$28 for a bottle of hot dog water. Found at a festival in Vancouver, Canada, the water with a floating weenie racked up $1,500 in sales. It was marketed as a miracle which “can help you look younger, reduce inflammation, and increase your brain function.” It was also “keto-compatible and gluten-free.”
Weenie water and psychology
“Hot dog water, in its absurdity, hopes to encourage critical thinking related to product marketing and the significant role it can play in our purchasing choices,” said Douglas Bevans, the Hot Dog Water CEO.
It’s an interesting look at the need to critically think about the food you’re buying—or not buying. Hot dog water, along with its complementary products of breath spray, lip balm, and body fragrance, was a study in human behavior
“Global News reported that Bevans is actually a tour operator and an artist, and he created Hot Dog Water as a commentary on the “snake oil salesmen” of health and wellness marketing. Psychology Today cites a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research that calls this phenomenon affective conditioning, which is a transfer of feelings from one set of items to another.”
Fear trumps truth in food
This neuromarketing is a subtle bullying technique to influence our brains’ emotional decisions while making food choices.As a result of psychological maneuvering like this, the trust around food degrades, and the conversation often turns highly emotional. “Fear based marketing. Clouded with confusion. Fear trumps reason. Noisy minority agitates. Amazing technology misunderstood. Best intentions misconstrued.” These are the typical descriptors offered by my Twitter community when asked to describe the climate around food.
“Food is safe, nutritious and wholesome,” says Jennifer Schmidt, a dietitian and farmer in Maryland. “The climate around food is fear and falsehoods—a food fight.” She’s right. Little did I know when I wrote No More Food Fights! in 2013 that people would be buying weenie water five years later. Simply put, the side effects of food bullying are far-reaching, and the continued growth in food bullying has reached a point of needing national attention.
An obsession with healthy food
Have you heard of orthorexia? It’s an obsession with eating foods one considers healthy. A person who suffers from this medical and psychological condition avoids specific foods in the belief that they are harmful. Even though people are eating healthy foods, it has detrimental health effects because of the limited food selection.
Social media posts and photos about meal preparation, including arrays of fruits and vegetables in colorful presentations, may increase orthorexia and malnutrition, according to nutrition experts and people who have experienced the eating disorder. RDN Christy Harrison says these images may convince people that is the right way to eat, but “we can’t live off fruits and vegetables alone.”
Negative eating emotions have consequences
What if we enjoyed food instead of guilting others about eating choices and destroying relationships because of differences of opinion around nutrition? One of the dietary directives in Japan is to “enjoy your meals.”
“There is a slew of evidence that eating-related pleasure, satisfaction, and enjoyment are important components of a healthy diet. At the same time, negative emotions related to eating like guilt, fear, shame, and judgment have real consequences for our health and well-being—and not just for social reasons.”
As I extensively wrote about in Food Truths from Farm to Table, food should be about celebration, nourishment, and family tradition. There’s a downside to making people feel guilty, confused, and fearful of food—it shows up in your health and well-being. Keep that in mind as you make eating choices – don’t let food bullying impact your wellness.
The chaos of 5 million Google results
Google brings up five million results for “understanding food labels.” How can you sort through that chaos? Look for meaningful and measurable labels. There is no easy answer, particularly given all the players involved in food bullying—but I do suggest truth simplifies food. Confusion, guilt, distrust, higher priced food, malnourishment, a growing disconnect from the farm, and overall stress are just a few of the side effects of bullying.
This excerpt of Food Bullying gives readers an inside look at the side effects of the food bullying epidemic. This new book releases November 5 – please share www.foodbullying.com with your community.