“How Food Makers Captured Our Brains”

25 06 2009

School is to Food . . .
so is resistance futile?

What do you think “control of the cookies” means? — how we can and must control the cookies, or how the cookies control us, iow control BY the cookies? Maybe the former because of the latter?

(Can cookies give me a headache?)

Three years ago during Snook’s opening run, I felt the food headache coming on in Mindless Snacks Are to Mindless School and Mindless Eating.

Those were previews of coming attractions I guess, because today comes How Food Makers Captured Our Brains:

He left the house, and the cookies remained uneaten. Feeling triumphant, he stopped for coffee, saw cookies on the counter and gobbled one down.

“Why does that chocolate chip cookie have such power over me?” Dr. Kessler asked in an interview. “Is it the cookie, the representation of the cookie in my brain? I spent seven years trying to figure out the answer.”

The result of Dr. Kessler’s quest is a fascinating new book, “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite” . . .

Food like sex is literally human power. It gives us power and has power over us. It is at once visceral and sublime, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Food is life and death and everything in between, so human institutions like Family, School, State and Church naturally covet and try to control its power over us for their own ends. You name it, food’s got it and we need it.

Would you believe a public official (heading her state house committee for children and families, no less!) powering her own twisted ideology of parent rights through food’s power, misusing it through Family, School, State AND Church all at once? See Missouri state rep The Dishonourable Cynthia “Hunger can be a positive motivator” Davis.

Tip: When you chair a state special committee on children and families, you probably ought to learn something about the needs of children and families.

Not the first, just the latest recipe for unhealthy education food for thought. Force-fed to kids in School and Church, these unhealthy ideas fuel kids growing up to positions of education authority themselves, and the cycle of malnutrition (addiction?) feeds on itself.

From “Bribery, Authority and Other Teacher Scripts”:

Maybe the real problem with education politics is coming from the kind of student mind School invariably puts on the top of the heap and sends into the world to teach, chair education committees, etc.? If there’s truth to this, then educating our own isn’t enough, to turn it around before our whole system collapses of its own hubris.

But back to Dr. Kessler.

Dr. Kessler is perhaps best known for his efforts to investigate and regulate the tobacco industry, and his accusation that cigarette makers intentionally manipulated nicotine content to make their products more addictive.

. . .Food companies “design food for irresistibility,” Dr. Kessler noted. “It’s been part of their business plans.”

But this book is less an exposé about the food industry and more an exploration of us.

“My real goal is, How do you explain to people what’s going on with them?” Dr. Kessler said. “Nobody has ever explained to people how their brains have been captured.”

Oh my, so much power for State, all that investigating and regulating and educating on our behalf. Rep. Davis would no doubt use her own State power to rebuff Dr. Kessler’s industry study and public education with something parent-rightsy, like:
“Addiction can be a positive motivator!”

Snooking around on controlling food, education, and food education:

School Breakfast Stories

School Breakfast Story Part Two: Get Out of My Kitchen!

Unschooling Oldie: Family Mealtime, Screen Time

JJ’s Top Ten Food-for-Health Tips

Powerful Aroma of Home and History in Hot Cross Buns

Keep Thanksgiving Family Feast Fresh, Not Frozen in Time

Homeschool Moms and a Strange Public [Cafeteria] Story

Suspend Force Feeding, Create Compelling Feast

Juicy-fruit Holiday Slobbers Stuffed With Story

Advertisements

Actions

Information

36 responses

25 06 2009
JJ

BREAKING NEWS
Speaking of School and State hurting kids in the name of protecting them, here’s an unexpected win from a SCOTUS majority that I would’ve expected to lean more toward Rep. Cynthia Davis in its adamant institutional child-unfriendliness:

“The Supreme Court says a school’s strip search of an Arizona teenage girl accused of having prescription-strength ibuprofen was illegal.

The court ruled on Thursday that school officials violated the law with their search of Savana Redding, who lives in Safford in rural eastern Arizona.

Redding was 13 when officials at Safford Middle School ordered her to remove her clothes and shake out her underwear because they were looking for pills. The district bans prescription and over-the-counter drugs and the school was acting on a tip from another student.”

25 06 2009
Nance Confer

The Supremes have handed down a few reasonable rulings this week. What’s up with that? 🙂

Nance

25 06 2009
JJ

Fear is a positive motivator?
😉

Mrs. C, you are in Missouri, right? What is UP with that woman??

