This food/weight thing used to be easy. No one thought about it much decades ago, but the world has changed a lot in the last fifty years. Since the 1960’s the average weight for women has increased by 7.3 kg and for men, 12 kg. When I was in primary school in the 60’s there was only one fat kid in the whole school, and it was obvious why. His parents gave him too much lunch money every day and drove him to and from school while the rest of us walked miles. He couldn’t run around outside with the rest of us, but he could buy friends at morning teatime. Being overindulged and sedentary was unusual fifty years ago. In high school I didn’t know anyone with an eating disorder; we teenage girls didn’t even talk about food intake or weight. Food was just food – three simple meals a day, always with vegetables, and fruit and sandwiches for morning and afternoon tea. Treats were reserved for special occasions. On Friday night at home five of us would share a block of chocolate. Snack foods like chips and soft drinks were just for Christmas and parties or maybe a treat if we went to an occasional movie. And it wasn’t normal for parents to drink alcohol at home unless there was an occasion.
Then we all got more money, junk food is cheap, drive-through is fast, and we don’t walk miles every day. Now as adults we’re all the fat kid, and every night is party night! This strange new normal that is being sold to us is what we have come to expect – and if we don’t get what we expect, what others are having, we feel deprived. But we didn’t need it in the first place.
We live in an obesogenic world, a world that begets weight gain through crafty marketing schemes and constant temptations. There’s ‘buy me on special’ junk food everywhere. We’re sitting in a heap watching TV and gorging on snacks, drinking wine any night of the week. There’s no longer that rhythm of the everyday simple, occasional party lifestyle, no adult postponing of gratification. We’ve been infantilised, but it’s not all our fault. We’ve been led to this by the cunning, hypnotic effect of marketing.
I used to say that we all know what we should eat. That’s mostly true; but the supermarket today is a minefield of processed food, all tested to give people the “bliss point” – just the right combination of flavours developed for that perfect taste, but full of saturated fats, sugar, salt, and additives. There are food manufacturers devoted to getting us coming back for more and more. People think that if they buy fruit yoghurt, muesli bars, snack packs, and ‘fruit’ rollups for the kids they’re doing the right thing, but everything is loaded with sugar. And then for the dieter there are endless arrays of sweet chocolate-flavoured protein shakes that keep people hooked on that taste, that intense sweetness. No, we’re not supposed to be having a fake chocolate milkshake for a meal. It imprints the habit and mindset of getting a sweet treat every day instead of having actual food. Be very wary of the “health food” aisle in the supermarket.
And because everyone feels time-poor, it’s faster and easier to grab things pre-prepared, pre-cooked, but those things are designed to be “tasty”, i.e. relying on high fat and salt. Who has time to look through the fine print? These meals look like they might be healthy but are rarely ideal human food.
In 2011 the AMA stated, “The facts are clear. The AMA believes that the government must mandate traffic light labelling on packaged food and drink products.” But in a victory for the food industry over the people’s health, the government of the day decided not to go ahead with that system even though it’s the most obvious way to change buyer behaviour. What parent is going to pick up a lunch box snack for their child with a red light on it? Instead we got the health star rating system, which manufacturers can voluntarily choose to put on their packages.
In the end, we don’t really know what it is we’re eating and giving our kids unless we read the very fine print on each item and know what we’re looking for.
The George Institute for Global Health, a medical research body, has devised the FoodSwitch phone app to provide clear ratings of every food in the supermarket with both traffic lights and health stars. I was amazed to find a Weight Watchers nutrition bar with only one and half stars, out of five. Seriously. This free app is well worth getting if you want to know the truth of what you’re eating.
We’ve been sucked in by factory-made food, become addicted to high salt and sugar tastes, been hypnotised by ads, half-price junk, and flashy packaging, and feel pressure to conform to the surrounding culture that eats like this. It’s now “normal” to consume stuff that isn’t really food. Hopefully not many of us would feed our dog or cat on chips, ice cream, biscuits, cake, chocolate, lollies, soft drinks, or wine. We’d recognise that as neglect. Call the RSPCA! So why would we do that to our own bodies?
Yes, we do live in a fat shaming/fat promoting cultural bind that is driving people to despair. The good news is that you can unplug from the fascination, the wanting, that grab that takes hold in your mind when you see junk food. With modern mind technologies you can find the truth of your own agency so that you’re not overtaken by the external environment, the enticing marketing tactic, the mindless habit, the strong desire, or the passing emotion.
It is completely possible with TAT and hypnosis to simply lose the desire for all that stuff and to just ignore it. It becomes no big deal. It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever enjoy whatever your special thing is, on occasion, but you’re not driven by it. You have the freedom to choose. That’s real freedom.