Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I'm just about finished reading Stuffed by Hank Cardello. I get where he's coming from, but he really ought to practice what he preaches. Much of his book centers around cutting calories and fat from food. Yet he failed to cut the fat from his own book. This 243-page lecture could easily have been a concise 150 pages and gotten its point across in a very effective manner. Not to say he doesn't make great points and teach me many things I didn't know, but he forces the same ideas down my throat numerous times. He takes the "learn through repetition" thing literally.

(I won't even mention some of the atrocious grammatical errors and his gross overuse of the word "ubiquitous." Though I do have to call out one sentence on page 168 that really gets my goat. Maybe somebody can clarify this one for me. I'll include the prior sentence just for context: "The money could go--in a general way--to fighting the things that make us fat. It could also function to bring down the cost of healthier foods, or if not reduce these prices, at least make them more affordable.")

In summary, Cardello's book outlines the ways in which the food industry, government, and American people contribute to the obesity problem and steps all three groups can take to help improve the situation. As I mentioned, he touches upon some interesting facts and novel ideas. He explains how food got to be so large in size, and why Americans tend to eat high-calorie foods with low nutritional value. He rightfully places much of the blame on the food industry and government, and even briefly explains how government subsidies support production of corn (i.e. high fructose corn syrup) over healthier fruits and vegetables. As you've probably read on my other blog, I'm a huge opponent of government-subsidized industrial farming.

The first part of the book had me intrigued, but the further I got, the more irritated I got. Somewhere along the way, Cardello shifts from informing to lecturing. Not only that, but he focuses solely on cutting calories. Though he briefly mentions that low-calorie doesn't necessarily mean high-health, that point is quickly forgotten. In the end, I'm left thinking that producing lower-calorie foods, no matter what it takes, is the answer to America's obesity problem. He never returns to his thoughts around subsidized farming or greater support for healthier foods in general. It's as though he's saying "We might as well just give up and assume people will never change. Instead of promoting healthier food, let's just sneak some healthier oils into our fast food and leave it at that." Yes, fewer calories could ultimately mean fewer pounds, but it doesn't necessarily mean healthier pounds. There are plenty of skinny and extremely unhealthy people out there. Diet Coke will never be healthier than water.

While it's interesting to learn how the food industry works (and the many ways it manipulates the consumer, from grocery-aisle psychology to branding), it feels to me like Cardello's book is more a massive brag about what he knows from years of experience, and his brilliant ideas on how we can turn things around. Never mind that most of these changes must be made by the food industry and not the little readers like us. I'd be much more interested in ways I can impart change, besides getting a job at General Mills and somehow convincing them to change the way they work.

My final sticking point is with his references, or lack thereof. Though he mainly seems to draw from personal experience, Cardello rarely cites his sources. When he does, it's right in the text. Now that's fine with me, but if he were really citing all his sources, that would make for very irritating reading. You look at the work of other non-fiction writers, and you'll see pages and pages of references at the back of the book. Stuffed has absolutely no reference or source section, which undermines the entire book.

My opinion: if you're curious about the food industry, read the first eight or nine chapters. And if you want to learn about newer supplements that may help you lose weight, read chapter 12. Otherwise, you're better off spending time reading Michael Pollan or Jonathan Safram Foer.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I'm a slacker

The moment I started this sister blog, I subconsciously decided to stop reading. Well, I didn't entirely stop reading. I just stopped reading officially published books. Upon finding some old journals in my parent's attic, I set upon reading those. I'd written about five of them, starting sophomore year of high school and continuing (with the exception of a few large gaps during college) through a couple years after college graduation.

They were interesting, to say the least. As I read, old memories came flooding back, and it was as though I was reliving those years. The high school journals were, by far, the most amusing. The entries were mostly about my encounters with various boys, sprinkled with random thoughts and nonsensical musings. Plus a lot of anger toward my parents. I'm pretty sure I didn't enjoy living that life as much as I enjoyed reading about it. Though it was also somewhat frustrating to read about what I was going through at 15 with 30 years of life experience under my belt. At times, I wanted to shake my 15-year-old self and say "What are you doing?"

I'm sure if anyone could go back in time with the knowledge they have today, they would do some things differently. But if I'd done anything differently, I wouldn't have all these entertaining journals to read.