All roads lead to our gut, esophageal and metaphysical both.
Our stomach is the coliseum of calories, the place where sugar, fat, carbs and protein all do battle but ultimately succumb to those rippling, duty-bound digestive enzymes to give our body & mind all it needs and more, much more.
El Gastro Gestalt is capital city of our conscious and unconscious minds both.
It’s been that way ever since the Allies crushed the Axis and the victors re-directed all that industrious, inventive spirit in armament assembly into the peacetime production of food stuffs on a mass scale the world had never before seen.
While opposite ideologies (capitalism v communism) became basis for continued conflict in bullets, A-bomb build & bivouacs (Korea, Indochina, Cuba), the war on hunger became the 2d theater of battle, fighting for the freedom to eat, eat more and then eat again.
And after 70 years of bridge building, base construction and salvos of savory & sweet treats fired off by McDonald’s, Nestlé, ADM, Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo and Yum! Brands, those who write the history of the Hunger War will record that hearts & minds were won over, completely, like the slurping sound at the end of a milk shake ride.
The world’s addicted to eating, mission accomplished.
(Regarding that Axis thing, a small cell was brought back to life in some demonic deed at, of all places, Disney (ESPN), in some junior joker’s idea to work a motif on, of all things, camera angle. Even the colors have a Third Reichian feel. Gadgetry goof, isn’t they funny? Ugh. Walt’s gotta’ be spinning in his grave: ‘I just wanted to make a place for fun (and a little loot to boot)!’ We know, Walt, we know.)
From sun-up to sundown the gobble & guzzle direct much of our day.
A line in a Roger Corman flick, of all mediums, summed up well the power of the emerging super salivary state (X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes (‘63)):
Dr. Xavier (Ray Milland): “Is that what you think (that I’m a fraud)?”
Carnie Mom: “I don’t think, I just eat!”
Or these nuggets from the gold-mine that was The King of Queens:
Carrie: “Doug, you once told me you only play poker because it adds excitement to your eating!” Doug: “Well excuse me for embracing life!”
Carrie: “Look, there‘s a special on Mahi-mahi, you’d like it, tastes just like steak.” Doug (“Sir-Eats-Alot”): “I’ll get excited when there’s a fish that tastes like Doritos®.”
Sometimes it’s the salty urge that draws us in (moi). Others it’s sweet. Nearly always it’s pre-packaged by something or someone else hundreds of miles away adding in only god or a chemist knows what.
Eating of course is a basic human need, going back to Adam & Eve, the Leakey sloth or Ancient Aliens experiment #1, depending in which school-of-thought you matriculate.
After out-foxing toothier beasts, then fashioning shelter from the elements, eating has been our #1 worry for 99.99999% of our time on this “spinning world.” But while that effort consumed much of the day’s time, the haul was generally compatible and nurturing to our physical and emotional well-being.
Fibrous fruits & vegetables, nuts & seeds, formerly diet mainstays, gathered near home or bought locally for soon-day consumption are still favorites but for only a comparative handful.
Seek and you shall find
‘We are what we eat (Brillat-Savarin).’ In 2016 we’re just a bunch of trans-fatties, filled-to-the-gills with triglycerides, traces of barnyard hormones & antibiotics, quarts of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), shakers of salt and enough genetically-modified organisms (GMO (corn)), hot (aldehydes) & hydrogenated oils and gluten (wheat) in a year’s consumption to fill a Honda Civic, sans a CD-player.
I’ve singled-out McDonald’s but could just as easily have listed Burger King, Kellogg’s, Olive Garden, Taco Bell, Appleby’s, Frito Lay, Cracker Barrel, Hillshire Brands, General Mills, Smithfield, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Mars or any other major player in production or delivery of processed / prepared food stuffs, confectionaries or beverages. Mickey D’s just happens to be the first, biggest and most recognized of the drive-in joints, a cultural icon in eatery consumption. The Oak Brook, Illinois-based restaurant also happens to be my favorite when indulging desire for a fast fill-up.
Ray Kroc’s burger baby was my first family fast-food experience.