25 06 2009
JJ

From Edge dot org’s Third Culture:

BRAIN TIME
By David M. Eagleman

“Your brain, after all, is encased in darkness and silence in the vault of the skull. Its only contact with the outside world is via the electrical signals exiting and entering along the super-highways of nerve bundles. Because different types of sensory information (hearing, seeing, touch, and so on) are processed at different speeds by different neural architectures, your brain faces an enormous challenge: what is the best story that can be constructed about the outside world?”

25 06 2009
Crimson Wife

Rep. Davis is an idiot if she thinks it’s cheaper to feed one’s family healthy foods than junk food. I’ve found that for any given item, the healthier version always is more expensive (often significantly more) than the less healthy version. My local store sells white bread for $0.99 but charges $3.49 for the all-natural 100% whole grain bread and $4.99 for Ezekiel bread. It sells wild salmon for $8.99/lb but hot dogs for $0.99/lb. Organic skim milk is $6.98/lb but making Kool-Aid from the powdered mix works out to be $0.32/gallon. Organic fresh produce costs 5+ times what canned conventional produce does.

Now, if she were making the argument that many of the families receiving government assistance would be able to better feed their families if they didn’t waste their money on non-essentials, that I would tend to agree with.

Part of my DH’s job when he was in the Army was to do financial counseling with the soldiers in his platoon. There would be these junior enlisted guys whose families were on WIC and food stamps but who somehow found the money for cigarettes, cable TV, designer clothes, and a fancier car than we owned.

25 06 2009
JJ

But didn’t they go to public school, these poor families not feeding their kids optimally? I doubt many were paying tuition. So why isn’t Rep. Davis looking at the need for more and better life preparation for such families, rather than crowing about the free market and limited government and whatever else she’s on about?

25 06 2009
Crimson Wife

Nutrition was covered in both the home ec class I took in jr high and the health class I had to take in high school. I don’t think the issue is ignorance but rather the cost of healthy foods, convenience (often due to time pressures from being a single parent or working more than one job or both), and misplaced priorities (the aforementioned folks who would rather spend $7/day on cigarettes than on healthier meals for their kids).

25 06 2009
JJ

I wasn’t particularly thinking of “nutrition” as what’s lacking. More like decision-making and creative problem-solving, consumer math skills, more employable job skills generally, not to mention general health, family and parenting skills and attitudes.

But if both cigarettes and industrial-formulated foods are literally, purposefully addictive, that’s something else they weren’t taught and obviously neither were CW and I. So it seems public school let us all down, considering how many of us seem to have grown up believing hungry children would be fine if only their parents didn’t have misplaced priorities, and we’ve supported public policies (and more public schooling) based on that ignorance. . .

25 06 2009
Nance Confer

“Now, if she were making the argument that many of the families receiving government assistance would be able to better feed their families if they didn’t waste their money on non-essentials, that I would tend to agree with.”

**Probably true for many of us. But we don’t need the Congresswoman’s OK.

**Just a note though. It may be more expensive but I always feel like I get more bang for my buck when I buy fresh fruit or corn in season. That sort of thing. Not necessarily organic but not always the canned stuff.

**But you don’t have any of these choices if you don’t have the money. If Mom’s hooked on cigarettes, and that’s where your lunch money goes, it doesn’t matter if you or she knows all about fresh fruit. There’s no money for any of it.

**One in five — the number of teens who smoke. http://www.lungusa.org/site/c.dvLUK9O0E/b.39871/

Nance

25 06 2009
JJ

What about the percent of teen parents who wind up in poverty, and/or families following the “birth all the blessings god sends you” plan, thus ending up with hungry kids whether they smoke or not? I don’t think we want to go there, do we? — imposing our moral judgments from the moment kids are born, first to make their parents poor and their kids likely to go hungry, and not do well in school or at work, to perpetuate the cycle when they become teen parents (and smokers etc?) themselves, then to disapprove of them for being in that condition instead of being all self-righteous like us . . . . . .

25 06 2009
JJ

Surely if adultery is a personal, private matter that we can’t judge even though it destroys lives, and if teen pregnancy/parenthood is too, then smoking and the life-threatening diseases brought on by that and other lifestyle pathologies like obesity, ought not be judged?

Thinking about the reporter all over the President yesterday, about how many cigarettes he still smoked . . .

