Friday, November 18, 2011

America’s Eating Conundrum – Part II

Earlier this week, I shared the results of a major survey that indicated Americans want to take advantage of the health benefits of food. Conversely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 33.8% of all U.S. adults and 17% of our children are obese. America’s Eating Conundrum Part II.

Read On:
There is an overabundance of articles postulating why America is fat. Some advocates blame food companies like Kraft, Kellogg’s, Coca Cola, McDonald’s to name a few, for bombarding us with their advertising. As a result, we have become wired, thus desire sugary and fatty foods. Others point their fingers at our schools for not menuing enough healthy options (blame it on budget cuts) given our children are eating one to two meals plus a snack per day at school. Psychologists attribute obesity to societal forces; our increasingly hectic and stressful lifestyles inhibit our ability to make the healthy choices all the time. Then there is the “Big Two” theory, reduced exercise and increased food consumption. Bottomline, Americans are ingesting more and more calories than they are burning.

I decided to google to find out the number of calories the average American consumes per day – 2,700. I also found out some other interesting statistics about our average annual eating consumption detailed below:

· French Fries – 29 lbs./year
· Pizza – 23 lbs./year
· Ice cream – 24 lbs./per year
· Soda – 53 gallons/per year

I am proud of my industry, foodservice, for stepping up to the plate in the fight against obesity by offering more healthful choices. Unfortunately, according to a Technomic report, only 23% of consumers polled are most likely to pick healthful foods when eating out. Again I circle back to the psychologists who attribute obesity to societal forces. Do we eat out for convenience thanks to time deprivation, our busy lifestyles? This much I do know. According to data released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, obesity and obesity-related illness currently costs the US nearly $170 billion a year. Some health official are projecting this dollar amount will more than double to $344 billion by 2018.

So what is it America, are we going to eat foods that are healthy or are we going to continue to eat unhealthy. Sounds like an Eating Conundrum to me.


  1. Good aggregation of some of the stats surrounding this issue. As with many things, obesity in America can be attributed to a combination of many factors. The industry? Guilty. Education? Guilty. Parents? Guilty. Society? Guilty. Interestingly, however, fast food is looking more and more like a major player in this crisis. For proof, we only need to take note of the level of obesity now in Europe and other countries around the world where FF is entrenched. To your point, the level of sugar and sodium has addicted us, pushing consumption frequency and volume. WIthout a major effort by government and organizations, for a combination of PR, education, and regulation, we will likely be unable to pul ourselves out of this spiral. Now THAT is a conundrum.

  2. You hit this issue on the head with the stat: only 23% of consumers polled are most likely to pick healthful foods when eating out.

    We are what we eat and given the choice, people will still pick french fries. And if people keep eating french fries, companies will keep making them. We should stop blaming companies for giving people what they want.

  3. Jim - great overview. I remember a saying that "it is easier to change someone's religion than to change their diet" and that what people say cognitively is very different than eating which is an behavioral drive. I think that the nutritionist community needs to become a far more vocal agent of change for anything to happen.

  4. Again...I question the methodology/sample of the study cited in your part 1 of this thread, especially since in this part you cite "only 23% of consumers polled are most likely to pick healthful foods when eating out."

    Still, to say that eating out is the "culprit" to the nation's obesity issue is to ignore the impact on snack foods, soft drinks, bread-relate product, etc., bought and eaten in the home. As well as the over-sized potions served at restaurants -- QSR's, buffets, and full-serve -- and at home.

    Also, we point fingers are QSR's and school menus, etc., yet the biggest "culprits" are more often parents, who teach their children (through their own behavior) to "chow down" and who reward their children with food or stuff food in their children's faces to keep them quiet or busy or just out of their way.

    So, yes, societal reasons do contribute to the weight problem this country has. There was yet another study cited on AOL/Huff Post the other day linking the size of man's belly to his IQ -- with the lower the latter, the bigger the former.

    So...yes..."stress" more than "hectic" with the stress not necessarily being about "work" but about "living".

    I for one don't have an answer to this issue which, among other things, is helping to drive the cost of healthcare up.

  5. A complex issue with many components and no one shoe fits all solution. Michele Obama acknowledgesr she misses her cheeseburger fries indulgences but also has a trainer and an accessible gym for daily work-outs. It really does cost more to eat healthy and live in neighborhoods where healthier foods are available. Smaller portions and walking -- doable. Restricting alcohol, big source of carbs, tougher. Escaping one's genetics, tougher. And many medications have weight gain as a side effect. Full disclosure: Jim's sister aka psychiatric social worker.

  6. Thank you all for your comments. I just read this NPR post this morning: The picture is not getting any brighter.

  7. I realize I'm jumping in a little late here... but I'd have to say I think Jackie is on point. I think it comes down to basic supply and demand. Sure advertising and marketing doesn't hurt, it does make the consumers aware of the options. Ultimately, paternalism through government regulations will not solve the problem (in my humble opinion).

    Additionally, I think it is worth noting that the in the last thirty years, the definition of "obesity" and what BMI qualifies has been lowered. Therefore, a lot of people who were originally not considered to be obese now fall in that category. If you're looking for a stellar movie that really digs deep on the obesity issue/advertising effects, check out Fat Head. It is an independent film that I found extremely informative (humorous at the beginning) but it is worth the watch.

  8. You covered all the best ones, Jimmy. Scent of a woman is my favorite. Let's wave to each other tomorrow as you head to NY and I head to Philly! One day soon let's meet in between! Happy Thanksgiving.