Coming to a Store Near You!

About a month ago, I bought Good Omens by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett.  I’d never read Terry Pratchett before, but love the Neil Gaimen books I’ve read.  Part of the reason I finally decided to read Good Omens is because I thought I was going to loose my geek license.  So many people have expressed surprise when I admit to not having read it.  They expect a bibliophile like me (who’s read all the books in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Universe series, the M.Y.T.H. Inc. series, 2/3 of the Xanth novels, some of Gaimen’s other stuff — including some of his YA books — and many, many others) to have naturally have read this.

Ah well.  There’s only so much time, and sometimes there’s just not enough time to read everything I want to.  But at least I’m reading it now.

And something in the book really, really caught my eye:

One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has been busy while he’s been waiting for the apocalypse to happen.

Two years of Newtrition investment and research had produced CHOW (TM).  CHOW (TM) contained spun, plaited, and woven protein molecules, capped and coded, carefully designed to be ignored by even the most ravenous digestive tract enzymes; no-cal sweetener, mineral oils replacing vegetable oils; fibrous materials, coloring, and flavorings.  The end result was a foodstuff almost indistinguishable from any other except for two things.  Firstly, the price, which was slightly higher, and secondly the nutritional content, which was roughly equivalent to that of a Sony Walkman.  It didn’t matter how much you ate, you lost weight.

He followed CHOW (TM) with SNACKS (TM) — junk food made from real junk.

MEALS (TM) was Sable’s latest brainwave.

MEALS (TM) was CHOW (TM) with added sugar and fat.  The theory was that if you ate enough MEALS (TM) you would a) get very fat, and b) die of malnutrition.

Good Omens Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett C 1990

Now, I know that this is satire, but doesn’t this really sound like what’s happening?  In our schools they are trying to cut back calories so much in the school lunches, there’s hardly any nutrition in them.  We keep being innudated by things in 100-calorie packs that have ingredients you have to have your PhD in chemistry to be able to pronounce, much less know exactly what it is and what it does to the body.

Then there’s Olestra.  Olestra is synthesized using a sucrose molecule, which can support from six to eight fatty acid chains arranged radially like an octopus, and is too large to move through the intestinal wall and be absorbed. While it’s not exactly mineral oil, it’s still be processed to give absolutely no nutrients, and in fact, it inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients (source same as above).

If it weren’t for the fact that the original copywrite of the book was a full eight years before Olestra was used in food manufacturing, I’d think that the authors were parodying Olestra.  Instead, it looks like they were merely being prophetic.

For myself, I have long been against engineered foods.  I’d rather obtain my protein from eating meat, rather than drinking a drink that has either soy or whey in it.  If I want soy, I’ll eat edamame.  If I want a milk byproduct, why not just drink milk?  (Yes, I know I’m blessed with a tummy and system that doesn’t have issues with milk, but the people I know who have issues with milk also have issues with milk by-products like whey.)  If I want corn, I’ll eat it off the cob (or frozen from a bag) — I don’t necessarily want an engineered corn product in every single thing that’s on the market.

But the above quote really makes me wonder.  Is this what we’re coming to?  Where everything we eat is engineered to have so little of everything we need — vitamins, minerals, fats, calories, you know, the things that make a body healthy and strong — that we are all going to die of malnutrition?   Whenever I see diet meals in the store and read all the additives in the list of ingredients I just have to wonder where’s the food (to paraphrase the 80’s Wendy’s (TM) commercials)?

I don’t know what the answer to this is.  I know it’s not a question most people are asking.  But maybe we should.  Maybe we should ask the hard questions.  If it’s true that obesity has increased by (whatever the percentage this or that talking head is quoting today) and it’s still a major increase from 30 years ago even after the rate has been adjusted for the arbitrary lowering of the BMI – overweight range in 1998, then WHY is it?  By the 1970’s the US as a nation was, and had been, mostly industrial based for many years.  The switchover from a mostly agricultural culture to industry came fully during WWII (if I recall my 8th grade modern history classes correctly from all those years ago).

So, if the problem was Americans getting lazy because they weren’t out doing hard, physical labor 12-14 hours a day every day spring, summer, and fall, why didn’t the obesity epidemic happen in the 40’s?  Or 50’s?

Since it didn’t, what happened?

Somebody really needs to look into that, and then follow it up with logical questions.  You know, questions like, if that was when sugar was taken out of most products and artificial sweeteners and other engineered things were put in, could that be part of the cause of the so-called obesity epidemic?

Oh, wait.  I forgot.  It can’t be anything like that, because we all know that the fatties bring it on themselves by having no self-control.  Of course nobody’s ever going to look into those questions.  There’s no need to.  What was I thinking?


10 Responses

  1. 1 year and 1 month ago a friend of mine made a single change in her dieet, she stopped eating anything with high fructose corn syrup … yeah, yeah … you have heard it before. But what you might not have heard is her reasoning – it was not because HFCS is the devil, it was because it is a symptom. Food that has HFCS generally also have a chemical factory worth of other man changed stuff. She could not be bothered to read up and learn the names of everything that is bad for her, but experience showed that cutting out stuff with HFCS made her food more natural and healtier. 1 year and one month later she has lost 100 pounds … but even more importantly gone from having to take 7 different types of meds to just 1. I am not as dedicated as she is – but I really do think there is a lesson there.

    • You know, I’m not really trying to demonize anything. I know people who think there is absolutely nothing wrong with HFCS, and who have no apparent problems from eating food with it (or the other stuff that does seem to come along with HFCS) in it.

      And I know people, much like your friend, who won’t eat anything with HFCS in it. And have the same type of results as your friends have.