25 06 2009
Nance Confer

. . . which always seems to me to prove the point.

If Obama, a smart guy constantly in the public eye with every sort of therapy available to him can’t stop smoking, doesn’t that tell us how strong the addiction can be? And doesn’t that support his recent law and other laws and educational measures to discourage teens from starting?

But the questioner always seems to be suggesting it is hypocritical for Obama to be opposed to smoking. I think he gets it — how hard it is to quit — and wants to prevent future addicts.

Nance

25 06 2009
JJ

Rush Limbaugh did a whole rant this afternoon, on “hypocrisy” — how it was preferable to having no standards at all, like the Dems with their “moral equivalence.”

But the idea of independent, capable individuals living in a health-supporting society and helping each other do better without anyone being blamed for not being perfect in the process, or having their private miseries exploited for public point-scoring never mind the kids, seemed a bridge too far.

25 06 2009
JJ

If “free market” and “limited government” (oddly juxtaposed with tough-love bootstrap views like CW’s about buying cigarettes and Justice Thomas’ version of what’s reasonable school power) translate into starving children, impoverished and incapable teen parents, society-wide disease and catastrophic social policy — when do the intelligent and well-educated among us turn against that ideology?

****

From the aspirin-in-the-underwear SCOTUS minority opinion today:

“It was eminently reasonable to conclude the backpack was empty because Redding was secreting the pills in a place should thought no one would look,” Thomas said.

Thomas warned that the majority’s decision could backfire. “Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments,” he said. “Nor will she be the last after today’s decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school.”

Seriously, Justice Thomas?? But didn’t you just opine that it was reasonable to believe this honor student had ALREADY figured that out for herself, which is what made the search legal? 😉

25 06 2009
JJ

Btw, re: life skills for success and not hurting your kids — both Gov and Mrs. Sanford were financial whizzes, she with Lazard Frere and he with Goldman Sachs I think.

For all the good their money and education have done them in parenting well, it seems.

26 06 2009
Crimson Wife

I wasn’t trying to argue against government food assistance programs for the poor because I feel we as a society have a moral obligation to feed the hungry regardless of whether they are partially responsible for getting into that state in the first place. Especially when it comes to kids, who are really the innocent victims here.

I was just pointing out that if Rep. Davis is going to criticize poor families for not feeding their children properly, she needs to make a legitimate criticism. She is flat-out wrong about the cost of healthy food vs. junk food.

Smoking, eating junk food, adultery, and teen sex are all primarily about giving in to temptation. It may feel good in the moment to have a cigarette, eat a Big Mac, or engage in extramarital sex, but they all are likely to have negative long term consequences. Our modern culture is all about instant gratification and pooh-poohs the traditional virtues of temperance and putting duty to others ahead of our own selfish desires. No wonder Americans have such problems with obesity, the breakdown of the nuclear family, STD’s, substance abuse, and so on.

26 06 2009
Nance Confer

Rep. Davis is flat-out wrong about any number of things. 🙂

And I agree, CW, that we are tempted to engage in self-destructive behavior. All of us are tempted, of course. Not just poor people and not just the young.

But it is the poor and young who can be controlled through legislation. And when someone wants to impose their values that way it can be flat-out wrong at the same time that it makes sense on some level.

If we can make sure families get food assistance (we agree again! 🙂 ) but base that help on science and economics, I think we’d be much better off in the long run than trying to justify our help with one set of values as opposed to another.

Nance

26 06 2009
JJ

Btw, re: science and economics for more responsible social policy, this PBS program might relate:

ASCENT OF MONEY
Wednesday, July 8, 2009 9 – 10:00 pm
In this four-part series, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson
delves deep into how the complex system of global finance
evolved over the centuries, how money has shaped the course of
human affairs and how the mechanics of this economic system
work to create seemingly unlimited wealth — or catastrophic
loss. (CC, stereo, HD)

26 06 2009
lori

//She is flat-out wrong about the cost of healthy food vs. junk food. //

Indeed! To make it possible for the poor to actually afford the healthy, locally grown, and sometimes organically grown food that is sold in farmers markets, Boston is giving vouchers to food stamp recipients. The vouchers double the value of the food stamps at Boston farmers markets.

