Does a James Bond live within you? Survival largely depends on energy provided to your organs to keep you alive and kicking every day. And you get that energy from the foods you eat and drink.
So how does this give you a license to kill?
Food is on your mind more often than you think. According to Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brands Lab at Cornell University, the typical person makes between 200 and 250 decisions about food every day. And that gives you a plethora of chances to make bad food choices on a daily basis that could lead to diseases like type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
You may think that 200-250 daily food decisions is an obnoxiously overestimate of how often you think about food until you consider that most of your fare decisions are made on a subconscious level. When you’re standing in line at your local grocery store’s checkout line, for instance, how many times do you find yourself instinctively reaching for a Snickers bar or pack of gum while your food items are on the conveyor belt ready to be scanned for checkout?
Junk food is deliberately placed at the cashiers’ lines because grocers know that most people either give little or no thought at all to grab an unhealthy food while their brain is focused on how much their bill is going to be or some other event that’s going on in their lives.
Your environment helps your subconscious mind make decisions about food throughout the day. The distance you stand from the food at a house party is an example of an environmental factor. Studies have shown the closer you stand to the food area, the more comestibles you’ll ingest. The holidays are upon us so you can test this out for yourself. Pay attention to who’s standing closest to the food area. You’ll find that most of the heavier people will be closer to the food while their thinner counterparts will be further from the food.
On a conscious level, you justify eating food that can eventually kill you; it’s called licensing.
Let’s say that you’re in a Trader Joe’s grocery store and see a bright yellow label on a ground beef package that reads, “Extra Lean 96% Lean/4% Fat.” The label illiterate shopper would think that this ground beef is super lean and decides to buy it assuming that it’s a healthy choice. As you’re at the checkout line, you glance at the Snickers bar but decide not to buy it because you’re trying to be fit in the bikini you just bought for your upcoming vacation. Then you find yourself looking at the Kit Kat bar. Again, you tell yourself that you’re trying to look good in your new bikini. As you’re driving home, you see your favorite ice cream joint.
And this is where you justify getting your favorite ice cream. You tell yourself that you bought the healthy 96% lean ground beef, you passed up the Snickers bar AND the Kit Kat bar so you deserve a reward for being good in the grocery store. So you buy the ice cream with no guilt.
Here’s the problem when it comes to environmental factors like Food Marketing….
Let’s take a closer look at the food label on this Trader Joe’s packaged ground beef. On the left side it states, “Extra Lean Ground Beef 96% lean / 4 % fat.” This tells the buyer this meat product has only 4% fat in it. This becomes the license to make a bad food choice sometime in the near future – in this case, the ice cream. You already ate the ice cream and all of the fat that came with it. But you justify the ice cream by eating the seemingly low-fat ground beef for dinner that night. The problem is this ground beef does not have only 4% fat in it. Rather is has 28% fat in it.
Here’s the breakdown:
1) There are 9 calories of energy per gram of fat. In this product, there are 4 grams of fat, which equals 36 calories coming from fat. The food manufacturer just rounded their number to 40 calories from fat.
2) There are 130 total calories per serving.
3) Divide total calories from fat calories
4) 36/130 = 28% fat!
So how can the food manufacturer label this ground beef as 4% fat?
1) There are 113 grams of ground beef per serving
2) There are 4 grams of fat per serving
3) Divide total grams of beef by 4 grams of fat
4) 4/113 = 3.5 grams of fat. Again, the food manufacturer rounded it to 4% fat.
The food manufacturer used the total weight of one serving of beef and divided it by the weight of fat in one serving of beef. This should be illegal because everyone in the food industry knows that not all grams of macronutrients (i.e. protein, fat, and carbohydrate) are equal.
One gram of:
1) Protein = 4 calories
2) Carbohydrate = 4 calories
3) Fat = 9 calories
Not only did you eat a lot of fat from the ice cream but you also ate 24% more fat than you thought in the ground beef. And licensing like this on a continual basis will pack on the weight, which can lead to diseases that could eventually kill you.
We all need to learn how to read food labels so we that we can make healthier food decisions. In my book Transforming Your Lifestyle One Belief at a Time, I break down both the food label and the ingredient list piece-by-piece so that you’ll have a clear understanding about what exactly is in the food your eating. Food labels and ingredient lists on packaged foods offer a wealth of information for a healthier lifestyle if you understand what you’re looking for. Knowledge is power!