We’ve survived a massive global disruption. Now that we’ve moved on to its wake, not much seems to have changed, especially not when it comes to the food industry.
In fact, rather than using the pandemic to stimulate wide-scale improvements in nutrition and food production, the food industry has doubled down on snack foods and breakfast cereals, including using sugary foods to reward people for wearing masks and vaccinating.
Now, as life heads “back to normal,” Eric suggests that we might not want to do that.
No, we shouldn’t, is the notion Eric Edmeades, founder of WILDFIT®, gives in an exclusive interview with Mindvalley. In fact, his sentiments indicate that health-wise, the food industry failed us…and it’s getting worse.
And here’s why.
What’s the Current State of Health of American Adults?
It’s no secret Americans have a love affair with food. Fast food, celebratory feasts, elevating chefs to celebrity status, and even creating national food holidays (National Donut Day, anyone?)…the culinary scene is really a wonderment.
This relationship, no doubt, has led to a nationwide health problem, like obesity and the diseases linked to it, long before Covid-19 hit.
A 2021 systemic review and meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health looked into how the pandemic contributed to sedentary time and behavior in children and adults. It found an increase, which affected all age groups, but children more than the rest. The study also highlights the increase in this lifestyle negatively correlated with adult and child obesity, anxiety, depression, mental health, and overall quality of life.
As a matter of fact, the CDC’s annual health statistics reported that in 2019, the percentage of people who reported fair or poor health status increased with age. The highest was among adults aged 65 and over (25.1%), followed by those aged 55-64 (21.7%), 45–54 (15.3%), 18–44 (8.4%), and children under age 18 years (2.7%).
With these findings, one can only wonder if there were any changes with obesity during the pandemic.
Has obesity increased during the pandemic?
Simply put, yes. And the lockdowns didn’t much to improve the situation. Truth be told, it may have, instead, contributed to the increase in consuming unhealthy foods, a reduction of activity, and the growing prevalence of this chronic disease.
Here’s a closer look at some data that support this concern:
- Obesity rates increased. The number of states with high obesity rates has more than doubled to 35% compared to 2018, as per a 2022 press release issued by the CDC. This increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, poor mental health, and much more.
- Eating to cope with stress. One in four adults, in fact, according to the 2022 Food & Health Survey conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC). And emotional eating contributed to 73% saying they snack at least once a day.
- Dieting to lose weight. The same survey also found a 52% increase in respondents following a diet or eating pattern in 2022 (as opposed to 39% in 2021). This could very well be a result of the pandemic for two reasons: 1) people are trying to lose the extra weight gained during the lockdowns, and 2) there’s a renewed interest in strengthening our immunity for long-term health.
The upside is, IFIC’s survey noted that one of the ways the respondents were taking to reduce or manage stress was to make changes to their diet or nutrition. This includes trying to eat healthier, focusing on healthy behaviors instead of weight loss, and following a specific eating pattern or diet.
However, while the survey participants may be paying attention to healthy eating, it’s unclear whether they’re actually eating healthier. This is especially true with obesity continuing to be on the rise.
How the Food Industry Is Failing Us, According to Eric Edmeades
Food is, undoubtedly, one of the biggest industries in the US. After all, it’s one of the necessities of life and it generates a subscription-like revenue stream that the food manufacturers love.
So one would think that those in the industry should ensure they provide consumers with the best superfoods that fuel their bodies, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case with big food companies.
Think about it, one of the best ways to improve profits is to reduce costs. The food industry is constantly looking for ways to get us to eat more. At the same time, it works to reduce the cost (and, therefore, quality) of the food they make.
And they aren’t being held accountable, not even during the pandemic when a sedentary lifestyle was prevalent, according to Eric, who has studied the field of evolutionary biology and nutritional anthropology for the last 30 years. Here are three valid points he brings up in the exclusive interview.
1. Free food incentives
“You had donut companies offering free donuts if you got yourself vaccinated,” Eric brings up.
Because who doesn’t love free food? That’s the attitude big food companies are hoping for when they provide free food incentives, like during blood drives or the vaccination rollout.
It might not sound like the best business strategy, but interestingly, there’s science behind this method. It’s the psychology of free and it plays on people’s emotions.
In his book, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely explains when there’s something free that comes along, people’s behavioral patterns change and they’re more willing to comply. Basically, when something requires payment, there’s a risk of dissatisfaction with that product. However, when something is free, there are no expectations whatsoever.
