A Million Meals

Caring for children in today's confusing food environment

Why Food Isn't an Addiction

One of the reasons I love writing about children and food is the frequency with which it arises as a conversation topic between parents. Just this past weekend I had a conversation with a fellow parent that made me ponder the kind of food wisdom from which all parents can benefit. Read More

Primal Urges

I think you shoot down your own theory towards the end of the article when you talk about primal urges. All human beings have a pleasure-seeking urge; our desire to feel good drives us in one of 2 directions (I think): Easy or Earned. I can derive pleasure from enjoying whole food that I grew myself, or I can learn to derive pleasure from a McDonald's drive-thru meal. I can derive deep comfort and satisfaction in building a meaningful relationship with a monogamous and loving partner over the course of my life or I can settle for brief, lustful encounters with a variety of partners. I can buy a knock-off or save for the 'real thing'.
Our nutritional needs as a species have always been met by the foods in our environment. We once ate only what was seasonally available. Our bodies have always known how to process and use natural fats and sugars. Man-made fats and sugars are killing us (and modern medicine is keeping us alive, but our quality of life has diminished in some respects)Aquiring food once required effort and planning (hunting and gathering)...now we might hunt for the nearest KFC?
Our addiction is only with man-made foods which could essentially (and may soon be) be classified as 'drugs'...substances that are controlled by the FDA (Food Drug)...studies have suggested that our brain can't tell the difference between white (bleached/processed) sugar and cocaine; both make our bodies cry out for more and more. The natural sugar in a peice of fruit does not have the same effect. When you combine white carbs and sugar (as in most cereals)you flip the addiction switch (if you're predisposed and have no other way to release stress) and you eat and eat and eat because it feels and tastes so good...and after, just as with excessive drinking or drug use, you feel sick.
In the documentary Super-Size me Morgan Spurlock demonstrates the effect of a super sized meal on a 'healthy' body; normally used to eating a whole foods diet, he begins to sweat halfway through the meal and eventually throws up, unable to finish the meal because his body recognized the man-made food as a toxin (or drug). How do we begin any addiction? A little at first (ooh, ahh, mmmm) and then we're hooked and need more and more to staify the craving developed by that drug (white sugar, carbs and man-made fats).
Food, actual whole food is NOT an addictive substance.
Man-made food 'products' commercially sold for profit that we absolutely do not need to survive, are drugs which we can and do become addicted to. The obesity epidemic is a direct result of man-made, legally consumable drugs...if you ask me. :)
Also consider the link between food marketing/language and sex (as in the tantilizing, forbidden, tempting kind). (We need to procreate to survive as a species, but man invented porn which people become addicted to.)I've never seen a 'sexy' or provacative commercial for kale. But I have seen very suggestive commercials for country fried chicken 'salad' drizzled in blue cheese dressing and smothered in candied pecans and oohh, ahhh, bursting with juicy...ummm carnuba wax? Porn? Food commercial? Floor wax ingredient on my nuts? What?
When we choose to eat/crave man-made foods it is because we are seeking to satisfy an emotional need that marketing has promised us this food-product provides. In the cafeteria at the hospital where I work, right at the check-out is a a huge chip stand. At the top of the chip stand are three happy looking women who are laughing on a sunny day, eating chip together. Above their heads becons the suggestion to "Grab some Fun!" indicating that inside these little bags of chips I will find Fun! in the middle of my stressful workday at the hospital...that somehow by eating chips I will be transported to a lively social event full of laughter and human connection. The reality is that all I find is 2-300 calories of saturated fat, grease, synthetic dyes, and various chemicals which, if I consume daily in an effort to 'grab some fun!' will land me in the hospital as a patient. hahahaha
So, the short version is that you're right, food is not addicting; whole food in its natural state. Man-made food-products are basically packaged, legal crack on a shelf.
(so, P.S the easy and earned bit...addicts have yet to learn how to meet real needs in healthy or acceptable ways so they repeatedly turn to their substance of choice to self-soothe or gain pleasure. Except in rare cases of OCD, whole food is not a culprit, but man-made food-products are one of the many drugs of choice AND we're all still in enough denial to defend our food addiction as socially accpetable and NOT a problem.)

Wonderful response

Elizabeth--thank you for this really thoughtful comment; I absolutely agree with you on every point you make about how we are manipulated by the food industry, as well as how overdosing on fats/sugar/salt-laden foods can have toxic effects on the body. There's no doubt some people do become "addicted" to junk foods. I think my piece is aimed less at adults making their own food choices and more at parents who see their children's natural preferences as baffling or "bad." The truth is that there are parents who exercise no control over their children's food choices, or feed them a very unhealthy diet of processed and fast foods, which is obviously wrong and terrible for these children's health. But there are also anxious parents on the other end of the spectrum who freak their children out about food, which can have an equally detrimental effect on their kids' eating. These parents absorb messages about obesity and food-related health issues and pass that onto their children in the form of disordered eating. That we are struggling with these two issues at once in this country certainly illustrates what a muddle we've created out of our culture of abundance.

Thank you

Thank you for responding to my crazy talk...food is an obsessive passion of mine.
And likewise, I agree with what you've said...it is so difficult for parents to teach their children about food when we are having such a difficult time creating a healthy relationship with food, as adults...one extreme to the other for sure...and how to find balance. Not an easy task for moms and dads, or the rest of us.
I'm so glad I'm perfect (hahahahaha)
And one more thought: it's really not about the food, it's about what role the food plays in our lives or our relationships or family dynamics. Food is a vehicle of expression for so many subtexts (or is that just my warped perception because of my relationship with food?)
Either way, I love reading your blogs :)

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Zanthe Taylor, M.F.A., is a former dramaturg and English teacher who is currently raising two daughters in Brooklyn, NY.

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