Phil Carville: Food choices |

Phil Carville: Food choices

Phil Carville
Special to The Union
Phil Carville

The other day I was waiting in line at a Grass Valley grocery store when I looked over and saw a woman in her 30s with her two children waiting in the other line. Her shopping cart was overflowing with packaged/processed industry “food stuffs” — chips, soda, pre-made meals, canned items — and no fresh fruit or vegetables that I could see.


She was visibly sick. By that I mean she was about 5-foot-5 and must have weighed over 260 pounds. Her two young children were overweight bordering on obesity. I don’t know if she understood that the “calories” (foods) she was buying were essentially poisons that are ruining her health and that of her family.

Would she purchase those items if she knew it was a toxic “alphabetic soup?” A is for Arthritis, B is for Blood pressure, C is for Cancer, D is for Diabetes, E is for Encephalopathy, F is for low Fertility and so on all the way to XYZ. I think she would make some changes if she knew the implications.


Sometimes it is hard to put calories into perspective. Numerous studies have shown that stating the number of calories on food packages sometimes increases consumption. People see “one serving” in a package of “X” has only 300 calories — but there are 20 servings in the package. She thinks, “Wow, 300 calories is low, I think I will buy two packages” — not knowing that two packages are seven days of a woman’s daily calorie requirement.


Big Food, Big Soda and Big Alcohol fear regulation, so they have followed the Big Tobacco strategy which is to deliberately suppress, manipulate and undermine scientific evidence. Big Tobacco’s classic trope was “personal responsibility” which is “if people understand the risk, they should be free to purchase tobacco.”

This is fine, but people do not understand the risks. No purveyor of unhealthy products wants the public to know the truth. The goal is to keep the public in the dark.

In 1967 when a court ruled that the tobacco industry had to run one ad stating the dangers of tobacco use for every four ads marketing tobacco on radio and TV, Big Tobacco knew they could not compete with the truth, so that stopped all radio and TV advertising. Yes, keep the public in the dark.


American tobacco packages have a small text warning that tobacco could harm your health. However, tobacco packaging in Canada has a large picture on the package of the consequences of tobacco use: for example, a picture of a gaunt smoker lying in bed about to die, or a gaping open cancerous tongue and mouth, or my favorite — a drooping cigarette with a caption “Tobacco use can make you impotent.”


The leading cause of death in the United States is the American diet. The goal of the food industry is not to make people fat, but to make money. Unfortunately, the way to make money is to manipulate ingredients like salt, fat, sugar, caffeine, and flavor enhancing chemicals. Job security for food industry CEO’s depends on quarterly profits for shareholders — not on the quarterly health of customers.

The woman in the grocery line most likely does not fully understand that her purchasing choices are endangering the health of her family. While there are millions of studies demonstrating the severe disease consequences of the American diet, too many people still do not understand.

She does not understand that obese children will face job insecurity, discrimination, lower lifetime wages, other financial hardship and the pain and suffering of early disease onset. These are avoidable personal tragedies.

Excess weight causes huge personal and national medical costs. The combination of health care costs and diminished productivity exceed $200,000/person which is paid by taxes and health insurance premiums. The Milken Institute estimates that obesity is more than a $1 trillion drag on the economy — or almost twice what we spend on national defense.


During this COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are semi-isolated, watching much TV, indulging in calories and not exercising enough.

I hope that you and your family will use this time to assess your family diet and make any changes that are necessary. When this COVID-19 crisis is over, we can all get outdoors, continue our lives, go to our favorite restaurants and watch big-screen movies at the Sierra Cinemas owned by the Getz family.

We live in a wonderful, vibrant, and diverse community. Let us appreciate and make the most of it… which includes taking care of yourself and your family. You are all wonderful.

Phil Carville is a co-owner of the South Yuba Club. He is happy to respond to questions or comments. He can be reached at

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