Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

August newsletter

| August 20th, 2012 | No Comments »

Modalities Massage Therapy

August Newsletter


Dear clients, This Thursday, August 23rd, is the deadline for aromatherapy orders.  Check out the webpage on direct orders for the short list of products and pricing.  Contact me by phone or email to place your order. As always, orders should be in within a week and I will contact you regarding pick-up. Beginning in September there will be some small changes in my work schedule.  I will be teaching infant massage at Mothering Touch again but on Wednesday mornings and I will no longer be working at Achieve Health Monday and Wednesday mornings.  In terms of hours here at Modalities there will be only small changes and a continuation of the ‘temporary’ addition of Tuesday mornings.  New hours as of September 1/2012 will be:

Monday: 10am to 6pm Tuesdays: 10am to 4:30pm; one 7 pm appointment Wednesdays: 12:30pm to 4:30pm Thursdays: 9am to 4:30pm; one 7 pm appointment Friday: 10am to 6pm

I have been doing some blogging lately and wanted to share those thoughts with you. The following links will take you to them: food and drug efficacy and DNR and final wishes.

As we move into the fall I hope that we all have the opportunity to enjoy some more warm weather and sunshine. For those of you coming under the influence of school I hope your return to classes goes smoothly.

Best wishes,

Sheila Hobbs, RMT



Food and drug administration…

| August 15th, 2012 | No Comments »

I am not talking about the FDA (Food and Drug Administration – the entity in the US that approves food and drug sales) in this blog, or at least not directly, but the title just called out to me.  What I am talking about is how the food you eat and the drink you drink impact the drugs you might take.  I got inspired by a couple of tweets I checked out and re-tweeted that I found really interesting.

The question of food and pharmaceuticals, for most, likely brings to mind the little stickers you find on your prescriptions bottles or warnings on the labels of over the counter drugs that mainly circle around whether or not to have with food or alcohol and the safety of heavy machinery operation while using.  I recently was put on doxycycline, a fairly potent antibiotic, and for the first time had a warning about dairy food specifically.  Why do we receive these warnings?  We get instruction of food and drink consumption – both specific types and generally – because of  the risk of over or under-dosing.  Some drugs have greater impact with food, some less; certain minerals can alter how drugs work for all of these reasons we get little stickers and warnings.  This website has very complete information on drug interactions including foods.

How exactly do food and drink influence how drugs are absorbed and broken down in the body?  There are a few answers to that question but one of the main ones is – enzymes.  Enzymes are complex protein molecules that bring about cellular reactions within the body.  Enzymes are how we digest food and are used to speed up, slow down, allow or disallow various chemical reactions to occur.  Enzymes are produced by living cells and found in our bodies and in the things we eat and drink.  Some enzymes also are able to block each other from acting – they shut down other enzymes.  How drugs are processed by the body – especially how long they take to be broken down and absorbed impact how effective they are and how often and how much we need to take.

Alteration in drug processing in the body has profound ripple effects in terms of side-effects, efficacy and costs.  The more of a drug you take the more likely you are to have side effects so if the dose can be lowered you have fewer side effects.  The reason we often have to tolerate side effects is to ensure we receive enough of a drug to actually have it do the job it is supposed to do.  The longer a drug stays at an effective level in our body the more of an impact it can have on our system, slowing down the bodies natural breakdown of a drug into its components can allow a drug to do more.  Cost obviously ends up going down if we use less of a drug making lower doses desirable both medically and fiscally, especially in an era of rising medical budgets.  

The particular article I read was speaking of grapefruit juice and the cancer drug, sirolimus.  When ingested with grapefruit juice a one-third dose of sirolimus had the same effect.  This represents a huge cost savings and a potential reduction in side effects as the lower does was accompanied by fewer side effect.  Here is the interesting bit.  Some dosing is lowered and ordered with a particular accompaniment; in other case, like sirolimus at this time, you take more and are told to avoid the food/beverage that increases the effectiveness of the drug to avoid overdose.  I personally hope that current research will lead to increases the incidence of the former and reduces the latter.

