I wanted to comment on your Bloggingheads event with David Frum and his total non-responsiveness to your theory about why people overeat. As someone who works in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles–land of the perfect body–I totally agree that government pressure will do nothing to make people lose weight. People will only give up one pleasure in exchange for a more intense pleasure. And if you’re poor and miserable, and eating is the high point of your life, you’ll always reach for the cheetos.
I suspect the only way people will change their behavior is a sudden desire to move up the social ladder. Being thin and attractive gives you a competitive edge, especially if you live in a city with lots of talented people.
There are lots of reasons why people overeat. One reason is a lack of education. That’s not to say that people are stupid, but more that our food industry likes to pack lots of salt, sugar and fat into meals and marketing them to people as “healthy.” Take, for example, Vitamin Water. It’s billed as a great way to add nutrients to your diet without eating actual fruits and vegetables. Except then you learn that it has as much sugar as a can of Coke. See also the allegedly “healthy” salads that are loaded up with cheese, bacon and fatty dressings and that have nearly as many calories as Big Macs.
And then there’s the fact that fast food chains have been really upping their game in recent years by slopping ever-larger portions of fat, salt and sugar onto plates and selling them for $4.99 each. By a happy coincidence, I’ve just published an AlterNet article on some of the very nastiest examples, including Hardee’s 1,400-calorie Monster Thickburger:
Simply put, the Monster Thickburger is a fat, sloppy middle finger aimed at nutritionists everywhere. Clocking in at an artery-blowing 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat, the Thickburger premiered in 2004, when McDonald’s and Burger King were starting to sell out and offer their customers salads. In defending his decision to sell such a gaping monstrosity, Hardee’s CEO Andrew Puzder played George W. Bush to McDonald’s and Burger King’s John Kerry, essentially calling them out as wimps who didn’t have the balls to dramatically shorten their customers’ life expectancy with just one meal. Specifically, he said the Thickburger was “not a burger for tree-huggers” but rather “for guys who want a really big, delicious, juicy decadent burger.” Yes, gents, nothing will show the ladies how manly you are quite like a belly made entirely of butter.
Now, I’m not somebody who thinks that you should sue corporations who sell you shitty food and make you obese. But by the same token, more people need to realize that the companies selling them food aren’t interested in making them healthy and that if they eat a bunch of processed crap they’re going to gain weight. “Don’t buy any food you’ve ever seen advertised” is this generation’s equivalent of “Don’t trust anyone over
40 30 ,” methinks.
UPDATE: Dan Someone wins the thread:
As a guy with a wife who finds and cooks nutritious and fresh foods on a generally reasonable budget, I can honestly say that I’m still fat. Also, as much as I would like to move up the social ladder, I’m too fucking fat to climb it. Next solution!