The fast food industry is one of the main culprits in the epidemic of obesity in America. It is not the lone villain, because the consumer certainly plays the largest role in the health problem which has been overpowering the nation. There are several reasons why fast food is the cause of obesity in America.
“Do you want that to be a medium or a large?” a customer is asked at the Mexican fast food drive through. The customer doesn’t really think about what the size of this might mean to the portions of the food that he will consume. He just thinks that he is hungry and thirsty. The customer replies with, “Make that a medium,” because a small would be something appropriate for a child. The resulting food that made it in his car window contained fried potatoes that were enough to feed a family and a 32 ounce soda pop.
One of the main reasons that obesity is on the rise is that portion sizes at fast food restaurants have increased and have even been encouraged. It is only a small amount of money to increase the size. According to the book Obesity by Melissa Abramovitz, ordering a large French fries at McDonald’s instead of a medium will add another 160 calories and 7 grams of fat to the meal. Many people will order the bigger meal with no sense that the portion too large.
Another problem with fast food is that it is high in fat, sugar, and salt. According to Abramovitz in her book Obesity, “Studies conducted in the late 20th century show that lab rats fed fat and sugar together gain more body fat than those fed these food separately. Scientists believe the same thing happens in humans.” So part of it is the combination of the high fat fries, burger and the sugary soda. This would be true for any American restaurant that serves this cuisine in combination. Just by opting to drink water instead of soda pop with the same high fat meal would drastically reduce the effects of the fast food. It is easy to blame the food, but more likely it is ordering the combination that creates the effect of obesity.
Another reason that fast food is the cause of obesity is that consumers can access the product too easily. Americans can simply drive up, order, and drive away with a thousand calories in a bag without ever having to take one foot step of exercise. As a result it is just too easy to impulse buy and impulse binge with no thought to nutrition, fat, or calories. According to Abramovitz, scientists recognized that it isn’t just the size of the portions that is a factor it is also the frequency. People who ate the same amount of calories over several snacks and meals gained less weight than those that consumed large meals. So the convenience of pulling in and overindulging is worse than eating a hamburger at noon, French fries at 2:00 p.m. and a soda at 7:00 p.m. It is the combination that is consumed in one sitting that is a factor. Pulling in for a big calorie fat laden meal in one bulk meal is part of the problem. It is just too easy to overindulge without thinking about the damage that it entails.
Marketing to Children
For decades the fast food industry realized that creating a family friendly environment brought business in the door. It also created lifelong consumers brought up on fast food from children on up. According to Eat This Not That by David Zinczenko, two-thirds of all food advertising is geared toward children. Promoting kids meals with toys has been a ploy for years. It helps to send the message that food equals happiness. Also according to Zinczenko, since the 1970’s the typical children’s soft drink has increased by 49 calories, fries by 68 calories, and burger by 97 calories. By eating fast food once a week it will give today’s children 11,128 more calories in one year. This equals three pounds more body fat consumed than in the 1970’s. In ten years of eating fast food that child will weight 30 pounds more than the same child in the 1970’s. Now consider how many families eat at fast food places more than once a week or more than once a day. It starts to be very significant.
The fast food industry is one of the most significant causes of obesity in America, but the main cause is the consumer who buys and ingests the products. In order to lower the affects of the fast food phenomenon, Americans must start thinking about what they are consuming.