Choices were limited in the 60s but we didn’t mind. Returning from a trip or just to give Mom a break, we’d pack the Ford station wagon, all eight of us, Dad took the orders, walked inside (no seating then) and returned with cardboard holders in drinks & eats. No Big Macs, Quarter-Pounders, salads, chicken things, McMuffins, just the basics: Single-patty burger, chocolate or vanilla shakes, Coke and fries in one size so small it’d fit it in your shirt pocket.
Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary Super Size Me put the quantity issue right under our noses, tabbing McDonald’s as the fast-food format-doormat.
It’s not easy guarding the gate to our mouth. Our needs must do battle daily (& nightly) with desires that are shaped by marvelous marketing, tantalizing, permanently impressionable tastes and professional placement of product line in grocery aisle and highway signage.
Our bodies and brains have no natural inclination towards sugar and starch. But the palate-pleasers developed by food chemists post-WW2, indoctrinating us from the time we exit the womb, make our mouths sing for “♫ more, more, mooooore (ATC (‘76)) ♫. One taste and you’re hooked, or, in the nomenclature, it’s love at first bite.
Key players in the fixation: Hydrogenated trans-fats that came onto market in the 1950s, followed by high fructose corn syrup (Clinton Corn Processing and Japan‘s AIST (Takasaki)), first in drinks (70s), now in pretty much everything processed.
If you don’t think food’s addictive like cigarettes or alcohol, try going off the sweet, savory and wheat-based staples for a week and see how you fare. You’ll be climbing the walls and kicking the dog if you’re not careful. Don’t.
We’re not helpless creatures. Will power, lack thereof, plays a role in our oral fixations and face-stuffing routines. But science & psychology play their part.
Food stuffs are packaged with artful, eye-catching flair, labeled in accordance w/USDA but freed to finesse (One of the FDA’s sorry-standards: If a food item has trans-fat < 0.4 gram it need not be listed on said label. “Tanks fur nuttin (“Maggie (Caddyshack (‘80)”)!’”). Once the goods hit the grocery or restaurant chain, the strategy-in-placement, whether on shelf & aisle or street location will take command and pull a Pavlovian response if the hungries and hurried.
But now some of us are making discoveries about the food and beverages we consume, deciding to break the cycle of addiction. It’s not easy. Making a life change never is.
Spurlock & Co. did a public service, for profit, with their documentary, focusing on the most conspicuous health harm associated with a regular diet in processed – prepared food (weight gain), and a subject most easily solicitous of chuckles.
But there are many potential serious health risks associated with a daily diet in prepared-food that are not directly associated with the scale, i.e., obesity.
Ingesting a mere 1 gram of trans fat, easy to do with federal labeling loophole (< 0.4 gram), found in most pre-packaged, processed food items, can take days to process out of the body. That hidden harm can then potentially be the build-up and tipping point for the bad event: Myocardial infarction, i.e., heart attack.
And don’t expect government to push the food court to find healthier means to feed the world. Understanding that legislators and agency folk work on a quid pro quo basis and are generally captured in 2016 by those they’re entrusted to regulate, the task of getting food to the masses, as laden with undesirables as it would seem, has become the only political mandate on the issue.
And it is that same mentality that drove the message behind Soylent Green (Stan Greenberg & Harry Harrison (‘73)): When the sea is farmed-out, people keep multiplying fruitfully and the land loses that precious 1-inch of top soil, you find protein wherever you can. Eek.
♫ Breaking Up Is Hard to Do ♫
Here then are the interlopers in processed food stuffs, those unseemly sorts who were given a key to the place and drove a wedge between health-wise consumers and their former steady (McDonald‘s, etc.), leading the jilted to bid adieu.
Flavoring soda pop, its regular consumption can lead to insulin resistence, glucose intolerance and metabolic syndrome (diabetes). The neuro-degenerative disorder Alzheimer’s is now referred to as diabetes of brain.
Gluten-based breads and emulsifiers
Wheat-protein containing a difficult to digest amino acid is in the bread that houses those hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches. Like trans-fat, it will turn to add-on weight, i.e., love handles, and celiac disease in more serious cases.
Genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)
The research is ongoing about these engineered foods and the human health risks, short and long-term, are largely unknown which means the safety picture on such altered foods remains blurred. No labeling required in the USA.
