Studying for the Wrong Test
Written on September 11, 2007 at 8:57 am, by Eric Cressey
When I read this article about the FDA asking companies to consider using a system of symbols on packaging to denote whether foods were healthy or not, I immediately thought back to my trip last week to buy a new desk at IKEA.
For those who don’t know, IKEA is a company of Swedish origin that just so happens to have a food court. That food court is world-renowned for – you guessed it – Swedish meatballs. And, given that the store is roughly the size of the entire state of Rhode Island, you can bet that my girlfriend and I were in there so long that we needed a nutritional intervention at the food court to avoid dying of starvation during what amounted to the Hundred Years War of furniture purchasing (for the record, we lost this war; the desk was sold out and I’m now typing this with my laptop on top of my bureau). Plus, I was anxious to show my girlfriend that I really know how to treat a lady to a fine meal (eat your heart out, ladies). But I digress…
As we stood in line with two chicken caesar salads (dressing on the side), we (seemingly simultaneously) noticed the cafeteria tray of the woman in front of me. She was about 5-3, 200 pounds. I’d estimate that she had about 487 meatballs (or at least 15) on her plate, and it was tastefully arranged such that the add-on heap of macaroni and cheese offered such a delicate contrast of coloring that even Martha Stewart would have skipped a breath. Had Martha seen the accompanying chocolate and peanut butter torte, she might not have been able to get her breath back at all. It was 4,000 calories worth of trans-fatty grace. But it clearly wasn’t enough.
Just in front of my fellow shopper was a stack of chocolate bars that caught her attention like a fart in church. She grabbed one of the bars, and glanced at the label (of course, so did I). It had 630 calories and 31 grams of fat. I couldn’t get a good view of the sugar content – as she had tossed it onto her tray before I could even read it. There was no hesitation at all. Chances are that she almost swallowed her hand minutes later in her attempt to eat it.
What’s my point?
Frankly, labels don’t mean much. Behavior modification goes a lot further than that.
When you were ten, did you know to not drink the Draino because it had the little skull and crossbones on it, or did you know because it was hidden from plain view – and your mother had instilled in you early-on that drinking Draino wasn’t good for you?
If we want to effect favorable societal changes in the way people eat, we need to spend more time educating kids and their parents about good food choices and – just as importantly – behavior modifications.
Dr. John Berardi’s Precision Nutrition System has been wildly popular and successful. Why? Among other reasons, John focuses on behavior modification via his Seven Habits of Highly Effective Nutrition Programs.
As much as I dislike the programs, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig have worked for many people simply because they’ve encouraged behavior modification before the fact.
In other words, in both cases, you pick what you’re going to eat ahead of time – not when you’re reading a label at the grocery store. That’s when you’re behind the eight-ball already.