The Greatest Fitness Book Never Written…

succeeded

I was talking with a friend the other day who also works as a trainer and we were talking about the reoccurring cycle we see throughout the year. January brings a renewed interest in fitness and wishes to shed the gains of the previous year. Most clients stay strong through the month before easing back off  when the excuses begin. Typically beginning with the Superbowl, moving into Valentines Day, bring on lines like, “It’s just one day, it won’t hurt,” even though those leftover wings and dips, chocolates and sweets carry on for the next week. Add the cold weather factor this time of the year when it’s easy to hide these slips under a few stylishly planned layers until “Holy crap it’s almost spring break!!!” Clients reengage and promise to commit once again to logging their meals and following through with their solo workouts and cardio during the week. It’s no different than cramming for a test in that this maximized effort is for a short term purpose. Working to fit back into that swimsuit rather than working to stay in it. By this time of the year we’ve seen Spring Break, St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, Cinco de Mayo and other “It’s just one day or one week, I’ll get back at it as soon as (fill in the blank)” pressures come and go and many clients find themselves frustrated to be right back where they were before the new year began. These frustrations lead to misguided beliefs that they don’t have the ability to reach their goals because “it runs in the family”, slow metabolism, low testosterone, thyroid and other self-diagnosed “reasons”. Some even shift the responsibility on to us, the trainers, blaming the style of training because Joe and Jane Blow did something else and they look great. No, Joe and Jane set goals, DESIRED to reach them and did not quit even once they got there.

I wrote back around the first of the year about making resolutions stick. It’s equally frustrating to a trainer to see clients struggle with these things throughout the year and especially year after year as it is for the clients themselves  It would be very easy to say “Quit putting crap in your mouth,” but it’s deeper than that. Most people simply attack goal setting in the wrong way or too ambiguously, setting themselves up to fail. Others wish and want to achieve their goals, but they don’t DESIRE to achieve them. One of the greatest books on setting, attaining and maintaining fitness goals won’t be found in the health, sports and exercise, or even the self-help section. You’ll find it in the business section.

Think_and_grow_rich_original_coverIn 1937, Napoleon Hill wrote the book, and later video, “Think and Grow Rich”, containing the 16 “laws” of achieving success, modeled after individuals such as Andrew Carnegie, Edwin C. Barnes and Marshal Field. Success in a fitness and wellness program are said to be 80-90% nutrition and the rest hard work and rest. But, without starting on a firm foundation, you lack the inner voice reminding you what you are doing this for. That voice that doesn’t let you skip a workout or tells you that this weekends drinking binge and gastro-disaster are ok because you can make up for it next week. To truly succeed, you need more than wishes and wants. It has to be bigger than just reaching a goal. DESIRE is about the climb, reaching the top and remaining the king or queen of the mountain. Only when we get to  and remain at the peak can we look out for that next summit that is just a little bit higher to set our sights on next.

Hill writes that “the method by which DESIRE for riches can be transmuted into its financial equivalent, consists of six definite, practical steps…” These steps translate directly into how we set our goals for fitness and wellness. It begins with fixing in your mind exactly on what it is you are trying to achieve. It is not enough to simply say “I want to get in shape.”

First: Be definite on your goal.

Second: Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the results you DESIRE.

Third: Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the results you DESIRE.

Fourth: Create a definite plan for carrying out your DESIRE and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.

Fifth: Write out a clear concise statement on the results you intend to achieve, name the time limit for them, state what you intend to give in return and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to reach the goal.

Sixth: Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before going to bed, and once when you wake in the morning. As you read this each time, visualize yourself already having achieved your goal. Feel and believe to yourself how you would feel as if you had already achieved your goal. This psychological imprinting is the crucial difference between your wants/wishes and true DESIRE.

2525949867_303777d50a

Bonus – BURN YOUR SHIPS and Create a BURNING DESIRE: Hill tells the story that “A long while ago, a great warrior faced a situation which made it necessary for him to make a decision which insured his success on the battlefield. He was about to send his armies against a powerful foe, whose men outnumbered his own. He loaded his soldiers into boats, sailed them to the enemy’s country, unloaded soldiers and equipment, then gave them the order to burn the ships that had carried them. Addressing his men before the first battle, he said, “You see the boats going up in smoke. That means that we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now have no choice, we win or we perish!” They won.

