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The Deep, Dark Snack Drawer

20 J00000011UTC 2011

I’m really lucky. This past January I got a brand new sister and she’s pretty awesome. She’s a lot prettier, sweeter, and nicer-smelling than my brother whom she married, but I am thankful for them both. Recently my new sister started asking me what she could do to clean up her diet. She was feeling a little achy and gunky and was starting to plan for the future, run a few times a week, and feel slightly competitive with her new hubby. I’m not exactly sure what all the motives were, the fact is she asked me! How I love sharing all my cabinets-full-of-information with an interested party, especially if I like the party.

from 101 cookbooks– she probably was not ready for this.

Needless to say, I did not jump into flax seed crackers, seaweed salad, or kombucha right away. I had to strategize and plan my attack. 

The thing was, she didn’t need an attack. At all. This girl was ready for change, and it turns out that the most powerful, effective, dynamic catalyst for change is just wanting it for yourself. She was ten steps ahead just by choosing what she wanted and figuring out what it would take to get there. I was a mere accessory.

We e-mailed about sugar. And dairy. And cleaning products. And processed food. At the end of all the options of where to start, the bottom line was that she would need to decide what would work for her. She needed to pick something relatively easy and treat it like a little scientific experiment, then get used to it and assess the results before moving on to the next experiment. I knew it was overwhelming– lots info about ‘toxins’ that she would have to pace herself with to find results. But then she had some Skittles.

a rainbow of sugary crap (from wikipedia)

“…every time I eat something with lots of sugar (like yummy delicious Skittles) I get a huge disgusting mucus ball in my throat that lingers for a couple of hours. I assumed that this was a normal reaction to consuming sugary stuff, but I’m starting to think it’s not. I brought it up with *Larry* the other day and he looked at me like I was crazy. (0_o) <<< his face. Anyway, I’m on the lookout for any other changes! I know one thing is for sure, the fact that I’m not consuming all of those crappy calories on a day to day basis is going to be good for me and my waist line in the long run! :)”

The Skittles smacked her right in the face– yet she was looking and listening for it. She chose to pay attention to her food and body. She opened her eyes, pulled her fingers out of her ears, and gained awareness.

The next day she brought this newfound awareness to work. My new sister works for the school district in a job she loves. Great people, autonomy, open workspace, and a full snack drawer all to herself. That day she decided to clean out her snack drawer. Here’s what happened:


“The mac and cheese was an easy choice to get rid of because the list of ingredients on the back is longer than my arm (!!!)…But the soup?! Sad face! I used to be so proud of myself for having those little campbell’s creamy tomato “soup at hand” things. I would drink those like with a little sandwich and be so proud of myself. KRIS. The freaking THIRD ingredient on my beloved tomato soups was high fructose corn syrup. What the fuck? And so I turned to my chicken noodle soup thinking it’d be better and the list of ingredients was crazy long with a bunch of stuff I couldn’t pronounce. Do you know what the kicker for me was though? The sodium! It said that there was 35% of your daily value of sodium, but OMG then it said there were TWO servings in that little cup! HOLY HELL! That’s so crazy! So I gathered all of it up in my arms and dropped it off in the break room. Anyway, that was a mini breakthrough for me. I never thought something so seemingly benign like little cups of soup could be filled with that many chemicals? I don’t know what else to call those things on the ingredients list besides chemicals.”

Her real story is the best. She unfolded this narrative by herself and that’s what makes it so powerful. There small act of reading food labels suddenly became an enlightening experience.

The Snackwell’s Lie

Once upon a time I had a similar enlightenment. I prided myself on Lipton noodle packets, Yoplait yogurt, fat free sour cream, Quaker oatmeal packets, Snackwell’s, and Wheat Thins. Marketed as healthy and wholesome (good American foods!) these were my regular diet. Seriously, Snackwell’s cookies, known as a dieter’s choice, have high fructose corn syrup as a main ingredient. A famous Princeton University study links HFCS over sucrose (table sugar) to obesity. Wheat Thins, Triscuits, and Ritz Crackers all have HFCS and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (check the slang). Nice.

The only answer to, “Why?!” I can come up with is, you got it, m-o-n-e-y. It’s cheap to make and tasty to eat. What is American than that? Never mind that it makes us sick and fat. We’ll just deal with that later. Or not.

The moral of our stories is that you get to choose. Really, you do. You don’t have to keep drinking cases of techni-color soda and eating “food” less wholesome than horse manure. Really, you don’t. You can start the wake-up process whenever you like. It might not be pleasant, like when your foot wakes up in the movie theater. But if you never wake up, you’ll never really walk out into the sun and really live.


References: The Snackwell Efect, Wikipedia

Thanks to: my sister– yay!; all the shitty food I used to eat–boo.



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