When is the last time you saw a head of broccoli with the label "All Natural!" on it? Have you ever bought a bunch of kale with "New and Improved!" plastered on the front? Or how about a package of chicken breasts with "Now More Protein!!" stamped on each one? I'm guessing you'll say never.
Conversely, have you ever seen a product from a company that has an increased amount of protein added to it just sitting there quietly on the shelf? Ever bought a product you thought was healthier just because you knew it was, without the labeling telling you so? It's almost like the food industry produces a bunch of products that have Attention Deficit Disorder, sitting on the shelf screaming to each passerby about how awesome they are. "Hey! Look at me! I'm great for you! You want to buy me because I'm SHINY and I'm ALL NATURAL!! Come on, buy me, buy me, BUY ME!"
My point in all this hyperbole is that foods that are truly good for you do not have to be marketed as such. It's just fact. Most people know that vegetables are good for us. Most people know we need quality, whole foods. Yet our country continues to get bigger waistlines, continues to increase its preventable medical spending and continues to get sicker. What gives?
I think many factors play into our decisions - too many to cover in one article, for sure. But let's look at a few, shall we? Some of these are proven; some are just me pontificating (ohh, bonus points, five syllables!).
I think we love spending money. We also love thinking that we're doing something to better our health. The food industry knows this, and they happily oblige by putting out overpriced and under-nourishing food options. I don't think this is a conspiracy, I just think it's good business. There's money to be made in overcharging people on sugar- and fat-laden bars by simply smacking "high protein" on the label, especially when that doesn't mean anything at all. I'm sure the profit margin on those sugar/fat "protein" bars is much higher than it is on anything in the produce section.
We're proven to be visual creatures. We buy things with our eyeballs. We subconsciously make up our minds on a purchase within seconds. It's proven true time and time again, and food companies know this. It's the reason they spend gobs of money on testing what colors sell best, where to best place the product on the shelves and what words will catch your eye. It takes true grit, knowledge and experience to take the time to sift through the list of ingredients and discern what's good for you and what's good marketing.
We want to fit in. Think about it. If you eat healthy or want to do so, God forbid you urge someone else to do the same. If you try to get somebody else to eat healthy, by offering vegetables or even words of advice, be prepared for a look of disgust. "How dare you tell me how to eat! Are you calling me fat?"
Let the table turn, however, and it's a completely different story. How often have you been at a party, a get-together or a work function and had someone shove a piece of cake or a donut in your face. "Here, eat this! You're getting too skinny." Now you're put in the uncomfortable position of turning down a food that you know is horrible for you. Not to mention, you risk offending the pie-supplier and potentially becoming a health food wacko. We feel we have to eat the sweets, or we'll be ostracized. There are few other deeper fears in the human experience.
I think we get information overload. We are subject to a constant barrage of Internet and television ads or shows or "gurus" telling us about the latest and greatest products and supplements. This ties into wanting to buy things to make us feel better. But it's more damaging than that. It seems like my work as a nutrition coach has become more and more about dispelling fallacies than providing any real bits of benefit. It's almost like a political debate - sling enough mud on top of the truth, and watch the good guy drown under his explanations. Again, if you have to be told it's healthy for you, it's probably not. At the very least, it's nowhere near as effective as they're leading you to believe.
So what do you do? How do you stop yourself from getting sucked in? Simple. You learn to think for yourself. Stop listening to the "gurus," the ads and the marketing. A simple Google search can easily lead you to biased websites with fake reviews that tout how awesome a product is. But you won't be fooled by that any longer.
No, because you can think for yourself. Because you'll do your research or, at the very least, ask more than one person. You won't be sucked into the cycle of bad decisions that so many people seem content to live in. You will rise above. You will learn from your mistakes. You won't be fooled by the new-age snake oil salesmen. You will know that true healthy foods don't have to scream their worth at you. You will slowly improve your choices and, with them, your body and your health. Not to mention your kitchen will be a lot quieter without all that loud food.
The resources are out there. Do it for you. Do it for your family. Do it for future you. Do it because you only have one body in this lifetime. Don't let anybody con you out of doing exactly that.
Andy Frisch, NASM CPT, CES, PES, WFS, IFT, NESTA FNC, is a successful personal trainer and nutrition coach who enjoys working with clients of all shapes, sizes and ages. He currently train clients at Sports Village Fitness in Lebanon, works with clients online at www.FreshEvolutionFitness.com and has a budding YouTube channel.