I came across an op-ed piece yesterday that discussed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to limit the size of sodas available to New Yorkers in various establishments. I particularly enjoyed the line “your right to harm yourself stops when I have to pay for it.” I know seat belts and bike helmets weren’t well received when first proposed, but whether soda is regulated and to what extent is timely considering the massive impact our diet choices are having on healthcare costs. There are a few books that help highlight the dark side of the food fight we face every day and can help us battle that expanding waistline.
Anyone interested in the mind/food connection must begin with Brian Wansink’s brilliant Mindless Eating. Using studies; most of which he performed, Wansink expertly tells how our minds continue to deceive us when it comes to food and how very smart companies exploit these tendencies to our detriment and their profits. I’m a firm believer in personal responsibility, but to see the ingenious ways our brain can deceive us (and be taken advantage of) when it comes to food and over-consumption is eye-opening.
Next I would recommend Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I’m a card-carrying carnivore, but I learned long ago that some deep insights can come from studying ideas foreign to your standard beliefs and habits. Foer examined his own beliefs after the birth of his child and after an exhaustive foray into the food production business and some clear meditative examination he could not in good conscience continue eating meat. To read his persuasive argument may not change your mind, but it will make you see that next steak in front of you in a whole new light.
Lastly, for the lowdown on fat, sugar and salt and how the food industry uses every trick in the book to get us to stuff our already overstuffed faces try David A. Kessler’s The End of Overeating. Not as revelatory as Mindless Eating or as eloquent as Eating Animals, Kessler still does a fine job of showing the direct linkage between our primitive urges (eat all you can cave man because you don’t know when you will eat again!) and the modern-day science and nuance food companies use to get us to eat, eat, eat and then eat some more.
Reading a book may not keep us from turning in to our favorite fast food joint and experiencing all those great emotions that have stuck with us since childhood, but any insight into the complex process that is playing out in our brain without us even realizing it when it comes to food (and soda) may lead to some tricks of our own when fighting the good food fight.
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