The beauty of America is the freedom of choice and opportunity. We cherish and defend that. However, with freedom must come the responsibility of research, evaluation and self-discipline too. It’s a mistake to blindly trust that companies or other individuals have your best interests in mind, no matter how popular the brand. You must consider that they’re likely presenting you with a choice, and it’s up to you to determine if buying and consuming that particular product is right for you and/or regulate your consumption of it.
There was a critical eye-opening moment in my advertising career where this became particularly apparent. We were asked by a prominent company to manipulate the search rankings so the negative content around a certain ingredient in their product – even if presented by a credible source – was essentially buried so deep that consumers wouldn’t find it so quickly and easily. Yes, that is very possible…or was in those days at least. But, this was not cool with me personally, and I declined to participate – grateful that I had that choice to honor my own personal values and keep my job. But to that end, we must recognize that the rapid change in technology and algorithms may only change or enable this manipulation further.
Why would a company do that? Often, there is clear research that certain ingredients in many types of products are incredibly harmful in a variety of ways – whether companies knew that when developing the product or better research and testing has uncovered it since – but in either case, they’d often rather you not know that for the sake of their brand identity or effectiveness of the product in isolation of the negative byproducts. That part is pretty straight forward and not likely new news to you. But, similarly, research is also uncovering our mental and/or physical addiction to many of these harmful ingredients and, perhaps, manufacturers believe this is also needless negative information when there isn’t much you can do about it because you’re in so deep with the addiction, often by design, that there’s no turning back. Ignorance is bliss, right?
Now, some people may happily turn a blind eye to that info because their perceived short-term benefits outweigh the risks and terrible long-term outcomes, and that’s also the beauty of choice. But for those who want or need a healthier option for their wellness and longevity, you may not realize that the transparency in that may be harder to uncover than you think. In some cases, as I experienced first-hand, there has been purposeful effort to keep it from you in the name of money (or at least make you work harder to find the balanced facts.) And, that’s the catch-22 if you like being gainfully employed in a growing economy.
There have been some brave whistle-blowing pioneers like Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe), and even more prominent names that I won’t drop who have been attacked or suppressed by special interest groups that don’t think we deserve (or can handle) the full or at least balanced truth. But, this is where education in America is a cherished right that you must leverage and deploy especially when it comes to your food, beauty, household products, and beyond.
How do you uncover and make the better choice specific to your own health needs? Read every label and skip ingredients that you don’t recognize or you likely know shouldn’t be there in such abundance. Better yet, eat foods and use products that don’t need a label. Use the Think Dirty app and EWG as resources to better clarify what the unknown ingredients on your product label really mean for your body. Follow other health and wellness advocates to help you understand the medical implications like my favorites Dr. Hyman, Dr. Taz, Dr. Axe, Dr. Weil, Dr. Fuhrman…I could go on and on.
In summary, I scrutinize. I research vigorously. If I don’t recognize an ingredient or can’t find clear information from a source that has earned my trust, I put it down. I’m in tune with my body’s response to things and have a good intuition for what works for my body and what doesn’t. When I’ve had a nagging ailment that I really couldn’t sort out on my own, I go to a functional medicine doctor to help me sort it out through more comprehensive testing and correction or elimination. I trust that I am my own best filter, and suspect you will be yours. I’m grateful for the opportunity to choose one product over another and strike my right balance – I’m certainly not perfect – I suffer from some of the same food and/or product addictions that you do now-and-again, especially in a vulnerable moment of “hanger”. But, I do know that consistent consumption of junk in my food, products, and environment affects my sleep, my physique, my energy, my happiness, my stress level, and my immunity. I simply don’t have time for that. Do you? I hope you’ll properly evaluate and choose wisely in the name of health, happiness and freedom.