A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a sugar-free challenge that is all over the internet every year in January, for the same reason gyms get crowded in January, and why I was not interested in doing one. I didn’t publish it. I felt like it wasn’t really conveying what was on my mind. It wasn’t just about sugar.
And then I couldn’t post anything else. You know how when you keep putting something off there is an underlying reason for that—there is something blocking your path forward, some obstacle. Once you drill down and figure out what it is that is sabotaging your best intentions, you have to go for it and address it—that’s the only way to move forward. Remove the obstacle.
This post is removing the obstacle.
To me going sugar-free for a month seems pointless and contrived. I don’t see a point of avoiding sugar for a short while only to be back—as soon as February with the Valentine’s day sweets– to the same eating habits which completely erase any effect achieved during the challenge. There’s no good evidence that it “resets” metabolism— one of the common reasons people do it. And, for me it wouldn’t teach me anything new about my body that I didn’t already know, which is that I have a hard time resisting sweets. I know I do. It is effective as a weight loss exercise, since it restricts calories, but I prefer to achieve the same result in a more fundamental way, making healthy eating a lifestyle, something that can be done long term day in and day out.
The fact about sugar-free challenge that bothers me most is that it is a perfect example of a consumer behavior manipulation.
It is omnipresent, powerful and always camouflaged as the next best thing.
Attempts by corporations to control consumers’ brains for marketing purposes is nothing new. This is an awesome article covering the basics.
We are dealing with this manipulation at an ever-growing scale, thanks to the internet. Social media, blogs, and TV push a message that has been carefully researched and precisely crafted based on your social stats—it’s scientific! One of the reasons this trickery works is because it’s built on the fundamental human needs, such as:
- A need to feel safe >> Eco-friendly packaging, clothes, household items, organic food, anything toxin-free.
- A need for achievement >> Fitness and beauty, certain eating styles.
- A need for belonging >> Pseudo-political movements.
It is challenging to step outside this screen set up by the marketing and production Machine—the people pushing these messages know exactly what they are doing and they don’t want us to have our own vision and perspective. There is a term “social media influencer”—it’s a real job; they make income by influencing our shopping and lifestyle choices.
I don’t think this dynamic is black and white, though. I don’t want to paint The Machine as an evil greedy bastard. They are an element of a functional economy. Companies need to sell goods to keep markets growing which we all benefit from.
I think it is possible to be a part of a healthy, functioning economy AND stick to one’s own perspective on the products and lifestyle one chooses. As much as I want to say do your own research and choose accordingly, even that is difficult. There is just too much misleading and confusing information out there that you may be thinking you are doing “your own research” but in reality, you are regurgitating what has been put out there in a pseudo-scientific, and very convincing, form. They are professionals, and they want you to feel that it’s your own idea.
So, what to do? Do a different kind of research, question everything. The fact that everyone is doing it is not necessarily proof of something being true.
Some resources that I have used to help me detect the Machine in action:
- Carl Sagan’s famous Baloney detection kit
- This book that talks about the Machine specifically in the food industry.
- Common logical fallacies (the “bandwagon fallacy” is part of what is happening here).
Balance is hard.