The whole appeal lies in reciprocity, which, according to Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University, is “a very, very strong instinct.” He tells The Atlantic, “If somebody does something for you, you really feel a rather surprisingly strong obligation to do something back for them.”
2. Health is secondary to profit
The primary goal of these conglomerates is to make money. It’s believed to be part of the food industry lies they sell consumers for the sake of profit.
There are several methods big food companies use to maximize profits, according to Sentient Media, a non-profit news organization that reports on farmed animals, broken food systems, the environment, and more. Here are three to highlight:
- Factory farming with the purpose of producing the greatest amount of product at the lowest possible price. To do so, pesticides and fertilizers are used, which are not only harmful to the environment but also ethically questionable.
- Humane washing is how brands market their products to make consumers feel more comfortable buying them. The companies will use phrases like “sustainable” and “responsibly sourced” next to images of animals in rolling pastures. But the reality is, factory farms and industrialized agriculture are doing more harm to the animals and environment than not.
- Food aesthetics make edibles look more appealing to consumers. A study from the University of Southern California (USC) found that “prettier food” is perceived as “healthier” than uglier foods, even when the two contain the same ingredients.
All this, plus the sedentary lifestyle that came with the pandemic, is in no way positively contributing to improving our way of life.
3. Poor food governance
Regulations are different in the US than in other countries. For example, the US has much more lenient regulations for additives in food products than its European counterparts.
American food companies are permitted to use a list of ingredients “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), which is overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the list of ingredients can be self-affirmed. Alternatively, qualified non-governmental experts can notify the FDA of a determination that the use of a particular ingredient is GRAS.
This means food companies manipulate their products by using heavily processed ingredients. And with very little governance.
“I happen to believe Covid-19 gave the governments around the world the grandest opportunity to finally address the obesity and diabetes [epidemics],” says Eric. He adds that they could’ve “finally laid the blame right at the feet of the food industry that created it” but squandered that opportunity.
It’s also important to note that the aforementioned USC study points out that pretty food styling can be harmful to consumers. It misleads them to think that unhealthy foods are healthy. The researcher says, “Managers and policy-makers should consider modification disclaimers as a tool to mitigate the pretty = health bias.”
What Can You Do to Better Your Health?
You don’t need another “eat this, not that” diet program backed by the food industry. Instead, learning to eat intuitively, along with some other fundamental things, can support your immunity. Here they are, plus bite-sized wisdom from Eric:
- Air. “It’s not just that you breathe; it’s that you breathe good stuff. Then, it’s not also just a matter of what you’re breathing, it’s a matter of how you’re breathing.”
- Water. “What I would say to you is this: six to eight good-sized glasses. If you’re a bigger person, they should be bigger glasses. If you’re a littler person, they can be little glasses.”
- Sleep. “Your sleep has everything to do with the strength of your immune system.”
- Energy. “Your body has three primary fuel sources. …Fat, carbs, and protein,” which can be found in immunity-boosting foods.
- Movement. “Get yourself moving and breathing deeply, and then, lymph will be flowing throughout and you will start cleansing your body.”
- Sunlight. “Humans make their own vitamin D. I am not a fan of taking vitamin D supplements. I do not want you drinking vitamin D-fortified milk and all that garbage. I want you to let your body do its job.”
- Non-energy nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals in seasonal foods. “One of the problems with eating junk food is not just the toxicity that gets put in our body, but then we now don’t have space to put in the good food.”
- Touch. “We are social animals,” so physical touch, like hugging and holding hands, is a necessity.
If you want to get more into the essential eights, Eric explains it here:
Note: this video was made to help people during the lockdowns, but Eric’s advice remains relevant post-pandemic.
Great Change Starts With You
“Ignorance is bliss,” is the saying. But is it really?
You can go on and let the food industry dictate what goes in your body. However, life would be more blissful when you’re equipped with the knowledge of how to live optimally, especially post-pandemic.
And this is how Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest can help.
Unlike “diet fads,” WILDFIT isn’t about restrictions or willpower. Rather, it’s about having the knowledge to give your body the core nutritional elements it needs so you can have the freedom to eat what you want.
Your health is far more dependent upon you getting enough of the good stuff than it is on you eliminating the bad stuff.— Eric Edmeades, founder of WILDFIT® and trainer of Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest.
Food freedom starts with you. And it’s time to let your health truly be your wealth.