Sit through any prime-time television show, televised sporting event, or even cartoon and you're sure to see plenty of commercials for food. And you've undoubtedly noticed that this food runs the gamut from fast food pizza and burgers, to snack foods, to sugary breakfast fare. They are really "edible food-like substances," as Michael Pollan would say.
What would a month of living solely on these TV commercial foods look like? And how would you feel at the end of it?
Tom Lamont, a writer for The Observer, decided to give it a try. For one month, he could only purchase and eat those foods he'd seen advertised on television. As we all well know, this means processed, sugary, salty, fatty food. They don't advertise Brussels sprouts on television. No bulk whole grains. No pastured meat. Only those products that have a large advertising budget behind them.
Here are a few quotes from Lamont's article, in which he details the experiment:
"The pizza was a tactical move. Some 60 hours in I'd noted first signs of slowing down mentally – afternoons harder to work through, getting out of bed more of an undertaking. I'd decided the greasy stuff-in-a-bun was to blame, and that pizzas would be better. After all, weren't those pureed tomatoes atop each slice? Real mushrooms and greens?"
Upon which, he learns that pizza was possibly the worst choice he could have made.
"By the time I got to Octomom I was starting to wonder what Aptamil "follow-on milk" might taste like."
"At the end of a particularly bleak day my girlfriend saw fit to stage an intervention, ambushing me with a rule-breaking plate of salmon and beans for dinner. Was I imagining it, in the aftermath of the meal, when I immediately started to feel better? "No, no," Briffa assured me, "these things can be incredibly immediate. It's a bit like stopping smacking yourself in the face with a polo mallet. Immediately there's relief.""
Basically, by the time the month was up, Lamont felt like a sluggish, cranky mess. Surprisingly, he didn't gain any weight, but that could be at least partially because he got so tired of processed foods that he just didn't eat as much after a while.
This is why those of us who are trying to eat better are often advised to shop the "perimeter" of the grocery store. The dairy, produce, meat, and bulk grain bins are often in the outer aisles. The inner aisles, and those attention-grabbing end caps, are the domain of processed food.
Moral of the story: shop the perimeter, grow a garden, and if something is advertised on TV, it's probably not all that good for you!