Hooked

Here in France, we are lucky enough to be able to watch Christiane Amanpour on CNN. The other night, there was an interview with the journalist Michael Moss. He has written a book entitled Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions. The book was launched March 2nd and already is a best seller.

From Amazon: “Moss uses the latest research on addiction to uncover what the scientific and medical communities—as well as food manufacturers—already know: that food, in some cases, is even more addictive than alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Our bodies are hardwired for sweets, so food giants have developed fifty-six types of sugar to add to their products, creating in us the expectation that everything should be cloying; we’ve evolved to prefer fast, convenient meals, hence our modern-day preference for ready-to-eat foods. Moss goes on to show how the processed food industry—including major companies like Nestlé, Mars, and Kellogg’s—has tried not only to evade this troubling discovery about the addictiveness of food but to actually exploit it. For instance, in response to recent dieting trends, food manufacturers have simply turned junk food into junk diets, filling grocery stores with “diet” foods that are hardly distinguishable from the products that got us into trouble in the first place. As obesity rates continue to climb, manufacturers are now claiming to add ingredients that can effortlessly cure our compulsive eating habits.” 

Any food addict who is in recovery from their addiction, will tell you, “I knew something was up. Food addiction is real. But this just validates everything we already knew. Now maybe big bucks will fight for us the way the tobacco industry was brought down.”

I’m very grateful that this journalist (he also wrote a book called Salt, Sugar, Fat, his first foray into the Giant Food business. The book won the Pulitzer Prize). I have not yet read Hooked but from the two interviews I’ve heard, it seems he is far more believable than those of us dying from food addiction.

I’m going to let others who have read the book speak. I want to get the word out that this book exists and not wait until I have finished reading it. So forgive me for quoting other voices.

From the New York Times: “And, wow, are the hard-wired instincts to eat these foods powerful — more so than those that push us toward addictive drugs like heroin and nicotine. Even seeing the pictures of certain foods can cause us to salivate. In unforgettable language, Moss describes how less than a second after you bite into a luscious chocolate or a glazed doughnut, flavor sensations derived from a combination of sugar and fat, as well as other smells and tastes, hit your brain, interact with memories and release a flood of neurotransmitters that stimulate and perpetuate fundamental cravings.

To trick us to eat more they also lure us in with low prices, dazzling packaging, convenience and trumped-up variety. One example among many: Differently colored M&M’s taste the same but dupe our brains to consume more than if they were all just brown. Perhaps most cunningly, Big Food has also acquired many major brands of processed diet foods like Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine. One has to admit it’s clever to make money helping us get fat and then profit from our efforts (usually futile) to lose weight.” https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/12/books/review/hooked-michael-moss.html

A portrait of Michael Moss, a New York Times investigative reporter who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for explanatory reporting and is the author of the best seller, ‘Salt Sugar Fat’, New York, August 8, 2013. Moss has been a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, New York Newsday and the Wall Street Journal.

From NPR: “Addiction is a spectrum, Moss says. Not every person with substance abuse disorder experiences tolerance — which is the need for more and more of the substance to feel its effects — or intense withdrawal symptoms. Some people, scientists have learned, are affected only mildly. The early part of the book is helpful for reframing addiction in this way but, even so, does it make sense to talk about addiction to processed foods as one would about addition to tobacco or heroin?

Moss says yes.

Repetitive behavior that’s difficult to quit and that causes harm — the most accurate definition of addiction — accurately describes what many of us experience when it comes to highly processed foods. In the U.S., the turn towards overeating these foods occurred in the early 1980s, and the subsequent rise in conditions like hypertension, heart disease, cancer and diabetes is linked to it.” https://www.npr.org/2021/03/03/972747664/there-are-so-many-flavors-of-potato-chips-hooked-looks-at-why

From the San Francisco Chronicle: “To define the term “addiction,” Moss quotes a now-retired Philip Morris CEO who called it “a repetitive behavior that some people find difficult to quit.” Drawing parallels between Big Food and Big Tobacco, Moss relates how both industries manipulate our cravings for profit.

“Hooked” leads us into laboratories and courtrooms, kitchens and legislatures, and threads the complex and contentious arguments at the intersection of personal responsibility and corporate liability. The story opens with a Brooklyn teenager who, because of a daily diet of Big Macs, sodas, shakes and fries, is morbidly obese. She’s one of the first plaintiffs in what would become a series of lawsuits holding fast-food companies responsible for personal injury through the design of their products.

If knowledge is power, then” Hooked”  provides the facts we need to free ourselves from remaining unwitting conspirators in Big Food’s ruse. For too long, we’ve allowed this industry to exploit all the ways we’re drawn to their health-damaging products.

“Wrestling free of an addiction requires us to give up something that came to define our lives,” Moss writes. This is hard, he admits. “Enticement is the calculated business of those who make and sell processed food. They have nearly endless resources in knowing our vulnerabilities.” https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/books/review-in-hooked-how-big-tobacco-and-big-food-are-alike

Do you need more information to draw your own conclusion? Here from Publishers Weekly: “Food is a drug, and its manufacturers are tempting consumers into addiction, according to this contentious exposé by Pulitzer-winning journalist Moss (Salt Sugar Fat).” https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8129-9729-3

Most of you who suffer from the same disease that I do probably don’t need to read the book to know that what Moss has written about is true. We have lived it. So just know that the proof is starting to roll out to the world at large. There is sugar in everything, and it is there on purpose. Even your Weight Watchers bar that has x amount of points has the addictive sugar in it. If science is your thing, you will love this book. It is easy to read.

The main idea in the book is: Kick the sugar…..forever. Don’t take a vacation from abstaining from it. Don’t think of it as cheating–who are you cheating? I, personally, am of the belief that if I were to eat sugar today, I don’t know if I could kick it again. I believe it is that addictive and now I know that the ante has been upped 1000%.

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