When Food Is the Poison and the Antidote
We burn like a furnace. We’re little machines of biology, constantly being rebuilt by evolution and sex, and we need fuel for the fire that keeps us breathing and beating and fucking future generations alive. But that’s the problem: the fuel. We’re contaminating our bodies by feeding them new poisons of our own invention, genetically engineered shit that’s cheap and omnipresent, and straight garbage subsidized and promoted by the very government that purports to protect us. It’s a deliberate devolution of the masses, a capitalist mission driven by monopolies, miseducation, myocardial infarction. It’s the American people being led to sickening troughs of synthetic putrid murdersauce, and then to drug-peddling Burroughs-ian doctors, and then to by-the-fistful pharmacies, and then back to whichever feedlot whose advertising fantasy we fell into, or just whatever’s closest — it’s not sustenance, because we cannot sustain this way. It’s a slow-but-certain genocide of the gluttonous, whose sin was unknowingly installed in them by conglomerated greed. And it doesn’t even matter that we’re told certain foods are bad and certain foods are good because knowing changes nothing. The worst foods are kept the cheapest, the drugs they drive us to are the most expensive and our desire for these things is an inarguably addiction. Death has never been so delicious or served on such a tasteless plastic platter.
I could go into disturbing specifics here, but I won’t. Because that’s not the point of this. Even if I were to elucidate/reiterate countless harrowing truths about the food industry— the sickening frequency of genetically modified and/or engineered products in your food, and the heavy and expensive lobbying that’s ensured no label divulging such information exists on packaging; the similarities between A) the installment of high fructose corn syrup into almost every grocery store product, without disclosing its health-damaging nature (check out the ingredient list on all those “healthy” cereals) and B) big tobacco’s early concealment of their own deadly truths; the inhumane treatment of feedlot animals and the documented disease-and-death-inducing quality of beef, chicken and pork; the growth hormone administered to cows whose bulging, tumorous utters piss out what is sold as milk; the prevalence of cancer and miscarriage-causing pesticides genetically installed inside of and sprayed on the surface of most everything you eat, processed or not (in the U.S., almost 900 million lbs of pesticides are applied each year — roughly three pounds per person — and the average American child gets over five daily servings of pesticide residue in their food and water); fucking piece of shit multinational devil company Monsanto, which refuses to release studies about the long-term effects of its genetically engineered products, which constitutes about 90 percent of soybeans and about 80 percent of all U.S. corn; and the government sponsorship of our collective binging on sugar, fat, and simple carbohydrates that fill our furnaces with a black sludge that smolders our internal fires, handicaps our metabolisms, clogs our arteries, engorges our organs to the verge of shutting down, choking out what little flame struggles to burn and keep us on our feet—even after I were to go through all of these in great details, I’m afraid it wouldn’t really change anything. Not to be bleak (though, man, am I being fucking bleak, but hey, the truth hurts), I’m just not sure it would make a difference. Because we’re addicts. And addicts don’t change by education.
And there is no shortage of education. Countless books have become bestsellers. The Biggest Loser provides a vicarious fantasy for couch crushers but also merchandizes, syndicates and sells its brand to food junkies as a vicarious fantasy. And while Jamie Oliver’s heart is in the right place, trying to get the West Virginia school system to remove processed garbage and replace it with whole, real foods, we could still very well say to him: You’re serving cheese-covered pasta with a side of bread, those chickens are pumped with hormones and antibiotics, and all that fruit and vegetables are dripping in pesticides. We’ve been told the same things over and over again, but nothing changes. Not on a mass scale. Because, like I said, we’re addicts. And there hasn’t been a person in half a century to smoke a cigarette or snort a line or shoot up dirty junk without the very conscious knowledge that what they’re doing is deadly.
In 2008, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg changed the health code to force chains to post nutritional facts, and the new health care reform bill does the same on a national level for any restaurant with 20 or more chains (as well as vending machines). But a late 2009 study by professors of NYU and Yale showed that these caloric postings had little effect on what people actually ordered. (Not to mention that despite the number of calories we’re consuming, we’re regardless eating foods that are completely manufactured and have never existed in the history of evolution, and our bodies we not built for this shit.)
Despite the recent surge of info demonizing fast food and sermonizing the importance of health with an urgency and fervor only a fraction as fierce as the issue demands, Forbes is still reporting a boom in sales at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Dominos and mega-parent company Yum! Brands (owner of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC and more than 37,000 restaurants in 110 countries). Why? Because it’s like I said: Education does not inspire self-control, and an addict is a juggernaut unstoppable by libraries of elucidation, by a handful of bypasses, by reproach or forced rehab or even resuscitation. In most cases they’ll keep coming back for more until they die or hit rock bottom, and then they’ll hide under the rock, and then and only then, will they possibly find the courage to reemerge and reinvest in their lives. But I keep using that word: addict. Who’s to say that we’re addicted to these foods? Oh, that’s right, fucking scientists.
