It has been in effect for almost half a year and many Californians still don’t know what to make of the calorie labeling law. It seems that more people were up in arms when municipal officials in New York City and San Francisco passed more surgical laws aimed at sugar sweetened beverages and kids meals respectively. There was a lot of debate going around about personal liberties and other TEA Party ideals, and all that was at stake was the prospect of switching to diet soda and swapping apple sticks for your french fries.
It seems this grand-scale food labeling law was passed and implemented with nothing more than a collective, “hummmmm” as we let these ubiquitous nutritional qualifiers rain all over our lunch-time parades. I find myself balking at the 4-digit figures on the rare occasions the forces of nature drive me to such an establishment.
Lawmakers and Public Health officials hope that they can lead us to make better choices about our food through, quite literally, “in-your-face” caloric content labeling. I hope they can, however, even before the latest behavioral studies started trickling in, I had my doubts about the success of this tactic. Ok, I can’t lead you to believe my doubts were purely intuition and professional prowess. The sad fact is that New York City has already had a similar law in effect for nearly two years. So why would CA attempt to pass it across the State after sad reviews from New York City? Four silly little words that has the power to concentrate more hubris then you’ll find in a back alley pissing contest behind some Texas roadhouse:
More Research is necessary…
Gee, wouldn’t it have been nice to do the research, then pass the laws? I can tell you right now that even after we spend millions of tax dollars on self-evident research, I will still not incorporate this public calorie count tactic in to the Movement for Wellness. Food is a very personal thing and needs to be addressed in a highly specific manner. I applaud those government officials responsible for this law for being progressively minded in that they are looking for ways to improve our overall health using the means available to them. My regret is that this broad-brush health promotion directs the conversation to a place where we find ourselves stumbling over decisions that in the (rear) end, are of little consequence.
Knowledge ≠ Behavior
I can remember in school, just as we were awakening from the overly romanticized dream of getting an education and being promised the world at our fingertips, our professors would periodically try to pump us up with a little study-related pep-talk. Being an Exercise Science major, I often heard such studies cited that correlated level of education with longevity and quality of life. I remember thinking, “If knowledge equates to better health, why are we not doing a better job at spreading the word as a society?”.
The truth is that leading a person to approach their everyday health decisions armed only with a slew of numerical goals and limits reduces the human being to a Newtonian closed-system machine subject only to the ancient physics of yesteryear. Our relationship with food is one of both emotion, quantum mechanics and finally caloric consumption.
Few scientists have explained this truth better than Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology. In his very long and comprehensive lecture titled Sugar: The Bitter Truth, he explains how we obsess over our intake and expenditure of energy when it comes to our diets. As a specialist of the hormones, Dr. Lustig asserts that when it comes to our food having an impact on our body shape, it’s not the amount of calories that we should worry about; however we should worry about how our body responds on a hormonal level to the type of food we ingest. The new fixation on calories takes us even further than we already are from the true focus according to so many ant-obesity researchers such as Dr. Lustig.
It goes without saying that with new legislation comes new possibility to cheat the system. When the public is lulled in to a false sense of security and they abdicate all of their food consumer responsibility to the suits in the FDA, USDA, NHS, et al., it creates open season on the public for the wiley marketing teams and media manipulators in the food industry. This has been at work for quite a long time. How else did we get to a point where we down Anti-oxidant soda, and stuff ourselves with sugary “low-fat” treats in the name of making healthier choices.
Keep in mind that adults are not the only ones exposed to these new social eating norms. Children learn what is valued in their society by their keen sense of observation. As they see adults torture themselves over indulging in a calorie-dense meal, they’ll learn to largely base their food choices on caloric values. Children should be taught to maintain their innate sense of intuitive eating. Sure we need to limit their affinity to the sugary and salty but they certainly do not need to inherit our obsession with calorie content over quality of food and eating that truly matter; food, farm and family.
Jamie Oliver is on the right track when he partnered up with a Los Angeles fast food restaurant in his latest season of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. One of the first questions he asks the owner of the restaurant is, “do you know where your food comes from?”. It’s sad to hear that the well-meaning guy only stumbles as a response and mentions a guy…in a warehouse…downtown somewhere. These are the questions we should demand get answered by those who feed us; not the caloric value rather the integrity of the product itself. Get back to basics and as my good friend Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness says, JERF!…….Just Eat Real Food!
- Calorie Labeling and Mandated Food Choices: Can Such Strategies Work? (diabetesdialectics.wordpress.com)
- You: Calorie-Counting Rule to Leave Out Movie Theaters (nytimes.com)
- Dieting Becomes a Federal Affair (online.wsj.com)