The other interesting point that came up in the article is that not only will what you do or don’t take with drug impact their breakdown and bioavailability to your cells but it can also alter how your cells welcome the drug.  Recent studies have shown that pre-treatment fasting (of 2-3 days) by chemotherapy recipients increases the impact of the treatment on cancer cell, but even more delightfully, it reduces the impact of the same treatments on the healthy cells.  Basically, in healthy cell fasting creates decreased activity, basically the seek to reduce their consumption of fuel, in contrast cancer cells, which are already gluttons become even more ravenous when exposed to fasting causing them to absorb greater quantities of the chemotherapy drugs.

A 2-3 day fast is not a small thing but I suspect this news would be less daunting to the many cancer patients who have appetite loss as part of the symptoms or drug side effects.  The reward of less nausea, headaches, malaise, nerve damage and hair loss – just to name a few – would be a nice reward for a bit of fasting too.  Further, for those cancer patients and their families who face daily struggles to get enough food into themselves or their loved ones a brief respite would not be bad and all the parties could then focus their food efforts on their inter-treatment time.  The volunteers with the trolleys of cookies and juice that wheel through the chemo room though would become a thing of the past.

What I find most interesting about all of these pieces of data is that they can be implemented with minimal hassle, little to no harm and many benefits.  There is no costly drug research, no need for gene therapy the research I am talking about is from human and animal trials and new human trials are moving forward in several places already.  This is exciting as a new drug or therapy can take years and years to even reach human trial stage.  Plus, the cost of all of these options are negligible or well offset by saving.  Not very often is that the case with modern medical innovation.



The tweets I’m talking about:

fasting and cancer treatment

grapefruit juice and drug efficacy


What is Epigenetics?

| November 7th, 2011 | No Comments »

I love CBC radio.  On the weekend I was listening to “Quirks and Quarks” and a discussion of epigenetics caught my ear.  Naturally, I had to find out what this things was and how it works.

For many years the research into autoimmune diseases and chronic conditions like cancer has focused on lifestyle and environmental impacts.  These diseases have a heritable component but they are not absolutely genetic, leading researchers to try to identify why and this has led into the field of epigenetics.  Epigenetics looks at the small markers that attach themselves to our DNA, especially in utero and in early life.  These markers do nothing to change the DNA you are going to pass on to your child, they simple alter how that DNA expresses itself.  Think of them as the controllers – they can turn things on and off or make things louder or quieter.

In this new field evidence is beginning to show how things like childhood poverty, child abuse and mental illness may have physiologically identifiable marks without changing the DNA.  Further, exposure to certain substances can also create epigenetic changes even late in life.  Many of the substances considered carcinogenic act this way.  They do not alter your genes, they turn on, or turn up, genes you already have (‘genetic predisposition) increasing the growth and success of cancer cells.  This brings in the fact that they can not affect genes you do not have and if you have the gene and nothing turns it on, you won’t experience the effects.

I believe that I have seen this in action in my family.  My maternal grandfather and both of his daughters (my Mom and my aunt) have died of very similar, very aggressive lung cancers – but not my uncle.  In the cases of my grandfather and my mother they also died at about the same age (51 and 52), but my aunt survived until she was in her middle 60’s.   Strong genetic evidence – early onset, aggressive, similar patterns of meta – why did my aunt live the extra decade?  I believe the simple answer is – she didn’t smoke.  My grandparents and parent were smokers meaning life long exposure to the carcinogens in cigarettes.  My aunt, though she grew up in a smoking household didn’t smoke herself.  Epigenetically speaking, she didn’t turn up the gene.  With my uncle, he has passed his early fifties, and is a non-smoker, so the question is, did he get the gene at all?  Time shall tell.  To contrast this heritage, my maternal grandmother smoked her entire life, and lived until 80, never getting lung cancer.  No gene?  Seem so.

This is excellent reason for me and my sister – we can’t change our genetic inheritance (and there is not current test for a lung cancer gene, though they do know there is one) but we can choose our lifestyle.  Neither of us has ever smoked, neither of us drink as heavily as our parent or grandparent, we eat healthy diets with lots of fruits and veggies, and my sister (not so much me) has kept her weight low.  We our doing our part to ensure the volume stays down on our genes, only time will tell if we succeed.

