Pavlov Pegged Us

A rare lunch that beckoned.

A rare lunch that beckoned.

When my daughter Ari sent a text-photo of an Easter basket filled with Reese’s chocolate covered peanut butter eggs, I almost salivated in public. Now consumed with thoughts of those chocolate-peanut butter morsels, I automatically added them to my grocery list and couldn’t get to Wal-mart fast enough.

I soon figured if I was going to eat chocolate eggs for lunch, I might as well drive through McDonalds and get a large (not Venti or Trenta-Big M doesn’t speak such language) mocha frappe drizzled with hot fudge to push down the clogged peanut butter that tends to wedge in my throat.  (I do hope my cardiologist Dr. B doesn’t read this.)

I’d like to blame my daughter for my splurge in sugar, salt and fat and claim she drove me to do it. Yet, in all apparent honesty, I drove me to it . . . I was the one behind the wheel driving to the store, only to swing around to the adjoining fast food drive-through.

What bothered me most was how easily I fixated on those Reese’s eggs, like an addict consumed. Even worse, the same response occurred three days later. It was a simple Sunday. I had driven back and forth through town–past all the signs beckoning me to eat their delightful foods–four times that day without a thought. Once home, I opened up my emails, and my eyes gravitated to one of Smithsonian’s online articles entitled “Is Corned Beef Really Irish?”

That salivating thing returned, and my mind was immersed in the flavors of a Reuben sandwich. Granted, it was St. Patrick’s Day, and I hadn’t worn green all day, so the least I could do to celebrate was to eat a Reuben sandwich, right?

Once I had the salty sauerkraut and sliced corned beef dripping in 1000 Island dressing on fresh grilled rye, I was fine . . . for a while at least.

Surely you’ve done this, too. And like me, you probably thought of Pavlov’s dogs when you began to lick your lips  in anticipation. It’s been over a century now since Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov was studying the digestive processes of dogs and began noting how they salivated when his assistants entered the room. Pavlov had already recognized salivation in the dogs to be a reflexive process–an automatic physiological response to a stimulus, for them it was food.

Only now Pavlov identified the dogs were responding to the sight of the assistants in their white lab coats. It seems the dogs were salivating as a learned response in anticipation to the food that followed.

As a result, Classical Conditioning Theory developed. It’s in our realizing this conditioning that behavioral modifications for treatments in psychological disorders also evolved for the good of humanity . . .

And the bad.

According to Michael Moss, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, my cravings for Reese’s Eggs and corned beef was exactly what the food giants wanted me to do. In Moss’  recently released book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, he exposes the hows and whys of the chemistry of processed foods and that the ingredients are specially blended to ignite all those addictive pleasure centers in our brains.

Our responses are real because big-food company chemists continue to discover the magic brew of caffeine, salt, sugar and fat to make our brains light-up as though they’re on cocaine.

The jarring truth is these food giants in the USA realized way back in the 1990’s that their addictive foods were contributing to the obesity epidemic. What had been created as occasional meals and snacks, like TV dinners, fast food meals, candy bars, soft drinks, and chips, were now repetitive necessities we Americans invest in hourly simply to get through the day.

Moss pegged these American food giants’ motive as GREED–their lust for power and fortune and the do-whatever-it-takes to stay on top. In this competitive market, none of those companies can afford to take the high road and concern themselves with us as their consumers without falling profits and losing numbers of stomachs and minds in the masses.

Yet, we also want what they  offer. We prove that by buying their stuff.

And that’s why they continue dreaming up foods that drive us to eat more. When one company increases its feel-good blends, another must surpass it. They aren’t afraid to market lies we self-mask ourselves into believing: such as how those dessert yogurts are really good for us even though one serving has three times more sugar than a serving of Lucky Charms. Eating it is ever easier now. Who has to bother with a spoon since Gogurt is eaten straight from the package.

The problem is our conditioned responses are now in overkill.

Since the 1950s we’ve been overconditioned, and our fast food lives have proliferated over several generations. Addictions which include eating disorders rise with our heart disease, diabetes, etc. We continue to bypass the real foods for processed, requiring our need for more bypasses.

Why? For many, food is a legal and affordable means of comfort, recreation and stress relief.

So what can we do?

Let’s sound the foghorn to step away from the massive servings of caffeine, salt, sugar, fat, and their deadly substitutes, slowly. Detoxing slowly. One minute at a time, one food/drink at a time.

Realize it takes guts to change, and each of us has a body full of it we should be in charge of.

We have what it takes if we’ll just take it.