Cured or adulterated meats
Bacon, sausages, jerky and the like are believed to have a casual relationship with heart disease and some cancers.
Burgers are boss at McDonald’s but the French fries are its calling card. Best in the biz. But the oil in which they cook can be harmful beyond the unhealthy fats. If reheated enough it will create toxic chemicals called aldehydes that collect in the brain and are being linked to neurodegenerative disorders (dementia / Alzheimer’s) and advanced glycation end-products (free radicals) associated w/diabetes. Crazy love.
Chemically treated salad greens, vegetables and wheat – corn products
Unless plant parts are identified as organically grown it’s a strong chance they’ve been prepared with any number of chemicals that rinsing will not entirely wash clean. These man-made molecules kill the pests but do no good inside the body.
Antibiotics and hormones in livestock and feed
The animals that make up most the processed meals can receive growth-hormones and drug treatments to fight illness, some that can add considerable weight – bulk to the beast. Humans don’t need it these drugs.
Trans-fats and hydrogenated oils
Safflower and cottonseed oil (omega-6) are some of the bad boys that find their way into most processed foods because they emulsify and make it taste good. But these bad fats (good fats include omega-3 (fish oil) and omega-9s (olive oils) are key contributors to heart disease.
We wouldn’t let “Joe Camel” sell cigarettes to kids, why would we let Kentucky Fried Chicken, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s and Kraft sell them on a direct pathway to increased risk for diabetes, heart disease (inflammation & oxidation) and maybe some cancers as well (immunity deficiencies)? Ask your friendly neighborhood legislator, soon.
When Russ Westbrook (Mt-Dew), LeBron James, Bryce Harper and Cam Newton (Gatorade) pitch for PepsiCo, is it much different than when John Wayne, Joe DiMaggio and dozens of other stars shilled for tobacco throughout a good part of the prior century? Government’s strange inconsistency in regulation may be explained in that there is no 2d-hand heart disease and diabetes can sometimes be manageable (ugh). But cancer is cancer, folks, in all of its deadly forms.
The food conglomerates’ have a good defense: ‘We feed the world.’ A planet with its ever-growing population, no longer checked by world war or global plagues. And with a world-wide energy crisis looming as oil reserves continue to dwindle and alternatives not yet a reality, healthiest foods may become a moot point.
Truth be told, because organic and gluten-free choices are not always available in stores & restaurants, because old habits die hard and one must treat themselves to the emulsified flavors that please the palate so well, my wife and I do continue to purchase processed – prepared foods and beverages for home consumption and travel especially, with digestive supplement (Tolerase® )and the like handy.
Ultimately, responsibility will rest on shoulders of everyone, parent – guardian where children / dependents are concerned (Never too late to start a healthier way) and their medical professional to better educate themselves on choices in diet and related habits like exercise, cessations (drink / smoke / big portions), stress reduction and supplementation.
Go to www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed (pubmed.gov) and read for yourself what experts are publishing about their findings on the food we eat and who we really are.
Photo credits: Westbrook-James, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; McDonalds-Arch, 3.22.6, wc, Toronto, R.Sinn; QuarterPounder, wc, Saalfeld, 8.19.6; McDonald’s-Tokyo, wc, JPN, 9.21.4, A.Fucito; McDonalds-Sydney, Sardaka, wc, 11.5.12; BigMac, 2.4.7, Kici, Japan, wc.cca; McDonald’s-Israel, wc, Ingsoc, 2.7.7, Ashqelon; McDonalds-Kiosk, 10.28.5, Shanghai, Shizhao; Coke.bubbles, Spiff, wc; McDonalds-fries, Kici, 10.14.6, Japan; L.James-OKC, wc, E.Drost, 1.25.15; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 5.24.16 @ 5:43pm EST; Copyright © 2016
The King of Queen quotes: Springfield!-Springfield!
Filed under: NBA
Tagged with: aldehydes, basketball, cancer, Cleveland Cavaliers, gluten, GMO, HFCS, high-fructose corn syrup, LeBron James, livestock antibiotics, NBA 2015-16, Oklahoma City Thunder, pesticides, Russell Westbrook, sugar, trans-fats