Food Marketing, Don’t Believe the Hype
My confidant “J” and I have several things in common; the fact that we both carried too much weight until we hit middle age is one such denominator. Now we are both committed to eating non-processed food low in additives and high in nutrients. Combined our diets are brimming with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Normally we are thrilled with our independent eating plans as we both feel better than we did when we were in our thirties. However, we both admit to struggling with temptation during the holiday season.
J suggested that the constant stream of food porn that dominates our television programming is to blame. “It drives me crazy,” she confided to me when we spent time together on the set of The Health Care Puzzle: Putting the Pieces Together for a Picture of Wellness. “Once, I did a small food styling job and had to make a bowl of berries look luscious and dew-dripped. You know how I did that, I painted them with baby laxative, yum. Now, even though I know most TV food looks good thanks to glue, soap and cardboard, I still want to shove everything in my cake-hole, ya’ know?”
Yes, J I do, and it appears you are not alone. I thought about her comments and decided to explore the topic a bit. J is smart, well read and very knowledgable about nutrition. Even though she knew that the food on TV was not edible, her body responded with a biological response. Now since shared her insight with me, I notice my own response to the delightfully crafted film bits; hunger pangs.
Several big brains at Yale University tackled the subject and used children and adults in separate, controlled experiments. I was not surprised with the results from an experiment on children aged 7 to 11; kids who watched cartoons and food advertising ate 45 percent more snacks food than the kids that just got to watch the animation. When a similar study using different content tested adults, older folks also responded by eating more unhealthy food because of the marketing messages. While the team leaders did not explore the reasons why television advertising stimulates automatic eating, they clearly demonstrated that the relationship exists.
I’ve already confessed my love for the magic talking box. I swear I have gotten some great mental health advice from the telly. However, sensory branding is helping contribute to the country’s obesity epidemic as well as negatively impacting my personal battle with Christmas creep. That is why I need to channel my inner Timothy Leary and will “Turn on, tune in, drop out,” in regards to my viewing habits.
Don’t get my wrong, I am not giving up my favorite vice this holiday season, I dare not miss a broadcast of Bad Santa, but when I find images of icing-glazed cinnamon rolls or freshly baked pies filling my boob tube, I turn off the TV to break that connection to my appetite. Oh, and this season, I am going as far as to block all Food Network programming. Instead, I will use a safer method of planning my holiday menus, I will find recipes on websites including http://www.vegetariantimes.com/ and http://www.cookinglight.com/.
Managing a healthy weight is not easy and professional marketing messages make the process even harder. That is why when it comes to choosing my next meal or snack I try to base my decision on nutrition, not commercials. In my world, the more someone has to convince me to eat their food product, the more I should avoid that snack like the plague.
Remember that those 30-second blips are paid messages to get you to buy. Advertisers are focusing on profits, not health. Case in point, how many commercials have you seen promoting fresh vegetables, fruit or grains like Quinoa? You know what I mean?