On the human level the field of epigenetics brings weight to our life choices adding to the pressure many feel to “live well”.  The weight of a healthy lifestyle becomes a punishing burden as every choice seems to have dire effects not just for themselves but their children.  Women especially receive barrages of information and direction on what to eat, drink, and expose themselves to during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  I have felt that pressure, but ultimately I try to remind myself that I can only do my best and the stress of trying to manage everything carries as many negatives as a lot of the things we try to manage.   I also try to remember that this gives me power, I can impact how my body acts, I am not at the mercy of my genes, how I live, and how I teach my children to live will change what happens to us. 

From the perspective of the medical field epigenetics creates a field of unique, crafted interventions that has never existed.  We can begin to more clearly understand the most profoundly impacting life events and behaviours to allow both early intervention or to create uniquely personal watch lists given our histories.  How intriguing.




epigenetics and poverty

nurturing rats and epigenetics

epigenetics of bipolar and schizophrenia

epigenetics of child abuse






BC Generations – onsite visit

| October 21st, 2011 | No Comments »

The last step in the initial intake for participation in the BC Generations is to do the on site visit.  The visit was very quick, I don’t think I was even there 20 minutes.  I arrived a few minutes late (sigh) but was quickly signed in and there was the standard double checking to ensure I was who they thought I was by a young man at the front desk who had a package with my name and lots of coded stickers to put on my forms.    He gave me my blood and urine lab form and directed me to give my samples before the end of November.  He then led me to an adjacent room divided  into separate cubicles where a research nurse greeted me.

The nurse asked me a series of screening questions (pregnant – no; hand arthritis – no; pacemaker – no, etc to ensure they could do all the tests and get the right outcomes.  She then got to the tests.

First, my blood pressure and heart rate, twice, of course.  All good in the blood pressure department.  Next was a revisit of the waist and hip measures (only once) where I discovered that I had been too precise in following their waist measurement instructions – I would have like it they had used her explanation – measure at the belly button!  Then height, both standing and sitting (this will let them determine spinal shortening).  

Next – all the cool toys!  First a grip device – where I discovered that my left hand is puny and my right is super strong – enough to offset the left’s puniness in the combined total.  I guess I can now tell clients I have one strong hand when they comment on how strong my hand are!  After that, my most dreaded machine – BMI calculator.  I am not going to share the exact results of my weight, BMI and percent of fat.  I will say that I definitely have some losing to do!  And some really detailed motivational number.  I now know that my body fat is fairly evenly distributed (though my arms are the fattest – who knew!) and that my right leg and left arm are fatter and stronger than their opposites.  Finally I stuck my foot in this machine that assessed the bone density of my heel (calcaneus) bone.  Here again was some good news – very dense bones.  In part this has to do with weighing so much (the bones get denser to support your mass), and with being on my feet a fair amount for work (lots of weight-bearing). 

The sum up is that I am as fat as I thought, but I am not doing too bad in terms of strength, blood pressure and bone density.  Basically I am healthy enough that I can  lose the weight to fix the other measures with relative ease.  That is my own personal project though – not the BC Generation’s responsibility.

There you are, that is the total of my experience to date.  In future they may phone to ask me to participate in specific studies (which I can decline if I choose) or to come back in for a repeat of the on site visit I had (or perhaps some similar type of visit).  They now have my permission to check in on any testing results I get within the medical system.  Not to big an impact on my life given how much could come of it – an hour or so of my time now to provide information for studies over the next 25 years.  



Gastric Bypass

| October 17th, 2011 | No Comments »

I have, over the last few months, gained some weight. I am very aware of the irony of being a health professional and being unhealthy on such a fundamental level. My dissatisfaction has led me to spend time thinking and exploring eating, exercise and weight loss options. All this looking around led me to the various surgical options – which I have always considered risky and extreme – to my surprise there is a high success rate and low risk factor. I believe firmly that eating habits and exercise are the best way to lose weight – have I been wrong?

