The Fattening of America

Obesity in America

I was being lazy this morning and ‘flicking‘ online when I ran across the following link detailing the progression of obesity in the US in the last 20 years.  Scary!!!

I would be interested to see that same data cross-referenced with rates of:

  1. Increase/decrease in portion sizes at restaurants and/or grocery stores.
  2. Advertising for food products and/or advertising for food products to kids.
  3. Price per calorie of food (broken down by restaurants vs. grocery stores).

Not to claim that we shouldn’t take responsibility for our own actions, but since I started measuring what I ate, I’ve discovered that calorie counts in restaurant food are way higher than I thought, and appear to have risen substantially over the last 20 years.  It makes sense since the marginal cost of serving more food is a small for a restaurant, yet popular with customers.

Even though I’m not obese, it’s generally a good idea for me to eat no more than half of any dish I’m served in a restaurant.

5 thoughts on “The Fattening of America

  1. Jonathan Katzman

    There are a lot of books/articles on this.

    1. NYT Magazine a year or two (sorry, no easy link) had article on how obesity correlated exactly w/ the first publishing of the food pyramid that we (well those of who weren’t off w/ the turkeys and Catholics) all grew up with. Basic thesis was that there was no real science to it. Everyone hated Atkins. They decided to push carbs. Oops.
    2. Several books (Deep Economy, What to Eat Now, Omnivore’s Dilemma, Real Food: What to Eat and Why, et al) go into this in depth. They all discuss the fact that 70-80% of american agriculture is 4 crops (soy, corn, wheat, rice). Add a topping of corn syrup to that mixture. Read Fast Food Nation to get a sense of increased portion size. And then you’ll see that American’s diets are very different from anything humans have ever eaten before.
    3. This also all tracks America’s ridiculous Food Bill. That does a very good job of rewarding mega farms who grow above crops and a very bad job promoting healthy eating.
    4. All of the above does wonders for global warming as well, as most food consumed is created using oil for pesticides, oil for fertilizer and lots of oil for transport (average bite an American takes travels 1500 miles).

    There are some well publicized guidelines to solve this that are even easier than counting calories. Most of these are from above books/articles.
    1. Eat only food your great-grandmother would recognize as food.
    2. Have 5 colors of food at every meal.
    3. Buy local (more important than organic).
    4. Eat seasonally (which is enforced if you do #3).
    5. Fat is not bad.
    6. Eat protein in moderation.
    7. Don’t eat anything w/ corn syrup.
    8. Spend more on good quality ingredients. With increased quality you won’t feel the need to eat as much. Thus you end up spending the same amount. Especially if you cut out processed food (see #1).

  2. Nina Garga

    After reading so much of your blog, I’m feeling guilty about the Orwasher’s Challah French toast we ate at Panorama Cafe…

  3. ougrad75

    There’s clearly one leading cause for obesity in America: restaurants. Eating out is out of control. Portions are huge. Many dishes have 2 days worth of calories and 3 days worth of fat. Check out The Cheesecake Factory’s calories. Or wait a minute, that company won’t release any calorie information on its food. What are they hiding? How about 5 meals in one burger from Ruby Tuesday. Or one soda from McDonald’s called HUGO with 42 ounces and 400 calories. What about Applebee’s chicken salad at 2,000 calories?! A salad that gives you all your calories for the day. And it’s not obvious either. Read “Mindless Eating” to learn how companies even resort to trickery to get you to eat more and more.

  4. Art Clarke

    Thanks for the comments everyone. Jonathan, I will add the books to the list (every growing) of books I’m behind in reading.

    Nina, the problem is how tasty the toast was 🙂

    And Ougrad, you bring up a lot of good points. For me, part of the solution is educating consumers of the risks(which your blog does a good job of), part of the solution is change on the part of the fast food industry, but the most important part of the soltuion is change on the part of consumers. I believe that whenever we expect a business to ignore demand from customers we fail — the temptations to chase the $$ are too high.

    As consumers, we need to take responsibility for our wallets and actually seek out healthier food. Once we do that, business will follow. If we don’t do that, business will give lip service to eliminating “super sizing”, wait for the furor to pass, and resume old habits.

  5. Braniff

    There are many restaurant chains which refuse to release nutritional information. One of them is a chain which bills itself as being “dedicated to the American Farmer”. It features huge portions of pork and meat. Its menus (which are online) have no information on what could be considered light or healthy. Those who try to eat something healthy or light there are on their own. As an example, this person was surprised on one occasion at that restaurant by what he thought was a light lunch order; instead it consisted of five huge plates of cottage cheese, sauerkraut, applesauce and the like. And that did not include the main dish.

    If possible, always visit a restaurant’s website to see if it has nutrition information, or make a guess by consulting manuals about nutrition such as the ones available at a local bookstore.


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