Michael Moss, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who wrote Salt, Sugar, Fat and his latest book, Hooked, was the speaker at the American Library in Paris author event. I wrote a review of the book Hooked: How we became addicted to Processed Food a year and a half ago and encouraged all my readers interested in both Addictions and Food, to read it. I learned he was coming to Paris to be a guest speaker at a writing retreat this week. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible for me to attend the retreat. When I learned last weekend, that he would be speaking at the Library, I was very excited. This man had thanked me on Instagram for the review and I got an image of an author that was totally approachable.
Not only did I want to hear him in person, I decided I would give him a copy of my book Saving Sara, A Memoir of Food Addiction. I could tell from his writing that he did not have addiction issues himself, at least as far as food is concerned, that his aim was to expose Nestlé, for the pimps they are (my words not his), to alert the world that these companies WANT you to get addicted to their products as it is excellent for the financial bottom line. I’ve long wanted to correspond with him but hadn’t found a way. When I met him walking in the door of the Library, after we all greeted him, I asked him if he would be willing to read my book. He said he would be honored. So I inscribed it and handed it to him.
He was interviewed by the Library’s excellent Alice McCrumb who provided an air of excitement about the book. He told us about the research presently going: on taking ‘Photos’ of people’s brains right after eating chocolate, for instance, and how the researcher can see the corresponding parts of the brain light up within seconds. Most damningly, it seems industries don’t try to hide the fact that they are working hard to find products that are convenient, cheap, and addictive. The CEOs of these industries would never eat their own food, Moss told us.
I found myself very uncomfortable during the whole talk. Looking back I realize that I had come with the intention of making his acquaintance, giving him my book to read if he was willing, and maybe forming some kind of bond with him. That didn’t happen. I appreciate the science and the research that is now going into the huge subject of food addiction. He told us that in his first book, he danced around using the ‘A’ word, In Hooked, he didn’t. He even went so far as to say that for some people this addiction is like drug addiction and that people have to look at what drug addicts do to overcome their addictions for help with food. What I finally came up with by the time I got home was that I’m so used to being with like-minded people when talking of this subject, that I’m not often in the position of learning the more scientific aspects of it. In Michael’s talk, he was talking about Big Pharma (known as the food industry), not the addicts themselves. People had come to hear the dasterdly deeds of Nestlé (which makes $63.8bn a year) and the nine other huge food companies that control the majority of what you buy from the food and beverage brands, not to hear from people like me. I was definitely the odd man out.
Near the end, one woman asked “What is the solution?’ Two days later, I’m not actually sure if she was asking about the solution to stopping production of these addictive products or the solution to helping people stay away from them. I heard it as the second. I raised my hand and outed myself as a food addict in recovery for over 17 years, and that each of us has to take some responsibility for ending the abuse on our bodies. The topic before had been that so many families couldn’t afford good food, they had to buy this cheap excuse for food in order to feed their families. I didn’t respond to that but I know plenty of food addicts who live hand to mouth who have found a way to feed their families with real food. In 12 step rooms, we’re told you have to want it bad enough.
The thing is: I agree with every one of his findings, and I applaud him for calling this problem what it is: Food Addiction. But I don’t agree that the industry has to take 100% responsibility for our health. If I had waited until that happened, I’d probably be dead by my own hand today. I think each one of us has to take 100% responsibility for what we put in our bodies and, people like me who have lost the power to act in healthy ways, we should get ourselves surrounded by like-minded people who will hold our hands through the withdrawal part, explain to us in no uncertain terms that this disease is one of Obsession—obsessing about those foods/substances that are supposed to make us happy, find Prince Charming, etc, etc and one of Compulsion—once the substance we are allergic to, in my case sugar and grains, is in my body, I don’t know what will happen next. I’m at the mercy of my compulsion.
I felt very alone at the end of his talk. I think I brought it on myself. I know what he writes about and I’m a huge cheerleader. But I forgot what it’s like to be in the company of people just learning what is going on in the food industry and how people like me are already dying from addiction. Here is the kicker: It is easy to think “well this happened in the tobacco industry, maybe things will change.” Guess who owns some of the largest industry companies?? The tobacco companies. Tobacco stopped making the billions it was making, so they found the next best thing. Philip Morris owns Kraft. RJ Reynolds owns Nabisco. Does the average person have a chance?
Michael Moss is an investigative journalist and author. In 2010, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on contaminated hamburgers. His previous book Salt, Sugar, Fat, was a New York Times best seller. Hooked (2021) explores our complex relationship with processed food. It explains why certain foods leave us wanting more, and reveals how our brain chemistry and our evolutionary biology are exploited by the fast-food industry.
Sara Somers is an author, blogger, and retired Psychotherapist living in Paris, France. Saving Sara: For nearly fifty years, Sara Somers suffered from untreated food addiction. In this brutally honest and intimate memoir, Somers offers readers an inside view of a food addict’s mind, showcasing her experiences of obsessive cravings, compulsivity, and powerlessness regarding food.
For those of you following the growth of my peacocks’ tails, here are the latest photos. The feathers of the tail are at least two inches longer than last week and I could see an eye or two. On his back, the brown and white feathers are beginning to turn into blue and green shell-shaped feathers that will eventually take up most of his back.