The city has also made an effort to make sure the farmers markets have the technology to accept food stamps. Last year, only two markets had it, so even if you opted to use your limited food stamp value at a farmers market, you had to make sure to go to one of the two that could take your “money.” This year, seven more markets will be able to take food stamps.

26 06 2009
JJ

CW, you’re not a libertarian, are you? Trying to remember — but maybe you understand well enough that you can explain to me anyway, the conservative Christian Ayn Rand-libertarian world view?

It baffles me, with statements like this e.g.:
“Our modern culture is all about instant gratification and pooh-poohs the traditional virtues of temperance and putting duty to others ahead of our own selfish desires.”

26 06 2009
JJ

Lori, aren’t we as society still left with the addiction problems, that it is cheaper and more profitable for the food/drug industry itself, to make their less-healthful products subconsciously compelling?

26 06 2009
COD

I’m pretty sure Rand was an atheist. Just like the Bible, the right picks out the parts of her books that support their pre-existing worldview, and ignore the rest.

The Boston program seems like a total waste of tax money to me. There is nothing wrong with the tomatoes from WalMart, other than that they are flavorless bulbs of mush. But most of the locally grown tomatoes won’t be any better. Essentially, the government is paying 2X what it should for produce in order to prop up local farmers? Sounds like your run of the mill farms program to me, just on a local scale.

26 06 2009
JJ

Right, I think she was too, Chris. I’m pretty sure the biblical thrust is to do unto others, not for yourself. Even if it costs you everything! Morals and sacrifice, altruism, greater reward for suffering now. So the RR confuses me even when they aren’t libertarian, just sort of isolationist “let em eat cake” types about their politics.

And/or (usually and, sigh) Old Testament eye-for-an-eye shock-and-awe types, which ought to be more Jewish than Christ-like, yes?

26 06 2009
Crimson Wife

I always come out on those political ideology quizzes at the intersection of libertarian, moderate, and conservative. I believe that government is neither 100% the problem nor 100% the solution. I’d like to see government spending be focused on helping those truly in need. Why are we spending vast sums to provide Medicare for well-to-do seniors while so many low-to-moderate income younger folks go uninsured? Why are we spending billions on farm subsidies to huge agribusinesses when we’ve got kids going hungry? I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

I read The Fountainhead back in high school, and didn’t think much of Ms. Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. Too selfish and hostile to religion for my tastes…

26 06 2009
JJ

Thanks CW. That’s right, you are hard to categorize and seldom stay in your fitting place. That’s what I like about you. 🙂

26 06 2009
JJ

For everyone — it’s not just food that School doesn’t do a good job of preparing future parents to handle well, and money isn’t always the problem. (Sometimes it’s the drug!)

What about essential play? See Scientific American’s Serious Need for Play e.g. :

Free, imaginative play is crucial for normal social, emotional and cognitive development. It makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed. . .

Gosh, sounds better for humans than organized religion!
(Cock of the snook to Valerie)

26 06 2009
Suze

Thanks for that Scientific American article link!

Speaking of play and religion, here’s the latest from Peter Gray’s Freedom to Learn blog.

Play Makes Us Human III: Play Is the Foundation for Religion
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200906/play-makes-us-human-iii-play-is-the-foundation-religion

26 06 2009
JJ

Nifty tie-in of the two, thanks Suze! 🙂

28 06 2009
lori

“There is nothing wrong with the tomatoes from WalMart, other than that they are flavorless bulbs of mush. But most of the locally grown tomatoes won’t be any better.”

I beg to differ. The locally grown stuff is not only often organic, but almost always better tasting. Don’t you prefer your own garden tomatoes over the ones from Walmart? I do. And I think poor people should have access to better foods – I’m not comfortable saying it’s okay for the poor to eat junk while other families can eat better tasting, healthier foods. (I remember reading in _Animal, Vegetable, Miracle_ that organically grown vegetables have higher levels of vitamins and anti-oxidants than conventionally grown veggies do.)

“Essentially, the government is paying 2X what it should for produce in order to prop up local farmers? Sounds like your run of the mill farms program to me, just on a local scale.”

It’s putting it’s money into the local agricultural economy, which is worthwhile in my opinion. It’s supporting going food shopping some place where you can’t even buy the mass-produced junk that’s all over the supermarket. It’s supporting organic foods. And it’s supporting the use of less fossil fuel in food production and distribution.

