diet food

A Big Mouthful of Poison

Let me preface this post with a warning: there will most likely be ranting involved. Let me also say that it might also sound hypocritical because I lost my weight by eating “diet” food (i.e. processed junk).

Did anyone see the 60 Minutes piece on the “Flavorists” recently? It was about a company called Givaudan, the largest flavoring company in the world. They opened their doors to 60 Minutes and shared their secrets. Secrets that made my stomach turn. Secrets that I had NO idea about. (Read the transcripts here.) You can also watch a small clip of it here.

I hadn’t heard of this company, Givaudan, until I watched the show. Sure in the back of my mind I knew processed food was bad and engineering food was worse. However, it’s easy to ignore these things in your normal day-to-day life.

“Food companies know that flavor is what makes repeat customers. So they commission Givaudan to create what they hope will be a mouthwatering taste. Givaudan may be the biggest multinational you’ve never heard of. The Swiss company employs almost 9,000 people in 45 countries, providing tastiness to just about every cuisine imaginable.”

While I was watching this piece on 60 Minutes, I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching a company create a cancer epidemic. Of course this is based on nothing because I’m not a doctor, but I find it hard to dismiss the fact that eating a bunch of chemicals could lead to cancer. Seeing how they manufactured “chicken flavoring” was nauseating and it honestly just looked like poison to me.  It makes me wonder about these “flavors” and whether they are tested on lab rats? Is there information out there about the effects on the lab rats?

“It makes you want to eat this again, and again, again, okay? It’s like sex, okay? You know, you want to do it over and over again until you get a headache.”

“Ground zero for the food and flavor industry is the supermarket. Givaudan won’t reveal which brands contain their flavors, but in this aisle, almost every product on the shelves has been enhanced artificially or with so-called natural flavors. And not only that, virtually everything edible in a package, in a jar, or in a can is intensified with either fat, sugar or salt… or, all three of those little devils.”.

 

Dr. David Kessler, former head of the FDA, asked: “We’re eating fat on fat on sugar on fat with flavor. And much of what we’re eating with these flavors, you have to ask yourself, ‘is it really food?'” GOOD QUESTION. Is it really food? The flavors are false, manufactured. That “natural chicken soup” flavor in your soup is a creation, not really chicken. Dr. Kessler went on to say “We’re living in a food carnival. These flavors are so stimulating, they hijack our brain.”

Do they hijack our brain? Are we a nation of obese people because the food we’ve been eating has these manufactured elements in them that make us addicted to them? So we eat more? The Vice President of Givaudan went on the defense and said  “Our business is to make taste experiences pleasurable ones. So, I don’t think that the flavors create an overeating problem. I think that’s a different issue.”

Hmmm, easy cop-out if you ask me. Although, I don’t think placing all the blame on the food industry is the way to go. Sure I can blame McDonald’s and Burgerville for my obesity but is it REALLY their fault for providing fattening food? No. I drove myself there. I made the bad decision to overeat all the time and not exercise. Sure they enabled that behavior by making the food taste so good but I wouldn’t blame them. It was all on me.

At the same time I am highly disturbed by Givaudan manipulating all food with chemicals. During the 60 Minutes piece all I felt was disgust. Disgust in myself for eating processed food, disgust in myself for not really caring where my food came from. Sure my transformation from a processed-food junkie to a newbie-foodie has enriched my life but I still eat a LOT of processed food. And these “flavorists” have their hands in everything. The soup I eat. The salad dressing I like. The diet soda I drink. It’s even in WHISKEY.

I turned to Michael when the show was over, feeling very overwhelmed and discouraged and said “God, it’s in everything. There are no safe foods.” 

You think eating fruits and veggies would be the answer–but produce has been assaulted as well! Produce is probably genetically engineered. Just take a look at how huge everything is now. The tomatoes I grew in my garden this summer were small, sweet and perfect. They also didn’t last very long. The produce I buy in the store is big, less flavorful and lasts for much too long before going bad.

Who knew I’d want to become one of those types that wanted to grow all my own food and never eat processed, store bought food…I try to limit my processed food intake. I eat less frozen meals, I avoid soy products the best I can. I try and go by Michael’s rule of looking at ingredients and not buying stuff that I can’t pronounce. Am I becoming one of those people that want to live on a farm where I eat only my own food and meat from my farm? I have to admit, the idea is very appealing after watching this show.

