Levine: Yummy or yucky?

Levine: Yummy or yucky?

December 14th, 2018 by Deborah Levine in Opinion Columns

We struggle to resist the temptation minute to minute this time of year. It begins with Halloween candy and proceeds to Thanksgiving dinner, exploding with holiday eating extravaganzas with the year's tastiest foods. By the New Year, the scale reveals our over-indulgence. It's no coincidence that 12 percent of gym members join in January.

Maybe this year we'll wake up to the fact that 30 million Americans suffer from the obesity-related disease of diabetes. Did you know that the 10 states with the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes are in the South?

Deborah Levine

Deborah Levine

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

Knowledge doesn't stop us from bad eating habits. My diabetic brother got huffily indignant when I suggested he no longer stop at the gas station on the way home for a daily fix of Oreo cookies. Sound familiar?

If diabetes isn't enough to encourage you to be wary of the yummy stuff, consider your poor liver. About 30 percent to 40 percent of American adults have something called NASH, a fatty liver disease. Many don't know they have it and find out only when they're mysteriously ill. What to do? I lost 35 pounds by cutting out sugar, salt and most processed foods. Yes, to those who've asked me, I got this thin on purpose.

Why does yummy trump nutritious in the first place? Be aware of the dollars spent to ensure you eat that fast food, sugary drinks, processed meats and chocolate everything. The advertising budgets are huge with sophisticated ad campaigns that target vulnerable populations. Fast food restaurants target black and Hispanic youth, populations at high risk for obesity and related diseases. Food deserts have little fresh food available.

Scientists note that once you gain weight, your body works to keep it there. Only about 25 percent are successful in keeping the weight off long term, according to Jennifer Kuk, associate professor at York University's School of Kinesiology and Health. That's tough for the 70 percent of adults who are already overweight or obese. But, it can, and will, get worse.

The Robert Wood Foundation reports that most 2-year-olds today will develop obesity by age 35. That's not surprising considering that preschoolers are reported to see almost three fast food ads on average every day, children 6-11 years viewed even more, and teens saw almost five ads a day. Less than 1 percent of all kids' meal combinations met recommended nutrition standards in this report, and now, the Trump administration has eased the rules on school lunches claiming that more nutritious meals are yucky.

Ah politics! Food and beverage companies spent almost $22.4 million lobbying politicians this year. Companies such as Coca-Cola, Domino's Pizza, McDonald's Corp., Wendy's and Nestle hire multiple lobbying firms. Millions were spent by manufacturers like General Mills, Campbell Soup and Kellogg Co.

It's not only lobbyists who benefit. Politicians and candidates also benefit. It's not unusual for firms to spend more on Republican candidates than Democrats. A major political issue is labeling. How much do food producers have to let the public know about what they're eating?

Some folks will argue that I'm mean to write this in the middle of holiday celebrations. But in my mind, it's a kindness. Let that go through your mind, too, as you're targeted by processed food purveyors. Turn off the fast food ads on TV. Shop for healthy food. Enjoy home cooking. Invite a politician to share the meal and chat about real food and real people. Now that's yummy!

Deborah Levine, an author and trainer/coach, is editor of the American Diversity Report. Contact her at deborah@diversityreport.com.

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