Make your goals public, whether that be with your spouse or family, co-workers, Facebook etc. Share your statement above with them as well as your progress along the way identifying trouble areas and upcoming potential to slip and fall. Establishing partners in accountability holds you to your DESIRE, effectively eliminating sources of retreat before reaching your goal.

– Michael

Major Step in the Obesity Epidemic

The American Medical Association announced today that it will begin recognizing  obesity as a disease. A chronic disease has been defined by the National Institutes of Health as “the basis of the biomedical disease classification” including other diseases such as diabetes, asthma and depression. Until now, obesity has been viewed as a chronic illness, the “personal experience of living with the affliction that often accompanies chronic disease.” Because of this, obesity was not recognized by the health care field as a condition that “fit into a biomedical or administrative classification.”

obesity pie

Obesity by the Numbers

America, by a huge margin, leads the world in obesity with 92,000,000 Americans with a BMI greater than 30%. Read that again, NINETY-TWO MILLION Americans are currently obese. 66% of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight and 33% are obese according to United States Obesity Statistics as of May 2013.

gr-obesity-in-america-948

What Does the New Designation Mean?

Although the AMA is not the end-all-be-all regarding disease recognition legally,  their statement, “RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association recognize obesity as a disease state with multiple pathophysiological aspects requiring a range of interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention,”  is huge as it will pave the way for further studies and legislation that may result in more weight management, nutrition, health and wellness treatments being recognized and covered by health care insurance and other programs.

 

There is still much work to be done such as standardizing means of identifying and defining what it means exactly to be obese as the classic BMI system contains some arbitrary classifications that don’t take into other factors such as metabolic conditions etc. I’ll definitely be following this one closely.

– Michael

 

Ancestral Fitness… How Far We’ve Come…

20130531-122338.jpg
With so much focus on ancestral diets, it is important to note that the nutrition piece is only part if resyncing ourselves with out genetic coding. Physical activity has no doubt decreased in modern society as we continue to advance technologically.

The dreams of the past of when computers and machines would make our lives much easier and increase the quality of living did not come true for most of us. Now don’t get me wrong, sure we can communicate at lightning fast speeds, automate production and travel more efficiently (even though I’m still waiting for my hover board from Back to the Future.) But, as our technological means have increased, so have the expectations of our production. We are working as many, if not more hours than before except now we are tethered to our devices sitting at desks, on planes, trains or in automobiles. Even the visit to a cubicle down the row has been replaced with a text message or email. Add in the morning and afternoon commutes, it’s no wonder over 35% of Americans are now obese. Read that again, over 35% of Americans are obese, not just overweight.

While it would be true to say that America has gotten lazy and simply let the blame lie there, in many cases we have actually just hoarded too many to-dos and are left with our time management cluttered and we don’t know where or how to fit functional fitness into our routines. We’ve forgotten how to move.

Regardless of ones view on the evolution vs creation debate, our ability to move is not only something we should not take for granted, it is a gift we should celebrate as a species! I mean, can you think of another animal on this planet capable of what we are? Crawling, walking, running, jumping, ducking, dodging, climbing, swimming, diving, pulling, pushing, lifting, throwing, catching etc… And with the correct apparati, you can even throw gliding and flying in there. You get my point, we are truly the Swiss Army Knife of biological organisms.

I’m really excited to spend the next several weeks revisiting a study done by the esteemed Dr. Loren Cordain (pioneer of the paleo movement) and colleagues on how fitness was incorporated in the lives of our ancestors and why it is still possible, and critically necessary, to revive this “movement” in our lives today.

I’m sure they only have the most ethical intentions with this technology… Scared yet???

