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Victims of the Food Industry, Part Two

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In my last post on this subject I compared factory food to crack and painted a picture of what a "crack" (factory food) addict goes through being addicted to factory food in an abundant foodscape. In addition to having free access to the addictive substances, the crack addict doesn't have the government on his/her side. The government literally pours money into the coffers of huge agri-businesses.

The vast majority of doctors are not helpful either, because they are ignorant about nutrition and mostly parrot what they hear in the media. Anyone who has been in the hospital will tell you that the food is likely on par with the cheap, factory-produced slop served in prisons. Doctors blithely hand out samples of aspartame-sweetened Metamucil and recommend Ensure as nutritional support. Many doctors I've talked to have mocked, scorned, and ridiculed me for my stance of using nutrition to treat illness and because I eat butter, meat, and other living foods.

And then we have celebrated health organizations like the American Heart Association that endorse spectacularly-unhealthy factory food products with their FDA approved "heart check," foods like Smart Beat Smart Squeeze Nonfat Margarine Spread, General Mills Cheerios, Cocoa Puffs, Cookie Crisp, Corn Chex, Count Chocula, Healthy Choice Low Fat Ice Creams, Chocolate Moose Milk Chocolate Drinks, Malt-O-Meal Frosted Mini Spooners, Honey Graham Squares, Honey Nut Toasty O's, Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats Big Bite, Kellogg's NutriGrain Cereal Bars, and Pop-Secret 94% Fat Free Butter Microwave Premium Popcorn. So if you're among shoppers who say the heart check mark influences your decision to purchase a product, you trustingly eat up all that refined white flour, chemical flavorings, rBGH dairy, aspartame, MSG, industrially-processed soy, hydrogenated fats, colored dyes and, most of all, refined white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.

On top of the government, medical, and celebrated health organizations' support of factory-produced food, we are inundated from birth with brilliant advertising indoctrinating us with messages that factory food is healthy, sexy, and satisfying.

Back in 1966, when professor Timothy Leary was launching himself as a psychedelic visionary, a media savvy friend gave him some advice:

"The key to your work is advertising. You're promoting a product. The new and improved accelerated brain. You must use the most current tactics for arousing consumer interest. Associate LSD with all the good things that the brain can produce -- beauty, fun, philosophic wonder, religious revelation, increased intelligence, mystical romance. Word of mouth from satisfied consumers will help, but get your rock and roll friends to write jingles about the brain."

If you look at the emotional tactics companies use to get us to eat their products, it involves all of the abovementioned strategies. For example, Americans are ga ga goo ga over celebrities. They're beautiful, fun, sexy, romantic. You could even say their images provoke philosophic wonder and religious revelation (to some). And so they are used prolifically to woo us into consuming products. But the reality is that professional athletes, movie stars, celebrities and musicians don't know what's best for us just because they're on an athletic field or court, on TV, in a movie or on a musical stage. Historically, actors, athletes, buffoons, fools, jesters, singers, musicians, jugglers and other entertainers were societal outcasts, only tolerated to the extent that they could amuse and entertain. Today, celebrities have enormous power, which translates into lucrative spokes-pitching deals. Even though no celebrity would accept an endorsement contract to pitch gas-guzzling cars, urge us to blast our AC in a heat wave, take longer showers, or leave lights blazing in our homes, there are still many celebrities -- who are already earning obscene amounts of money in their professions -- who sign contracts to woo us into eating factory food with promises of good health, beauty, fitness, satisfaction... and fun.

Consumers are no longer targeted with quaint print ads and TV commercials. Susan Linn, Ed.D., associate director of the Media Center of Judge Baker Children's Center, instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover Of Childhood, said, "Comparing the marketing of today with the marketing of yesteryear is like comparing a BB gun to a smart bomb." Companies use product licensing, promotions and contests, co-branding (like Coca Cola Barbie), program-length commercials, advergraming (putting products into computer games) and kiosks, carts and vending machines in schools. They infiltrate our minds subtly with product placements. Product placement plays perfectly into our sense of community when it comes to consuming factory food.

TV executives have one goal: to get companies to buy commercial time during their programming. Companies have one goal, and that is to get you to spend money on their products. It's part of the symbiotic relationship. David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos said, "The function of an hour drama is to reassure the American people that it's OK to go out and buy stuff. It's all about flattering the audience and making them feel as if all the authority figures have our best interests at heart."

Well, of course they don't. You'd have to be really dense to believe that... but then again it's the siren call when you know an ad is ringing your bell. And no one is exempt. It's just that food addicts really have very weak defenses.

Check back for the final installment of "Victims of the Food Industry" to understand how untenable it is for the food addict in our factory food culture, what you can do to protect yourself from addiction, and what to do if you are addicted.

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