I just read The Atlantic’s article How Junk Food Can End Obesity by David H. Freedman. I don’t know if The Atlantic was trying to stir up controversy or check readership, but the article freaked me out.
So, let me get this straight, “…many of Big Food’s most popular products are loaded with appalling amounts of fat and sugar and other problem carbs (as well as salt), and a plentitude of these ingredients, exacerbated by large portion sizes, has clearly helped foment the obesity crisis.” However, instead of suggesting that people stop eating processed foods or at fast-food restaurants every meal and cook at home Freedman is suggesting that the “wholesome-food advocates” stop pressing Big Food for healthier options. This would allow Big Food to quietly reduce the calorie/fat content while still maintaining the fat-laden mouth-feel? What? Is this to keep obese people alive a little bit longer so that Big Food can sell more product?
Two main messages in the 13-page article are:
- We have to modify junk/fast food because “people aren’t going to change their ingrained, neurobiologically supercharged junk-eating habits .” Overweight or obese people “won’t eat broccoli instead of French fries.” Wow. Maybe Michael Moss was right – junk/fast food is addictive.
- Only affluent and well educated people take responsibility for what they eat. Overweight/obese people are usually poor and live in food deserts where grocery stores with fruits and vegetables rarely exist. And, even if fresh produce was available, overweight people are unwilling or too uninformed to change their eating habits.
It seems the author completely misses the point of Michael Moss’s NY Times article based on his book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. It’s not about trading inexpensive fast food for high-end Whole Foods packaged Vegan Cheesy Salad Booster – NO! – it’s about buying actual fruits, vegetables and other whole foods and making meals at home. That’s a skill America as a whole has lost and it’s not a skill that is accessible only to the elite (people who read the NY Times and shop at Whole Foods).
However, the most chilling paragraph was: “By all means, let’s protect the environment. But let’s not rule out the possibility of technologically enabled improvements to our diet – indeed, let’s not rule out any food – merely because we are pleased by images of pastoral family farms. Let’s first pick the foods that can most plausibly make us healthier, all things considered, and THEN [emphasis mine] figure out how to make them environmentally friendly.” EEK. I heard bee colonies collapsing when I read that. Pesticides or genetically modified organisms, anyone?
We’re reading The Atlantic, OK? Now, stop freaking us out!