GMO-alert-Eating-GM-wheat-may-destroy-your-liver-warn-scientists

By Judson Parker

Experts in the biotechnology field say that genetically modified (GM) wheat currently in development could potentially silence human genes if ingested, resulting in premature death and risk of passing the defect on to future generations.

The wheat, developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), is engineered to turn off undesirable genes permanently.

However, the wheat genes intended to be silenced are a match for the human GBE gene sequence, according to Professor Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury’s Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety, who published a report on the experimental wheat.

Through ingestion, these molecules can enter human beings and potentially silence our genes,” says Heinemann.

GBE dictates glycogen storage in humans. Children who are born with this enzyme not working tend to die by the age of about five. Adults with malfunctioning GBE genes can experience cognitive impairment, pyramidal quadriplegia, peripheral neuropathy, and neurogenic bladder.

The real danger behind this genetically modified variety of wheat is that scientists used double stranded RNA, or dsRNA, to achieve their desired results. Heinemann describes the dsRNAs present in modified wheat as “remarkably stable in the environment.”

The dsRNA is able to withstand processing and cooking, and can also survive the human digestive system and enter into the blood stream. It then circulates through the body, where it amplifies into more and different dsRNAs and alters gene expression.

These altered genes can be passed on to later generations, assuming the consumer doesn’t die of cancer or liver damage before procreating.

Using dsRNA to silence genes is not without precedent. Monsanto, the world’s largest manufacturer of bioengineered seeds, has published research in the past about how to commercially exploit the fact that dsRNA survives digestion in insects.

The company genetically engineered plants to produce a dsRNA, which insects ingest when they eat the plant; the dsRNA survives digestion in the insect and then silences genes in the insect to stunt its growth and kill it.

While not yet commercialized, the GM wheat is currently undergoing field tests in Australia. If approved, it will likely be grown alongside conventional wheat and sold unlabeled to consumers.

Against the Grain Dining – Wholly Cow!!!

20130415-145304.jpg

I was on the run today and needed a quick bite. Not us how I ever missed this place when I was living downtown, but it’s killer. Located just south of 7th St on Congress, Wholly Cow features local, grass-fed beef in all their burgers, Philly cheesesteaks, reubens and chili as well as locally-grown organic produce.

I went with the Fit Cross Burger and Sweet Potato Fries (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know they’re not paleo, but it was one of those days 😉 The burger was hugged between two portobello mushroom caps with lettuce, tomato and onions. The mushroom caps are a nice change from my standard naked burger. There’s something just not quite right about having to eat a burger with silverware and lettuce cups tend to disintegrate about halfway through. I’ve had other restaurants attempts at shroom buns, but most of the time you end up with one of two things. The caps are either raw and end up crumbling, or they are over marinated or cooked to the point that they are a slimy mess. This was perfect. I’ll definitely be back and will have to checkout their S. Lamar location inside Zen Food Mart and Convenience Store. Zen is also known for their selection of local organic produce for sale as well as organic non-GMO Fredericksburg Peaches while you’re there. Noms!!!

20130415-145352.jpg

The original location is located inside the new ZEN Food Mart Convenience Store at 3010 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78704. 512-394-8156.
Restaurant hours are:
Mon-Thurs from 7AM – 9:30PM.
Friday & Saturday 7AM -10:30PM.
Sunday 10:30AM – 8:30PM.

The downtown location is at 619 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701. 512-425-0811
Hours are:
Monday – Thursday 8AM – 9PM.
Friday 8AM – 3AM. Saturday 10AM – 3AM.
Sunday 10:30AM – 8:30PM.

10 Keys to Performance

20130318-153919.jpg

By Jon Gilson of Again Faster

Crossfit is extraordinary in its breadth. The physical tasks we undertake are remarkable for their constant variation and immutable intensity.

To the beginning Crossfitter, the sheer size of the curriculum can be daunting. You’ll learn Olympic lifts, gymnastics, sprinting, kettlebell swings, medicine ball work, basic nutrition, and a hundred other things. Crossfit has combined these modalities and a good dose of creativity to develop an inclusive model of fitness programming. 

