Food & Drink #14: Real Food!

In Twinkie Deconstructed, the author attempts to track down each ingredient in that wonderful icon of junk food. The list of what goes into the "natural and artificial flavors" alone would make your head swim.  I took a look at my frozen burrito and nearly had a heart attack when I saw "titanium dioxide" listed as an ingredient.  WTF?  That stuff's in paint!

But then, one wonders if all the hype over these strange and mysterious chemicals that go into so much of what we eat is really a big deal.  It's true that a Big Mac and fries can sit on my back patio for literally months without so much as a hint of degradation; while their homemade counterparts become spoiled and mold covered within a single day.... but does that in and of itself prove they're harmful to us?  Maybe that means they're just EXTRA good for us.... where does hard science weigh in on this?

The fact of the matter is, the food my parents were serving me 40+ years ago wasn't exactly straight from Mother Earth.  When did it all go to hell?... or maybe it never did. Hmmmmm.

A fridge in 1963 stocked with all sorts of unnatural (and tasty) substances

Every day, I work in a laboratory where we use hard physical science. I'm forever amazed and simultaneously disgusted at the subjective faux science we call nutritional medicine.   In this world, Monday's poison is Tuesday's health food.

I'm sure there's vegan health nuts reading this shaking their heads in shame; however, my point is not that we should treat our bodies as a bio-hazard dump site and chew on junk food all day.  My point is that it's almost 2012 and I don't think we have the slightest clue what's good and what's bad for us.

Grandma and granddaughter cooking up a healthy lunch..... or carcinogenic suicide snack?
For instance, the hot dog is not exactly considered a health food. Yet it's composed of pork lips and assholes.  Mankind has a long tradition of eating every part of the animal; for thousands of years we've been eating the pig's nether regions.... is this suddenly a bad thing?

The preservatives in the hot dog have actually been found to enhance iron absorption.  And you'd pay good money at a health food store for an anti-oxidant that's present in your Oscar-Meyer wiener.

Sandwich meat aisle.... or health food aisle of the future?
So, why is everybody so goddamn fat? Perhaps it has almost nothing to do with our grocery store selection, and a whole helluva lot to do with our inability to stop stuffing our faces.  At least when I was a kid there wasn't a Filet-o-Fish waved under my nose at the slightest whiff of hunger.  It's an issue of portion size and NOTHING to do with whether I'm eating a whole grain pita or a no-grain Hostess snack cake.

Eat less - or - work out and dress like idiots. The choice is yours.
 Also, think about the fact that we are living waaaay longer than nature intended.  We can point the finger at preservatives in our hot dogs and corn syrup in our Pop Tarts; however, for the most part, college age kids look spectacular, and we all know college students eat like shit.  I, for one, subsisted on nothing but beer and Arby's Beef-n-Cheddar during college, and I never looked better.

My opinion: screw all these health fads. Just stop eating so goddamn much and accept the fact that when you get old, you're going to get unhealthier and gain weight.

And a little exercise wouldn't hurt

I think I'll leave you with a great quote from the novel Zorba the Greek.  Next time you start breaking out in cold sweats because you just realized your salad dressing contains high fructose corn syrup, remember this conversation...
"What is your favorite dish, grandad?"
"All of them, my son. It's a great sin to say this is good and that is bad."
"Why? Can't we make a choice?"
"No, of course we can't."
"Why not?"
"Because there are people who are hungry."
 I was silent, ashamed. 


  1. Okay, as a fat woman I have an issue with the "just eat less" thing. There are reasons people are fat other than eating too much, you know.

    A lot of women, myself included, have a condition known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. PCOS, amongst it's other symptoms, can, and obviously in my case did, cause glucose intolerance - GI leads to weight gain. Just cutting back and exercising more alone will not help in weight loss. Women with PCOS need medical help as well.

    My mom had a friend who weighed over 400 pounds. Turns out, she had a tumor wrapped around her thyroid. She could be stranded ala Tom Hanks' character in Castaway and still not lose a pound.

    Allergies have been linked to weight gain. Allergies cause inflammation. Inflammation slows the metabolism, which of course makes a person fat.

    Many medications for breathing problems and depression can put on massive amounts of weight, even if that person eats less than Kate Moss and exercises more than Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda combined.

