Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Super Size And Save!

Overeating has resulted in a population that is overweight (surprise! surprise!). Obesity and related problems such as diabetes are fast becoming the number one public health issue in the United States today. Think that this is just a rant by a disgruntled blog writer? Think again. In March 2004 US Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson said, "Far too many Americans are literally eating themselves to death."

Yet not even I will blame advertising and marketing completely BUT it is a major part of the situation along with kids watching too much TV, sedentary lifestyles and workers who labor long hours so that they come home tired with little time for exercise.

Before we get started, we need to get a bit of perspective. Dr James Hill, Director of the Center for Human Nutrition, Denver, Colorado said, "It takes about 1 extra lifesaver a day to gain a pound of weight for a year." Another nutrition author, Roy Thomsitt said, "... the cause of that 2lb weight gain each year could be as little as an extra 100 calories a day regularly over the year." And 2 pounds a year for ten years is 20 pounds overweight. So the bottom line is this: a little bit of extra food can get you fat over time.

So how are marketing and advertising to blame?

Lets start with marketing. Food is sold everywhere: at convenience stores, at drug stores, at Wal-Mart, at Kmart, at dollar stores, at gas stations, at vending machines and as an impulse item in many unrelated businesses. So in a word food is widely available and therefore people are constantly tempted.

Next is portion size. Marketing and advertising are directly responsible for the growth in mega-portions. For example a standard soft drink is now 20 oz. when it used to be 12 oz. or 16 oz. just a few years ago. And the difference in size is 50 -100 calories.

But soft drinks are only one obvious example. Candy is bigger, muffins are bigger, huge cookies are sold at famous cookie stores. At the supermarket "Hungry Man" dinners and "Family Paks" offer a lot of food in convenient packages.

Next comes pricing. Once a customer is in a restaurant, the business can make a profit by selling a lot of extra food for just a little more money. So discount combos are offered at fast food restaurants along with the notorious super sizing where for just a few cents more the fries and the drink are 'upgraded'.

In addition because consumers have become so used to large portions due to the forces of marketing, many people have lost all sense of how much to eat.

But instead of thinking this writer is exaggerating, I am going to quote from the Obesity Society: "During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. Currently, more than 64% of US adults are either overweight or obese, according to results from the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). This figure represents a 14% increase in the prevalence rate from NHANES III (1988-94) and a 36% increase from NHANES II (1976 -80). (Prevalence is the percentage of the population that falls into the designated category.)"

Do I blame marketing? Absolutely. Buying an extra half-price pizza, because it looks like a good deal, is not good for your waistline. Drinking a 12 oz. soda everyday instead of a 20 oz. soda would make a big difference. Being less tempted at check out counters by rows of candy would help.

In our advertising and marketing friendly society, we must resist food being pushed on us everyday at every turn. This is not healthy and something is terribly wrong.


At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Samantha Drab said...

I have never seen a person with a gun pointed at their head, being forced to buy items they don't need & can't afford, or being made to eat more than they can manage. I have no problem rejecting items I don't want, or eating only part of my meal & taking the rest home for another day. I have no special powers that enable me to do this--just the determination to remain healthy & not become overweight. If someone were to hold a gun to my head & insist that I eat a second dessert, okay, I'll do it--but NOT every day!!


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