Bagels with cream cheese (Lender’s Bagels, remember those chewy treats?); bagels with cream cheese with potato chips on top. Potato chips dipped in cream cheese. Pretzels dipped in cream cheese. Kraft mac & cheese scooped up onto potato chips, like some freaky, orange, processed starch salsa. Velveeta cheese sandwiches on preservative laden soft white bread. Oh, and if no one was looking? Straight up, a blanket of Doritos smashed in a slice of white bread, folded in half, eaten as a crunchy sandwich.
No wonder I was a chubby little kid. These were my favorite snacks when I was 10. No, we weren’t poor, yes my mother knew how to cook, yes she tried to get me to eat healthier things. But once I tasted white bread, fake cheese and potato, there was really nothing else I liked. At dinner when I had to eat more real food, I would eat the meat we had, 2-3 white rolls, and baked potato, all layered on top of each other. A few bites of salad. A few green beans. Glass ‘o Coke.
I don’t really fault my parents with having that stuff in the house. My dad liked it, and no one else seemed to have a problem sneaking Dorito sandwiches, so I’m sure it seemed draconian to them to cut it out of our diets all together. Plus, no one really knew the dangers back then of eating processed white flour (or at least the main stream didn’t), processed fake cheese, processed anything. It was cheap, easy and convenient, and America bought it up. Why shouldn’t we? Commercials for Doritos, Lays, Wise, Ruffles, WonderBread, Coke, Pepsi, and Kraft flooded the TV. These brands are your friends! They’re feeding your family for cheap! Look at all that food you can afford! And, I’m sure I begged and begged and BEGGED for these items. Advertisers do studies on how long it takes a child nagging to get the parent to buy something. I’m sure nagged and begged, and my mother has specifically told me that I wouldn’t eat anything else except those cheese sandwiches for lunch. She said she thought it was better to let me eat that than to have me starve. I believe she was doing what she thought was best. Unfortunately, what happened is I’m pretty sure I got addicted to that stuff, and I now consider myself to be a recovering white-flour, fake-cheese, empty-carb-aholic.
I was talking with my husband about this the other day, after watching Food Matters. I was wondering why I got so obsessed with these kinds of foods, while others didn’t. My best friend growing up liked salsa and salad, tomatoes and pepperocinis, and I’ve told people recently what I used to eat and they look at me with horror. Husband mentioned maybe it wasn’t the food per se, but it was the extreme high I got from eating them. As we know now, those empty white flour carbs are just like sugar, and I basically got a sugar high from eating them. It’s the same feeling you get when you eat McDonalds. The food tastes absolutely glorious while you’re eating it, you can’t get enough. It’s alarmingly crack-like and you just want more of the taste in your mouth. And then when you’re done, you’re really sad and kinda depressed you’re done eating. If you watched Supersize Me, you know Morgan Spurlock commented about that when he at his McDonalds diet for a month. He would get wicked psyched for his meals and then crash after.
I also recently got off anti-depressants I was on for 6 years. I’ve had sort of an anxiety-based, worried about the end of the world, what does it all mean, what am I doing with myself type of depression ever since about 4th grade. I used to lie in bed wondering “what’s outside the universe? Is it God? What’s outside God? What’s outside of that? Why are humans here?” I also was terribly afraid of the dark and slept on the floor of my parents room for a few months in 6th grade. I was afraid of monsters, poltergeists, witches, boogey-men, demons. Mostly paranormal stuff. My sister’s room shared a wall with mine, and frequently throughout the night I would tap on the wall, and keep tapping until my sister returned the tap, signaling she was awake. For some reason, I was extremely terrified of being the only one awake.
Anyway, all this just means I think I had/have some psychological…issues (as we all do to some extent), and that food, for whatever reason, comforted me. I looked forward to it, I craved it, it made me so happy to eat it. The endorphins it released soothed me.
Now I know that kind of stuff is toxic. Study after study is showing that when you eat white bread and sugar, you create a breeding ground for cancer—cancer feeds of that kind of food. It also leads to heart disease—basically sugar causes inflammation in your arteries, which causes cholester0l to stick to the inside of your veins.
I stopped eating processed foods a few months ago. I’ve gradually started buying as much organic as I can. I avoid GMOs whenever possible (those are a whole different story). I don’t buy white bread, I don’t buy chips, Doritos, etc. I will eat them if they are in my house. My friends know – I’ll go to parties and I’ll end up eating the Doritos and kicking myself later. It’s an addiction, and the companies that make that shit know it. They know exactly what they are doing.
I have a friend who calls that kind of food (basically convenience store food) “slave food.” He calls it that because guess who eats that stuff? Poorer people. Rich people (and I mean the real 1%) don’t eat that stuff. They eat organic, fresh, meals (most likely prepared by personal chefs), they live off spring water, they indulge in exotic fruits and all the healing, wonderful superfoods you’ve heard all about. Think you’ll ever find a pomegranate or bee pollen in a convenience store? No. Those are reserved for people with funds and the education to know how good certain foods are for you. Poorer people on the other hand are relegated to eating $1 menu McDonalds stuff, Wonderbread, chips, granola bars riddled with GMOs and high fructose corn syrup. And it’s killing them. And that sad part is all we need to fix it is a little more education, community gardens, and free food forests. I was about to say “and more regulations on what is allowed to be in our food,” but I didn’t, because education in and of itself is enough to make people choose appropriate products, and those companies that don’t provide healthy products will slowly shrivel up and die a satisfying death.
I am slowly recovering from my life so far of processed crap. I have way more energy now than I used to. I just realized that my desk job is feeling torturous because I have so much energy I just want to get up and run around the office. I’ve lost a few pounds. I don’t feel about food the way I used to. Now when I eat my food I think of it as fuel, not the highlight of my day. I like the foods I eat a lot, and I use plenty of healthy fats when I cook (lots of olive oil and safflower oil, nuts too). But I don’t want to scarf the food up on site and I don’t feel the desperation to feel that starchy taste in my mouth, or salivate inhaling fake-cheese smell. I consider that a small victory.