A Colossal Picture of Dishonesty

“It is hard for most people to accept the colossal picture of dishonesty to be traced once we look into this matter of counterfeit foods. It is too late to act on the knowledge that this state exists once we become a victim of cancer, polio, heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis.”

In 1956, Dr. Royal Lee wrote an article titled “The War Between Health Foods and Death Foods,” which I quote above. You really should read the whole thing. Make some tea, click the link, and read it. I’ll wait. No time? I get it. We’re all busy people. Print it up for later. Bookmark it. Note it on your to-do list. Mine is a generous soul, so here is the link again.

Why so pushy, you ask? I shall tell you. I am pushy because of the cycle of anger, frustration, sadness, and (worse of all) resignation I feel because of terrible no good things like this. And whatever kind of hellbent deal with the devil happened led to this. And crap so stupidly evil it could only be hatched in Beelzebub’s butt cheeks, like this. There is no end to the links I could give you, and no words too crass to describe them.

Dr. Lee knew this great health clusterf*ck would happen, yet he could not stop it then, and I’m not sure if we can stop it now. I don’t think we are angry enough that food conglomerates are sending out food lobbies to draft food policies while utilizing fiendishly good food science to produce foods so addictive we can’t stop eating them, no matter what. And then, when we do get sick, it is not their sphere of influence to blame. It is your lifestyle. The food industry has pulled a masterful heist on our health, right down to the fall guy. You almost have to give it to the bastards.

The root of my anger now started many years ago during an appointment with an unpleasant doctor. Originally, we had hit it off—until I raised a few concerns related to a certain period of my degenerate youth. I was unaware of her judgmental temperament. And, well, a judger’s gonna judge.

Despite her disapproval, this doctor raved about my labs. Perfection! Tens across the board! There was still something grudging in her manner, as if I did not deserve such glorious labs. She didn’t think I deserved them, and she said something odd. “These are so good, it will take years before anything goes wrong.”

Just you wait, she seemed to be thinking, as if it was only a matter of time. And she was right.

Since my labs were great, I waited five years to get my bloodwork checked again. I imagined they would be perfect, and I would gloat. It didn’t play out that way. I received a call from the doctor’s office later that morning. She wanted me to come in.

“Like today?” I asked.

“Like right now,” a woman from the office said. “Your doctor just needs to talk about your labs.”

Your doctor just needs to talk about your labs.

(I hope from my deepest soul that these words are never spoken to you. And if these words have been spoken to you, please know how much I know it sucks.)

The woman I was talking to eventually said something about my blood sugar. She gave me a number which was not fewer than three digits. This number started with a four. I was too blissfully ignorant to know what it meant, but intelligent enough to still be afraid. To handle my intense fear, I called upon the cursed gift I received from the gods on the day of my birth, a good friend I call Denial.

“I’m fine,” I said. “I’m going to the gym. I’ll call later.”

“But it’s Fri—”

I hung up. On a Friday. It was a long weekend. The following week I presented myself at the office, where my unpleasant doctor told me in her unpleasant way that I had type 2 diabetes. The doctor was incorrect, but I wouldn’t know that until much later because I did not go back. I didn’t see that doctor, or any doctor, for a year, and then another year, and then a few more months, and I became quite unwell. This nonsense eventually forced my mother to get on a plane, rent a car, drive on the highway, bust down my door, and drag me, a purported adult human being, to see a doctor. Why? Because I was embarrassed. Maybe I was ashamed. Type 2 diabetes is really the flagship of lifestyle diseases, don’t you think? Which means if I wasn’t such a little piggie, if I didn’t love Twizzlers and Tootsie Pops, if I didn’t eat this or that, if I was responsible and healthy and educated, I would not have it.

But all the while my pancreas was just busted. It was type 1, as I learned from my new doctor. I was actually happy to hear my revised diagnosis, but now I am embarrassed for being so happy, and embarrassed for being so embarrassed. I am also angry that anyone receiving a bummer health diagnosis is made to feel guilt or shame over it. And I would like to convince you to be angry too.

Lifestyle diseases. Let’s call them “Kellog’s diseases.” Or swap Kellog’s out for any ultra-processed food (UPF) conglomerate of your choice. Maybe this idea could use some brainstorming, but stick with me. Why do we call these “lifestyle” diseases when General Mills is out there paying influencers to promote junk food and discourage weight loss? They would like to convince us that no food should be “shamed.” The irony.

Why do we say lifestyle diseases when these companies are pushing their addictive sugary foods on our kids and paying scientists to downplay concerns about UPFs? Why do we call them lifestyle diseases when these companies are spending fortunes to influence food and health policy not just in this country but all over this globe?

Why do we call them lifestyle diseases when we are inundated with foods composed of an unholy combination of refined salt-sugar-fat scientifically engineered to exploit thousands of years of human evolution for craving and hoarding these very same foods, only to turn around and blame us for not having the willpower to not eat the foods that they have processed and engineered to make us want to eat. The nerve.

Look, I get that we all make our choices. We can do better, each one of us. We can use our dollars to buy healthy food. We can educate ourselves with the SRP Historical Archives. We can use our finite reserves of willpower to avoid junk food and strive to be good stewards of our health. But can we not demand the food industry to exercise some willpower and refrain from gobbling up every last cent of profit they can, no matter the cost? Can we not expect them to be good stewards of the health of their consumers?

Let’s look a little harder at policies and profits instead of making Aunt Petunia the scapegoat of her own type 2 diabetes for the mistake of getting hooked on Hostess cupcakes in the second grade. That’s not cool.

“Yes, there is a battle going on—between those who are trying to promote better nutrition and the food manufacturers, who insist on making products worse so that they can be sold for less.”

That’s also from Dr. Lee, in his 1950 article “The Battlefront for Better Nutrition.”

You should read this one too. Go head, I’ll wait.

Images from iStock/Constantinis (main), lithiumcloud (girl in candy), Ilya Burdun (family figure). 

Heather Wilkinson

Heather Wilkinson is Senior Editor at Selene River Press.

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