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Know thy enemy…

December 15, 2009

In the battle for losing weight, you would be surprised in what you are up against.  It really is a battle and as a big fan of Sun Tzu, I can say without question, information will be your biggest friend (and maybe your only ally).

“Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy” -Winston Churchill

It really is amazing.  Not only are we up against our bodies in this battle, but we are up against the entire socioeconomic society that we have created.  People are rewarded with money when they make a product that is better than the competition in any market niche.  In the food market niche that very often is a more ‘irresistible’ product.  After all, if your cheesecake is so good everyone likes it, you are much more likely to sell more of it.  This is the same for all of the food products we eat.  The problem with this is we love sugar and fat.  Our bodies crave these things.  We are addicted to refined carbohydrates and calorie dense foods, and the battle lines keep changing.  During this war, just when we think we have a handle on things, someone invents a better tasting hamburger, or a whole new fast food restaurant appears that sells ‘cream puffs’.  These are new technologies of war, just when you are getting used to driving past the Olive  Garden on the corner and not salivating uncontrollably, you have so many new weapons being used against you.  Even your friend, the simple baker down the street is out to get you.  In fact, baked goods are one of those areas where new weapons are dreamed up by the most creative and talented bakers on a nearly daily basis…  Haven’t heard of St. Honore cake?  Croquembouche?  Consider yourself lucky and these items are hundreds of years old…

Still for me, the bakery I can generally resist, it is the Olive Gardens that get me.  New Pork Milanese?!?!  Seriously, did you have bring pork into this?? 1510 calories!?!?  Are you kidding me?!?  Hamburgers and pasta are hard for  me to not eat as well.  French fries were nearly impossible to give up, but I have… for the most part.  The weapons are seemingly endless, candy, chocolate, potato chips, nacho chips…

“Enemy Occupied territory is what the world is” -C.S. Lewis

The point is, each and every food outlet is out to get your money.  They can do that by not only reminding you every chance they get about their food, but also by making items that taste better and better.  To make foods taste better, they just need to mix in some more butter and sugar.  There was a great scene on this years ‘Hell’s Kitchen’,  where Robert couldn’t figure out how to make the food taste better without adding butter because it was a challenge to make a good tasting healthy meal.  How many chef’s care about the calorie load of their food versus your enjoyment of how it tastes?

This economic culture goes further than just the food we eat, think about the way we get fit.  The number 2 item in the paid for ads when I type ‘Lose Weight’ into google is this page.  This scam, posing as a real diet blog of a real person is anything but.  Check out the location that she is from.  Is it surprisingly close to your house (it uses your IP address to get your location).  How about the date when the free offer is  ending.  I think you have to act now to get your free sample!!  There are six tips down the right hand side of the page that are excellent by the way.  By mixing real weight loss advice and scams for ThermothinPlus Acai (after all, what product wouldn’t be complete without the revolutionary Acai berry.  I hear it not only makes you thinner and cures cancer but it will do your laundry for you) and UltraCleanse plus (don’t even get me started on this one),like this apparent blog entry does,  you end up confusing normal people.  The Ultracleanse plus website has a news video from CBS news talking about battling colon cancer.  Nothing is ever said about colon cleanses in this video, nothing, but still here is this 6 minute news clip in the middle of the site.  As well, pink plays a dominant role on the website, especially around and after this video, trying to reinforce the connection to curing cancer and colon cleanses.  They actually have the nerve later on to warn you not to believe their competition when they say their colon cleanse can cure cancer…  I think there is a special circle in hell for people who sell false hope or false treatments regarding cures for cancer (or cancer prevention), at least I hope there is.

The media is no help either.  After all, they need to write stories and film segments that are more compelling than everything else available, otherwise you won’t tune in.  How do they do this?  Well, they scare people into needing to watch with irresponsible stories like this one, or they can create crazes out of a some totally unsupporting research like they do here (by the way, what the hell?  Is she Strawberry Shortcake?? Berry annoying).  With regard to acai berry, it would be boring as hell to report that this berry has a high level of antioxidants but that probably doesn’t mean anything for your health and it will be years before any substantial information is available.  A show that leads with that story isn’t jumping to the top of the charts.

Magazines are the most egregious sources of misinformation (or more correctly, magazine covers).  Each month brings dozens of more magazine covers with claims of miracle diets, miracles foods, ways to eat yourself thin, and diets that will help you lose 19 pounds in a week.  When they aren’t busy showing us totally unnatural digitally modified photographs of celebrities along with ‘their diet tips’.  Seriously, I consider any and all magazines my personal enemy when they create images that are literally impossible as ideals (and I will not give money to my enemies).  It is hard enough to live up to the image of a beautiful fit person who has good makeup and a great photograph, do we need to make it impossibly beautiful.  Then of course there is just the plain impossible that the fashion industry promotes.

