Just Think About Shoes


Earlier this week, I was at a Conference with Big Food. The website advertised it as a “Food and
Nutrition Conference” however there was very little if not zero nutrition knowledge to be had. I
learned a great deal, not necessarily what I was hoping to learn, but that is ok, I was able to get a
very good glimpse into the inner workings of Big Food. To understand the forces against the
“Whole Foods Crowds” as we were called is extremely helpful. As is understanding the rationale
of the modern grocery store from the way it is designed, to the pricing and even the size and
location of the displays.

When doing oppositional research, it can be quite difficult to not get into an argument. I found it
particularly challenging when a High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) salesman from Raleigh,
North Carolina insisted on telling me the studies touting it as one of the worst things to happen to
America is all flawed. They are “fake news”. He has the real data. I couldn’t tell him about the
studies I have read from other countries, or how I know HFCS to be incredibly damaging from
personal experience. I just listened and nodded and tried to think of calming things like shoe

Things got weird again when a lovely woman who I met at the hotel gym and really enjoyed chit-chatting
with ends up working for a Wheat lobbying group. At breakfast she told me how wheat
is “a food group”, I just about fell off of my chair, as food groups are a made up term and wheat
was never one even then, grains were. What isn’t made up are micronutrients. For the record, if

you ever got on Jeopardy, have on three, you know them as carbohydrates, fat, and protein. This
an example of the type of half-truth I heard constantly. I practiced active listening and mentally
walked through the shoe department at Saks Fifth Avenue. While she babbled about the fallacies
of gluten intolerance, I was visualizing the high knee suede boots I might like to try on next time
I am in Manhattan.

It reminded me of the phenomenon I researched over the Summer when I guest blogged about
the movie “What the Health”. It left when so many people were confused over what to do next,
what was safe to eat? The meat was bad, but then soy caused cancer or something… Dr. Barry Sears,
the originator of the South Beach Diet, compared this phenomenon to cigarette manufacturers in
the 1960s creating enough confusion so consumers could justify smoking cigarettes.

Campbell’s Soup wanted to be honest with their consumers, so they started an ad campaign
where they explained why the added HFCS, GMO wheat, and mechanically separated chicken to
Spaghetti-Os. It was a successful campaign in that sales weren’t impacted in the least. It is
believed that Spaghetti-Os customers don’t really care about such things as HFCS, GMO wheat,
and mechanically separated chicken as they do the price. I would argue that the profit margins on
Spaghetti-Os has been so large for so long, Campbell’s could do better and should do better, but I
wasn’t about to engage with their executive at such a level at a conference at a public forum. I
was not there to debate, and let’s face it, such high level decisions were not going to be made
earlier this week in a ballroom in Chicago. The major policy changes and budgetary shifts are

made back at Corporate headquarters in New Jersey. I went back to my happy place and
remembered when Mr. Big proposed to Carrie on Sex And The City with a blue Manolo Bhlanik.

Big Food does not seem to care one way or the other about America’s health epidemic. To be
fair, they appeared indifferent and were looking at the health preoccupation as a sea change or

market condition. They needed to go through the motions of using buzz words such as “gluten-
free” or “probiotic’ but in their focus groups, most of their participants had no idea what those

terms really meant, or they were wrong definitions. Collectively, Big Food appeared to be
frustrated with having to add such labels and natural flavorings to their food while knowing the
average consumer, doesn’t really understand it, but they still like to see them. They even had
research where when consumers were asked to explain the Nutrition Data on the back of a can of
lower Sodium soup, and what it should be one answer was “four”. For the record, Sodium is
measured in milligrams. The consumers in the study didn’t know that part, but they did like the
front of the can reading “lower sodium”, things were rather murky when asked what exactly the
number lower was from.

Sitting in on the conference reinforced the main themes of my book, (don’t you love it when you
are right?) The introduction of high amounts of sugar and flour causes chaos with most people’s
brains and eventually their waistlines where it is stored as body fat. When it was in style to eat
low or no fat, and the manufacturers were only too happy to comply, as they had found a way to
replace the fat with cheap sugar aka HFCS, it went against our biology as we get full or satiated
from fat. The trifecta has contributed to America becoming one of the unhealthiest countries in

the world. Big Food has found a way to make sugar cheaper with HFCS, and flour chapter
through the GMO process.

The stack is truly stacked against the average American consumer. Big Food is trying like hell to
get us to eat a certain way, they have tons of money to make persuasive advertisements and even
hire researchers to figure out the best way to design a packaging label so to most appeal to our
brains. Once we buy the food, it is chemically altered for maximum satisfaction as quickly as
possible, and most of the time nutrition is left by the wayside. The end result is our health is
negatively impacted, if we choose to buy what they are selling.

I am glad I went to the Conference because it will make me a better Weight Loss Coach. I have a
clearer view of why I do not want my clients to go inside of the grocery store where my friends
from Nestle, Campbells, Unilever, ConAgra, and PepsiCo sell their goods. My clients need to stay
on the perimeter and run out. The amount of time each spent discussing their Snack divisions
was alarming. Snacking is a new concept and an unnecessary one at that. We should be hungry
when we sit down to eat, and if we eat a proper lunch, we won’t crash at 4pm. However, Big
Food would rather you keep the lunch that made your energy plummet and then you could eat
some sort of concoction full of processed food instead. There was not one word mentioned along
with the lines of how our bodies need 4-6 hours between meals to properly digest, or that the closer
we eat to bedtime the less quality sleep we are likely to heat, which will almost always impact
our ability to make good food choices in the morning. All the snack divisions were interested in
was having us sample the new juice blends with zero fiber and protein bars with infused

probiotics. This was another one of those times where I found myself mentally trying on this
season’s black velvet high heels versus standing up and asking a leading question during the
Q&A section of the presentation.

Thankfully, Big Food has not been able to touch my food or my beloved shoes. Broccoli, chicken
and coconut oil still seems safe from their influences. Here is to hoping it always stays that way!!



Tomorrow and until Thursday, I will be focusing on Thanksgiving strategies. If you have any
specific questions or comments, you can email me at erin@erinwathenwellness.com.

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