In an effort to make Crossfit a little easier to deal with, here are the things you need to know to become an elite athlete. Everything else will come with time.



1.) Virtuosity: Do every rep correctly, every time. Virtuosity is the pursuit of perfection. Become a stickler for form, and you will reap the benefits of Crossfit extremely quickly.



2.) Consistency: Get out of bed. Go to the gym. Get in the habit of showing up.

3.) Intensity: Strive to minimize the amount of time you spend resting in the middle of each workout. The less you rest, the stronger you’ll become. Your workout times will plummet, and your health will skyrocket. Go hard!



4.) Nutrition: Eat enough calories to support vigorous exercise. Not eating is not a solution. Avoid alcohol, starch, and sugar like the plague. Eat lean meats, vegetables, low-GI fruits, and good fats. Fat is necessary for athletic performance–get it from almonds, avocados, olive oil, and fish oil. The best way to maintain a good diet? Clear all the crap out of your cupboards, and never ever buy it again.

5.) Sleep: Sleep is essential to your athletic development. When you sleep, you heal. Progress is a constant give and take between breaking down and building up–exercise breaks you down and sleep builds you up. Give your body the fuel it needs to heal–lean protein and fat immediately before bed will keep you in a good physiological state to burn fat and build muscle all night long. Sleep at least 8 hours every night. Make it a priority.

6.) Rest: Don’t exercise every day. You’ll burn out. Schedule rest days after every two or three days of heavy training. You can speed up healing with ice, compression, mobility work, and good supplementation.

7.) Instruction: Spend money on quality trainers, reading materials, seminars, and certifications. A few hundred bucks here and there will accelerate your gains much faster than advice from the counter guy at Gold’s. 



8.) Comfort: Stray from the known path. Approach new skills as an opportunity to learn, not an opportunity to fail. The best athletes in the world spend all day working on their weaknesses, not reinforcing their strengths.



9.) Goals: Write everything down. Set goals and work to meet them every day. Look back over your progress, and change what needs to be changed.

10.) Stress: Your body doesn’t distinguish between training stress and life stress. Minimize life stress to maximize your progress.

None of this is earth-shattering. Incorporate these tenets in your training, one by one. Follow them 90% of the time, and you’ll find yourself at the top of the scoreboard each and every week.

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food… Part 5: Soda Jerks

20130303-232323.jpg
By Michael Moss

This article is adapted from “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” which will be published by Random House this month. Michael Moss is an investigative reporter for The Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for his reporting on the meat industry. Editor: Joel Lovell

‘These People Need a Lot of Things, but They Don’t Need a Coke.’

The growing attention Americans are paying to what they put into their mouths has touched off a new scramble by the processed-food companies to address health concerns. Pressed by the Obama administration and consumers, Kraft, Nestlé, Pepsi, Campbell and General Mills, among others, have begun to trim the loads of salt, sugar and fat in many products. And with consumer advocates pushing for more government intervention, Coca-Cola made headlines in January by releasing ads that promoted its bottled water and low-calorie drinks as a way to counter obesity. Predictably, the ads drew a new volley of scorn from critics who pointed to the company’s continuing drive to sell sugary Coke.

One of the other executives I spoke with at length was Jeffrey Dunn, who, in 2001, at age 44, was directing more than half of Coca-Cola’s $20 billion in annual sales as president and chief operating officer in both North and South America. In an effort to control as much market share as possible, Coke extended its aggressive marketing to especially poor or vulnerable areas of the U.S., like New Orleans – where people were drinking twice as much Coke as the national average – or Rome, Ga., where the per capita intake was nearly three Cokes a day. In Coke’s headquarters in Atlanta, the biggest consumers were referred to as “heavy users.” “The other model we use was called ‘drinks and drinkers,’ ” Dunn said. “How many drinkers do I have? And how many drinks do they drink? If you lost one of those heavy users, if somebody just decided to stop drinking Coke, how many drinkers would you have to get, at low velocity, to make up for that heavy user? The answer is a lot. It’s more efficient to get my existing users to drink more.”

