Run a google image search for “tasty food”. What you’ll find almost completely missing is pictures of actual food – instead you’ll see pictures of highly processed “food”. In my search, among the first 25 images only one was of real food… (Mango salsa fish tacos anyone?)
Capitalism leads to processed foods
Let’s admit it. It’s (sadly) true, fake food often DOES taste better than real food. That’s not all that surprising though. We ought to expect that. It is the almost inevitable result of mixing food, capitalism, and human biology. Here’s how that works:
- First, we know for the most part food that comes from nature is healthy. We evolved to be able to digest it and extract the nutrients we need from it.
- Second, we evolved in such a way as to crave salt, sugar, and fat to varying degrees. Its nature’s way of ensuring our body gets the nutrition it needs.
- Third, we can easily come up with food-like edibles that maximize taste even if those inventions are devoid of nutrition. Sometimes this means altering natural food and other times it means creating an entirely new chemical concoction altogether. Either way, we simply need to alter the salt, sugar, and fat content to maximize visual appeal and taste.
- Fourth, capitalism, at least as we currently practice it, provides a strong profit incentive to alter food from its natural composition. By maximizing pleasure, we can maximize maximize profit even if at the expense of the health of customers. The result: donuts, snickers bars, hotdogs, ice cream, pepperoni pizza, sausage McMuffin, candy, etc.
Food companies are rewarded for making us sick!
Today, a whopping 60% of the calories in the average American diet come from highly processed foods! Even worse, for kids that’s 70%. Its maddening one the one hand. We ought to be rewarding people who make the world a better place – instead we are incentivizing those who make us sick with a number of chronic physical and mental diseases. And those food companies that can hook our children to crave sugar, fat, and salt from a young age (Coca-Cola, Nestle, McDonald’s & friends) are rewarded that much more with years of profit. As they know all too well, our children’s prefrontal cortex are not developed enough such that they can resist the temptations of processed foods. Once hooked early on, it’s very difficult to overcome in later years.
It’s even worse than that. There’s an another part of the food industry that in theory is there to help people lose weight: Jenny Craig, Weight watchers, Slimfast. Guess who owns these weight loss companies? That’s right – the same food conglomerates that profited from making us obese in the first place. They profit off making us ill. They profit off making our children sick. Then they profit off our collective weight loss efforts.
This post is easy to misunderstand. I’m a fan of capitalism (see the discussion in the book – chapter 9 – more details in future blog post), but not the way we currently run the system. Don’t for a second accept that this is the way things just have to be. We can and urgently need to do better!
BOTTOM LINE: THERE IS A BETTER WAY!
- As John Maynard Keynes said a century ago, people of our time ought to be largely independent of our employers for our income – unfortunately, due to “mindless consumerism”, we are not.
- Mindless consumerism is the underlying reason leading to the rise of chronic disease for 3 major reasons:
- It ties us to dependence on our employers and modern day employment is a health hazard for most (in part due to the sedentary nature of most jobs).
- It has led to environmental changes toxic to our wellbeing:
- (a). We evolved in and are best suited to natural environments and instead we live in increasingly artificial environments.
- (b). Overconsumption has lead us to engineer out the need for meaningful use of our legs for ambulation.
- Finally, it transforms workers to work with blinders on – instead of working for the product or service and receiving money as a side effect, workers focus on making money and the product or service is instead the side effect. The results (with respect to health) is that “food” is no longer food but changed to maximize pleasure and extract profit in spite of the toxicity to our health.
- Based on the science of wellbeing one can derive the philosophy that once basic needs are met, “The best things in life are free” therefore —>
- Most people can live far below their means without sacrificing happiness AND by investing the rest, they can become financially independent of their employers enabling them to be —>
- Happier. Healthier. Wealthier. More engaged. Simply better.