What is Affluenza
A few years ago I read the book Affluenza, which is based on a PBS documentary of the same name. Affluenza is critique of our consumption based society. It uses a the model of disease to describe the symptoms and effects of consumerism on Western culture, particularly the United States. At one point in the book it talks about huge malls that are built beside beautiful mountains, with thousands of people inside the mall shopping while the beauty of nature remains unexplored around them. Of course, this completely caught my attention. After reading the book, however, something that has consistently caught my attention is the connection between affluenza and food.
Affluenza and Food
Our grocery stores are full of affluenza. Aisles full of specialty products. The food corporations trying to make a profit on everything from food addictions to diet trends. 10 million types of cereal. A whole aisle of cookies and candy. Another aisle of chips and soda. Of course, we don’t really need any of this. I often wonder what would my great, great, great grandmother think if she walked into one of our grocery stores today. How would her body respond if she ate the food that is sold in stores today?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love having options as much as the next person. I love my Ezekiel bread and give me pink lady apples over red delicious any day. But, I truly do think that aisle after aisle of processed food is excess. And, this complete excess of processed and packaged foods affects more than just our physical health. It clutters our mind, our pantries, and our landfills.
Our brains can only handle a limited amount of incoming information before it starts to become less and less efficient, and this overload affects our ability to make good decisions. The brightly colored packages of food at the grocery store seem to steal our attention and overload our minds.
With all this information, it’s easy to veer from your intended agenda when grocery shopping, even with your list in hand. We all know the drill. You head into the store to pick up a few things for dinner, and before you know it your basket’s full of all sorts of things you didn’t intend to buy and you’ve spent an hour when you could’ve been in and out in 5 minutes.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Becoming more aware of the affluenza in our food and grocery stores will help you avoid unintentional purchases.
The overabundance of food spills over from the grocery store into our pantries. (Note: check out my post on cleaning out your pantry for a visual of how decluttering even a small space can put you at ease mentally.) Casey and I periodically purge our kitchen of all the unnecessary food that gets bought and stored away, only to be forgotten or get lost in a cabinet behind other food. This exercise often reminds me that despite being a dietitian, I too am human and do not always make the best and most rational food choices. Even more than that it reminds me how much food I buy that I don’t really need.
After we eat or let expire our exorbitant supply of processed boxed goods, the next stop for what is leftover is either the landfill or the recycling center. The connection between affluenza and food is even evident in it’s contribution to our waste. Consuming more boxed and canned food inevitably means more boxes and cans that must be made and disposed of. We all know the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra. Reducing our consumption is the preferred option both in regards to material goods and processed food.
The Cure for our Food Affluenza
Affluenza and food do not have to go hand in hand. There are ways we can eat that are simple and sustainable. It’s how we did it for thousands of years, and it’s still possible today. And you don’t have to go to the farmer’s market or start a co-op garden (though these are great ideas). All it takes is for you to simplify your diet. Stick to as many whole foods as you can and leave the extra packaged treats for special occasions. Make a grocery list using your meal plan for the week and stick to it. It will not only benefit your health, but your wallet, and the environment!
By the way, I definitely recommend reading the book Affluenza if you haven’t already. It’s really thought provoking and has helped me look at numerous things in a different light.
This post contains affiliate links. Muscle and Manna does receive a small commission when you purchase a product through an affiliate link. However, this has no effect on the cost of the product for you, the consumer. Your support is appreciated and help keep this blog running!