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American Diet: Self-Destruction Never Tasted So Good!

  • Written by Syndicated Publisher No Comments Comments
    November 22, 2012

    The atomized and empty consumerist Status Quo is the “monster Id” behind the American diet.

    I know it may appear unduly harsh to discuss America’s self-destructive dietary “monster Id” right before the Thanksgiving day feasting, but when is it more appropriate?

    There are a great many disconnects between reality and what Americans believe out of convenience (“no snowflake feels responsible for the avalanche”) or propaganda, but perhaps none is more visible than the disconnect between what we’re collectively doing to our health with the food we consume.

    The Chinese have an apt saying” “Disease comes through the mouth,” meaning disease comes from what we eat.

    There are several parts to the food-illness disconnect. One is that poor diet is an “individual” issue. Wrong; it will bring down the entire American Empire: Can Chronic Ill-Health Bring Down Great Nations? Yes It Can, Yes It Will (November 23, 2011)

    86% of Workers Are Obese or Have Other Health Issue Just 1 in 7 U.S. workers is of normal weight without a chronic health problem.

    The cost of treating heart disease and stroke in the United States is expected to triple in the next 20 years, to $818 billion, a new report says.

    Here’s a chart which depicts how U.S. healthcare costs are rising geometrically, far outstripping our economic competitors:

    The nation cannot afford the present sickcare costs of 20% of GDP; how can it afford tripling what is spent on sickcare? Simple answer: it cannot.

    The obesity epidemic can be viewed visually via this slideshow map of the U.S.:

    Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Obesity Trends 1985-2007

    Clearly, obesity has exploded into a pandemic in just a single generation.

    Interestingly, all the usual explanations–the rise of fast foods, women joining the workforce and thus the decline of the home-cooked meal and the decline of physical labor jobs–fail to explain the dramatic increase for the reason that all these conditions were already present in 1985.

    Women had already joined the workforce en masse, fast-food outlets were already on every corner and jobs requiring hard physical labor had already dwindled to a small percentage of our post-industrial, service-dominated economy.

    So what is different between 1985 and the present? At least one factor is the increased consumption of sugary beverages: soda, specialty coffees, iced teas, and “juices,” both the fake variety (colored sugar water with 10% actual fruit juice) and 100% juice.

    This is another part of the disconnect: it is no accident that consumption of fast food, sugar-water beverages, snacks, chips and convenience packaged foods has exploded: all these “foods” have been carefully engineered to “taste good” by triggering our naturally selected desire for what is rare in Nature: salt, sugar and fat.

    Please view this documentary on the science of sugar consumption:

    Sugar: the Bitter Truth (University of California TV)(via R.W.)

    The problem is not limited to America. Wherever the American diet goes, diabesity follows: The Sick Man of Asia: China’s Health Crisis (Foreign Affairs, by Yanzhong Huang)

    The essay traces out the devolution of China’s once-universal if basic healthcare system for all into a U.S.-type system of full coverage for Elites and a more brutal one for everyone else: if you don’t have the cash to pay for care, you die.

    China has the largest population of diabetics and pre-diabetics in the world. China’s diabetes rate has skyrocketed to 11% of the adult population, slightly higher than that of the U.S., while its rates of other non-communicable “lifestyle” diseases such as heart disease have also soared to U.S. levels.

    China Diabetes Triples (via Joel M.) “Beijing doctor Li Guangwei sees China’s struggle with 90 million diabetes sufferers daily.”

    The problem is global, as the American diet of fast-food, sodas, salty-fatty-sugary snacks and prepared “convenience food” spreads throughout the world:

    Next time you’re in a fast food outlet or a supermarket, try to find something you can eat that won’t harm you. It will be a challenge, I guarantee you.


    • chips: out, too much fat, too much salt
    • fries: out, too much fat, too much salt
    • sausage: out, too much fat, too much salt
    • fast food in general: out, too much fat, too much salt
    • salted nuts: out, too much salt
    • canned goods: out, too much salt
    • most cereals: out, too much salt
    • bottled salad dressings: out, too much salt
    • sports drinks: out, too much salt
    • pre-packaged salads: out, too much salt in the dressing
    • frozen meals: out, too much salt
    • packaged snacks: out, too much salt
    • packaged noodles: out, too much salt

    The American diet is so unhealthy that even one serving is enough to negatively impact health: Study shows just one Egg McMuffin breakfast has adverse effect on arterial blood flow (via Ishabaka)

    I have written extensively on health, fitness, diet and diabesity over the years:

    Is Obesity an Inflammatory Response? (September 21, 2005)

    The American Diet: Manufacturing Ill Health (April 25, 2007)

    Food For Thought (May 9, 2009)

    More Food for Thought: What’s Behind the Obesity Epidemic? (May 13, 2009)

    Improving Americans’ Health, With or Without Health Care Reform

    Staying Fit (at almost any) Age (January 25, 2011)

    This Nation’s Devolution from Quality to Convenience (January 4, 2010)

    Why “Healthcare Reform” Is Not Reform, Part I (December 28, 2009)

    Why “Healthcare Reform” Is Not Reform, Part II (December 29, 2009)

    The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (book)

    The third disconnect is our cultural avoidance of the psychological and spiritual hunger that drives self-destructive overconsumption. Nina, proprietor of the insightful blog Deep Into Art Life West sent me a link to Charles Eisenstein’s provocative essay Reuniting the Self: Autoimmunity, Obesity, and the Ecology of Health (Part 2)


    All the individual is aware of is a hunger, a need for something more. The fact that obese people often eat when they are not physically hungry offers a clue to what is going on. Indeed, they are hungry — they just aren’t hungry for food. They are hungry for connection.Food is the most tangible, direct confirmation of our connection to a living universe that loves us. On a primal biological level, the act of eating tells us, “I exist” and “I am loved.” Indeed, food is the most basic expression of love, a token of intimacy, of bringing an outsider into the realm of self. That is why it is customary in most countries to offer food to a guest, and why it is rude to refuse it. To feed another is, in this sense, an intimate act, an opening of the sacred boundaries of self.

    When, as today, this intimate act has become a subject of commerce, and food a commodity, the entire food system reeks of obscenity.

    This identifies something causally profound that is never addressed in “research” into the diabesity epidemic because it requires questioning the entire atomized and empty consumerist Status Quo. The emptiness of American consumerism does not lend itself to quantification like measuring leptin levels. But it is the “monster Id” behind the Thanatos American diet.

    The last part of the disconnect is the broken link between our worship of convenience and self-destruction. Wanting a pill to fix all our problems, wanting to drive everywhere, eliminating physical fitness from our schools, addictive sedentary digital games, the profitability of managing chronic “lifestyle” diseases–it’s all connected:

    Images: Flickr (licence attribution)

    About The Author

    Charles Hugh Smith writes the Of Two Minds blog (www.oftwominds.com/blog.html) which covers an eclectic range of timely topics: finance, housing, Asia, energy, longterm trends, social issues, health/diet/fitness and sustainability. From its humble beginnings in May 2005, Of Two Minds now attracts some 200,000 visits a month. Charles also contributes to AOL’s Daily Finance site (www.dailyfinance.com) and has written eight books, most recently “Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation” (2009) which is available in a free version on his blog.