One of Dunn’s lieutenants, Todd Putman, who worked at Coca-Cola from 1997 to 2001, said the goal became much larger than merely beating the rival brands; Coca-Cola strove to outsell every other thing people drank, including milk and water. The marketing division’s efforts boiled down to one question, Putman said: “How can we drive more ounces into more bodies more often?” (In response to Putman’s remarks, Coke said its goals have changed and that it now focuses on providing consumers with more low- or no-calorie products.)

In his capacity, Dunn was making frequent trips to Brazil, where the company had recently begun a push to increase consumption of Coke among the many Brazilians living in favelas. The company’s strategy was to repackage Coke into smaller, more affordable 6.7-ounce bottles, just 20 cents each. Coke was not alone in seeing Brazil as a potential boon; Nestlé began deploying battalions of women to travel poor neighborhoods, hawking American-style processed foods door to door. But Coke was Dunn’s concern, and on one trip, as he walked through one of the impoverished areas, he had an epiphany. “A voice in my head says, ‘These people need a lot of things, but they don’t need a Coke.’ I almost threw up.”

Dunn returned to Atlanta, determined to make some changes. He didn’t want to abandon the soda business, but he did want to try to steer the company into a more healthful mode, and one of the things he pushed for was to stop marketing Coke in public schools. The independent companies that bottled Coke viewed his plans as reactionary. A director of one bottler wrote a letter to Coke’s chief executive and board asking for Dunn’s head. “He said what I had done was the worst thing he had seen in 50 years in the business,” Dunn said. “Just to placate these crazy leftist school districts who were trying to keep people from having their Coke. He said I was an embarrassment to the company, and I should be fired.” In February 2004, he was.Dunn told me that talking about Coke’s business today was by no means easy and, because he continues to work in the food business, not without risk. “You really don’t want them mad at you,” he said. “And I don’t mean that, like, I’m going to end up at the bottom of the bay. But they don’t have a sense of humor when it comes to this stuff. They’re a very, very aggressive company.”

When I met with Dunn, he told me not just about his years at Coke but also about his new marketing venture. In April 2010, he met with three executives from Madison Dearborn Partners, a private-equity firm based in Chicago with a wide-ranging portfolio of investments. They recently hired Dunn to run one of their newest acquisitions – a food producer in the San Joaquin Valley. As they sat in the hotel’s meeting room, the men listened to Dunn’s marketing pitch. He talked about giving the product a personality that was bold and irreverent, conveying the idea that this was the ultimate snack food. He went into detail on how he would target a special segment of the 146 million Americans who are regular snackers – mothers, children, young professionals – people, he said, who “keep their snacking ritual fresh by trying a new food product when it catches their attention.”

He explained how he would deploy strategic storytelling in the ad campaign for this snack, using a key phrase that had been developed with much calculation: “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food.”After 45 minutes, Dunn clicked off the last slide and thanked the men for coming. Madison’s portfolio contained the largest Burger King franchise in the world, the Ruth’s Chris Steak House chain and a processed-food maker called AdvancePierre whose lineup includes the Jamwich, a peanut-butter-and-jelly contrivance that comes frozen, crustless and embedded with four kinds of sugars.

The snack that Dunn was proposing to sell: carrots. Plain, fresh carrots. No added sugar. No creamy sauce or dips. No salt. Just baby carrots, washed, bagged, then sold into the deadly dull produce aisle.”We act like a snack, not a vegetable,” he told the investors. “We exploit the rules of junk food to fuel the baby-carrot conversation. We are pro-junk-food behavior but anti-junk-food establishment.”

The investors were thinking only about sales. They had already bought one of the two biggest farm producers of baby carrots in the country, and they’d hired Dunn to run the whole operation. Now, after his pitch, they were relieved. Dunn had figured out that using the industry’s own marketing ploys would work better than anything else. He drew from the bag of tricks that he mastered in his 20 years at Coca-Cola, where he learned one of the most critical rules in processed food: The selling of food matters as much as the food itself.Later, describing his new line of work, Dunn told me he was doing penance for his Coca-Cola years. “I’m paying my karmic debt,” he said.

