[Readers incapable of abstract thought may be excused from this post. Go directly to recess.]
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
I want Casual Kitchen readers to think in an empowered way. I want you to be confident and informed about your food choices, not fearful, doubtful or weak. Sadly, however, anyone spending even the briefest amount of time reading most food blogs--and nearly all sites about food politics--will stumble repeatedly onto passive, weakness-inducing phrases like these:
The food industry make us fat.
Greedy food companies don't care about us, they put profits ahead of people.
If you want to eat healthy, it's gonna cost you.
Big Food is in bed with Big Government and they're screwing up our food supply.
Now, these sentences may ring true to you or they may ring false. That's not my point. Instead, rather than seeing them as either fact or fiction, I'd like you to think of these statements as lenses.
A quick sidebar on what I mean by "lenses." Let's say you pick up a blue lens and look through it. No matter how hard you try, as long as you're looking through that blue lens, you simply will not be able to see the color red. You might see magenta, or some kind of purplish color, but you'll never see anything approaching a real, honest-to-goodness red.
Let's take it one step further. Let's say you're peering through that blue lens when you look at your world... but you don't actually know that you're using a blue lens. You're walking around like you're in some Bono lookalike contest, but you're completely unaware of it.
Imagine how the world would appear to you through these lenses: people around you would talk about some color they call "red" but you won't see any evidence of it, anywhere. You just won't see it. I mean, if there were really a color red there'd be at least some proof, right? Clearly those "red-seers" must be deluded--or biased, or even crazy. They just.. they just don't get it! Can't they see? Idiots.
Perhaps it even gets to a point where you start to get offended by all those idiots who claim to see red. You actively avoid those deluded red-seers, and you begin to surround yourself with like-thinking people who, like you, simply don't see or believe in the color red. You look great in your invisible blue wraparound sunglasses, and you (and everyone you've surrounded yourself with) believe you see the world exactly as it is.
In other words, it's easy to see how using a lens like this can distort your reality--without you even knowing it.
The practice of empowerment vs. the practice of victimization
Okay. Let's give those blue lenses back to Bono and head back to the reality of our food industry.
The food industry offers many foods at extraordinarily reasonable prices, but it also offers us various traps and challenges. Sometimes, it markets aspirational food products at prices totally divorced from their value. At other times it offers simple, healthy and unprocessed food at great prices. And, yes, it offers fattening foods that are delicious, heavily processed and unhealthy when eaten to excess.
But when you think about the food industry, what kind of mental lens do you use? Do you use an empowerment-based lens, or do you use a disempowering lens? Does the lens you use help you navigate your food choices effectively?
An empowerment-minded person will use a mental lens that helps her see herself taking effective action:
1) This food is healthy, that food is not. I choose the healthy food because....
2) These healthy foods are expensive. Let me look for other less-expensive alternatives.
3) I choose not to respond to that advertisement.
All of these statements are active. All are choices. And the person who uses these statements is most likely going to have good results navigating the food industry.
Let's consider the other side of this equation: What if you were to use a victim-based lens? A victim-minded person will use a mental lens that helps him see the world acting on him. Thus he might frame up his statements this way:
1) These food companies are feeding me unhealthy food. They deliberately design these foods to be irresistible.
2) The government should get more involved in our food supply to make things more fair (or, the opposite: The government is already too involved in our food supply, introducing unfair distortions).
3) The food industry takes advantage of people.
These statements are all passive. They are reactive, rather than active. And a person using statements like these will likely have trouble finding foods that meet his needs, because he's chosen a mental lens that makes it more difficult to do so. You could even argue (particularly in the case of the third statement) that his choice of lens not only disempowers him, it leads him to assume other people are powerless too. Be careful what you wish for.
So, which lens helps you most when you decide what to buy and what to eat? Which lens helps you help others?
Readers, one of these lenses is effective, the other is clearly not.
One final thought: Note that I haven't addressed the trueness or falseness of either group of statements. In fact, both groups of statements could be true or false. It depends on the evidence you seek out to support or debunk the statements. And the evidence you choose to seek out depends on the kind of mental lens you use to observe your world.
It's disturbingly circular, isn't it? And yet it's also deeply empowering, because once you begin to pay attention to the kind of lenses you use to look at the world, you realize that you can actually choose the lens that helps you be most effective.
So which mental lens would you rather use: the lens that lets you be acted upon, or the lens that helps you take action? The lens that assumes you have no choices, or the lens that lets you see all of your choices?
By now it should be clear that I'm talking about much more than just how consumers interact with the food industry.
We hold much more power than we think. It's just that too many of us don't know it, or wear a lens that enables us to refuse to know it. This realization is the first step towards becoming a truly conscious consumer.
Readers, please share your thoughts!
This post draws inspiration from two sources: The Art of Confident Living by Bryan Robinson, and Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina. I'm grateful to both authors.
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