY AND OBESITY RELATED ILLNESSES.

Here's the book that inspired this Post. We just finished reading The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler, MD. It was fascinating, illuminating, and positively life-changing.


"Conditioned hypereating is a biological challenge, not a character flaw, says Kessler, former FDA commissioner under presidents Bush and Clinton). Here Kessler (A Question of Intent) describes how, since the 1980s, the food industry, in collusion with the advertising industry, and lifestyle changes have short-circuited the body's self-regulating mechanisms, leaving many at the mercy of reward-driven eating. Through the evidence of research, personal stories (including candid accounts of his own struggles) and examinations of specific foods produced by giant food corporations and restaurant chains, Kessler explains how the desire to eat—as distinct from eating itself—is stimulated in the brain by an almost infinite variety of diabolical combinations of salt, fat and sugar. Although not everyone succumbs, more people of all ages are being set up for a lifetime of food obsession due to the ever-present availability of foods laden with salt, fat and sugar. A gentle though urgent plea for reform, Kessler's book provides a simple food rehab program to fight back against the industry's relentless quest for profits while an entire country of people gain weight and get sick. According to Kessler, persistence is all that is needed to make the perceptual shifts and find new sources of rewards to regain control." Publishers Weekly


Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser ~ "On any given day, one out of four Americans opts for a quick and cheap meal at a fast-food restaurant, without giving either its speed or its thriftiness a second thought. Fast food is so ubiquitous that it now seems as American, and harmless, as apple pie. But the industry's drive for consolidation, homogenization, and speed has radically transformed America's diet, landscape, economy, and workforce, often in insidiously destructive ways. Eric Schlosser, an award-winning journalist, opens his ambitious and ultimately devastating exposé with an introduction to the iconoclasts and high school dropouts, such as Harlan Sanders and the McDonald brothers, who first applied the principles of a factory assembly line to a commercial kitchen. Quickly, however, he moves behind the counter with the overworked and underpaid teenage workers, onto the factory farms where the potatoes and beef are grown, and into the slaughterhouses run by giant meatpacking corporations. Schlosser wants you to know why those French fries taste so good (with a visit to the world's largest flavor company) and "what really lurks between those sesame-seed buns." Eater beware: forget your concerns about cholesterol, there is--literally--feces in your meat.

Schlosser's investigation reaches its frightening peak in the meatpacking plants as he reveals the almost complete lack of federal oversight of a seemingly lawless industry. His searing portrayal of the industry is disturbingly similar to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, written in 1906: nightmare working conditions, union busting, and unsanitary practices that introduce E. coli and other pathogens into restaurants, public schools, and homes. Almost as disturbing is his description of how the industry "both feeds and feeds off the young," insinuating itself into all aspects of children's lives, even the pages of their school books, while leaving them prone to obesity and disease. Fortunately, Schlosser offers some eminently practical remedies. "Eating in the United States should no longer be a form of high-risk behavior," he writes. Where to begin? Ask yourself, is the true cost of having it "your way" really worth it?" -- Reviewed by Lesley Reed