In the end I think not. When it comes to weight if you burn more calories than you consume you will lose it. If food in and calories burned are the same, your weight will be steady. This equation is not in question. The questions circle how best to do this, how best to successfully lose weight. How do weight loss surgeries have such success? Simply put, the success of weight loss surgery comes from reducing stomach size to force you to eat less. Yes, eat less, reduce the size and frequency of meals, you know, a diet. Basically you are having someone put you a surgically induced diet. Ultimately this means that reducing your eating works.

A recent study actually shows that the family members living with gastric bypass patients lose weight in concert with the patient, believed to be due to the diet and exercise programs they have participated in with the patient. In fact the more I read the more it became clear that the surgery is just the first step in the process of weight reduction. The surgery is a step that is followed by nutritional and personal counselling, personal training and life changes. It turns out I am right – diet and exercise are keys. Whether you get a surgical boost or not, it is how you eat, and how much you move, that determine your weight.

The medical community is coming out more and more in favour of surgical intervention for weight-loss and we are seeing coverage by provincial and extended health carriers. One of the reasons for people to consider surgery is persistent lack of success with diet and exercise. My question is – if we were to divert the $15,000 (the low-end of the cost for gastric bypass – high is $50,000) to offering nutritional counselling and paying for personal trainers (which have no to very low coverage) would the success rate be better for the non-surgical intervention? You can buy a couple of years of 3 day a week personal training sessions for $15,000.

I think this preference for surgery is a part and parcel of our health care system’s preference for fixing with intervention rather than offering outpatient support.  For my situation I would love to access enough money to support my having a personal trainer for a few months to get me back to a reasonable weight and to support some life changes now, when I have no weight-related health problems. Instead I have to do it on my own, or wait until I am worse off in terms of weight and attendant health problems before I can get help – and even then the support will only be for a doctor altering my body – not for me trying to alter my body.


More about weight-reducing surgery:

  • In BC the only type of weight-reduction (bariatric) surgery covered by MSP is what is commonly called gastric bypass – which results in the largest weigh losses
  • The most common weight-reducing surgery is gastric banding – which has the quickest recovery but there are more complications and a lower level of weight loss
  • the newest weight-reduction surgery being offered is the insertion of a balloon into the stomach which is then inflated in the stomach. This is fast, reversible and seems to be working. It is the only option that requires no incision and no general anaesthetic.
  • In a study of 243 gastric bypass patients those in the obese and morbidly obese categories had excellent levels of loss and maintenance The “super obese” class (BMI > 50 at time of surgery) had the least success both in terms of amount of weight loss and the maintenance over time.
  • Gastric bypass surgery can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 NOT including personal training, the bulk of counselling suggested, the wardrobe changes or the cost of any plastic surgery to deal with the changes in body shape that result.

    gastric bypass

    Gastric balloon


    the lapband apparatus


BC Generations Project

| October 7th, 2011 | No Comments »

I have signed up to be a human lab rat. The BC Generations Project is a 25 year study hoping to follow 40,000 BC residents between the ages (at the start) of 35-69. The BC Generations Project is part of a greater, Canada-wide project called the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow that is hoping to reach a total of 300,000 participants in total. I will be chronicalling my progress through this project over the time – I don’t guarantee the whole 25 years, but at least the first few.

The BC Generations project will use the data and biospecimens collected in aa number of studies over the next decades that are all attempting to understand how to prevent cancer and other chronic disease. I love this project. I also feel bad for it. The researchers are looking to capture some of the most elusive data out there. Trying to connect which specific part of your life increases your risk would be difficult. Trying to find out how the different aspects of you life act together to increase or decrease your risk of disease over someone else is even more difficult. They will have to try to tease apart genetic, environmental and behavioural factors and decide which are the lynch pins. With the real possibility that there are no lynch pins – but rather an calculus level equation of factors that add, subtract, multiply and divide to land you with a negativeor a positive.

This is the reality of medicine as we are coming to understand it. No one thing is the answer, all things are the answer – and your answer is different than anyone else’s.

