Late last night I was watching TV when a commercial for an arthritis medication came on. At the end of the ad, a female voiceover rattled off the usual list of possible side-effects as required by the FDA. Now, I have been humored, saddened, and disgusted by these lists in the past, but this particular list had me utterly shocked. Aside from the headache, heart palpitations, dry mouth, depression, etc., they also listed "cancer in children" as a possible side effect. Seriously? Cancer in children? Wow. The shocking part about this is not that the pharmaceutical industry puts medications on the market that have the potential to cause even more sickness and death. Unfortunately, this has become the norm and Big Pharma never blinks a selfish, money-grubbing eye. The shocking part, to me, is that there are alternative choices out there but the majority of people don't even know it. We have grown up in a world of convenience and fast fixes. The way that we eat is certainly no exception.
I spoke a little in my last blog about the state of our society's food today. The processed, preserved, artificially flavored and colored, pesticide-sprayed, genetically modified, filler-filled, conveyor belt-delivered, sorry excuse for food. I mentioned weight-loss companies and their plight to help people lose the unwanted pounds. While I'm sure that at the grass-roots level they had the best of intentions, my theory is that unfortunately, as they grew bigger (and richer), their intentions became more about raking in the profits and less about helping people get to truly get healthy. Why do I think this way when it's obviously true that many people have successfully lost weight using these companies? Well, my theory comes from personal experience and a shift in lifestyle.
When I was at my max weight in college (5'3" and almost two hundred pounds), I was feeling so desperate that honestly, I would have tried anything. One day, I talked to a friend who told me about her great experience using a program called LA.Weight Loss. The next day, I headed across town to the center, which was a bright and airy office filled with before-and-after photos of smiling men and women. Soon, I had my own weight loss counselor. And almost five hundred dollars later, I was out the door with a new sense of hope. The counselor had asked me a few questions, weighed and measured me, talked me into buying a weeks' supply of (artificially sweetened and flavored) bars, and made me promise to weigh in three times a week. The program, which allows you to eat a certain number of particular food groups daily, seemed healthy enough. I stuck to it, and a few months later, I was twenty pounds lighter. I ate three meals a day and supplemented those with two of the center's snack bars. I was happy...until I put that twenty pounds back on. I got bored with the strict diet and couldn't eat one more of those bars.
A few years later, I decided to take another friend's advice and try Weight Watchers. One meeting and a lot of literature later, I was on my way. Something told me that the famous points system was a good idea in theory, if followed, but deep down I couldn't shake the uneasy feeling about the weight loss giant's frozen "Smart Ones" entrees and snacks. Sure, they were low in calories and fat, but what about the sodium, carbs, and preservatives? I just couldn't get excited about a company that was hyping up weight loss...and their gross frozen "food". One meeting ended up being enough.
I know that some people might be irritated at me when they read this, but I want to say that I know everyone is different and you do what you need to do for yourself. Many of you have had great success using these companies. Personally, I think they are only perpetuating the truly serious problem of our convenience-based lifestyles. I know as much as anyone else how hard it is to eat whole and healthy, especially when you throw work, family and stress into the mix. I am nowhere near perfect, and I can only hope to stick to my promise of cooking and eating fresher, more whole foods once the wedding stress dies down. But I am going to try. Someone once said, "Junk mail, junk food, our society is full of junk living. Period." I may not be able to escape it all, but I can choose better alternatives. No commercial, being, or organization could ever make me think otherwise.
Published On: December 09, 2010