We are a large people. 65% of us are overweight, 30% actually obese. How did we reach this point?
We ate ourselves into a prison of our own fat.
Well, we certainly didn't sit down and decide that we wanted to gain weight, did we? We had no pressure on us to fatten ourselves for some eventual slaughter. On the contrary, as our collective girth increased, we paradoxically elevated scrawny to a cultural icon, happily dismissing the corseted matronly figures of the past two centuries.
Where did the disconnect between our reality and our ideals begin?
We can blame the processors who milled out the vitamins and minerals we need. We can blame the preservers who cut back on fiber and freshness in favor of additives and chemicals. We can blame the packagers who added sugar and starch to everything. We can blame the fast food industry for frying everything and we can blame the beverage companies for their addictive colas.
While all of these made their contributions to our current plight, one source of our caloric distress runs through everything: portion size.
We eat hamburgers - not the gigantic, multi-patty ones, just a standard burger - that are 3 times as big as those of 30 years ago. Our orders of french fries are at least twice the size of their cousins in the 1970s. Pizza no longer has cheese only on the top but its crust is also filled. Large soft drinks are the size of watering cans instead of baby bottles. Recipes that once announced "serves 8" now report "serves 4" with exactly the same ingredients. Bagels and muffins are 3 to 4 times as large as their predecessors (and any fan of Seinfeld knows that only the tops are worthwhile). Thank heavens for hormones that can produce the 20 to 30 pound turkeys we demand for our holiday dinners.
Compare the small boxes of frozen vegetables that so awed us in the 1950s with the huge bags available today, awash in butter or cheese sauce. The TV dinners we precariously balanced on rickety tray tables are now heavy enough that those same tables wouldn't hold them.
Restaurant meals have grown as well, with a "to go" container almost standard because few eaters can finish them (although we try terribly hard). Far from their smorgasbord roots, buffets have become almost obscene in their offerings.
Whatever happened to nouvelle cuisine? Has the fastidious gourmet been completely swallowed by the voracious gourmand? Is gluttony no longer a deadly sin?
We love nothing better than a good bargain: something for nothing or, at the very least, at a discount. If we can obtain just a few more ounces of something for negligible extra money, we pounce on the larger size. If we're offered two for the price of one and a half, we don't have to stop and think. If we can save money by buying a whole package, even if we don't want all of it, we'll do it because it makes economic sense (ah, the birth of super size!)
Where did we get the idea that bigger is better? Is it the national legacy of the depression when we swore we'd never "do without" again? Is it a natural spillover from our thoughtless squandering of the world's resources? Is it the speed and stress of our competitive lives that logically leads to our attacking our food with the same disregard for restraint we show in business?
Whatever has brought us to this point, it is time for us all to cry "enough!" We may fear terrorist attacks or biological warfare but it is our daily over-consumption of food that is killing us. Diabetes, clogged arteries, and other obesity-related illnesses cost 350,000 American lives a year and the figure continues to climb. The associated medical costs are staggering and threaten eventual bankruptcy for the Medicare system if not reined back.
Several states and school districts are attempting to apply brakes to a junk food society out of control. A change in the structure of our farm subsidy programs has been suggested - to reward the growers of healthy crops and penalize those who raise the building blocks of edible garbage (sugar and corn syrup). Taxation, as has been used to curb the purchase of cigarettes, could change the consumption equation by hitting our wallets (and a 1 cent tax on every soft drink sold in the United States would raise 40 billion dollars a year).
However, the great change will only come when each of us, individually and collectively, start cutting back.
We need to insist, repeatedly and loudly, that restaurants serve child and senior size plates to adults and split orders without extra charge (where are the class action lawyers when you need them?) We have to demand that small sizes of meal components are offered. We should start boycotting those huge "economy" sizes of everything from soft drinks, to frozen potatoes, to cooking lard, and potato chips.
And the buck finally stops at our own plate. For our health, our longevity, and our looks, we must limit how much we eat of anything. If we cut our intake in half, we will be doing ourselves, our children, and our society a great favor and our bodies will thank us for it.
Virginia Bola is a licensed psychologist and an admitted diet fanatic. She specializes in therapeutic reframing and the effects of attitudes and motivation on individual goals. The author of The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a free ezine, The Worker's Edge, she recently published a psychologically-based weight control e-workbook, "Diet with an Attitude" which develops mental skills towards the goal of permanent weight control.
She can be reached at http://www.DietWithAnAttitude.com
She provides support and guidance in use of the workbook through her regular blog, http://dietwithanattitude.blogspot.com
We are bombarded with advertisements pushing delicious looking, fat filled,... Read More
We have plans for everything these days. That is how... Read More
Losing weight and going on a diet can be quite... Read More
Teenagers with body mass indices between 25 and 30 require... Read More
Eighteen or twenty years ago, I was into high protein,... Read More
What is cellulite? Ask a doctor and he will probably... Read More
Who'd have thought healthy eating could be so controversial? Lunching... Read More
It's the American Dream: "If I could just lose a... Read More
As hoards of low-carb proponents invade the nutritional landscape, the... Read More
I believe that water not only helps with weight loss,... Read More
Building a Perfect Body for Body Perfect Fitness and Health... Read More
1. Carrying around excess body fat will decrease your energy... Read More
What to Do with the Leftovers?Okay, tell me if you've... Read More
There's no way you can separate the Jack LaLanne diet... Read More
Getting enough of the good fats will help you lose... Read More
In this series of articles, you will learn exactly how... Read More
Getting Started on The Clean DietIf you want to lose... Read More
My name is Greg Ryan and I am a high... Read More
Once there were these two Nuns and they...just kidding! Do... Read More
I have put off writing a motivation article because of... Read More
I personal lost 60 pounds in 2003. Here are some... Read More
We all know that losing weight and improving your overall... Read More
Obesity is quickly becoming the number one health issue confronting... Read More
If you are overweight and searching for the diet program... Read More
For about 50 years now, Americans have been eating low... Read More
The humble soybean boasts some extraordinary benefits. This nutritional powerhouse... Read More
Here are a few free tips on losing weight that... Read More
The 3 day diet mixes certain types of foods that... Read More
Is Zone Diet a Fad?How do you recognize a fad... Read More
Are you committed to losing weight and keeping it off?... Read More
This is a perfect example of how on-line weight loss... Read More
It's been called the world's oldest medicine, the miracle fat... Read More
When the DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health Education Act) was passed... Read More
Hoodia Gordonii a cactus plant found thousands of miles away... Read More
If anyone knows anything about fitness, it's that a low... Read More
Dieting will continue to fail most dieters, unless personalized weight... Read More
We think we know everything there is to know about... Read More
One way of recognizing a fad diet is... Read More
Thankfully, winter does not last forever! In the spring there... Read More
Are you considering a low carb diet? If so you... Read More
You step on the scale and groan at the number... Read More
Millions of people spend billions of dollars, hoping to achieve... Read More
I would like to introduce you to an incredible new... Read More
(Ailsa's Apple Crumble Diet)I'm Scottish, so it's not a big... Read More
Finding Mad Cow in Oregon puts a new wrinkle in... Read More
FACT: Obesity accounts for 300,000 deaths a year in the... Read More
In the old West tricksters sold a snake oil to... Read More
Every day, it seems, a new study pertaining to weight... Read More
Now this is the real American Dream! I'm here to... Read More
It happens every morning when you mosey out of bed,... Read More
Weight Loss Weight Loss