We have to educate ourselves and others. It took my daughter having allergies for me to become educated in nutrition. (See Fast Forward Ten, Twenty Years ) Once we recognize those things that have power over our lives, we can at least start eliminating those negatives.

And sometime it starts with the power of one. Then one’s influence by the increased energy and vitality, clarity of mind will witness to others.

And yes, we can afford it because we can’t afford not to. 

Certainly processed foods are cheaper because they are made with the poorest of ingredients and packed with chemicals. But poor health, loss of work, doctor bills, and prescriptions cost more. When we’re malnourished, we miss work, our children miss school. We lose money, education and productivity.

I bought four bananas for a dollar the other day. The apples ranged from 75 cents to a $1.50, depending on the size and variety. A bag of Cheetos that melts mega-salt, fat and chemicals into your mouth can range in those prices, too.

Consider this: What if we let those easy-to-eat-items be every-so-often and no longer let them be everyday staples?

Consider how many babies with their spongelike minds and bodies now begin their lives barraged with junk, most likely in plastic that’s been radiated. (Don’t even get me started on plastic containers.)

What should make us unite into action is that the chain of sickness only strengthens the wallets of those greedy enough to let us die or live less in who we should be.

When Moss asked Howard Moskowitz, the man who reinvented Dr. Pepper, to taste his own concoction, Moskowitz replied, “I’m not a soda drinker. It’s not good for your teeth.” When Moss asked other big food executives and scientists if they drank or ate their products or fed them to their children, he heard the same answer, “No.”

So we see the downfall of America isn’t as much with forces overseas as it is with the destructive forces of our own overseers and their loss of integrity. Moss also noted those executives who tried to steer their companies to healthier alternatives and were simply replaced. But bravo to Jeffrey Dunn, a former president and COO for Coke, who pushed to stop marketing Coke in public schools, and all the other execs who at least fought to make a difference.

You see, it takes more than crooked investors, greedy executives and wily politicians to break America. But it also takes each of us becoming aware and then making changes for the good of ALL.

And it’s not just the high-paying execs, floating carefree on their yachts, who hurt us. Each one from the top to the bottom of a company affects our lives. Ever watch the grocery store employees carelessly tossing apples and bananas into their bins, not caring that their poor work ethic diminishes the quality of food sold?

Thus, we are a bruised and broken America.

So, let’s get unbroken.

We have to restore the power of a job well done and that rush of feel-good hormones that surges when a job is done right. (It actually beats a mocha frappe.)

Let’s go back to the slowing down of our lives and living, truly living. Let’s take pride in our doing the right thing, even when the pressure of time/money/energy weighs heavy upon us.

Millions each hour lower into their couches with remotes and controllers in hand, failing to realize their loss of control in everything other than a video/computer screen. Or maybe they do and that’s why they’re stuffing their mouths and eyes with instant momentary appeasers.

Yes, we have to uncondition ourselves and the hordes of us who don’t realize what diminishes our lives. Only we can choose to be active rather than sedentary and choose something as simple as eating a salad rather than fries. Or getting help for something difficult, such as addictions which have mastered us for too long.

Let’s build strength in our lives with no more destructive strongholds. We choose to learn what can be an occasional treat once we’re back to who we are supposed to be. An hour playing games, not five hours. A piece of cheesecake for a fun splurge, not five pieces a week. Mostly for us to acquire the will to say “no more!”

Additionally, we also care about others, extending a hand in helping someone else get back on track, especially for those who never grew up on track at all. (More on that next time.)

I can wish I had never seen that image of Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs or the article’s title about corned beef, the white lab coats that set my mind to craving. If only I had seen the article about the influx of Cicadas, and the recipes added to eat them! I surely would have responded differently.

Conditioning. We’ve got to work on it, get help if we need it.

It might feel like deprivation at first.

Then gradually it’s discipline and our cravings for that sugar bliss and energy drink high no longer rule over us. Our Pop Tart manufacturing nation rebuilds, and we’re the America we are destined to be, liberty to all, not just the few in charge.

“The thoughtful little things you do each day have an accumulated effect on all of our tomorrows.”          Alexandra Stoddard

“This will happen when we set aside our self-interests and work together to create true community instead of a culture consumed by provocation, pride and envy.”  Galatians 5:26, The Voice

Paul tells Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with EVERYTHING for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is TRULY LIFE.” I Timothy 6:17-19

Think and pray about the good those in power could achieve if their greed didn’t blind them!

The art is “To View a Tree.”  May we all take hold of the life that is truly life!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13

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