By Michael Moss

This article is adapted from “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” which will be published by Random House this month. Michael Moss is an investigative reporter for The Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for his reporting on the meat industry. Editor: Joel Lovell

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food… Part 4: Calorie Karma

20130303-233204.jpg
By Michael Moss

This article is adapted from “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” which will be published by Random House this month. Michael Moss is an investigative reporter for The Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for his reporting on the meat industry. Editor: Joel Lovell

‘It’s Called Vanishing Caloric Density.’

At a symposium for nutrition scientists in Los Angeles on Feb. 15, 1985, a professor of pharmacology from Helsinki named Heikki Karppanen told the remarkable story of Finland’s effort to address its salt habit. In the late 1970s, the Finns were consuming huge amounts of sodium, eating on average more than two teaspoons of salt a day. As a result, the country had developed significant issues with high blood pressure, and men in the eastern part of Finland had the highest rate of fatal cardiovascular disease in the world. Research showed that this plague was not just a quirk of genetics or a result of a sedentary lifestyle – it was also owing to processed foods. So when Finnish authorities moved to address the problem, they went right after the manufacturers. (The Finnish response worked. Every grocery item that was heavy in salt would come to be marked prominently with the warning “High Salt Content.” By 2007, Finland’s per capita consumption of salt had dropped by a third, and this shift – along with improved medical care – was accompanied by a 75 percent to 80 percent decline in the number of deaths from strokes and heart disease.)

Karppanen’s presentation was met with applause, but one man in the crowd seemed particularly intrigued by the presentation, and as Karppanen left the stage, the man intercepted him and asked if they could talk more over dinner. Their conversation later that night was not at all what Karppanen was expecting. His host did indeed have an interest in salt, but from quite a different vantage point: the man’s name was Robert I-San Lin, and from 1974 to 1982, he worked as the chief scientist for Frito-Lay, the nearly $3-billion-a-year manufacturer of Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos and Fritos.

Lin’s time at Frito-Lay coincided with the first attacks by nutrition advocates on salty foods and the first calls for federal regulators to reclassify salt as a “risky” food additive, which could have subjected it to severe controls. No company took this threat more seriously – or more personally – than Frito-Lay, Lin explained to Karppanen over their dinner. Three years after he left Frito-Lay, he was still anguished over his inability to effectively change the company’s recipes and practices.

By chance, I ran across a letter that Lin sent to Karppanen three weeks after that dinner, buried in some files to which I had gained access. Attached to the letter was a memo written when Lin was at Frito-Lay, which detailed some of the company’s efforts in defending salt. I tracked Lin down in Irvine, Calif., where we spent several days going through the internal company memos, strategy papers and handwritten notes he had kept. The documents were evidence of the concern that Lin had for consumers and of the company’s intent on using science not to address the health concerns but to thwart them. While at Frito-Lay, Lin and other company scientists spoke openly about the country’s excessive consumption of sodium and the fact that, as Lin said to me on more than one occasion, “people get addicted to salt.”

Not much had changed by 1986, except Frito-Lay found itself on a rare cold streak. The company had introduced a series of high-profile products that failed miserably. Toppels, a cracker with cheese topping; Stuffers, a shell with a variety of fillings; Rumbles, a bite-size granola snack – they all came and went in a blink, and the company took a $52 million hit. Around that time, the marketing team was joined by Dwight Riskey, an expert on cravings who had been a fellow at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, where he was part of a team of scientists that found that people could beat their salt habits simply by refraining from salty foods long enough for their taste buds to return to a normal level of sensitivity. He had also done work on the bliss point, showing how a product’s allure is contextual, shaped partly by the other foods a person is eating, and that it changes as people age. This seemed to help explain why Frito-Lay was having so much trouble selling new snacks. The largest single block of customers, the baby boomers, had begun hitting middle age. According to the research, this suggested that their liking for salty snacks – both in the concentration of salt and how much they ate – would be tapering off. Along with the rest of the snack-food industry, Frito-Lay anticipated lower sales because of an aging population, and marketing plans were adjusted to focus even more intently on younger consumers.