Initially, BC Generations will be collecting asking lifestyle questions, collecting physical data (height, weight and waist/hip ratio) and physical samples (blood, urine, and saliva). This data and the physical samples will be stored together for future use. By entering the BC Generations Project participants also allow researchers access to their health records and they may be contacted in the future for follow-up.


By collecting together such a large pool of samples spanning ages, genders, locations and lifestyles the BC Generations Project and the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow is creating a resource of incalcuable value to both present and future medical researchers. Data can be extracted for fair-haired, healthy eating women across Canada, or 48-year olds with a history of maternal diabetes that live in urban settings, or 69 year-old males with heart disease in their fathers. The options are myriad and when you add in the ability to track progress over time you have a tool for the future that will offer the future a gift of knowledge about how time, behaviour and family history come together.

My first step will be to fill out the intake form (book) prior to my physical assessment. Next I have an appointment to have samples taken. From there? Who knows, but it should be a heck of a ride. I get the opportunity for a free health assessment and a chance to contribute to the evolution of preventative medicine in my province and my country.

If you want to volunteer, or just learn more about the project, go to their website.  Give some thought to what a wonderful legacy this could be.  As an orphan whose parents both died middle-aged of cancer, I consider my participation to be a gift to my son and his future children (should he have any), a gift I may never have another opportunity to give.


Introduction to healing…nutrition

| October 25th, 2010 | No Comments »

The fact that we are not a patchwork of seeping wounds, gaping holes and that we do not bleed out from a stubbed toe comes back to healing. I am going to cover the healing process in a number of tissues but here I am going to lay out a few of the basics. The factors that determine the quality of healing your body does.

There are three basic factors that impact healing: nutrition, circulation and age. Depending on where we are on the spectrum for these three factors we will heal at different rates and to different degrees.

Nutrition is about having the building blocks that you need to heal. For any kind of wound healing you need the components of the cells that need to be repaired or replaced and the energy to do those repair, this means proteins (for cell structure), B vitamins (needed for communications pain reduction and cell division) and glucose (sugar – which your body gets from all your food) are the bare minimum of nutritional requirements. As I look at specific injuries I will discuss the nutrients that are important to the process of healing that sort of tissue.

The second factor is circulation. We need our blood to be moving around to the stuff we need and take away the stuff we do not. Inadequate circulation can slow or prevent healing an can even lead to more damage due to there being too much fluid at the injury site. When this happens you end up with cells literally starving to death, or being poisoned by the build-up of waste products. Age, fitness level and disease can all impact the effectiveness of circulation.

The third factor is age. As we age our ability to heal is diminished. Fitness, disease, and genetics can modify the impact of age. Not all 16 year olds, or all 70 year olds, heal the same. Overall though as we get older our bodies become less efficient, our circulation more sluggish, we have a higher chance of having compromising illnesses and a longer history of previous injuries and illnesses that may impede our body’s ability to regenerate.

I hope you enjoy following along as I explore the amazing ways that our bodies heal us.


Food and Cancer

| September 13th, 2010 | No Comments »

According to the World Health Organization cancer is responsible for 12.5% of the deaths globally per year. Diet is linked to 30% of cancers in the developed, and 20% in the developing world. Though those numbers are strong, there is a lack of cohesion in the medical world regarding their validity. Some recent studies have shown much less profound links between cancer and nutrition. So who is right? What is the role that food plays in preventing cancer? And who do we believe?

In articles published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute it is pointed out that the most recent, rigorous studies show only a 2-3% percent correlation of diet to cancer prevention, rather than a 30% one. Other interesting data shows a strong correlation between certain supplements and increased rates of cancer, specifically a 163% increase in prostate cancer when 1200 mg folate supplements were administered.

An article in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition argues that lifestyle and nutrition are the key factors in preventing cancer. In their estimate the use of supplements and the focus on single nutrients in studies are responsible for the weaker numbers that have been found. This article argues that a balanced diet of whole foods is where the highest rate of prevention can be found. The JACN article also criticizes the reactionary focus of western medicine and highlights the need for society as a whole to make a profound shift in their approach to food.

