The Vicious Cycle of Food Addiction

So, last month Ketogeek launched and after the Napa Valley Register did a feature article on us, Tim Ferris picked it up and tweeted it. This brought in a large amount of traffic our way. The day following the tweet I was with a business acquaintance and I mentioned the tweet to him. His response was, ‘That’s great! Time to make some money!’ Immediately, my mind raced to say, ‘That’s not what I was thinking.’ I was surprised at him since I had mentioned to him a few times that Ketogeek exists to provide healthy and nutritious food products while helping end diseases that are related to metabolism and food. What am I going to do with this extra wealth? Consume overpriced cocktails that persecute my liver while selling fructose laden drinks that annihilate the livers of my countrymen as well? Whoop-de-doo. And that’s been my gripe with our system. I think the picture is much deeper than just ingestion of food, macros, micros, nutrients and calories. A huge part is the mindset of businesses and consumers alike. Once again, let’s digress a bit.

Challenging The Norms

I was raised in a country called Pakistan and spent most of my life not consuming alcohol. When I came to United States, I began to realize that alcohol consumption may have some genetic disposition but a lot of it seemed like a cultural trait. The same concept applies to other food products like copious amounts of refined carb consumption and fructose laden sweet drinks. In a third world country, food is expensive and hence over-consumption is difficult while in the west, even the poorest can eat like a rich person in a developing country. I still remember saving up rupees(local currency) to buy a snickers bar. One thing I did realize was that I was much happier playing cricket in the sun with my friends in Pakistan than being at a bar here in US with loud music overwhelming my conversational skills and the booze inhibiting the sexiest muscle of my body: my brain. Am I implying that you should give up on liquor? No and personally, I enjoy a glass of red devastation on rare occasions. My point here is that just because a tradition, norm or activity has been part of your culture for thousands of years, you can challenge it and not adapt it in your life. Conversely, if you see benefits in it, bring it to the table.

Social Brownie Points

Now let’s go back to the west and our American culture. Our capitalistic society values monetary success and wealth accumulation is considered attractive and sought after. Now, how do you acquire these social brownie points (or dollars)? You create a successful system that innovates and grows in the form of a for-profit business. How do you do that? Well, one of the ways is to get people hooked onto your product so that they keep buying your product. The board of directors and your company’s investors want to see that monetary growth! So, now you’re incentivized by society’s symbols of success to create something that people can’t get enough of. Enter sugary drinks and refined carbs that exploit your reptilian reward mechanisms catalyzed with advertisements and the ‘media coolness factor’. What do I mean by ‘media coolness factor’? Well, just look at James Bond for example. You can see him as the suave gentleman who is wooing women with alcohol in his hands or as the guy that needs to ingest an expensive martini to initiate a conversation with a woman while simultaneously causing liver damage to himself. Hurray to the media and food companies for latching potentially unhealthy products to our favorite icons and heroes! (Though it would be hilarious to see Jams Bond walk up to an Aphrodite carrying a Kale salad in his hands!)

In most societies across the globe, success is gauged by things you want and not exactly need (a carb joke here?) Luxury and comfort are valued and sought after. Working 100 hours with detriment to your sleep and family is now considered a badge of honor, especially when you are driving a new 550 horsepower luxury sedan to your cousin’s wedding. In other words we’re investing time and resources to live the expectations of others rather than trying to improve our own health and wellbeing.

Food & Pharmaceutical Industry

Now, let’s shift our attention to the synergy of the food and pharmaceutical industry. Former is focused on getting you hooked onto products that may cause damage to your health while the latter is there to reap the monetary benefits from you getting hooked on these damaging products. The pharmaceutical industry is incentivized to create a shortcut (we love shortcuts in our culture too!) to fix that damage even if it leads to more side effects. Both these industries are not incentivized to provide you with products that keep you healthy and away from their goods. They want you in a subscription plan as a repeat customer. That’s how they make money and that’s how these companies grow.

Practical Implications of U.S. Dietary Guidelines

The reality is that the story doesn’t end here. You may think the government is doing something innovative about this? Enter U.S. dietary guidelines and practically all supermarkets in our country. A quick glance at the dietary guidelines seems to encourage consumption of carbohydrates. That wouldn’t be too bad and without even getting into a debate about high or low carb diet, let’s just walk to the office of Center of Disease control where more than half the population seems to be pre-diabetic or diabetic. You would imagine that the CDC should be giving the guys at government’s health department a ring, right? We are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette here with our population. I mentioned supermarkets right? Yup, that’s the bullet in the chamber where practically all your center aisles are laden with sugars and processed carbs at reduced pricing. The ultimate tragedy is that these refined and addictive foods are exposed to a lot of people who aren’t educated or educating themselves on the healthy food products.

Do you see this vicious cycle?

Empowering Yourself

This is where you, as a consumer, needs to start paying attention for yourself. You need to empower yourself and make smarter decisions in what you consume or are being fed. This means educating yourself and attaining knowledge from communities and networks that share the same philosophies and lifestyles that appeal to you. This means exploring, learning and changing with time. The lamest excuse I come across is ‘science is always changing.’ Of course, it is! That’s the beauty of science: self-reflection and self-correction! Keep up with it instead of the latest reality show that may be keeping you latched onto your sofa for hours. Become an educated AND educating consumer. Good things in life require hard work. Without pain and suffering, you can’t value happiness and comfort either. Hence, it’s a mindset we are talking about here. So, learn! Once you educate yourselves, the businesses will have to adapt as well and cater to your needs. Additionally, if you are new business owners and entrepreneurs, I urge you to educate yourself and your customers about healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices and not just fitting into the current dietary guidelines and making quick money. We are in this together.

The New Currency

At the end of the tunnel, there is hope though. The newer generation is now realizing that enough is enough. Honesty, transparency, trust, freedom, love and a rocking body are the new currencies of the future, especially when information overload, automation, artificial intelligence and social distancing is ever so imminent. My humble point here with this article is that diet and food isn’t the entire narrative here. Pointing fingers at diet only is analogous to watching a Shakespeare’s play where the most obvious view shows actors gleefully projecting a masterful artwork but beneath the tip of the iceberg you can see the years of hard work, skill, the blood, sweat and tears and words passed down through generations.

Alongside, people are thinking, ‘Hang on… something’s wrong. WTF?’ No surprises here though. You have the perfect fire and tinders.

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