The diet and exercise industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that is all too focused on innovation: who has the newest fad diet, who has the newest machine, who has the newest theories. I will try not to go all conspiracy theorist when I say this, but the USDA and FDA are in on it as well (think about the percentage of a grocery store that has processed food in it--the new and improved tastes, recipes, and packaging versus the amount of space that is for raw ingredients (fruits and veggies, meat, dairy, whole grains, etc.).
It's also all over the media--in commercials, in product placement, in our newspapers and magazines, on billboards and other ad posters. We are inundated with people telling us what we should eat and more increasingly why.
For instance ... in the Feb. 2010 Glamour (a fashion magazine) are the following
1. Skinny Cow Truffle Bar (ice cream on a stick) with the tag line of "Loving you in that delicious 100 calorie way." (Food does not equal love. I repeat, food does not equal love. And just in case you're still needing love, there's an ad for an anti-depressant two pages away.)
2. Crystal Light Skin Essentials, "Water your body. Recharge, Restore, Revive. Help nourish your skin from within with delicious fruity abandon." (The fine print: Enhanced with antioxidant vitamins A, C, E as well as a plant extract containing lutein and zeaxanthin to help nourish your skin from within when you drink two 16.9 fl oz servings per day.) Why not just drink plain water and eat actual fruits and vegetables?
3. Four more Crystal Light ads underneath a feature called "It's your one-week healthy detox" that warns of the dangers of things like The Master Cleanse ("The Master Cleanse and other liquid diets are all extreme, potentially harmful plans that Glamour has never endorsed.) And they have a 1-week plan full of actual foods recommended by a dietitian based out of Los Angeles (with other quotes and advice from other doctors). The recommendations and advice are generally good and I think Glamour is trying to promote being healthy versus being thin (considering the recent publicity regarding using "real-sized women), but nowhere in the article does it say "drink a minimum of 64 fl oz of water daily" and bookending and underneath the full article are Crystal Light ads. While it doesn't have any sugar, it does have artificial sweeteners. I am hugely against artificial sweeteners. And I'm not the only one. Moving on...
4. A tiny little ad for Hydroxycut. I'm not going to get started on how dangerous this little product is. Just google it for yourself if it even crosses your mind to use.
5. The Williams Systers hawking Nabisco 100 Calorie Milk Chocolate Pretzels "Diet like a Diva." I think the 100-calorie pack idea is ingenious, but it really preys on the idea that 100 calories isn't that much in most peoples' minds. Even if it's 100 calories of crap.
6. Oh yay! More 100-Calorie Pack ads.
7. An ad for SlimQuick. Again, diet products are dangerous short cuts.
8. An ad for Eukanuba cat food for healthy digestion. The cat looks really cute.
9. Nutrisystem. For many people this addresses the issue of portion size by serving suggested portion sizes. However, if you've ever read one of their boxes (or Jenny Craig's) it's all chemical crap. It's not actually giving your body good food. There is a tiny little foot note -- "On Nutrisystem you add in fresh grocery items" -- okay, well why didn't you start there?
10. DiGiorno 200-calorie portion pizzas "redefining the way 200 calories should taste" Just looking at the picture all the calories are from the bread and the cheese. As a New Yorker, I'm offended they are calling this pizza, and as someone interested in health, I'm offended they're hawking this pile of chemical garbage.
11. Sugar Free Jello "Treat yourself to nothing" 10 calories thanks to artificial flavors and artificial sugars. So um... it's just filler?
So in the space of 179 pages, we're bombarded with 11 food ads, a story about what women should eat, a story about what men like to eat (Beer flavored chicken, bacon wrapped anything, banana cupcakes and 5 types of steak) and a variety of sizes of models. It's no wonder that I, like many people, didn't have a clue of what to eat or how much.... but that was until... (see my next entry...)