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The Cost of Mindless Eating: A National Dilemma

donutThe cells in your brain and body require a constant supply of energy to keep them alive and working well. Food is the fuel for these cells. If we want optimum physical and mental health, then it is critical to take in the highest quality food (fuel). However, most of us walk around without much awareness of the food we eat. Most of the schools in this country serve food and snacks filled with high levels of sugar that quickly spike our systems and then cause us to crash. Kids have a hard time paying attention, behavioral problems emerge and then the teachers get blamed for low test scores.

It seems like it may be a critical national issue at this point for everyone to look at what food we’re eating and drinking on a daily basis.

So many foods nowadays are filled with high levels of sugar that kids and adults get hooked on them, spike and also crash. This makes doing our work, parenting and living more challenging.

I was recently part of a conference in San Diego for Mindfulness and Youth and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, author of A Mindful Nation took the stand. He made a strong case for how deeply interconnected the issues are that arise from our mindless food habits. Aside for the cost of obesity, he showed how money that goes to certain non-organic farmers only proliferates the production of foods that are high in sugars like high fructose corn syrup. The productions of these foods lead to higher levels of diabetes in our culture. The cost of diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion.

He wondered what it would be like if there were more government subsidies for farmers who grew organic or free range meats. We’d probably see a lot more of these foods in our country and perhaps see some of these costly diseases go down. But the truth is, that’s not short term profitable thinking and unfortunately in our country corporations carry a lot of weight in political decision making.

I’m neither an organic food purist nor a GMO-Free purist at this point. But I am curious about how foods that are grown with pesticides inevitably affect my body. I’m also curious about how the genetic engineering of foods from all over the world impacts my body. Is it just a coincidence that rates of food allergies have sky rocketed over 50% in the past 15 years? This costs us $25 billion dollars a year.

When it comes to meat, I’m guessing that if a chicken is raised in a small pen and shot up with hormones that chicken lived with a lot of stress and that stress affected their bodies on a cellular level. It seems to stand to reason that when I eat that chicken I am ingesting some of that stress on a cellular level and that cheap fuel may negatively impact my brain and body. When my body is impacted, my mind is impacted usually increasing stress levels.

Are these privileged questions to ask when the costs of organic foods or humanely raised meats are out of reach for people on lower socio-economic levels? When someone doesn’t have a car and the closest market is a convenience store that sells a version of an egg McMuffin with meat from who-knows-where, an egg that came from an abused chicken, along with Ruffles and a Coke for $1.99, this is what the kids are going to eat. Then we wonder why it’s so hard for these kids to pay attention or label them as hyperactive. Of course the picture is more complex than this, but this is a critically overlooked ingredient.

That’s to say that becoming mindful or our diet is a critical issue in our culture. We need to start thinking how we can give everyone access to healthier foods so that they can operate physically and mentally at optimum levels. It’s about making sure this awareness is in the schools so the kids can perform at optimal levels psychologically, academically and relationally. I’m very curious what it would be like if there were greater awareness around food and if healthier food choices were available to more people in this country.

But there’s a bigger question here.

Are the people at the top after money and power or the health of our country? That’s a rhetorical question. Corporations care about the bottom line most and so this has to be an issue that is solved within our government.

It seems to me that if we had more people like Tim Ryan in congress (or at higher levels) we may be able to make more progress and give ourselves and our kids a greater chance at optimum health and well-being. In turn this would give our country to be the best it could be.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Man eating donut image available from Shutterstock.

The Cost of Mindless Eating: A National Dilemma

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2014). The Cost of Mindless Eating: A National Dilemma. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Feb 2014
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