  • Not a reader? That's okay. In 2006 Fox released a movie version, which you can now get as a rental. Click here to view a trailer: Fast Food Nation.
The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan ~ Pollan (The Botany of Desire) examines what he calls "our national eating disorder" (the Atkins craze, the precipitous rise in obesity) in this remarkably clearheaded book. It's a fascinating journey up and down the food chain, one that might change the way you read the label on a frozen dinner, dig into a steak or decide whether to buy organic eggs. You'll certainly never look at a Chicken McNugget the same way again.Pollan approaches his mission not as an activist but as a naturalist: "The way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world." All food, he points out, originates with plants, animals and fungi. "[E]ven the deathless Twinkie is constructed out of... well, precisely what I don't know offhand, but ultimately some sort of formerly living creature, i.e., a species. We haven't yet begun to synthesize our foods from petroleum, at least not directly."Pollan's narrative strategy is simple: he traces four meals back to their ur-species. He starts with a McDonald's lunch, which he and his family gobble up in their car. Surprise: the origin of this meal is a cornfield in Iowa. Corn feeds the steer that turns into the burgers, becomes the oil that cooks the fries and the syrup that sweetens the shakes and the sodas, and makes up 13 of the 38 ingredients (yikes) in the Chicken McNuggets.Indeed, one of the many eye-openers in the book is the prevalence of corn in the American diet; of the 45,000 items in a supermarket, more than a quarter contain corn. Pollan meditates on the freakishly protean nature of the corn plant and looks at how the food industry has exploited it, to the detriment of everyone from farmers to fat-and-getting-fatter Americans. Besides Stephen King, few other writers have made a corn field seem so sinister.Later, Pollan prepares a dinner with items from Whole Foods, investigating the flaws in the world of "big organic"; cooks a meal with ingredients from a small, utopian Virginia farm; and assembles a feast from things he's foraged and hunted.This may sound earnest, but Pollan isn't preachy: he's too thoughtful a writer, and too dogged a researcher, to let ideology take over. He's also funny and adventurous. He bounces around on an old International Harvester tractor, gets down on his belly to examine a pasture from a cow's-eye view, shoots a wild pig and otherwise throws himself into the making of his meals. I'm not convinced I'd want to go hunting with Pollan, but I'm sure I'd enjoy having dinner with him. Just as long as we could eat at a table, not in a Toyota." ~ Reviewed by Pamela Kaufman, Publishers Weekly


In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto , by Michael Pollan ~ Food is the one thing that Americans hate to love and, as it turns out, love to hate. What we want to eat has been ousted by the notion of what we should eat, and it's at this nexus of hunger and hang-up that Michael Pollan poses his most salient question: where is the food in our food? What follows in In Defense of Food is a series of wonderfully clear and thoughtful answers that help us omnivores navigate the nutritional minefield that's come to typify our food culture. Many processed foods vie for a spot in our grocery baskets, claiming to lower cholesterol, weight, glucose levels, you name it. Yet Pollan shows that these convenient "healthy" alternatives to whole foods are appallingly inconvenient: our health has a nation has only deteriorated since we started exiling carbs, fats--even fruits--from our daily meals. His razor-sharp analysis of the American diet (as well as its architects and its detractors) offers an inspiring glimpse of what it would be like if we could (a la Humpty Dumpty) put our food back together again and reconsider what it means to eat well. In a season filled with rallying cries to lose weight and be healthy, Pollan's call to action—"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."--is a program I actually want to follow. --Anne Bartholomew

ON JUNE 19, THE FILM FOOD INC. WILL BE RELEASED. CLICK THE MOVIE TITLE TO VISIT THE OFFICIAL SITE, TO WATCH A TRAILER, AND TO DISCOVER WAYS TO GET INVOLVED AND PROMOTE CHANGE. FROM THEIR SITE YOU CAN SIGN A PETITION TO REAUTHORIZE THE CHILD NUTRITION ACT.
  • COMPLIMENTS OF THE FOOD INC. FOLKS HERE'S A LIST OF 10 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO CHANGE OUR FOOD SYSTEM:
1. Stop drinking sodas and other sweetened beverages.
You can lose 25 lbs in a year by replacing one 20 oz soda a day with a no calorie beverage (preferably water).

2. Eat at home instead of eating out.
Children consume almost twice (1.8 times) as many calories when eating food prepared outside the home.

3. Support the passage of laws requiring chain restaurants to post calorie information on menus and menu boards.
Half of the leading chain restaurants provide no nutritional information to their customers.

4. Tell schools to stop selling sodas, junk food, and sports drinks.
Over the last two decades, rates of obesity have tripled in children and adolescents aged 6 to 19 years.

5. Meatless Mondays—Go without meat one day a week.
An estimated 70% of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to farm animals.

6. Buy organic or sustainable food with little or no pesticides.
According to the EPA, over 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the U.S.

7. Protect family farms; visit your local farmer's market.
Farmer's markets allow farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer.

8. Make a point to know where your food comes from—READ LABELS.
The average meal travels 1500 miles from the farm to your dinner plate.

9. Tell Congress that food safety is important to you.
Each year, contaminated food causes millions of illnesses and thousands of deaths in the U.S.

10. Demand job protections for farm workers and food processors, ensuring fair wages and other protections.
Poverty among farm workers is more than twice that of all wage and salary employees.

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