Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss, and Day 17: 183

Stepped on the scales and rang up 183 pounds.  That's a modest 6 pounds in two weeks.  I'm trying to be more aware of my portion sizes and what's actually in my food, plus doing a fair amount of walking.

Sweetie is down a few pounds as well, and finding, even at this early stage, a surprising amount of extra room inside her clothes.

"Bummer," I said.  "Your pants are too big."

"As bummers go, I don't mind it."

Another thing that's helping me with keeping a better eye on what I'm eating is the relatively new book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss.  I heard of this while listening to NPR, listening to an interview with the author, and even in what little I was able to catch before having to go on to other things, what I heard was intriguing.

I've only been reading the book for a few days now, and even so I've already picked up on a few important things: the food industry is perfectly aware of what kind of psychological effects food can have on us, and they exploit those effects to make us want more.

It's the most cynical thing I've ever seen.  It's right there with the tobacco giants, insisting time after time that the clinical trials regarding the possible dangers of tobacco use are "inconclusive," even as they're turning up the nicotine content of their cigarettes to strengthen the addictive qualities.

We all are pretty aware of the addictive qualities of things like narcotics, alcohol, and nicotine.  What we aren't as aware of, due to the sheer ubiquity of it, are the addictive qualities of such simple things as salt, sugar and fat.

There is a "bliss point" for sugar, a level - actually it's a range of levels that fluctuates depending on the presence of other cues, but for the sake of brevity right now we'll stick with the term "point" - at which sugar has the maximum effect without going overboard.  The insidious thing about it, though, is that sugar isn't just satisfying.  It can also create cravings for more sugar, for more food.  And once you've gotten used to so much sugar, the one craving it really induces above all others is the craving for more sugar.

Here's a little tidbit I never imagined before: the body's sense of satiation isn't triggered by calories you drink.  You load up on food and it isn't long before you feel full and satisfied.  That sensation of satisfaction, however, will not be affected much one way or the other by a soda.  If you're having a Coke with your meal, there's a bunch of calories that didn't register, and were taken in whether you felt you needed them or not.

Needless to say, I've radically cut back on how much soda I drink anymore.  I've had one since I started watching my weight, and I had already been ramping down before I started.  That last Coke took me all day to drink, and the first sip tasted pretty weird.

Now all I have to do is cut down on my coffee.  That would probably have a pretty strong effect on my blood pressure.  It's really my blood pressure more than anything that is inspiring this weight loss, but I imagine lightening the load on my knees and hips can't be a bad thing either.

This is me into the book only a couple of chapters, and already the clear sense of conspiracy and cynicism has had me muttering oaths under my breath, marveling in amazed horror at what we have permitted the food industry giants to systematically do to us.

Case in point: Howard Moskowitz, a food industry researcher, is quoted in an interview in Salt Sugar Fat as saying, as a recent graduate from Harvard and looking for work, "I didn't have the luxury to be a moral creature," talking about his role in discovering the mechanism by which food cravings can manifest, and then developing ways to exploit those cravings to retain and expand food product markets.  This tells me that if he didn't have the luxury of being moral, then what was he being?  That only leaves something other than moral.

I wasn't raised to believe that morality was optional.  It isn't a luxury.

I will probably report more on this book as I get further into it, assuming I haven't snapped and started picketing whichever major food manufacturer is closest before I get to the end.

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