Are Scare Tactics Causing More Harm Than Good?

Dealing With The Nation's Processed Foods Dilemma

Do scare tactics work?

I know the new documentary Fed Up declares that scare tactics have worked for decreasing tobacco sales. Personally, I worry that scare tactics will actually contribute to more fat shaming, diet shaming and finger pointing.

I was really surprised that Katie Couric narrated this film directing negative attention toward Michelle Obama, food companies and one evil — sugar. My surprise is specific to Katie's history of an eating disorder.

As a certified eating disorder specialist, I know and hope Katie knows that deprivation and shaming lead only to more binging, overeating and weight gain. This black and white delineation simply contributes to the eating disorder mentality.

In addition, I personally don't think scaring people into not eating sugar is any better than scaring them into not eating fat back in the 80s. That particular scare tactic definitely didn't work. We all got "fatter". 

If we isolate just one macronutrient, people will continue to eat it secretly. Meanwhile, food companies easily reformulate their products to meet the new standard. Scaring and blaming merely nurture the "poor health epidemic" we have today.

That's right! Here's another very important point. First, let's rename the "obesity epidemic". Let's call it the "processed food epidemic" or the "ill health epidemic." Obesity is usually just the most visible symptom of a much larger problem.

As Fed Up points out, there are "skinny" fat people who are just as unhealthy. So why do we call this problem an obesity epidemic? It's about health not size.

Just to clarify the process......

When we eat carbohydrates such as sugar, raw sugar, cereal and/or fruit, our bodies respond by producing the hormone insulin to transport these sugars from our blood into our bodies' cells for energy.

The sugars do not go straight into fat storage containers. Rather, the excess sugars (also known as carbohydrates) turn into the storage form of glucose known as glycogen (the sugars stored in our muscles). And we need glycogen. Even our brains only use glucose. Yes, my friends, your brains actually need sugar.

Excess sugars also do get turned into body fat for energy storage. However, if you watch this documentary, you may think that excess sugars can turn only into fat.

Please understand that there are many things presented in this documentary with which I totally agree.

These include:

  • Food companies wield wide-ranging, almost overwhelming power.
  • Our children are being victimized.
  • Government subsidies for corn and soy negatively affect our food production and crop designation.

However, since our government is involved — and is being influenced by food lobbyists — we may need to help them to help get ourselves out. We are paying the healthcare for everyone and, therefore, need to help create the changes.

So instead of blame, let's all work together to learn how to eat all foods.

The food companies are not going away. Processed food is here to stay — whether we like it or not. We need to teach our children and ourselves how to eat processed food alongside real food.

Our children go to our neighbors' homes as well as grocery stores. They are continually exposed. Let's equip them with effective tools for managing their abilities to eat all foods.

Teach them how to neutralize the value of foods. Educate them about nutrient density. Show them how to focus on internal cues and make physical activity equivalent to brushing their teeth. And one more thing: work to get food companies out of our schools.

Attention all celebrities (actors, singers, dancers, athletes, etc.): Please stop advertising processed food. I don't think Diet Coke or Wheaties or any other food manufacturing company has anything to do with singing, acting, sports talent or performance skills — or your success! Consequently, your commercial support really sends the wrong message to our children.

10-step action plan to empower americans with skills for self care and wellness:

  1. Neutralize food. Place no values on food; no "good" or "bad" foods.
  2. Educate on nutrient density: nutrient dense foods (real and/or less processed foods) versus low nutrient foods (highly processed foods).
  3. Eat nutrient dense foods the majority of the time — about 75 percent.
  4. Set up structure of three meals and two preplanned snacks daily.
  5. Eat mixed meals that contain all three macronutrients — carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
  6. Teach portion management by internal control using hunger and fullness cues.
  7. Serve only real food in schools. Get the food giants out.
  8. Teach that physical activity is like brushing your teeth — something we all must do daily.
  9. Celebrities and olympians: Do not rep food companies.
  10. Politicians: Stop falling prey to lobbyists and allowing food companies to persuade your decisions. You are making this food and nutrition crisis, like our national debt, — unsolvable!

And don't forget, we need to rename the epidemic. I like the "processed food epidemic".