Not Another Diet — Principle 6

Skip The Packaged Foods And Added Sugars For Good

There is a conspiracy to make us fat.

Food companies have invested heavily in designing products that use sugar to bypass our natural appetite control mechanisms, and in packaging and promoting these products to break down what remains of our defences, including through the use of subliminal scents.
They employ an army of food scientists and psychologists to trick us into eating more than we need, while their advertisers use the latest findings in neuroscience to overcome our resistance.

Perhaps conspiracy is a little hyperbolic, but not by much.

They hire biddable scientists and think-tanks to confuse us about the causes of obesity. Above all, just as the tobacco companies did with smoking, they promote the idea that weight is a question of “personal responsibility”. After spending billions on overriding our willpower, they blame us for failing to exercise it.

If it’s the aim of capitalism to get consumers to spend more and more often, then it’s become the aim of food companies to get you to eat more, and more often. They do this by creating formulas that tap directly into your primal brain and make the food difficult, if not impossible, to put down.

That food not only causes overeating in the moment, but for hours or days to come. Your body has been fed an unnatural combination of salt, fat and sugar and is now in overdrive for more. If you expend a lot of energy battling food cravings, this is the likely culprit.

Did you know 74% of packaged foods have added sugar? Not just obviously unhealthy ‘treats’, but pasta sauces, pesto, crackers, almond butter and sometimes even things like packaged hummus. It’s been snuck into so many foods, I read every label before buying any food I want to consume.

Why is our food saturated with all these sweeteners? When did they make their way into our yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal? How did they sneak into our salad dressing, soup, bread, lunch meat, pasta sauce, and pretzels?

All that added sugar adds up, damages your natural ability to stop eating and changes your palate to always need a little sweetness. I’ve discovered it’s impossible to understand what I’m really consuming if I eat packaged foods. Sugar is masked by calling it all sorts of other names, there are fifty-six used regularly.

Added sugars also make the calorie count irrelevant. These manufactured foods are designed to make you want to eat, and eat, and eat. The compulsions they trigger last well past the time it took you to consume them.

For all these reasons it’s time to stop eating packaged foods. All of them. ‘Healthy’ snacks’? No. Yogurt with as much sugar as ice cream? No. Frozen diet meals with some added sugar by a different name? No.

“No one should be eating [vegetable chips] thinking that they’re doing something better for themselves than eating potato chips.”

Think of it this way. These health-washed companies have the same aim as any other. To get you to eat more, and more often. My advice is put down the cauliflower puffs and potato chips alike. The cost to your body, health and sanity is simply not worth it.

Instead, walk over to the bulk foods section and stock up on ingredients. Principle 3 goes into some detail on the kinds of foods to center your diet on, all of them come from recognizable food: beans, natural fats, whole grains, veggies, and fruits. Yes, it takes time to prepare them. See also, Principle 5.

Here is the simple question I use if I find myself considering buying a food product: do I recognize every ingredient as a real food? If the answer is no, put it back. Get your lunch at the grocery store if need be. I’ve eaten plenty of assembled meals of hard-boiled eggs, hummus and fruit when I’m in a hurry. You can even find these things at some convenience stores.

The second question; is there added sugar? If the answer is yes, I don’t care what the health and calorie claims are, it’s a no-go. I do eat some sugar, always when I understand it’s a treat. I don’t want to waste my splurges on something snuck into a pasta sauce. Or, eat foods that lead to metabolic disorders.

Food should nourish you, give you pleasure, and work with your body. Packaged foods have an aim that’s entirely at odds with your own (I don’t care what their marketing says). Added sugar wreaks havoc on your system and makes it impossible to get ahead of your cravings.

Make a rule for yourself; these obesogenic products have no place in your cupboard or body. Every time you are tempted to consume one, remind yourself, this product is designed to make me fat and to overwhelm my natural hunger response. It’s working against me and the goals I have for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

I don’t generally advocate an all or nothing approach. Packaged foods and added sugars are so damaging and difficult to control, this is an exception. In circumstances where new habits are being developed and new neural pathways are being created it’s best to just say no across the board.

If you are new to this series please go back and read the introduction. It’s important to understand the basics before simply adopting the principles.