Conflict of Interests

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I’ve been thinking about this post for quite a while now, but held back from actually writing it as I was afraid of going off on a paranoid tangent of conspiracy theories and illogical ranting about the food / supermarket industry. I still am! I will proceed carefully, and reign myself in if I get into ‘Grassy Knoll’ territory.

 

Way back when, I talked about about what caused me to be fat. The logical reason was – I ate too much. I took in more calories than I expended, therefore I stored the excess as fat. Simple. I didn’t go into why I ate too much though, because there are far too many reasons why; and to start listing them would turn this post into a self-serving pity party. Suffice to say, I used to EAT my FEELINGS. How dramatic! Well, it started out like that. A bit of casual comfort eating to get me through the stresses of puberty. Puberty doesn’t last forever though, and the imaginary stresses and emotional turmoil of it soon dissipate. So why was I still eating? By this time, I was fat because I was eating – and eating because I was fat. A very cliched vicious circle, but vicious nonetheless. Soon enough, my mood was irrelevant to my hunger. It occupied me entirely, an unquenchable gluttony that abated only very briefly after each binge. It got to the point where I felt tetchy and on edge if I didn’t have something in the house to eat if I so desired, even though I cooked very little at home. It always had to be the same ritual I showed you in Life Before Slimming World – sandwiches, crisps, chocolate; in that order. It’s fair to say I had formed a very unhealthy habit that was bordering on addiction.

 

Addiction is a strong word, more commonly associated with alcohol and drugs; but food? Seems a bit extreme. How can you be addicted to food? It’s food. Yes and no. The BBC documentary “The Men Who Made Us Fat” suggests otherwise. If you didn’t catch it, the most interesting theory posited was that high levels of fructose in the diet can cause leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that signals the brain that we have had enough to eat. It tells us when to stop. Studies have shown than increased consumption of fructose means the brain finds it harder to know when to stop. During the early 80s, mass production of corn in the US led to mass production of high fructose corn syrup, which was used as a sweeter and cheaper alternative to sugar. Unsurprisingly, food manufacturers began using this cheap and plentiful ingredient in pretty much everything. Soft drinks, cereals, breads – the works. Soon enough, the UK followed suit. In the UK, this syrup is known as glucose syrup or glucose-fructose. Have a look – it’s everywhere. It’s in bags of sweets, bars of chocolates, soft drinks, cereal bars….the list goes on.

 

So. If it can be shown that consumption of this syrup via the foods above is messing with our minds, why would any reputable company use it? Such companies includes Cadburys, Mars, Coca Cola, Nestle, Kelloggs – the big label brands in every supermarket. Simple answer is – it’s cheap. Cheap ingredients equal a higher profit. Not only for the producers might I add. Bigfatmarathon herself (me) works in the convenience/grocery sector! I buy and sell the very things that make people fat. The very things that made me fat! I am surrounded by ‘impulse’ items, goodies, treats, whatever you like to call them. It’s in my interest to surround my customers with them, as they yield significant profits. A perfect example being Haribo. A standard bag of Haribo with a big yellow £1 sticker on it costs me 70p, including the VAT. So out of your pound, I get thirty pence. The slightly smaller bags with no £1 sticker cost even less, sometimes I can buy them for 50p. I still charge a pound, which the customers sees as being good value, and I have a clear fifty pence of profit. A can of Coke costs me 30p – I sell it for 65p. I can buy a packet of McVities Chocolate Digestives for around 80p, but the pack has £1.69 stamped on it. That leaves me with 89p profit, more than the price I actually paid. You can see why selling these types of products is attractive to me! I will always actively encourage my customers to buy this stuff, even though I know it’s bad for them. Hence – conflict of interests. When I see someone who is very overweight buying lots of these items on a regular basis, I do feel bad. My instinct is to tell them to put them down and join Slimming World, but it’s really none of my business. If someone had said that to me when I was waddling my way round the aisles, I think I would have died of shame and embarrassment. So I am torn between two lovers! Promoting healthy eating vs revelling in the profitability of junk food. It’s a tricky one. Let us also remember that VAT plays a significant role in all this too. 20% of what the consumer pays for an item such as chocolate, sweets etc goes to the government by way of VAT. I would love to know how much VAT is generated from the sale of the junk foods the government is trying so hard to discourage us from eating. Like I say, it’s not just the manufacturers who benefit. Junk food is a cash cow that is milked by the very top, right down to people like me – at the bottom.

 

I’m going to wrap up, as I’m beginning to bore myself. My end point is: The Men Who Made Us Fat did so by making stuff that tastes better than fruit and vegetables, and by selling it to us cheaply. We have kept ourselves fat with poor decision making and lack of education. Now that we have been educated, we allow ourselves to be fat because we think it’s someone elses fault. We are victims of big business. Ultimately, we can all make the choice to stop. It’s hard, and it can’t happen overnight, but how do you know if you don’t try? Don’t be Cadbury’s bitch – ignore the £1 stickers, and either walk away or just go for a smaller bag. Or try some fruit! It’s just as sweet!

 

Thoughts, views, opinions, disagreements welcome.

 

 

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One thought on “Conflict of Interests

  1. I studied food ethics at university, so I find things like this fascinating. I’ll agree that this comes down, in large part, to the choices one makes for oneself. However, when we look at the issue demographically, we see that obesity rates are highest among the poorer segments of society. And that, at least in part, can be attributed to the fact that we make these empty calories cheaper (through government subsidies, and other benefits given to the companies that produce these foods).

    Unfotunately, I don’t even know where we would begin to address the sort of systemic change that would be necessary to balance the system so that REAL food is cost effective for all members of our societies.

    I can understand your conflict when you see people buying things that are bad for them. You can’t force people to be healthy. However, when we allow coporations to aggressively market unhealthy lifestyle products to people, I think we make it difficult for people to educate themselves about what’s healthy. And that makes it difficult for people to truly make an informed decision about the foods they are buying. It’s particularly bad here in the US, given that so many food companies vociferously oppose any regulation related to labeling food so consumers know what they’re buying.

    Sorry, I’ll stop now. Like you, it’s easy for me to start off on a rant on these issues.

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