PTSD as in Post Traumatic Supermarket Disorder
London, May 2015
Most evenings I end up browsing dinner options that would do the least possible damage to my health in some kind of supermarket around town.
Lost in between breakfast cookies and frozen goods
I’m lucky enough that money is no object, as feeding myself comes at the top of my priority list, but no matter how fancy the food I buy looks or tastes, I’m hardly ever satisfied with the content of my grocery bag when I walk out of the store.
Working in the food industry, and being the son of an advertising executive, has been a clear advantage that helped me understand and survive in the food jungle through the years. On the flip-side, awareness is also what makes me so disappointed about this world of convenience and perfect-looking produce.
Whenever I enter a supermarket, most of my time is spent with an empty cart roaming up and down the aisles. I can only guess what people that work there think of me: “Is this guy trying to steal something?” “Is he an inspector?” “Maybe he can’t afford dinner tonight and he is scouting for reduced items.”
The truth? I get awfully depressed whenever I roam around supermarkets. I can’t stop thinking of the wealth of crap that is being sold, disguised as a practical and pleasant way to feed you better. In reality, those products are just the best and most efficient way to pack profit in every scan you hear at the tills. Beep.
And I mean every single product. No exception. All of those beautifully-packaged pre-marinated meats, reduced fat yogurts, and vegetable spread that claim to be “just like butter if not better” make my mind and body sick.
The worse and saddest part is when I see acquaintances, friends, girlfriends, family, and pretty much every living being around me (including animals and plants) being fed on those highly engineered food stuffs, that do no good for them.
As young, strong and reasonably healthy human beings we tend not to worry too much about our future. However, just stop and imagine for a second that everything we put in our mouths is a little poisonous to us (even just a tiny, tiny bit). Now also pretend you have no way of knowing about those poisons unless you find them and educate yourself of their vices.
Add to the equation a USD 4,800,000,000,000 (that’s USD 4.8 trillions, not billions. Trillions) consumer-packaged goods industry, aka the biggest in the world, and you can stop imagining because shit just got real.
I doubt that we will ever see cigarette pack-style warnings on microwavable ready-made frozen meals in our lifetime. However, once you add up all of the interactions you’ve had with food in your lifetime, it’s worth stopping for a second and think of the possible long-term consequences that those interactions might have.
We spend uncountable hours posting perfect pictures of our dinner plates, faces, swimming pools and pets on our social media profiles. Perhaps we could invest 10% of that time into educating ourselves of what that Bible-long list of ingredients in the oriental chili sauce on our marinated chicken actually is.
Hoping that the industry will educate you about the long term risks of additives, preservatives and manufacturing techniques is like giving the keys to the alcohol cabinet to your 15-year-old son, going away for the weekend and hoping he won’t throw a party and replace the liquors with water before your are back.
If you ever get good at this, I’ll bump in to you and your empty cart some time soon. Until then, read the label, and if you don’t understand even one ingredient, or you never saw it in your mother’s pantry, don’t eat that crap.