Between the two points of view there are two points of agreement. Supplements are a greater risk than remedy and that more, better, research must be done. In exploring all the arguments out there and the recommendations being made I think that no one really knows. No one nutrient has been shown to be a magic cure for cancer, no particular diet has yet come to light that absolutely prevents cancer.

Taking a step back, why are we even exploring the impact of food and nutrition on cancer? To understand let’s quickly look at what cancer is, and what food can do for the body in preventing it.

Cancer is basically a cell gone bad. One whose intended function is derailed and which begins to reproduce wildly. We all have these cells in our bodies. In the countless cell divisions that occur daily in our bodies there are always errors that have the potential to create cancer cells. Most of the time our immune system finds those cells and kills them. Cancer as a disease manifests when our immune systems fails and those cells run amok.

How does food effect this process? Food is what makes your body go. Calories fuel our body, nutrients provide chemicals that run our systems and are the building blocks of our tissues. Even the parts we don’t digest help us, ensuring that our digestive track has enough in it to move our waste along. Eating the proper foods helps to ensure that we have the energy for cellular and nerve activity, are able to build strong protein and fatty acid chains, that our chemical messaging systems has the right messengers who do not get lost. A healthy immune system ensures that we have the Natural Killer Cells (yes, they are really called that) in proper numbers and strength to destroy the erroneous cells that do occur. Proper nutrition also ensures that our tissues are healthy and less vulnerable. There are also substances in food that help to interfere with the activity of harmful substances in the body, some block access to cells, some destroy free-radicals, some ensure a quick passage through the body to lessen exposure to a particular substance.

What really got me thinking in the JNCI was that though no significant reduction in cancer rates were noted, there was a 30% decrease in heart disease in groups with better diets. Our lack of strong, consistent, rigorous research hasn’t stopped a large number of laymen and medical professional, and their organizations from promoting a very consistent type of diet. Keep your calories and fat low, your fibre and whole grain high and eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. Where is the harm in this? Maybe you won’t stop cancer, but you will likely stave off diabetes, heart disease and obesity.


World Health Organization; JCNIarticle one and article two; JACN; Specific Foods and their cancer fighting chemistry


Too Much Food

| August 10th, 2010 | No Comments »

If you are not Shaquille O’Neal, measuring in at 7 foot 1 inch, why do you weigh over three hundred pounds? Because you eat too much and move too little. There is no riddle about this, it is simple fact.

It is not politically correct to talk about being too fat. People who are grossly obese are fighting for their right not to be discriminated against by too small airplane seats and clothes that don’t come in their size. They say their genetics and environment are responsible and there is nothing they can do. We are supposed to sympathize with this and be polite about the terrible burden their genetics have placed upon them I really have trouble with this.

We all have struggles with our genetic gifts and curses. We all have things about our bodies that create challenge. Saying you can’t do anything about being fat when all evidence points to the contrary is one of the worst types of shirking. I have no desire to see the whole world fitting into size 0 clothes. That isn’t anymore realistic than saying you can’t do anything about being in triple-XL clothes. There needs to be responsibility taken. Effort needs to be made to balance the genetics we receive and the environment we live in with how we want our lives and bodies to be.

For me, I hate that I have only found one store where I can get jeans long enough to fit without spending more than forty dollars. But I admit that my size isn’t normal. I can’t do anymore about the genetics that gave me ridiculously long legs than the obese can do about their fat retaining genes. But they can work with them. They can admit that they have an unfortunate predisposition toward carrying extra weight and do some thing about it. Just as I, with a mother and grandfather who died in their 50’s of very similar lung cancers, can choose not to smoke. I will still have absurdly long legs and a higher than average chance of getting cancer, but at least the things I can do I am trying to do. For the obese to talk genetics and poor role models while eating fast food every day is no more acceptable than it would be for me to smoke a pack a day and then complain that I had gotten lung cancer. I know my risk factors, I work to do what I can to prevent promoting my genetic predispositions, we all have that responsibility.

