I would say this isn’t a horror story, as clarification of the title, but if I really stop to think about this post, it is a horror story of sorts. I would also like to say that this post isn’t medical advice, I am not a doctor or nutritionist (as if they are experts either), and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease, blah, blah, blah… lawyers.
It is likely that nothing in my lifestyle caused my cancer. The type of cancer I got, is basically seen as a “bad luck” cancer. Researchers and doctors believe that it was likely just the result of some freak mutation somewhere in all those cell divisions. Maybe they’re right.
Of course, I am increasingly of the opinion that researchers and doctors wouldn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, and those that do, won’t risk offending their corporate masters at the pharmaceutical companies, big food, or their “health systems”.
I’m a Gen X-er. Well, I guess they have a different term for me now, which is an Xennial. Sort of an in-between generation. Not as cool and angsty as the Gen X-ers, but not as attacked as the Millennials. And while many may disagree, it is my opinion that my little sub-generation was the target of the most unhealthy coordinated marketing in the history of food.
Every morning before school, watching Dennis The Menace cartoons and GI Joe, there were constant interruptions of bright, fast-paced, fun commercials for sugary sugar with sugared sugar on top. Sugar cereals as part of a healthy, balanced breakfast to go with your Pop-Tarts. Sugar box drinks with up to 10% juice. McDonald’s playgrounds and Orange Hi-C in the happy meals.
“Mom, can I have a coke?”
“No, those are bad for kids,” she might answer.
“How about an orange Hi-C? There’s juice in that.”
*Likely not a real conversation I ever had with my mom, but probably close enough.
On top of that, it was during my childhood that food began making the switch from real sugar to high fructose corn syrup, (even those you wouldn’t think would need the added sugar).
Back then, the enemy was fat. Studies involving mice eating nothing but cardboard and living better than if they ate a high-fat diet were touted as having some relevance to the human population. Supermarket shelves were inundated with Low-Fat products that replaced the fat with sugar, sodium, and more processing.
Around the same time, the declining inflation-adjusted wages began to be felt, putting more pressure on parents to turn to the processed and convenience foods in order to feed their families. Cuts to the rate of growth of education funding (despite continuing increasing numbers of children) led to the reduction or elimination of physical education programs, further compounding the issue. The news of increasing childhood obesity caused even more of the foods we ate to be altered into a lower fat version. Whole milk was replaced with skim milk, a mistake that food scientists are finally being forced to acknowledge.
Studies were funded by the food industry, and just like with early tobacco studies, certain data was left out. Whether intentional or not, the pressure to continue research funding seemed to outweigh the scientific method, and we were all misled.
As free trade became the rule of the day for the neoliberal governments of the time (yes, this includes Republicans too), companies began outsourcing more and more of the their jobs in an effort to take advantage of cheap labor, unregulated production, and untapped consumer markets. This forced more Americans into longer hours for stagnant or declining wages, just to keep up.
With those longer hours, came an even higher reliance on processed and convenience foods. The organizations people turned to for health advice, continued to mislead the public, and are still resistant to the overwhelming evidence their guidelines were wrong all along.
Thanks to the internet allowing more of a free-flow of information, people are finally beginning to wake up to the idea that these groups absolutely do not have our best interests at heart. Some people, actually speculate that there was a deliberate conspiracy to target the lower-income segments of the population.
It is a little far-fetched to think that all these groups could get together and secretly agree, but there is no doubt that the poor are as unhealthy as ever, and that certain large corporations have benefited greatly from this erroneous advice. Healthcare corporations and their health insurance middlemen, research groups seeking more grants, pharmaceutical companies developing more medications for increasing dietary related ailments, doctors who treat them, food companies, big corn, and the weight loss/diet industries have all made a killing (pun intended).
Meanwhile, whole food has become a luxury item.
With no competent or trustworthy authority on the subject, people jump on whatever quack diet trend pops up. Currently, the big one is the Keto diet (essentially an Atkin’s knock-off), but before that, we had Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkin’s, and on and on. Each one promises miraculous results, ignoring any negative potential consequences of eating as they recommend.
Cured meat contains nitrates and nitrites. These foods have a direct causal link to cancer, according to numerous studies and the World Health Organization. Bacon cheeseburgers don’t suddenly become healthy because there is no bun.
Yet you can’t blame people for falling for these gimmicky diets. Short-term results are still results, and the current guidelines are just making things worse. The American Heart Association’s recent attack on coconut oil using arguments that are reminiscent of the erroneous advice to avoid eggs is a perfect example of this lack of competent advice.
Did food cause my cancer? Who knows? One thing I do know, however, is that it was making me fat, and feel like garbage.
So what should we eat?
Honestly, I don’t know. I eat as much whole food as I reasonably can. I drink water now, and the only sugary beverage I enjoy is my morning coffee because I am not a psychopath who drinks it black. I eat most foods organic when I can afford it, mostly just because I think they taste better. I don’t know if the potential tiny amount of pesticide residue is bad, but I do know that a tomato tastes better when it is isn’t bred just for a long shelf-life. I believe the right diet would probably consist of mostly lean, uncured meats (if you’re a meat eater), beans or legumes, veggies and fruits, and limited carbohydrates, as complex as possible.
I don’t always do the right thing. My fiancé is a world-class baker. Simple carbs are hard for me to resist. But I do know that if something comes from a box, or a pouch, or a drive-through window, or a fast casual crap-chain, I feel much, much worse than when I take a few minutes to actually make my food.
If you don’t know any recipes, try Pinterest. There are a lot of great recipes on there; just make you sure that you stick to things without processed foods as an ingredient.
Generally, the more convenient the food, the more things other than food we will be consuming. Perhaps it would be more convenient to make our own food, as tired and time-pressed as we all are, than to spend all the time later dealing with health problems caused by the convenience food that is killing us.