I Am That Girl Now

Friday, February 16, 2007

Wow, am I in a foul mood

I've got PMS, definitely. Getting to work this week has been work in and of itself, which has not made me particularly pleased with life. Podfitness, which I signed up for and then cancelled after I found out that it would not deal with my legally purchased iPod songs, has now charged me $19.95. Seriously, I cancelled after one day, and supposedly I was in the midst of that "try it now for free" period, and if I wasn't pleased with the service before then, I REALLY don't like it now. And the chick in the cube next to me has gospel music playing every minute of the day, she doesn't turn it down when she's on the phone (which means she raises her voice to talk over the noise, making things worse), and I am trying to get to a calm enough mental place where I can talk to her about this rather than screaming.

To top it all off, someone has stolen or thrown out my water bottle, and now I have to get a new one.

I am wound so tight right now, I don't know what to do with it. It's a damn good thing that I've got the physical part of the binge thing taken care of, because if I had the least physical excuse, the mental drive toward solving my problems with a bag of Doritos would be just insane right now. It's bad enough as it is.

So, did you hear about Peter Pan peanut butter and the salmonella thing? Long story short: don't eat that peanut butter. Added and unrelated exposition on my part: don't eat that peanut butter anyway, because it is full of sugar and wacky added crap. Sugary peanut butter triggers my binging; natural peanut butter does not. Ponder that one for a second.

Actually, what the hell, a good rant could get a lot of this unfocused rage out of my brain. Since I haven't ranted for a while on non-food food, I may as well do so now!

I hate diet food. By this I do not mean single-ingredient foods, where they are what they are, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, nuts, milk, eggs, olive oil, whole grains, or natural peanut butter (it has ONE INGREDIENT, it is PEANUTS, this is the best thing ever). These things are fine. With the probable exception of the peanut butter, my ancestors would recognize these things as food. The object of my ire is the packaged, highly-processed, shelf-stable crap with ingredients that came out of labs instead of farms, the stuff that's been intricately pieced together and then post-operatively pumped full of nutrients.

Every time nutrition science comes out with a new conclusion about what makes some foods-- and these are whole foods, I'll guarantee you-- good for us, the food industry retools the same old shit to fit these guidelines. I will tell you right now that no matter what they do to a breakfast bar to give it all the nutritious properties of a piece of broccoli, it is never going to give you the benefits of broccoli, because a) science is just not that smart, and b) food products invented in a lab don't have anywhere near the fiddling-around time as food products that evolved over a few million years, including a few thousand years of human fiddling. (Example: carrots. If you think they've always been that bright orange color, think again.) In a few thousand years, we might get this right. A few decades, though, is just not enough time.

Here's the other thing-- and I know I've talked about this stuff before, it's one of my ranty subjects. Humans are programmed on a genetic level to seek three things which, on a caveman's diet, would have been rare: sweet, salt, and fat. Even up to and through the Industrial Revolution, these things were still a pain to get-- sugar in particular, which was very labor-intensive, needed to be imported, and hence expensive. Meat (and hence lard) and butter were also labor-intensive. Getting salt from either ocean water or mines was also labor-intensive, and although it wasn't quite as expensive as other things, it was one of the few methods of preserving food available at the time, and so deeply necessary; it also was prone to government intervention and taxation.

Fast-forward to the twentieth (and now twenty-first) century, and suddenly we've made all these things cheap. Granted, we still think of meat as the most expensive piece of the menu, but it's not like ye olden days when poor folks could go weeks without eating meat; anyone can go to a fast food join and pony up a buck for a hamburger. (I come from Kansas; don't get me started on the meat industry. Making this stuff cheaper is at a huge cost, environmentally and socially and, yes, for our waistlines.) Fat is absolutely no problem; we can get it any old way. Salt and refined sugar are cheap; go to the store and price a container of Morton's and a 5-lb. bag of sugar if you don't believe me.

And somehow, that wasn't enough for the food industry. Things needed to be saltier, fattier, sweeter, and cheaper, because all these things make people's taste buds happy (except the "cheaper" part, which makes the wallet happy) and so they'll buy more of that product. Enter hydrogenated fats (replacing most animal fats in the 1960s): cheaper, and then also a longer shelf life = cheaper to produce. Enter high-fructose corn syrup (starting in about 1975); cheaper to get, and it's easier to mix and has a longer shelf life than sugar, so the product becomes cheaper to produce. And salt? As far as I know, they haven't lab-created SuperSalt yet, but they certainly use a ton of it, because it fixes problems like dryness and chemical aftertaste, and it makes other tastes stand out more-- including sweetness-- and the more something tastes like something, the better, says the industry.