A recent study by Nature Neuroscience found that overeating, or excess food intake, triggers changes in the brain, resulting in a neurochemical dependency akin to that of a heroin junkie or cokehead or any addict. Some of the test rats had access to unlimited junk food all day, but others just for one hour. The latter group, during that hour, would consume 66 percent of their daily calories, displaying a pattern of compulsive binge eating. For a human on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet (and studies show that the average American eats 2,700 calories a day), that’s more than 1,300 calories in one hour. It definitely doesn’t take you an hour to eat a $5 footlong from Subway, and let’s say you’re gonna go healthy and order the tuna, because people think most tuna is healthy (though it’s usually not even tuna): that’s more than 1,000 calories, and once you toss in a drink and chips, you’re easily over that 1,300 mark. A burrito from Chipotle averages around 1,000 calories. An In-N-Out Double-Double with fries is over 1,100 calories. And these are the fast-food chains that advertise the quality of their ingredients. So imagine what you’re getting at Burger King, McDonald’s, Arby’s, Wendy’s, Applebees, the Olive motherfucking Garden, wherever else. The reason we can see any calorie posting or nutritional data, watch a thousand TV shows, read countless books on the matter, have a legion of British people come to our country and force a school not to feed its children processed cardboard pizza for breakfast, and still sit in shock as nothing changes is because, simply, we’re addicted. Which is exactly what we were supposed to be.
With any drug comes a pusher, a profiteer. While this shit has snowballed into a catastrophe on the national level, it’s not like this is some big accident. If it were, once it was revealed that these things are killing us, someone would put a stop to it, right? You know, just like they did with cigarettes. (Oh, wait, that never happened. P.S. most of the tobacco companies and the fast-food companies are actually owned by the same parent company. See: RJR Nabisco and Altria Group.) This business of malnutrition is a trillion-dollar industry. Here’s the real truth: The pharmaceutical companies, the food industry and the insurance companies are collectively conspiring to keep you fat. And by conspiring I mean working together; there’s nothing clandestine or secretive about what they’re doing. It’s all out in the open for you to see, and they’re betting that people aren’t going to stop eating their way into early graves. And it’s a wise wager.
Here’s another good bet: A team of Harvard Medical School researchers claims that a number of major life, disability or health insurance companies owned about $2 billion worth of stock in the world’s top five fast-food companies as of June 2009. At best, this looks almost like insider trading, considering the aforementioned rise in profits. At worst, it states that the group of people who get the reports on what’s killing people (and usually denies treatment for such) are investing in the death machine itself. But that doesn’t suggest anything diabolical beyond just smart, albeit it morally bankrupt, business.
The food industry accounts for approximately $1.6 trillion, over 10 percent of our gross domestic product and spends more (depending on what study you look at) money than any other industry on marketing its habit-forming garbage. Even David Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and author of The End Of Overeating, accuses the food industry of deliberately engineering its food so as to create a neurochemical addiction. But it doesn’t stop there. After more than $30 billion is spent to market these foods, and the government subsidizes the cheapening of the product for the consumer, and we’ve engorged on countless LDL cholesterol heightening carbohydrates, what do we need? Drugs. The main class of drugs used for treating high cholesterol are called statins (see: Lipitor) ,and these drugs are the highest selling drugs in history. So after you’ve become addicted to these foods engineered to act like a drug, you then get hooked on an actual drug. Ouroboros eat your heart out.
So what’s the point here? That our country’s rich is getting richer by selling its citizens the poison and the antidote? That the majority of Americans are killing themselves with something they don’t even know they’re addicted to? That the people who do know this keep doing it nevertheless? Well, yeah, I guess that is the point. I warned you: This is an observation. These are the facts. I can’t offer any solutions because I’m pretty sure there aren’t any, beyond making these things illegal, and that’s not going to happen. And, also, who am I to tell you what to do? Nobody. Absolutely nobody. A guy with a keyboard and a massive attack of facts.
But I can tell you what I do, what makes me feel happy and healthy: Eat organic foods when you can afford them, buy from your local farmers’ markets and co-ops, work hard to educate yourself about nutrition, exercise and don’t always take the easy way out. I hope you’ll join me in the formation of a new generation, a generation of effort, not apathy. I quit smoking (a pack a day for years). I quit drinking. I quit doing drugs. I stopped being addicted, a slave to the engineers and profiteers of death. Beyond that, I don’t know. I’d say write a letter to the FDA, but it’s just a bunch of former multinational lobbyists (could easily quote more scary facts here; won’t). Keep reading books and watching movies to scare you into changing your behavior. Because the way our country works can’t be changed, certainly not in our lifetime. But you can always control your decision not to participate. Hit rock bottom if you have to. It’s never too late. I’ve seen the beaten get back up and do amazing things, and I’ve seen them lay down and die. There’s always a choice. What can we do while the world burns? You either sit down and watch or be healthy enough to run away from the flames. And you just might be able to survive, but only if the biggest fire is the one that burns inside you.
(This article originally appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of ANTENNA.)