A big part of the No Impact project was to eat only local, seasonal, unpackaged food. That meant, basically, lots of fresh vegetables. Michelle and I both lost a lot of weight.
As though to prove how good eating a local-food diet is for kids, too, BusinessWeek writer Cathy Arnst has posted a story, which comes from the processed food end of things, called "How Mac 'n' Chees Is Like a Cigarette." She writes:
Our national weight gain is not, as many people assume, because we are far less active; studies have found little difference in energy expended now than in the 1950s. It is because we are eating far, far more calories than ever before, in the form of soda, junk food, sweets, fat and salt laden meals, and huge portions. We have become addicted to food, and that addiction starts in very early childhood.
Kessler [author of the new book The End of Overeating] lays out how sugar, fat and salt stimulates the reward centers of the brain in much the same way as cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs. By eating food that is extremely palatable, we keep wanting more, whether or not we are hungry. Since highly palatable junk food is socially acceptable, and often cheaper than the healthy stuff, we keep going back for more. The food industry knows this better than anyone. Kessler quotes an industry consultant who says that food manufacturers try to hit the “three points of the compass”:
Sugar, fat and salt make a food compelling, said the consultant. They make it indulgent. They make it high in hedonic value, which gives us pleasure. “Do you design food specifically to be highly hedonic,” I asked. “Oh, absolutely,” he replied without a moment’s hesitation. “We try to bring as much of that into the equation as possible.
Here's the good news about local eating. None of the farmers I talk to at the farmers' market try to jam their food with salt, fat or sugar to get my little Isabella addicted.
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