      I’m just really trying to get people to think about what else might have happened. Because, if the experts are correct, and all of a sudden the fat levels raised to epidemic proportions, then what happened?

      A whole country, a whole civilized world, did not all of a sudden become lazy.


  2. What are the comparative average ages of the population? We know that the average height has increased. Could the combination of getter taller and having more middle-aged/elderly people in the population be factors?

    • Exactly!

      Yet, somehow, when the studies are being done, they are not factoring in for age and/or height.

      More and better nutrition (for the first time in the history of the world, we actually have enough food that nobody *has* to starve, even though there is poverty and people do starve, but it’s a lot less percentage of the population than previously in history) make for people who are taller. A very good example of how much difference one or two generations of more/different nutrition can change the size of a population is Japan.

      If you look at pictures of Japanese people who were adults or teenagers at the end of WWII, and see their children and grandchildren now, the children and grandchildren stand at least a foot taller than their grandparents do.

      People are living longer than they have throughout history, also. A lot of so-called fat related diseases could just be, you know, AGE related diseases. The reason our great-great grandparents might not have died as often from heart attacks or strokes or complications of diabetes might just be that they died from other things when they were 40. Or 30.

      There’s so many things that can, and probably do, factor in, and yet, it seems nobody is looking at all these other factors.

  3. Another thing no one ever seems to bring up is the prevalence of commercial diets, which encourage disordered eating habits, and how they may have contributed to an increase in obesity. I know that when we started having special presentations on eating disorders in junior high school, I wasn’t listening because I was concerned, I was listening to get tips on how to starve myself. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    Since the vast majority of dieters not only regain all the weight they lost, but a little bit more, considering how common it is (for women, especially) to be dieting, wouldn’t that skew the population’s overall weight higher over time?

  4. And PLEASE do try to remember that, on average, despite the fears of manufactured foods, we are ALL, fat & thin, living much longer. And, no, not everyone who cuts HFCS out of her diet loses 100 pounds. I would say that that is the exception rather than the rule. I don’t demonize foods & I have no real issues with HFCS, but I am not sure why they don’t just use sugar.

    We are taller, heavier, getting to be older, overall healthier, because more of us have access to enough food on a regular basis. I am a baby boomer, now in my 60’s, & even many people who didn’t start out fat 40 years ago are spreading out some, & the ones with enough thin genes are losing muscle tone & their shapes are changing & they don’t get as fat mostly because of their genes, not because of superior virtue.

    The satire was specifically aimed at DIET foods, in which I agree, we are presented with ‘non-food foods’ which we are supposed to substitute for real food. I do love real food. I also love Terry Pratchett, the best fantasy parodist in the business; I HAVE to have the Discworld novels & re-read each one a dozen times.

    • Yes. And as I said in response to the previous poster, I’m not demonizing HFCS.

      I don’t like it, for myself, because it’s in EVERYTHING. The commercials tell us that “in moderation, it’s okay”. However, there is no such thing as moderation.

      I’m not suggesting that weeding out *whatever* from a person’s diet is going to cause them to lose weight. In my case, I’m about 90% HFCS free, and I’ve not lost an ounce. Do I feel healthier? Well, yes, but that is probably more likely to be attributed to the tai chi and kenpo I’ve been doing than weeding out HFCS and such.

      What I’m really against is that our culture keeps trying to say that being fat is all our (the fatties) fault, that it’s just because we are lazy and have no willpower. We have tons of manufactured food that has little to no calories (my personal ‘consume mass quantities’ foodstuff is Coca Cola Cherry Zero(TM) — 0 calories per serving so I drink it like it’s water, literally), millions of people buying these foods, and yet, if the studies are to be believed, society as a whole is extremely fat.

      And yet, nobody is asking the questions that look at what the underlying causes might really be. Nobody (as in governments or scientists) are asking tough questions: Could it be all the non-food food we are eating? Could it be dieting is royally screwing up our metabolism and indeed making us fatter overall? Could it be that we are living longer and so diseases that weren’t prevalent when we didn’t live as long are now showing up? Could it be that, as a bigger portion of the world is having more access to food, their genetic disposition to being fat is showing up?

      Instead of that, it’s just easier to blame the so-called victim and not look at harder questions. After all, if they did hard studies and found out that, since the world finally has the ability to not be in famine crisis mode, we are just assuming our natural shapes, then who are we going to blame for global warming?

  5. It’s like I was reading one site discussing rationing in WWII Britain, and the author kept harping on how everyone was “slim” and “healthy”.

    Yes, people were smaller and thinner back then–partly because THEY HAD SO LITTLE FOOD.

    As for healthier, I don’t think so–not in the sense she means. The overall population was also slimmer and healthier because the overall population was YOUNGER at the time as WWI had removed so much of the previous generation.

    As we keep saying, correlation is not causation.

    • I really, really wish people would stop equating “slim” with “healthy”. There’s just as many people who are “slim” and “sick” as there are “fat” and “sick”.

  6. now, you know my last grandparent died 3 years ago, at age 94. tiny, tiny wee little woman, and had been her entire life. size 10 pants at her heaviest, and a 12 up top because i came by this chest size honestly. 😉

    anyway…she wore a size 6 narrow shoe. and i used to want to cry when i saw her feet. she wore that size 6 because that was the BIGGEST size her mother would buy. and narrow, because ladies had narrow feet.

    she also had a little toe that had been pinched so often and so long that it folded over the top of the other toes and her fifth metatarpal bone had squeezed inward.

    but ladies back then had tiny narrow feet, you know? look, here’s a shoe they wore! and were not fat, because, again, look at the clothing!

    pass the real food, please. and the real damn butter because i like the taste. and quit passing the statins cause i apparently cant take them any longer. *does a happydance*

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