Except that snack sales didn’t decline as everyone had projected, Frito-Lay’s doomed product launches notwithstanding. Poring over data one day in his home office, trying to understand just who was consuming all the snack food, Riskey realized that he and his colleagues had been misreading things all along. They had been measuring the snacking habits of different age groups and were seeing what they expected to see, that older consumers ate less than those in their 20s. But what they weren’t measuring, Riskey realized, is how those snacking habits of the boomers compared to themselveswhen they were in their 20s. When he called up a new set of sales data and performed what’s called a cohort study, following a single group over time, a far more encouraging picture – for Frito-Lay, anyway – emerged. The baby boomers were not eating fewer salty snacks as they aged. “In fact, as those people aged, their consumption of all those segments – the cookies, the crackers, the candy, the chips – was going up,” Riskey said. “They were not only eating what they ate when they were younger, they were eating more of it.” In fact, everyone in the country, on average, was eating more salty snacks than they used to. The rate of consumption was edging up about one-third of a pound every year, with the average intake of snacks like chips and cheese crackers pushing past 12 pounds a year.

Riskey had a theory about what caused this surge: Eating real meals had become a thing of the past. Baby boomers, especially, seemed to have greatly cut down on regular meals. They were skipping breakfast when they had early-morning meetings. They skipped lunch when they then needed to catch up on work because of those meetings. They skipped dinner when their kids stayed out late or grew up and moved out of the house. And when they skipped these meals, they replaced them with snacks. “We looked at this behavior, and said, ‘Oh, my gosh, people were skipping meals right and left,’ ” Riskey told me. “It was amazing.” This led to the next realization, that baby boomers did not represent “a category that is mature, with no growth. This is a category that has huge growth potential.”

The food technicians stopped worrying about inventing new products and instead embraced the industry’s most reliable method for getting consumers to buy more: the line extension. The classic Lay’s potato chips were joined by Salt & Vinegar, Salt & Pepper and Cheddar & Sour Cream. They put out Chili-Cheese-flavored Fritos, and Cheetos were transformed into 21 varieties. Frito-Lay had a formidable research complex near Dallas, where nearly 500 chemists, psychologists and technicians conducted research that cost up to $30 million a year, and the science corps focused intense amounts of resources on questions of crunch, mouth feel and aroma for each of these items. Their tools included a $40,000 device that simulated a chewing mouth to test and perfect the chips, discovering things like the perfect break point: people like a chip that snaps with about four pounds of pressure per square inch.

To get a better feel for their work, I called on Steven Witherly, a food scientist who wrote a fascinating guide for industry insiders titled, “Why Humans Like Junk Food.” I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever.”

As for their marketing troubles, in a March 2010 meeting, Frito-Lay executives hastened to tell their Wall Street investors that the 1.4 billion boomers worldwide weren’t being neglected; they were redoubling their efforts to understand exactly what it was that boomers most wanted in a snack chip. Which was basically everything: great taste, maximum bliss but minimal guilt about health and more maturity than puffs. “They snack a lot,” Frito-Lay’s chief marketing officer, Ann Mukherjee, told the investors. “But what they’re looking for is very different. They’re looking for new experiences, real food experiences.” Frito-Lay acquired Stacy’s Pita Chip Company, which was started by a Massachusetts couple who made food-cart sandwiches and started serving pita chips to their customers in the mid-1990s. In Frito-Lay’s hands, the pita chips averaged 270 milligrams of sodium – nearly one-fifth a whole day’s recommended maximum for most American adults – and were a huge hit among boomers.

The Frito-Lay executives also spoke of the company’s ongoing pursuit of a “designer sodium,” which they hoped, in the near future, would take their sodium loads down by 40 percent. No need to worry about lost sales there, the company’s C.E.O., Al Carey, assured their investors. The boomers would see less salt as the green light to snack like never before.

