Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why Junk Foods?

Why Junk Food?

In a highly revealing new book out this month, Michael Moss, long time reporter for the New York Times, tells of his four year investigation into the policies and marketing campaigns of the largest food processing companies during the last few decades.
In his book Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Pulitzer Prize Winner Moss tells chilling stories about industry leaders who have no regard for the health effects of their products and about former executives and scientists who tried to reign in the worst of their products only to be rebuffed.
It is clear that only when the market affects the bottom line does the industry move. But even then, these companies design campaigns which get the most dollars for the least amount of actual change in their products or formulas, and often they find ways to use a health trend to their advantage to sell more junk food under a more appealing name.
A long article in the New York Times Magazine by Moss included a number of stories about lunch food for school kids, the soda industry, the yogurt industry, and more.
The bottom line is that advertising and packaging can be very misleading and the ubiquitous messages can actually wear down even the most ad resistant eater at times.
Most health experts agree that the extra salt, sugar, and fat added to our foods is what's ruining our health because these foods are addictive and the industry spends many millions a year to find out how to increase our cravings for them. These are responsible for much of our diabetes, heart disease, and obesity as well as many other chronic problems.
I have long pointed out to my nutrition clients and students that these three factors are ideal preservatives. They have been used throughout history to preserve foods. Traditionally, sugar and salt dry foods out so that they are not attractive to microbes and are less likely to spoil. Likewise fat conceals the food from microbes and tends to prevent spoilage by exposure to air. 
In the past, these three were very expensive to obtain and use. They were rarely if ever used with foods which were going to be eaten before they would spoil or be contaminated. Solomon got rich from his salt mines. Much later, Europe got rich from the sugar cane grown by slaves in the Caribbean. Today, agribusiness farmers have become rich from chemical extraction of oils from seed crops.
Now salt, sugar, and fat are significantly overused because new forms have been invented, especially for sugar and fat, so that they are cheap and last virtually forever, mixed with various chemicals and preservatives in our foods.
But why use them at all? Because they taste good! We are programmed from millions of years of evolution to be attracted to sweet, salty, and fatty foods because in nature these occurred almost exclusively in highly nutritious foods. Honey, maple syrup, and milk were the only sources of sugar not attached to high fiber, slow digesting foods. Salt came only from mines. Fats were hard to extract. Only butter, olives and a few very rich seeds yielded oils which could be used for cooking or flavoring. Obtaining these concentrated salts, sugars, and fats, were time and labor intensive.
In the old days, salt, sugar, and fat flavors were a sign of a good food. They did not appear in isolation as the main ingredient in the food. Sugar usually meant a ripe fruit or a vegetable that was fully ripened and ready to eat. Salty meant a food which was rich in minerals, like a sea creature or sea vegetable or an herb. Fat meant a healthy nut or seed or wild caught animal.
We no longer get those healthy foods when we reach for a salty, sugary or fatty snack. We just get the empty calories, along with the unnatural highly processed sugars and fats, like high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated soy oil.
But why do the food processors continue to include so much of this stuff if they know it is bad for us and if they have other more modern ways to preserve foods, like refrigeration, drying, airless packaging, and more?.
It's about flavor and addiction. First, modern processed foods taste terrible all by themselves. "Like cardboard" is what most folks say when they try to eat low salt low sugar low fat foods which look like their junk food favorites. We have become habituated to highly flavored foods, but the flavor is not coming from whole, healthy, mature, natural foods. It's coming from salt, sugar, and fat, and some amazing chemicals which replicate for our taste palate the impression of the natural food. Strawberry or blueberry flavor for example.
Food product manufacturers make the cheapest product possible which the consumer will still want to consume. The basic ingredients most likely taste terrible without the added salt, sugar, or fat.
The second factor, addiction, is about our body's craving for nourishing food. We are getting the salt, sugar, and fat flavor which to our primitive brain sensors means nutrition but we don't get the nutrition. So we keep eating more of the stuff expecting to find the nourishment which just isn't there. Also, recent research has shown that these foods can have direct addictive affects on the brain's neurotransmitters, much like nicotine or other addictive substances. It is sad to realize that the food processors not only know this, they also build their campaigns around it, based on the marketing reality that it is easier to get a present customer to consume more than to attract a new customer.
But we can make choices which avoid these addictive and tasteless foods. It has been shown over and over again that when people avoid the excess salt and sugar and fat, they don't miss it at all, as long as their need for real food is being met.
People often wonder at the "will power" of folks who stick mostly with home made, minimally processed, and organic food. But there is no willpower involved. The food tastes wonderful and meets the body's needs, so there are no cravings for snacks or junk. The satisfaction of natural sweetness, natural saltiness, and natural fats comes from real foods which your brain and body can use and appreciate to build your health.
Randy Rolfe's Take Home Tips: As my colleague Alice Baland, author of Eat Up the Good Life and eating disorders specialist, said just this morning, "Just ignore the ads and attractive labels and ask yourself, when they tempt you, is this really going to contribute to the healthy lifestyle I want to live?"
And of course I want to recommend my own book, The True Secret to Weight Loss Is Energy. just out in 2012. It encapsulates over 40 years of my personal experience educating folks about how to attain and maintain health, healthy weight, and vibrant energy. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Romance just for the young?

