Olympics blasted for giving vast adverts to fast food joints. That’s their legacy – but what will yours be? Fake foods – or the real thing?
This weekend marks the end of the London 2012 Olympics, an event which has proven to be an extravaganza of sportsmanship and drama. For Great Britain, the games have undoubtedly been a triumph both from a public relations and medal-winning point of view.
However, in a critical new report – The Obesity Games – health charity the Children’s Food Campaign has opined that the International Olympic Committee has wasted its chance to create a positive legacy from the Olympics by giving fast food companies an unrivaled advertising platform for their unhealthy products. The report urges the committee to ban such preferential corporate sponsorship deals in the future.
Will this make a difference? Will the committee listen? Does it even matter? Well, whilst the jury is out on exactly how influential such sponsorship deals can be, one thing is very clear to me: commercial fast foods do nothing to promote good health.
The reason is simple: by and large, commercial fast foods are fake foods. They’re incomplete phantoms of food, stripped of nutrition, damaged and damaging to our bodies – yet they’re made glamorous and socially acceptable by massive advertising budgets, government subsidies, and health agency collusion.
Fake foods – the kind that comes in colourful packaging with a brand-name on it – begins life as real food: meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, eggs, milk, and grains. But in today’s consumer-focused society, companies want to entice us with promises of convenience and speed. To make real food into fast food (although let’s just take a moment to acknowledge that you can’t get much faster to prepare and eat than an egg, or a piece of fruit) it has to be processed and pulverized using heavy machinery, intense heat and harsh chemical solvents. These break the food down into chemically simpler components which can then be easily manipulated by manufacturers.
These factory processes damage fragile fats and proteins in the foods, and strip away essential vitamins and minerals. The resulting fragmented constituents are then mixed with colourings, preservatives, and laboratory-synthesized vitamins and minerals. This latter addition is highly ironic, of course, when you consider the nutrition that’s been taken out of the food by this point. Many other undesirable substances can be added in order to make the resulting concoctions taste palatable. These include: mineral-depleting sweetening agents such as refined white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup; large quantities of processed salt; cancer-causing partially hydrogenated fats; and neurologically toxic “flavour enhancers” such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame.
The result? The immediate result is “convenience food” which is quickly manufactured, readily available, almost addictive in its chemically-enhanced tastiness – and unprecedented in its ability to turn a fast buck for the companies who make it. However, there are other results which take longer to manifest but are there for all to see: malnutrition; obesity; illness; imbalance. So how convenient are these foods really?
The bottom line is this: processed food isn’t real food. Processed food is partial, fractioned, fragmented fake food. It lacks the macro- and micro-nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy metabolism. Many of the common additives are viewed as foreign invaders by the human body, and are therefore toxic to our very cells. Worst of all, processed food creates insatiable hunger cravings that can lead to uncontrolled eating, because the lack of balanced nutrition causes our bodies to want to consume more and more of it in a futile attempt to ingest the nutrients that are lacking. But these are nutrients that can never be available in a diet of fake food, because they just aren’t there.
The International Olympics Committee may have squandered its chance of creating a healthy eating legacy after the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean you have to waste the opportunity you have to create a legacy of your own.
I’m willing to bet that, for all the McAdvertising surrounding the event, the Olympics medalists don’t survive and thrive on factory-produced products. Many of them probably wouldn’t even touch fast food with an Olympic pole-vault pole. My guess is they focus on eating real food – whole, nourishing, life-enhancing, truly delicious real food.
You can too. Let that be your Olympic legacy.