“He who lives by fighting with an enemy has an interest in the preservation of the enemy’s life” – Friedrich Nietzche

If you think the government is of any help here, don’t count on it.  Not only have they systematically given terrible advice on health with the ‘Food Pyramid’ which has always recommended eating too much dairy and of course way too much grain.  This advice has not surprisingly come from the department of agriculture.  In fact, the lobbying system in the US is just begging for abuse, and of course receiving it:

When I go looking for the enemies in the battle to lose weight, I find them everywhere.  Still, none of them really made a commitment to keep us safe and healthy, but our government did.  They work for us.  I feel that if this were the blog version of ‘Who Killed the Electric Car’ (an unbelievably good documentary by the way), but instead of asking about the car we asked the question, ‘Who is trying to make us fat’, I have to say, everyone is guilty.  At the end of the day though, only government is obligated to work for our best interests, not the interests of the stockholders.

I am certainly not asking government to legislate what we eat by the way, but it would be wise if they weren’t suggesting eating large quantities of foods that weren’t healthy and protecting industries from a properly educated public making rational decisions.  Here is a simple government law that could be passed in no time: Every magazine that is published in the US, Canada and the UK (or any country that would like to adopt this law) must post the RAW unedited version of any photograph (or collection of photographs) on a website and the link to the original must be shown on the same page as the edited photograph.  So, “digitally modified photo, to see the original photograph go to http://www.” should be shown on the same page as the image.  BTW, all images are digitally altered in some way (ie. colour, contrast, etc.), just as before computers, images were altered in the darkroom, so any desire to not have digitally altered photographs would be a waste of time.  This would not be a violation of  anyone’s right to free speech, as it allows anyone to print any photo they like, it just doesn’t allow them to lie about the photograph being ‘real’ when it isn’t.  It simply allows the public to see what the pre-edited image is and how it relates to the image I am seeing on the magazine.

“We must always seek to ally ourselves with that part of the enemy that knows what is right” – Mahatma Gandhi

In fact education is our best weapon in this battle.  Once we educate ourselves and others as to healthy ways to eat and reasonable body images to have and once we disseminate healthy eating choices to the public and make these options available to everyone in every socioeconomic class, only then can we unleash our most powerful weapon.  This is the weapon that has been used against us this entire time.  The mighty dollar.  Instead of spending money on cereals that talk about how they fight cholesterol while showcasing a product that has more sugar than Frosted Flakes (by the way I love Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, but even I wasn’t aware that they were 40% sugar!!), we should be spending our time educating people to better choices and the hidden enemies.  We should help by informing people of what is right and wrong when it comes to food choices.  We should go on twitter and tell people of the terrible marketing of bad food products.  We should applaud companies when they make good marketing decisions.  We need to tell our government what we think about their complicity in the crimes against their own citizens.  Of course things aren’t that easy but we should still speak out against the products that are trying to trick us into thinking they are healthy when they clearly aren’t.  It is highly likely that we are up against a pretty big force here, but do we give up?

“If you know the enemy and you know yourself you need not fear the result of 100 battles” -Sun Tzu

No, of course not.  We can wonder if we are going to be able to change the world, and the truth is who knows.  Maybe.  Regardless, we can change ourselves.  First and foremost we must develop a reasonable view of health.  One that is based upon healthy eating and exercise.  Once we ducate ourselves then we can vote with our wallets.  You see, that is the best thing about this system that has been working against us.  It has no set values, it has no care for our health or against it.  It is just brutally efficient at getting our money.  As soon as we start supporting companies and products that are good for our health we can turn this battle around.  As soon as we start treating the companies that are our enemies as our enemies and no longer our friends we will start to learn who our real friends have been all along.  As soon as we start taking responsibility for researching what we eat and eating what is healthy, only then can we raise healthy families and healthy communities.  Really it is a case of us taking responsibility for ourselves.  I know it appears as though we are very weak and have a herculean task ahead of us, but it really isn’t that bad.

Read the excerpt from Fast Food Nation here (I am still not sure what the movie maker was going for with the movie, but this excerpt from the book is excellent).  It is a very disturbing passage at first, when you realize just how massive and talented the industry of processed food production is.  The thing is, though, after you read it, think about this same industry manufacturing great tasting, low calorie, high fibre meals.  These industries are out to get our money, they don’t care if they produce healthy food or not, as long as they are getting our money.  As soon as we demand healthier foods, they will manufacture them.  I agree there is no substitute for natural healthy foods, but I have faith that we will be able to manufacture healthy foods too.  We did put humans on the moon didn’t we?  Would I be reaching too far if I said:

We choose to have a healthy populace. We choose to go to have a healthy populace in one decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

With apologies to JFK, but I was watching ‘From Earth To The Moon’ again tonight 😉

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