Family First | VoiceAmerica™

With baby-boomers hitting retirement, there is a lot in the news about staying young, changing the look of aging, grandparents who don’t slow down, and more. What about seniors who still believe in romance? The baby boomers were the love-in generation and for many of them the optimism about romance has not faded. Many stories have told of love in the mature years, but the baby boomers are bringing it to the fore. Consider the success of the movie Something’s Gotta Give, with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. My guest this week is Tim Carroll, author of the new book Don’t Ever Give Up on Love, which includes great stories of senior romance, including his own. Tim considers himself a “Senior Romantic” and encourages others not to give up ever on finding your romantic partner. Tim will share some stories and also share his insights on how to date in the modern world, how seniors are using social media, what to do about your past, how to handle disbelieving adult children, and more.
Simply go to:

Randy Rolfe Take Home Tips: Setting an example of life-long love and commitment is one of the best things we can do for our children. Even if you are a grandparent, a belief that sharing your life with another is a high goal for all can be a great gift to your grandchildren and everyone around you. So don't give up on finding a partner to share your life. If you are on the second time around, avoid getting jaded or losing home. Do things you love to do and you will attract someone who feels the same way you do.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gun Marketing Direct to Your Kids

In the last five years, gun manufacturers have begun an aggressive campaign to put guns in the hands of kids. The New York Times has published an investigative article on this effort, available now at:
You may not know that, according to the NYT article by Mike McIntire, "The shooting sports foundation, the tax-exempt trade association for the gun industry, is a driving force behind many of the newest youth initiatives. Its national headquarters is in Newtown, just a few miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Adam Lanza, 20, used his mother's Bushmaster AR-15 to kill 20 children and 6 adults last month." We cannot know if there is any relationship but it is rather a coincidence at least.
The industry has developed a number of studies about how to get more kids into the funnel to want to use guns and to eventually buy them as soon as they can, once they are 18. Meanwhile, many states allow kids to use guns as long as they are supervised by an adult. The initiatives include encouraging children to take up guns for recreational hunting and target shooting. Grants to various youth organizations are taking the form of supplying guns and emphasizing the "responsibility" which handling a gun teaches.
Another initiative is a video game using semi-automatic weapons, which game also happens to include links to gun manufacturers. The gun industry asserts that it is important to maintain the American tradition of hunting, marksmanship, and self-defense with guns.
The marketing effort resulted from the gun industry's awareness that sales were falling off in the last few decades.The effort to appeal  to youth includes starting very young kids with the idea of shooting, with darts, bow and arrow, or BBs. The literature suggests not using human forms as targets since this may seem violent, but rather words, like "family" or "fun."
I found this article very disturbing. In some cultures, in the country, where hunting is really still part of the culture, I don't have a problem with parents teaching tier children to hunt with a rifle after reaching a certain age of maturity, say 14 or later. But the need for semi-automatics for young people seems bogus, and there is no excuse for starting four or five year olds or even eight year olds shooting with life-threatening guns. The gun literature actually speaks of using guns as a way to teach maturity and responsibility. There are much safer ways to learn these life skills.
Another tenet is that parents are the best judges of when their children are ready to handle guns. We don't leave it up to parents to decide about when their kids can handle alcohol, cigarettes, or military duties, or when they can operate a motor vehicle, or even when they need to start school. Why would we leave it up to parents to decide when their child can handle a life-threatening weapon which can kill more people in a minute than even an out-of-control car ever could? 
According to the NYT article, entitled, "Selling a New Generation on Guns," "The pages of Junior Shooters, an industry-supported magazine that seeks to get children involved in the recreational use of firearms, once featured a smiling 15-year-old girl clutching a semiautomatic rifle. At the end of an accompanying article that extolled target shooting with a Bushmaster AR-15 - an advertisement elsewhere in the magazine directed readers to a coupon for buying one - the author encouraged youngsters to share the article with a parent."
As I am writing this in the late afternoon Thursday, there is news of a school shooting in Atlanta today in which a 14 year old girl was shot in the head and is now hospitalized while a teacher was also injured. The suspect in custody is believed to be a fellow student. 
Children are children because they have much to learn to take their place in human society. Full maturity is believed to be reached around age 25. A full understanding of the meaning of life and death can hardly be expected of a child of 8, 10, or 12. Putting weapons that are equivalent to those issued to trained soldiers for war operations in combat zones into the hands of our children is to be discouraged and avoided. 
Randy Rolfe Take Home Tips: As parents it is more important than ever that we supervise our children's environment. Digital information has made it possible to expose kids to almost any message if there is not a caring adult screening the input. Use parental controls, hang out with your kids when they are playing video games or surfing the web, or even watching TV, since web-based input is available there now too.  Remove digital devices from bedrooms, and limit daily exposure. Take the kids outside to play, and continue supervision there. lAnd talk, talk, talk about every issue that comes up. Even if you think they are not listening, they will hear you, and your words may play in their ear months or years later when it may make the most difference. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Family Resilience for 2013!

Family First | VoiceAmerica™

 Be sure to take adcantage of the over 88 great interviews with top experts and emerging expert voices on all issues related to family on "Family First" online net radio, available 24/7 on your PC or mobile, at the Voice America net talk radio netowrk, the leader in online interview shows. Simply go to

and choose your show. The great interview with James Lee is all about optimism and resilience in the family and the society. A great resource for the end of our first month of 2013!

  For my interview with James, this link will take you directly there:
Randy Rolfe Take home Tip - Home for a child is wherever a parent is. Resilience is passed on to our children when we show confidence that whatever happens we will be okay and that we will be able to care for our child no matter what. Children are born with an innate trust that their parent will guard, keep, and teach them. But the child can lose faith if we lose faith in ourselves. If you have concerns, it's okay to share them in an age appropriate manner, but always assure the child that you know all will turn out right. Kids may not believe you all the time, but deep down they will trust you because you ARE the parent. We often forget how important the parent is in this complex multi-dimensional lifestyle we live. But for the child, the parent is ALL.She or he sends all the most important cues.