QUESTION: Did you see the piece? What are your thoughts on it?

Should You Lose Weight With Your Kids?

Recently I saw an article online about whether or not parents should lose weight with their kids. Quick disclaimer: I don’t have kids yet but I think I can weigh in on this topic because of my own childhood and upbringing.

I think this is treading dangerous ground to be honest. My hope is that someday my kids grow up with a healthy body image. As a kid I did not have a healthy body image. At age 9 I thought I was “fat.” Sure that was mostly because of kids at school, which you can’t avoid. But looking back at photos, I was never fat until I was 17 years old and I started to gain weight.

250+ Pounds

Losing weight was somehow always on my brain, though. As a normal pre-teen I thought about dieting and losing weight. Why? Why was I so consumed?

I think kids are impressionable and they see what their parents do and they see what their friends/classmates do. My best friend in middle school, Kristy, was anorexic. I didn’t really understand what that meant as a 12 year old. She was one grade ahead of me. Her mom was always on a diet. So was Kristy. Kristy would bake these amazing desserts but she never ever ate any of them. I found that strange as a kid but I didn’t understand until later when my mom explained to me that Kristy was anorexic. Every winter she would be hospitalized with frostbite because she was so skinny. Yet she was always trying to lose more weight.

My mom was never really “on a diet.” But she was way into diet food. The fat-free fad, the low-fat, cardboard food that was sugar-free, salt-free, flavor-free was a staple in our house in my teens. My tactic for dealing with this? Bingeing at friend’s houses on “real” food (i.e. junk food). My mom made healthy after school snacks for my brother and I but of course as a kid, you want the pop-tart not the apple…

This is my background. This is my history as a kid with weight loss and gain. As someone who has tackled obesity and has maintained my 100+ pound loss for 3 years I see obesity everywhere. The kids I see are plus-sized. They have muffin tops, thick arms, and fat stomachs that are leading to diabetes (I know, I was there once). It makes me sad to see this epidemic spreading.

So I see this rampant epidemic as a horrifying thing BUT I am also weary of giving a whole generation of children eating disorders either. Is there a healthy balance? Is there a way to teach our kids to make healthy choices without shoving it down their throat and giving them a complex?

Causes of Childhood Obesity: 

  • Lack of physical activity or sedentary lifestyle
  • Eating more calories than he or she expends
  • Too much fat and sugar in the diet
  • Family genetics

When I was a kid I was forced to do sports and I HATED it. I hated team sports (still do) and it was a miserable thing for me. My family also went hiking and backpacking a lot. I grew to hate it because it wasn’t fun. It was a chore. My dad, the Marine Drill Sergeant barking orders as we marched through a forest, was not making it something fun. I stopped hiking for a long time. Now? I love it again!

My tactic for my future children is to SHOW them that exercise is fun. That eating healthy can be good and taste good. IF they want to do sports, they can. If they are like me and team sports is not what they are interested in, there are tons of alternatives for solo sports. Swimming is a good one. 🙂

  • Michael and I have talked at length about how we want to raise our future kids in terms of sports. Michael wants them to do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At first I was hesitant. But with more thought I think martial arts are a good way for kids to learn strength, confidence, respect and will power. If we have a girl? That’s ok. She needs to know how to defend herself too.

  • I want to teach my kids that food is fuel for the body. It’s necessary and important and it makes a huge difference WHAT fuel you put into your body. This does not mean denying ourselves of all treats.
  • The Kinect video games are so much fun and a surprising workout! These types of new technologies would appeal to kids.
  • Exercising together is a good way to show them exercise can be fun. Running together, sprinting, hiking, going for bike rides, doing a kid’s 5k together, swimming, play frisbee in the park…the list is endless.


  • Sneak in fitness.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator and make a game out of it, make it a race. Park the car far away from the store and walk. Bike or walk to school every morning.
  • Don’t reward good behavior with treats. As a kid if I was “good” I got ice cream for dessert. I loved ice cream. 🙂

It seems like the list can be endless for fun ways to teach kids about exercise and food. I think the bottom line is to somehow help overweight kids lose weight without putting so much focus dieting and what the scale says.

QUESTION: If you are a parent, how do you feel about articles that suggest parents and kids lose weight together? What tactics do you use?