Friday, February 22, 2013

Brief thoughts on a couple of NYTimes articles

It hasn't really been all-dentures-all-the-time here in the Middle of Nowhere. It just seems like it.

A friend pointed me toward this recent New York Times article: The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food by Michael Moss. I wasn't sure, at first, if I even cared to read it because I don't eat junk food. But the first paragraph hooked me and it didn't take long to draw comparisons between Moss's findings and those of David Kessler.

I bought and read Kessler's The End of Overeating when it was published in 2010. I can't say that it changed my way of eating all that much – I had been moving toward eating more healthfully long before the book's release. Kessler did, however, provide a lot of insight into how processed foods are manufactured in order to hook consumers into eating more, and eating more often. And, of course, the title was, um, intriguing. Had I been a junk-food junkie, I might have seen the light.

The Moss article, excerpted from his forthcoming book Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, details the marketing strategies of the processed food industry. It's a fascinating and somewhat frightening article, considering that an exploratory meeting of food industry executives took place in 1999 with the goal of addressing the role of processed foods in the so-called obesity epidemic.

Since then the epidemic has become pandemic, and the fake-food manufacturers are offering New! Improved! versions of the same old crap, based on scientific studies that consumers really prefer cheap-and-easy over home-cooked and wholesome.

I'm not that consumer. Moss details one study which found that baby boomers eat snacks in lieu of meals, and I'm definitely not that consumer. But they're out there, and the manufacturers of foodlike substances aren't going away any time soon. The article is a cautionary tale; I expect the book will be moreso.

I read the article online, and as I approached the end of it, a pop-up suggested I might also enjoy an additional, shorter piece: The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors by Gretchen Reynolds. And I did. There's not much hard science in here at all, but I know that for me, spending my intentional-activity time outdoors just makes me feel better. Each of us is different, of course, and I'm not going to tell you you'll feel better, too. But if I have a choice between the elliptical/rowing machine/treadmill in my garage OR Indian Creek Road, 4-H Camp Road or the road I live on, I'm picking the road.

Sometimes there is no choice. This morning, for instance, we are currently experiencing the old wintry mix – 32°F, and freezing rain mixed with snow. I would not hesitate to walk when it's freezing outside (and I have my friend Lynne to thank for that, who sensibly points out that people ski when it's this cold), but I very definitely hesitate to walk when it's icy. I'm a little more cautious and a lot more prudent as winter winds down, having fallen on black ice once this year.

So I'll be heading for the elliptical and my recording of this week's The Biggest Loser, after which I will feel like I can read Jen's review of the episode. I could save a heck of a lot of time if I just skipped watching and read her wrap-ups every week. But I guarantee I wouldn't spend as much time on the elliptical.

This wintry-mix stuff should clear up by noon, and that's the target for getting out of Dodge. Hope you both have a great weekend. I'm going to meet up with some friends and then meet up with a poet.

Sort of.


Diandra said...

I wish there was a way to get the knowledge from these books into the BF's head without him having to read them... when I tell him that, basically, the food industry could take sewage sludge and pretty it up with flavors and color to the point where most people woiuld consider it food, he just replies, "Yeah, but I don't care as long as it has the same nutritional value as food." Tell him that many things sold as food are actually unhealthy, he goes, "I don't believe that. You must be suffering from orthorexia."

(That is the same guy who tells me I am delusional because I do not think the government is out to get us.)

Debbi McNeer said...

But junk food DOESN'T have the same nutritional value as food! Unless the only value he cares about is calories. Have him read Michael Pollan's "Food Rules." Very short, very fun, very easy, very educational. You don't have to tell him about the educational part. =)

Winnie said...

I am bad with excercise, but find that I am so fond of being outdoors that when the weather is nice I can't wait to put on my sneakers and head to our parks or arboretuem etc. I don't go in icy weathery as I am am MAJOR klutz and don't need help falling. Be careful if you do go out today. We will be getting your weather tomorrow...sounds rough.

Vickie said...

we are home with icy roads today too. Very afraid of falling, so walking around the house to fill the bird feeders in the backyard was the extent of my adventures today. Been finding one project after the other so I feel like I am getting somewhere.

On the articles, a lot of people are eating crackers and cereals and noodles and bread things, and the like, that are basically the same ingredients as junk, but not seeing it as junk. It is a hard thing to define.