Imagine for a minute that you were asked to play Chess without being told any of the rules. My guess is that some people would be able to slowly figure out the rules through trial and error if they paid close attention to the cause and effect of their moves. Others would fail miserably and not even put up a fight as their pawns are picked off one by one. Now imagine that you are asked to play against the smartest, quickest minds of Chess who were hired to defeat you....It would be a little overwhelming to say the least!
This game of Chess is how I sometimes feel about the "playing" with the food industry - the ODDS ARE AGAINST ME!
They have more knowledge and more resources than the average consumer. I certainly don't feel like we are are level playing fields. They understand the human body better and how the brain responds to different foods and different advertising.
I recently read a book called "The Pleasure Trap" that comments on the pleasure sensors of our brain. Basically it is when the brain releases a signal that says "Something very good and valuable for our survival and/or reproduction is happening: Keep doing it!" The authors go on to say that we are each embedded with genetics that encourage us to:
"In nature, certain experiences are designed to encourage successful behavior. As such, they are extremely pleasant and reinforcing. The primary sources of pleasure being food and sexual activity. This is because success in these arenas is necessary for survival and reproduction."
Something interesting has happened as man has evolved intellectually. Man has learned ways to release the pleasure sensors of the brain in a way that does NOT encourage our natural successful behavior. For example, a young physician by the name of Sigmund Freud (maybe you've heard of him) thought he found the key to happiness with a newly synthesized substance called cocaine. He prescribed it to patients and friends and used it himself. After a time he came to understand its dangers. Patients deteriorated, a friend committed suicide, and he himself became miserable. To this day, rats will choose cocaine over food and water once they have experienced its tantalizing effects!
The advances in food technology over the last decade are astounding. Millions of dollars are spent each year trying to create "food" that hits our pleasure sensors. Millions more are spent on marketing trying to get us to purchase those foods. As we walk down the aisles of the grocery store (particularly the cereal aisle) we are unknowingly exposed to those dollars at work. We are bombarded with messages that were created to make us WANT to buy them. And when we do, our taste buds are attacked with delicious flavors designed to make us want more! These additives do their jobs fantastically and we find ourselves wanting more and more. In today's day and age it is US against the WORLD CHEMISTS! Who is winning?
My main thought is that we need to arm ourselves with as much knowledge as we can. We as the consumer have the responsibility to know what is in our food and where it is coming from. We have the ability to really evaluate the effects our food have on our body, our mood and even our thoughts. (I for one can think a lot more clearly after having a fresh salad than after a burger and fries.) We simply need to be a little more aware....take a little more thought....spend an extra minute reading a food label if we need to (remember that if you can't pronounce it your probably shouldn't eat it - except for quinoa that is which is prounounced 'keen-wa')! In the end, we will be the ones to benefit from the extra scrutiny.