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Now That Grocery Shopping Has Become Neurological Warfare

Monica Wilcox's picture

Monica Wilcox

I’m convinced the American food supply is determining our body weight as much as caloric intake, genetics, metabolism, exercise and self-control.

I stand at the end of a well-lit grocery aisle searching for the food my great-grandparents would recognize. As I retreat to the aisle on my right, I find another line of colorful, plastic wrapped “goodies”. The vast majority of my nourishment options have become food decoys. Make no mistake, while my mind may not recognize the majority of these products as food, my brain adores this crap: salt, sugar, chocolate, oils, fats, and the extensive list of exotic chemicals I can’t pronounce. It’s a regular Disney Land of taste intoxicators!

It’s Cellular Crack

Venture with me down the chip aisle.

Let’s be honest, real food doesn’t have a six month shelf life or come in an easy open bag. Not only has our food supply ventured away from “farm fresh”, this stuff is fully lab modified. Most of these chips have been sweet-n-salty-n-spicy-n-limed beyond taste recognition. They’re extremified. Why? As Michael Moss said in his article The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, “What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive.”  Forget selling you a bag of chips, the industry’s new goal is to drive you to scarf the entire bag . . . in your car . . . parked outside the grocery store lot.   

Consider Takis, the recent craze at our elementary school. My son talked me into buying a single serving bag for him and offered me one. I hate spicy food so I quickly refused but he persisted until I agreed to have a single Spicy Chili & Lime curled chip. The first thing I noted was the lime flavor. OMG! Pepperidge Farms has created a black hole that compacts a truck load of limes into a yellow sprinkle. As my saliva ducts began to shrivel, they were quickly rescued by the secondary “flavor” of fire. That’s when something went terribly wrong because I wanted another chip. Turns out, Takis are surprisingly “Give me the bag!” addictive. My poor body hasn’t evolved enough to fend off flavor overexposure.  Suddenly, I’m downing Takis like grapes and within two days our entire family had graduated to “X-treme” Takis. My daughter’s lips are numb, my son has chemically burned off the top layer of his tongue and the sharp corners in my intestinal track have become rounded.

Like I Said, Cellular Crack

And it’s not limited to the chips. When’s the last time you had a regular, nature made and nature stayed nut? No salt, habanero flavor, smokehouse, honey, pepper, salt, or honey-pepper-salt. Just an off the plant, boring shelled walnut. Can you even buy a bag of plain, mixed shelled nuts anymore?

Even candy has gone extreme. It isn’t sour enough unless your taste buds bleed and your lips blister. It’s not sweet enough unless it’s a caramel cooked in a brownie, wrapped in a cookie, dipped in chocolate with sprinkles on top.

Forget battling the food in my cupboard, I’m battling the neurological fireworks that are being set off in my head. I’m up against the world’s large food conglomerates whose employees carry hefty science degrees. While I’m vacuuming they’re concocting legally addictive additives (funny how similar those too words are). It’s their job to hook, line and sink my pleasure receptors. So prepare yourself for next month’s “NEW” yogurt: Chocolate Bacon Coffee Cheesecake? One bite and we’ll be asking, “Do you sell this as a flour?”

Our weight is determined with the sliding of the grocery store doors. That’s where the 35 minute battle begins. Are you going to grab the plain mushrooms over the marinated, lime spiced, bacon stuffed, portabella mushrooms. Will you surpass the jellybean frosted cinnamon rolls for some squash? Do you have it within you to totally bypass the juice, cola, cracker, candy, chip, packaged lunch and frozen dinner aisles?

And the battle doesn’t end when the bags are loaded in your trunk. That was only round one.  We’ve still got to drive past the five fast food joints on our way home, order the green tea over the drink you really want (soy chai latte), ignore the snack machines at the train station and Mrs. Coworker’s homemade Death By Chocolate cake sitting in the break room.   

It’s An All Day, Everyday, Fight  

A big piece of our national obesity issue is the chemical manipulation of these products combined with the restrictive healthy choices we face every time we eat. The truth is kale is never going to light up our brains the way a donut does. There is more food for us to avoid at the grocery than we can consider and that, my fellow shoppers, is a serious problem.

I sure hope those same junk food manufacturers aren’t judging my self-control. Don’t hand me a flavor laced chip and then light into me while I'm licking the bloody bag in the dark corner of my closet. Before we beat ourselves with an empty Pringles can, let’s admit this food fight is not the same one our great-grandparents faced. This is neurological warfare. Self-control is our choice to eat a handful of popcorn over a gallon sized tub. Self-preservation is knowing the X-treme Chocolate-Spiced-Limon Popcorn can never bypass our lips.       


Sharon French's picture

Came over from Twitter

Hi Monica, I followed your tweet over here and I see we are on the same page. I lost "half my size" a few years ago by avoiding all this garbage and exercising intensely within my limits. I don't go in the stores much anymore, but when I do I am struck by how "non-food-like" everything has become. I scurry over to the little corner of organic food and get a few items and then hold my breath as I pass toxic packaging and chemical smells on the way out. As long as I have my whole foods, I'm fine, fulfilled and have no fears of gaining weight. I just hope my real foods don't disappear. I'm so glad to follow another person searching for health. Take care, Sharon at fitinfun

Monica Wilcox's picture

Counting Chemicals

So glad you found this post on Twitter, Sharon, so you could share your transformation with us.

I saw a tweet today that said, "Stop counting the calories you eat and start counting the chemicals." What a brilliant notion. I'm not surprised at all by your weight loss. I started gaining weight in my 30's so I limited my carbs (which is more than half of the grocery store) and went on a clean diet. I lost the weight I had been gaining and have maintained my college weight over the last 10 years. Since then I've noticed that when I do eat any carb/sugar manufactured food I'm much hungrier and crave more. It's best if I avoid that stuff all together.

Keep filling your body with the best of Mother Earth. ;)


Monica's picture

Sending A Message

I'm sure the food industry will change their products as soon as we stop buying them. I say go for it, Anonymous! 5

Anonymous's picture

reading this makes me want to

reading this makes me want to completely abstain just as a big fuck you to the processed food industry.
Great article

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