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Does the Food Industry Drive You to Overeat?

As a veteran dieter and one who provided professional weight loss help for women, I have long come to view the commercial food industry as an evil giant that manipulates and mesmerizes us into endless eating. Give into it, and it’s an ongoing, eternal binge—until the consequences become too debilitating. The ubiquitous advertising that persuades us to eat at every turn, the ingenious razzle-dazzle packaging that entices us to constantly indulge, and the legions of food chemists that inflame our taste buds to desire MORE—is nothing short of brilliant, unscrupulous marketing. In my mind, McDonald’s is the “Darth Vader” of marketing—pure, dark genius.

A recent interview in Nutrition Action Healthletter with Professor Kelly Brownell in the Department of Psychology at Yale University and author of 14 books, including Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America’s Obesity Crisis, and What We Can Do About It supports my interpretation of the situation completely—and then some. The interview is entitled “In Your Face – How the Food Industry Drives Us to Eat.” That certainly sums it up.

Not only does Professor Brownell address the overwhelming environmental message to overeat, if not to gorge on calorie-laden food, he also points to the fact that we then, as a society, blame fat people for being fat! The onus is placed on the individual to take personal responsibility for his or her weight and to do something about it. Thus the industry is off the hook, not to mention the government, even though the health care cost for obesity is now at $147 billion annually.

Beyond the issue of marketing there is a genetic dilemma as well when it comes to natural health and weight loss. Brownell points out that our genes are not at all prepared for this kind of excess either. The ability to store fat in ancient times was a metabolic blessing. With an unpredictable food supply and the not infrequent threat of starvation, storing fat was essential to survival, causing us to gravitate toward calorie-dense foods and to overeat when there was abundance just in case a food shortage or a famine was in the near future.

For those of us blessed with a slow, fat-storing metabolism, famines often do occur. In fact, we pay a lot of money for those famines. Another giant of industry, the multi-billion dollar commercial weight loss business, is there to scoop us up when we’ve stored too much fat and provide us with the challenging experience of calorie deprivation with the goal of helping us lose weight and maintain weight loss! But more on that another time…

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