processed foods

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?

F is for Fast Food and Fine Dining


F is for Fast Food and Fine Dining.

As a single girl living alone that didn’t cook, I ate a lot of crap. Fast food was a staple for me because I didn’t like cooking and didn’t do it very well. I didn’t eat fast food every day but too often. On the nights I didn’t get fast food for dinner I would eat the pre-packaged dinners. Things like frozen pizza, frozen pot pies for example. I also made a lot of stuff out of a box. I liked those “Helpers” where you just cook the box. Mac n’ Cheese from a box. Lots and lots of processed foods!

I had my favorite fast food places. I loved the Dairy Queen Blizzards. I’d get several a week–and not the small ones either. My favorite flavors were Butterfingers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I’ve talked ad nauseum about my addiction to Pizza Hut. Sometimes I’d get a pizza once a week.


I loved Taco Bell. Soft Taco Supreme baby! Taco Time was good too. When I lived in Portland Burgerville became a favorite. I didn’t eat meat all that often but if I did, it was the Burgerville Tillamook Bacon Cheeseburger with fries and an enormous seasonal milkshake (theirs are pretty fantastic):


Do we even have to speculate why I weighed over 250 pounds? The diet in combination with no exercise did a number on my body and my brain. When it became time to lose the weight I stopped eating fast food. Cold turkey! It was hard. I wanted pizza so badly but I resisted and the only “fast food” I ate was Subway. Or was it?


NOPE! I was still eating fast food–just in a different form and in lower calories. For three years I ate Lean Cuisines in order to lose weight and yes, I realize they aren’t healthy. But it did the trick. It was portion controlled, low in calories, and honestly didn’t taste that bad. It was also good because I hated cooking. Funny how things change, huh?

Then something happened. I met this guy:

Michael is a foodie. He taught me to become a foodie. He was all about eating real food. He nagged me to no end about the “crap” I was eating and how it was poison to my body (so true). The other thing he taught me was fine dining. Before, “fine dining” meant Red Robin, Azteca Mexican Restaurants and Chevy’s. Hmmm. Not quite.

Chez Machin

Michael exposed me to REAL restaurants. Not chains. Not fast food. Fine dining doesn’t have to mean expensive, either. One of the things I love most about the hobbies that we share is that we can go out to restaurants and try new things. I found that I loved trying new restaurants! It became a thing to do.

Gruner

And we are lucky to live in Portland where there are some pretty amazing restaurants here. In three and a half years of being together we still have not tried all the fantastic restaurants here yet. We have some favorites and I have to admit, the highlight of going out is trying somewhere new.

Meriwether's

The way Michael first exposed me to fine dining was in Vegas, honestly. I was there with a friend and he was there with a friend playing poker and the four of us went to Tao in the Venetian. It was one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had. I wasn’t a huge sushi fan then yet so it was a completely new and foreign experience for me.


It opened my eyes to another world, though. There was something better out there. There was a reason to eat food! It tasted GOOD! It didn’t have to be crap ordered from a window. Or something frozen and reheated. A year later when Michael and I went back to Vegas together as a couple he surprised me yet again with the best meal of my entire life:

Craftsteak

Craftsteak in the MGM Grand Casino, owned by the awesome Tom Collicchio from Top Chef (my favorite show)! I was floored by the surprise and completely blown away by the food. This is what food tastes like. Wow. It changed my palate. I suddenly became picky about eating crap. I wanted to eat REAL food. The kind of food that was healthier; whole foods, fresh foods. It was a huge, eye-opening experience for me.

This also lead me to want to make better food. I started practicing in the kitchen. With Michael’s help I learned how to cook. They aren’t all winners, of course, but most of the time the meals I make turn out pretty good. Michael is a patient teacher in the kitchen. He understands that good food takes patience and practice. I’m learning that. Now if I’m given the option between quickie meals from the freezer or something fresh and lovely, I’d rather spend the time cooking that instead.

It’s been a life changing journey.

QUESTION: What is your experience with fast food and fine dining?

 

A-Abstinence * B-Balance * C-Calories * D-Vitamin D * E-Emergency *