There’s a paradox at work here. On the one hand, reduction of sodium in snack foods is commendable. On the other, these changes may well result in consumers eating more. “The big thing that will happen here is removing the barriers for boomers and giving them permission to snack,” Carey said. The prospects for lower-salt snacks were so amazing, he added, that the company had set its sights on using the designer salt to conquer the toughest market of all for snacks: schools. He cited, for example, the school-food initiative championed by Bill Clinton and the American Heart Association, which is seeking to improve the nutrition of school food by limiting its load of salt, sugar and fat. “Imagine this,” Carey said. “A potato chip that tastes great and qualifies for the Clinton-A.H.A. alliance for schools . . . . We think we have ways to do all of this on a potato chip, and imagine getting that product into schools, where children can have this product and grow up with it and feel good about eating it.”

Carey’s quote reminded me of something I read in the early stages of my reporting, a 24-page report prepared for Frito-Lay in 1957 by a psychologist named Ernest Dichter. The company’s chips, he wrote, were not selling as well as they could for one simple reason: “While people like and enjoy potato chips, they feel guilty about liking them. . . . Unconsciously, people expect to be punished for ‘letting themselves go’ and enjoying them.” Dichter listed seven “fears and resistances” to the chips: “You can’t stop eating them; they’re fattening; they’re not good for you; they’re greasy and messy to eat; they’re too expensive; it’s hard to store the leftovers; and they’re bad for children.” He spent the rest of his memo laying out his prescriptions, which in time would become widely used not just by Frito-Lay but also by the entire industry. Dichter suggested that Frito-Lay avoid using the word “fried” in referring to its chips and adopt instead the more healthful-sounding term “toasted.” To counteract the “fear of letting oneself go,” he suggested repacking the chips into smaller bags. “The more-anxious consumers, the ones who have the deepest fears about their capacity to control their appetite, will tend to sense the function of the new pack and select it,” he said.

Dichter advised Frito-Lay to move its chips out of the realm of between-meals snacking and turn them into an ever-present item in the American diet. “The increased use of potato chips and other Lay’s products as a part of the regular fare served by restaurants and sandwich bars should be encouraged in a concentrated way,” Dichter said, citing a string of examples: “potato chips with soup, with fruit or vegetable juice appetizers; potato chips served as a vegetable on the main dish; potato chips with salad; potato chips with egg dishes for breakfast; potato chips with sandwich orders.”

In 2011, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that shed new light on America’s weight gain. The subjects – 120,877 women and men – were all professionals in the health field, and were likely to be more conscious about nutrition, so the findings might well understate the overall trend. Using data back to 1986, the researchers monitored everything the participants ate, as well as their physical activity and smoking. They found that every four years, the participants exercised less, watched TV more and gained an average of 3.35 pounds. The researchers parsed the data by the caloric content of the foods being eaten, and found the top contributors to weight gain included red meat and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages and potatoes, including mashed and French fries. But the largest weight-inducing food was the potato chip. The coating of salt, the fat content that rewards the brain with instant feelings of pleasure, the sugar that exists not as an additive but in the starch of the potato itself – all of this combines to make it the perfect addictive food. “The starch is readily absorbed,” Eric Rimm, an associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors, told me. “More quickly even than a similar amount of sugar. The starch, in turn, causes the glucose levels in the blood to spike” – which can result in a craving for more.

If Americans snacked only occasionally, and in small amounts, this would not present the enormous problem that it does. But because so much money and effort has been invested over decades in engineering and then relentlessly selling these products, the effects are seemingly impossible to unwind. More than 30 years have passed since Robert Lin first tangled with Frito-Lay on the imperative of the company to deal with the formulation of its snacks, but as we sat at his dining-room table, sifting through his records, the feelings of regret still played on his face. In his view, three decades had been lost, time that he and a lot of other smart scientists could have spent searching for ways to ease the addiction to salt, sugar and fat. “I couldn’t do much about it,” he told me. “I feel so sorry for the public.”

By Michael Moss

This article is adapted from “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” which will be published by Random House this month. Michael Moss is an investigative reporter for The Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for his reporting on the meat industry. Editor: Joel Lovell