I think there is merit to the idea that of an reasonable weight range. I think there is even more merit to the idea of a reasonable fitness level. I would rather be at a BMI of 30 (technically obese) and able to complete a quick, laughing, jog down the block to catch my two year old, than be at a 19 BMI (low end of the normal) and perpetually hungry and too out of shape to chase said two year old. Accepting your basic body type – in my early 20’s, at 5’10” and 155 lbs, I was still at a 22 BMI (mid-normal) and wearing a size 10, so I will never be a size 6 let alone a size 0 – is a good start. Then find a point where you can do all the things you need to do and still find eating enjoyable and fulfilling.

I do not want to spend 2-3 days recovering after 1 day of yard work, that wouldn’t work for my life, but I also do not want to run a marathon, or even a 10 km. I do want to be able to have an occasional drink and eat biscuits, with butter on them, with my stew. I do not need to eat a whole batch of biscuits. That is where I want my balance, and my body, to be. Your body and balance might be completely different, that is okay. But there is no balance in a body not able to walk to the corner store for milk, or to eating 5000 calories a day.

I feel for those who struggle with their weight. Even when I was within “normal” on the BMI I struggled with feeling too big. Now that I am, in fact, in the obese region (almost out again!) I know how hard it can be to get those pounds off. I also know that my choices in food and exercise are what needs to change, I am the one responsible for this balance.


Food and Advertising

| August 6th, 2010 | No Comments »

We have looked at why, genetically, we might crave high calorie, high fat food. We talked about our tendency to replace wholesome food with processed food in the name of time-saving. Is that the whole story? Not likely. There is more to this. Discipline and thoughtfulness help, making intelligent, informed choices helps, but neither are the whole story. One of the other big pieces is environment.

I am not talking about the global warming type environment, I am talking about the world around us. The world in which we work, play and live our lives everyday. Our modern environment is rich in stimulus. Rich in input. Rich in media.

Michael Mink did a study on advertising that showed that seventeen percent of ads on television are about food and that those were dominated by fast food restaurants and pop manufacturers. This probably doesn’t surprise anyone, but what might is that even the grocery store ads were dominated by processed, unhealthy foods. What a challenge this provides for our brains. Constant bombardment of imagery and sound pushing us to food that, if we were to eat it full-time, offers twenty-five times the daily recommended sugar, twenty times the recommended fat and only half the recommended dairy, fruit and vegetables.

I do not even have cable and I am still exposed to a lot of food ads. Recently McDonald’s is running a series of ads that all end by panning down the front of a woman’s body to a tray full of McDonald’s food. What does imagery of a slender woman’s body have to do with McDonald’s food? She is in one of their uniforms, but the long slow pan is just slightly sexual, and I find nothing about McDonald’s food sexy. The ad doesn’t make me want their food, but I am thinking about them, which is not the norm for me, so the campaign has achieved something. A more realistic ad would feature some slumpy overweight person with that food on their plate.

How do we combat this permeation of the airwaves too much food, and not enough nutrition? I have no answer. Awareness helps. Knowing they are, rather more literally than I am comfortable with, trying to seduce you into eating their fare, helps.

I just wish their was some way to have restaurants charge for food what is costs us to eat it. Perhaps contributions to those programs aimed at dealing with health problems related to overeating and being overweight. Programs that address diabetes, heart disease, weight reduction and eating disorders. Paying for scooters and oversize lifts that hospitals must invest in to move patients over three hundred pounds. If you are not Shaquille O’Neal, measuring in at 7 foot one inch, why do you weigh over three hundred pounds?

More simply still, and certainly less costly for everyone, why are they not spending more time and effort promoting healthy food? Is the mark-up on a cheeseburger that much better than on a salad in a plastic clam shell? If these restaurants have seen the need to have healthier choices on their menus, why do I rarely see them advertised? Why do grocery stores advertise the salty greasy chips that I love, but not the great deal they have on cucumbers, which I also love? Why, when we are being told to shop the perimeter of these stores as much a possible (where the least processed food resides) is the advertising derived from those central aisles?

When I think of that McDonald’s commercial, I remind myself it is a clever campaign. I remind myself that, regardless of any gut promptings, I do not want the burger sitting on the tray at the end of the pan shot. I think they have a good advertising firm and a great advertising budget. I wish they would spend it on something else though.