Don't get me started on the lab-created flavors. I have been screwed up on what is actually orange-flavored my whole life because of this; compared to an orange-flavored candy, an orange seems flavorless. This is just screwed up, folks.

Leaving aside the definite health problems associated with trans fats and the questions raised about HFCS, the thing is, things made with this stuff are cheaper than they have any natural right to be, and sweeter/saltier/fattier than they have any natural right to be. This is not cool. I am not a scientist, I am not a nutritionist, but I do eat, and I do notice things, and I've noticed that in the time that humans have been eating this sort of thing ("food" may be going too far), we've been eating too much of it and getting really damn fat.

I'm not going to say that these things are addictive, because-- like I said-- the human body is genetically wired to seek this stuff out. I do think that having it be so cheap is a problem. I do think that having this stuff be ready-to-eat is a problem. I do think that we don't have a lot of natural resistance to this stuff. I think that we're raised in a society where everything has artificially flavory flavors, is too sweet and too fat and too salty, and that as a result it takes a while to adjust to any kind of diet that relies on natural foods, which have natural flavors.

And that's where the diet food thing comes in, and I hate this stuff with a passion, because it's a big lie. It's trying to keep you in that zone of artificially-high flavor and sweetness and fatty textures, trying to assure you that you can still eat this way and lose weight, and in doing so they keep you from getting used to real foods. It's a way to wean yourself off the full-strength shit, I guess, but don't for a minute believe that any of this stuff is actually good for you.

Sometimes, good-for-you stuff, real food, has more calories than a processed meal. This alone can make people forego real food. The thing is, real food does stuff for you beyond calories. It's more filling. It's got all sorts of complicated enzymes and vitamins and fiber and things that science probably won't figure out for another twenty or forty years. It makes your body work the way it ought to work. It fuels you right.

I can't even be holier-than-thou on this because we've been working our way through the leftovers from the Superbowl for two weeks, and the bread and crackers-- both purchased with an eye toward pleasing our guests, who are not accustomed to the things we try to buy ordinarily-- and, I will admit, the beer, didn't get pitched out the way that the chips and cookies did. We've been eating them, and I'm pretty sure that my hilariously weird week-long five-pound bloat was entirely due to white bread and crackers. And I gotta tell ya, once the idea of instant food is out there, and the memory of refined sugars and flours is fresh in my body's memory, it is damn near impossible for me to get my ass in gear and make real food. I start doing the teenage thing where I mope around the kitchen looking at all the full cupboards and the full refrigerator and the full freezer and whining, "There's nothing to eeeeeeat!" There's plenty to eat, of course, I'm just not seeing the things that I'm craving.

I'm convinced that if I someday get to the point where I can prepare healthy food when I'm in one of my exhausted, cranky, self-destructive moods, then there'll be no problem anymore. The deck is stacked, though. Totally, totally stacked.

...Okay, I feel a little better. (Bonus: my tea is here! I finally ordered my tea and it is here! SO HAPPY!) Time to go on with life.


  • Ok... that was an impressive RANT ! Well done, and i hope you feel better. Go have a cup of tea. lol

    By Blogger Chris H, at 1:13 PM  

  • Did you read that Michael Pollan article in the NYT a few weeks ago? It's a lot of the same stuff you're talking about here...

    By Blogger Wendy, at 2:36 PM  

  • Apparently Michael Pollan is THE BOMB, because I've had this link bookmarked for 3 years! - "The (Agri)cultural Contradictions of Obesity." Brilliant stuff.

    By Blogger M@rla, at 2:35 PM  

  • You should check out Tosca Reno's book, "The Clean-Eating Diet". I think you would like it.

    By Anonymous Fallon, at 12:21 PM  

  • I've never posted before, but I figured I'd try to cheer you up by telling you that I love your blog and visit daily! Also--we heard about the Salmonella issue---because my daughter had it! Aack...I hope you feel better soon!

    By Anonymous angela, at 8:00 PM  

  • Fan-freakin-tastic rant, darling!

    By Blogger Katschi, at 5:29 PM  

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