All in all, if my government is going to support any food producers at all, which they do by way of food stamps, then I prefer that they support local farmers using sustainable methods rather than the scorched-earth Walmarts of the world.

28 06 2009
lori

“Lori, aren’t we as society still left with the addiction problems, that it is cheaper and more profitable for the food/drug industry itself, to make their less-healthful products subconsciously compelling?”

Yep. But programs like Boston’s are showing that people are finally starting to notice that it matters what we put in our bodies and that the global food industry cares only about profit.

28 06 2009
JJ

Okay. So thinking aloud (or in pixels or whatever). . . we have complex factors interacting to create chronic public health problems from individuals ingesting what isn’t so healthy for their bodies. Some of these contributing factors are responsive to personal preference changes like taste, habit, education, will power, budgeting, accessing public support, etc. Some are less so, because they compel our ingestion at a lizard-brained or evolutionary level. All or at least most of the individual-level changes are affected somewhat by larger community-level policies, programs and conditions.

Sounds like a classic public policy study! 🙂

I was thinking about CW’s earlier frame of healthy food choices as individual, depending on a sort of gritty determination to resist sin and temptation or suffer the consequences (Nance and I probably see this one as alarming because of our dancer-athlete kids, whose coaches and teachers warn against that attitude as having ruined too many young lives) —

Anyway, reading the NYT Week in Review I saw Kristof’s column, It’s Time to Learn From Frogs:

Apprehension is growing among many scientists that the cause of all this may be a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors. They are very widely used in agriculture, industry and consumer products. Some also enter the water supply when estrogens in human urine — compounded when a woman is on the pill — pass through sewage systems and then through water treatment plants.

These endocrine disruptors have complex effects on the human body, particularly during fetal development of males.

“A lot of these compounds act as weak estrogen, so that’s why developing males — whether smallmouth bass or humans — tend to be more sensitive,” said Robert Lawrence, a professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“It’s scary, very scary.”

28 06 2009
JJ

So one way to frame that is women sinning to avoid the consequences of sex, and thereby causing worse consequences for all of humankind. And if you start from that frame, it might seem like the solution is for women to stop sinning (stop taking the estrogen-laced pill) and then god will make the boy babies healthy again . . .scare them into it!

A guy named “Steve” who happened into another public policy thread here (about the UN and parental rights) sounds like that’s exactly how HE would frame it!

Now he has the right to do that, and to teach his own kids that. It’s considered his religious freedom and I suppose his educational freedom too. He and his own offspring and all his religious brethren can believe that and bring it into their public policy arguments and votes and campaign contributions. Apparently they can even pressure textbook companies and university programs and confuse the public science with lawsuits and their own all-god, all the time radio and tv channels, eventually even stack federal regulatory agencies with those same believers.

So. “It” gets into the water we all drink and makes us all less healthy, EITHER WAY.

28 06 2009
JJ

And from my pov framed that way, what is the only possible public policy solution to this complex problem then?

(Sing it with me, y’all)
Education!

28 06 2009
Crimson Wife

Actually, the use of Natural Family Planning is higher among the crunchy granola moms of my acquaintance than among the Catholics. I guess the negative health and environmental impact of hormonal contraceptives is a more persuasive argument in favor of NFP than the traditional Catholic morality-based one.

The most useful of the various NFP books I own is actually written by a politically liberal feminist. There’s a lot in the book that I completely disagree with, but the actual information about charting one’s cycle and using that to determine fertility is excellent.

3 07 2009
JJ

Back to making food too tempting for our brains to resist:

Selling Junkless Junk Food to the Masses
. . .“Our mission statement is to bring the fun back to snacking,” he adds, and make Popchips “a little more fun and approachable” than some other good-for-you brands, which in their marketing may come across as “a bit highbrow.”

In addition to the campaign coming across as not too serious, say the executives at Pereira & O’Dell, the intent is that it also be perceived as not too complicated.

“A lot of advertising is getting too complicated these days,” says P. J. Pereira, chief creative officer at the agency, “especially when you talk about” uncomplicated products like snacks.

“People love to have a chip now and then,” he adds. “There should be a way to do that without all the guilt.”

16 10 2009
Never Mind That Using Kids Is Immoral in Any Belief System « Cocking A Snook!

[…] can intellectually sweat some illuminating small stuff like whether we control food [or sex] or in reality it controls us, and What Should We Call Christ as a Kick in the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: