Sunday, June 13, 2010

[Article] Economics & Health

Obesity at Whole Foods vs Albertsons

I recently read an article about a study (at the University of Washington) that showed people who shop at Whole Foods to be less likely to be obese than those who shop at a chain called Albertsons.

I have a few qualms with the article that I'd like to cover in this entry;

"From what I can tell, the study didn't control for income: it's well established that Whole Foods shoppers have higher incomes, which has always been correlated with low obesity rates. Indeed, some public health experts will tell you that we don't have an obesity epidemic so much as we have a poverty epidemic."


It's true that poverty is an issue;

"The wealthiest 1 percent of families owns roughly 34.3% of the nation's net worth, the top 10% of families owns over 71%, and the bottom 40% of the population owns way less than 1%." - Wealth Distribution

Buying Habits

But this is nothing new for America, or most any other country. I believe that the real issue rests in irresponsible buying habits and the consumer ideology of the masses.

Think for a moment how often you buy shoes. Some women buy shoes every week, or every month. I've personally known most women to own well over twenty pairs of shoes. Several different sneakers, several different sandals, several different boots, and so forth. Personally, I own five pairs of footwear. This is a difference in spending trend, not in income.

Think how expensive the clothing you buy is. Do you buy high-quality clothing that will last the rest of your life and take good care of it? Or do you buy the newest, in-fashion cheap clothing that you'll wear out in a year or then give-away? Or, perhaps, do you pay extra for brand names just because it's the 'latest thing' and not because it's a higher quality? Personally, I try to shop for the best quality I can get for the price, and I try to limit clothing shopping to twice a year, spending about $200 on clothing yearly.

Think about how many baubles you buy. Do you have things you've bought, still in the package, from days ago? Weeks ago? Years ago? Do you have anything within sight of your computer desk that you bought because it seemed like a good idea, but then never used? Do you have a closet, or bin, chocked full of things you never use, and barely ever used?

The Sheeple Way

Maybe it doesn't apply to you, but most people shop very unwisely. They buy more than they need when it comes to clothing, technology, and baubles, and then buy the cheapest food they can find. This seems to be the "American Way." I'd prefer to think of this trend as The Way of the Sheep.

Useless Votes

There are major problems with these trends. Firstly, when you spend a lot of money on baubles you never use, you're essentially making useless votes with you're money. We're living in a Capitalist society, which means that you communicate to corporations through buying what you want. You buy a lot of something, and then a lot more is produced because the demand goes up. If nobody buys something, then the item's price goes down, and down, and down, until you see it on clearance, and then that item is not produced again.


The second major issue with this trend is the waste involved. For everything that is produced, there is man-power, money, oil, and so forth that goes into it. There are the people in the factory who work to produce the product. There are the people who drive the trucks to transport the products (and often the people who man the transport boats, trains and airplanes). There are the people who work for the stores where the products are sold. There is the money spent in maintaining the store and the production facility. There is the gasoline and money spent on the transportation by you and the corporations. And if you never even use what you pay for, then you're supporting a product that isn't useful and wasting the time and resources of a long string of people.


The third issue with these irresponsible spending habits is the clutter in your house. Before you know it bins are bursting, shelves are overloaded, closets are packed, boxes are strewn around the house, and your organization goes to hell. Other people give you useless baubles, your parents buy you things you don't need or want, your friends try to unload their unwanted purchases on you, and the next thing you know, you can't find the 10% of the things you own that you really care about.

Your Health

This spending habit is bad for the economy, the planet, and for the pile of clutter in your house. But there is a fourth major issue that is widely overlooked. Because you're spending so much of your income on things that don't matter, you have much less to spend on something that matters more than anything; your body's health.

You wouldn't need to buy expensive skin creams, fancy extra-strength deodorants, and heavy-duty anti-dandruff shampoo if you were eating a healthy raw diet. You wouldn't need to spend money on insulin medication, or any medication. You save yourself a hip and/or knee replacement at the age of sixty. You save yourself a heart-attack at the age of forty. You save yourself wrinkles, cellulite and dark-eye-circles at the age of thirty-five. You save a lot of money and pain when you have your health.

Local Edibles

So what does it cost to have your health? Well, that's what this site is all about! One way to actually save a lot of money by going raw is to grow your own food and to harvest local edible plants that are already growing on your property or nearby.

Growing your own food and harvesting local plants will be the healthiest and most affordable route, but because we can't grow and harvest everything ourselves and still have the variety we're used to, you'll still want to supplement with some things from the grocery store. You want organic produce for a number of reasons;

Why Buy Organic?

Conventional growing procedures are killing off the bees and destroying the soil.

Conventional growing procedures use highly toxic chemicals that are hazardous for the environment and for you.

Much of conventional produce is directly or in-directly owned by Monsanto, who puts small farmers out of business everyday. The easiest way to boycott Monsanto is to only buy organic produce. (Although some organic produce will be in-directly in league with Monsanto as well.)

Organic produce is generally owned by smaller corporations who want to do better for the environment and for humanity. (Although that isn't going to be universally the case.)

The Cost

A lot of people have the misconception that it's extremely expensive to eat organic. This doesn't have to be true. Shopping at farmers markets, paying close attention to when things are in and out of season (because that affects the price of produce), and taking advantage of store deals will all greatly reduce the amount spent.


Also, I'm recommending organic produce, not fancy organic fruit bars. Granola bars, organic or not, don't have a place in your diet. Regardless of how bad for you they are, all of them are processed, devoid of enzymes, over-priced, and in general not even worth their price for convenience and flavor alone. If you want a treat that is convenient to take with you, make raw fruit ball treats.

Organic snacks in general, such as potato chips, are somewhat healthier, especially because they don't contain poisons such as high fructose corn syrup. But they also are very expensive, and will not make you more healthy, they will simply poison you less than their conventional alternatives.

What Statistics Don't Say

One point that the article made that was very pertinent as; "The long-term consequences for the health and well-being of the working poor are exactly the type of information econometric stats obscure."

Although, what I've just explained about spending habits somewhat negates this statement; "Our food system, indeed our entire economic system, all but forces low-income consumers into an unhealthy diet. Fixing this will be a tall order, and solutions to this problem will need to be both broad-based and comprehensive, from grassroots efforts to policy changes."

The Economy

The real fix for people's health does not have to include a fix for our economy at all. We can all afford to be healthy if we make it our very first priority. Even people on the streets can be healthy with the appropriate education on what is edible. (See my entries about eating local edible plants that are often disregarded as weeds.) And health should be our top priority. You never know how important it is to be able to run, to jump, to sing, to laugh, to get out of bed, to be able to fall asleep, to breath through your nose, to have smooth skin until you no longer have it.

My Unhealthy Childhood

I spent my childhood eating noodles (that often come with flavorings that contain mono sodium glutamate), eggs on toast (conventional eggs on conventional wheat toast which contains high fructose corn syrup), Cheerios (which are devoid of enzymes), peanut butter and jelly (conventional peanut butter contains trans fats and many jellies contain sugar) and other stereotypical things that children eat a lot of. Many children have strong enough genetics to withhold this bombardment to their immune system until they're in their twenties or even thirties, but I wasn't up to the battle.

I had mono four times. I had chicken pox twice. I had strep throat at least twice a year until I was fourteen (around the time I began walking more and quit soda). I had random fevers that doctors couldn't explain around six times a year (which continued until I was sixteen when I quit high fructose corn syrup). I had difficulty walking anywhere, and would fall ill the next day after walking a mere five or six short city blocks (which didn't improve at all until I was fifteen.) I had constant stomach aches and burps from age fifteen to seventeen, which is what got in interested in researching nutrition, and those didn't stop until I quit pasta, breads, meats and dairy. I've always had low energy and difficulty sleeping at night, which improved when I was seventeen but didn't improve dramatically until I converted to a mostly raw diet.


From the article about economic trends affecting health;

But with all this overwhelming evidence of not just our system's inequality, but its injustice, what are we waiting for?

Blogger Matt Yglesias grabbed this quote from an NPR interview with USDA Chief Tom Vilsack which suggested to me that Vilsack needs to read the blogs a bit more.

Vilsack said: "I would say consumers do benefit from the way in which we structured our farm programs, at least as of today, because of the fact that our food is less expensive than it is any place else in the world. Folks in America have a great deal more discretion of what to do with their paycheck."

He's making the very argument my post is meant to undercut; in Vilsack's world as in the econometricians', this cheap food comes with no negative consequences, when we know the opposite is true.

As the data show, our "discretion" comes via farm subsidies that maintain a low price for and oversupply of the corn and soy used in the manufacture of all our cheap, unhealthy food. Healthy food such as fruits and vegetables has virtually no subsidies. This benefits no one except the food processors, and certainly not the vast majority of farmers who grow the crops or the low-income consumers forced by circumstances to purchase the nutrient-poor, calorie-dense final products.

Corrupt Farming Industry

And this doesn't even mention the hundreds of farmers who are paid not to grow things. When the price drops too far on a certain product or area of produce, often farmers are paid not to produce anything so that the price will go back up. This benefits nobody but the suppliers.

Just another of the many, many reasons to buy local, buy organic, forage local plants and grow as much of your own food as you are capable.


I've been told I need to site my sources more often by several folks. I try to link whenever possible, but these entries are so heavy in research and thought and sheer time typing that it would double the length of the process if I hunted down every single relevant site and source possible. I do however have a list of links that covers some small fraction of articles I've read pertaining to nutrition and health. There are many more links throughout all of my entries that are not linked on that page. And all of the links together equal less than 25% of all of the articles I've read. Not to mention the bits of information that came out of magazines, books, nutritionists and speakers I've heard speak and talked to.


If you have anything to say, please feel free to leave a comment on the relevant post. I appreciate you taking my polls, your comments, thoughts, energy and ideas.


  1. Well thought out. Well presented. :)

    Two errors: Under Childhood - withhold should be withstand.
    Under Credits - 'site' is a location - 'cite' refers to speaking (as in 'recite') When you credit someone you cite them.

  2. What kind of shampoo/conditioners do you use in your hair? You have lovely hair and it is almost identical to mine in length and texture. I just find mine tangles very easily. Thanks!

  3. I change what shampoo I use quite often. I buy all my soaps, shampoos and conditioners organic, and I always use oil-based soaps. This is really key -- you won't need lotion anymore when you use an oil based soap. If over-use of heating and air conditioning causes dryness, use a little olive oil, coconut oil or jojoba oil.

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What brings you here? What are you thoughts? Do you consider yourself a raw foodist? Approximately how much of your diet is raw? Do you consider yourself healthy? What would you like to see more of on this blog? Will you be back? Is this too many questions?