    Then there are emotional reasons a person might eat a lot as well. I've known a lot of fat women and men who eat a lot because their own parents raped them. I know my own weight problems don't come just from the PCOS but also from being sexually assaulted and bullied, leading to lower self esteem and turning to food for comfort - plus the assumption that "Fat women don't get raped." (We do, but let's face it, when shows like L&O:SVU have every single rape victim, even homeless schizophrenics, be super model beautiful, it's hard to think you'll be raped if you're "fat and ugly.")

    Are there people who are fat just because they eat a lot and don't work out? Yes. But there's been people like that in every period of history.

    Maybe if more doctors were more opened minded about why their patients are fat - like mom's friend who had to go to five different doctors before one actually looked at her instead of saying she was lazy - then there'd be less fat people because we'd be getting the treatments we need.

  2. Did people in the '50s really put big platters of raw meat in the fridge without any covering?

  3. It has been recently articulated that there more than ten times as many foreign entities on/in our bodies (our microbiome) compared to our own number of cells, especially in the gut where they are said to be able to control both appetite, satiety, and maybe even our behavior(s), as well as providing metabolites that are beneficial to us; they can even communicate among each other. It is no surprise that we cannot easily sort it out. Additionally, I do not consider simple calorie counting as valid - there is also time and absorption factors that determine how much you energy you extract - some people are simply more efficient. Personally, my body leaves me in a perpetually unsatiated state; a gnawing, empty feeling. It is a battle of will and deception to prevent overeating. For over 1.2 years I walked/ran on a treadmill 5 or 6 days/week, 45+ mins., sometimes twice a day, without fail. No sodas, little overeating, mostly grilled proteins, raw veggies, 1 egg/toast/coffee breakfast (this actually works for me; recent paper says 10-15g protein does this - any less makes you consume many more calories during the day. Any more is extra calories.) Nutritionists I talked to bi-weekly questioned whether I was eating enough and had actually put my body into a starvation, low metabolic state. I dropped only 15 pounds (but body remodeled). Good, but not good enough. PS I grew up with very thin step-brother, who we ate the same food at the same time for quite awhile. He stayed thin, I was always heavier. Twin studies would be very useful. s-a-h-d

  4. Portions keep getting bigger and bigger and it needs to stop. Not all food reheats well and taste good when a restaurant gives you so much that there's no way you can *or should* finish it all in one meal. Today's small pop is yesterday's large. It's fucking ridiculous.

    Young girls used to care about not getting fat. Now it's rare to find one who isn't spilling out of her pants.

  5. Yes, somewhere in the 1980's or early 1990's, I remember going through a drive-thru and a large soda transformed into a small bucket. Somewhere along the way, American's have denied their problem (me included) and it needs to stop. Bigger doesn't always mean better. It just means more indigestion, blowting and hear burn.

  6. I've noticed the ad campaigns nowadays for just about everything (including McNuggets, wtf?) seem like they need to go out of their way to say "This is made from all natural ingredients" even when its laughably not the cause. (Personally, I never had a problem with McNuggets before they redid them so that they were 'all white meat" and no filler because but personally, them being all natural or not has never stopped me from getting it.) Its kind of like "Why bother?"
    Sort of on-topic but sort of not, there was a big thing about wanting to change Ronald McDonald because he was 'making children overweight' and that is shifting the blame. Yeah, McDonalds shouldn't be the basis of a whole child's diet but its not McDonalds' fault and definitely not the damn clown's fault: its the parents who think giving their kids Big Macs everyday is a good idea or just plain not knowing any better.

    I know on shows like "Doctor Oz" and they do they segments on the news about "New studies have found such and such may be good for your health" but they give such contradictory information or just impractical advice so I don't really blame anybody for tearing their hair or giving in to the latest diet/food fad.

  7. Knowing where your food comes from is a key factor. Try going to your local market and buying just what's there. locally raised and slaughtered meats, fresh fruit when in season, fresh veggies from the farmer down the road. But ingredients and take joy in creating. Take your time, find out whats good. If you go on a regular basis, you will come to understand what you, you/spouse, your family eat in a week/bi weekly.I know you all must be, freakin' hippy, but it's what we did and we are better for it. we but some things from the local grocery, and we eat crap, just not that much. Say no when you feel full.