Posts Tagged ‘obesity’

So, my hubbie and I went to see Inception this weekend, which was great, by the way.  I highly recommend it.  But, I digress.  We went to see this movie on one of the hottest and most humid days of the summer.  We, like many others, thought it would be a great idea to spend the afternoon in a cold, dark movie theater.

If you’ve ever gone to a matinee on the south side of Indy, you completely understand the reason that Indiana is one of the fattest states in the nation.  I thoroughly enjoy the art of observation, and did not only notice the large size of the people in attendance, but also the ridiculously large size of the food and everything else, for that matter.

If you haven’t been to see a movie in the theaters lately, let me bring out the evidence that proves that pretty much everything is large!

Evidence #1: Large ticket price for 2 adults to a matinee showing of a movie on the Imax.  $32 total….yowzer!

Evidence #2: Hubbie and I decided to share a drink and a bottled water.  I asked for a medium-sized drink, this seems reasonable to me, should be about 20 oz….wrong! What comes out is what I think might be a 32 oz, but I am not positive as it is difficult to hold with 1 hand, which in my book, constitutes a Large drink.  And, the kind teenager behind the counter asked if I would like to make it an actual “large” for 25 cents more.  Hmm, let me think, I am not sure that I brought enough gear to carry a keg of soda and I am pretty sure that you offer free refills?  No?  Oh, and did I mention the $4.25 price rape for a 32 oz drink?

Evidence #3: Most patrons at this particular matinee were over a BMI (body mass index) of at least 40.  I am not saying that you can’t be healthy if you are overweight.  There are many that I know that aren’t very healthy and they are underweight or average size.  Just sayin’ that most of the customers were large by most people’s standards.

Evidence #4: A woman, and this is independent of her size, ordered a bucket of popcorn. For herself.  You may wonder how I might know that?  Well, everyone else in her party had their very own popcorn, although not a bucket.

Evidence #5: Did you know that you get to put your own butter on your popcorn now?  Craziness…it comes out of a pump which I imagine has a hose connecting to a vat of liquefied fake-butter, which will from now on be referred to as “futter.”   The woman with the bucket of popcorn decided that she needed more futter on her popcorn, like there isn’t enough in the plain popcorn that is popped in flavored oil.  She put her bucket-o-corn under the futter dispenser and showered her popcorn with futter.  Finally, after a minute, she stopped.  Wait, she just need to shake it up, back for more futter.  WOW!   Wants some popcorn with your futter?  Gag!

Evidence #6: Finally to the movie, and hopefully away from the food for giants to the Imax theater….largest screen evah, in Indiana anyway.

Evidence #7: And, the large-ness doesn’t stop there.  The seats are meant for kings, and big kings at that.  And, despite the large seats, the arms of the seats can flip up so you can  have even more room.  I saw many of Evidence #3 have to use this option.

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Lack of exercise and overeating are easy targets to pinpoint as obesity causes, but now the Center of Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is targeting toys in Happy Meals.  In a letter written to McDonalds, the CSPI “demands that McDonalds stop using toys to market Happy Meals to young children.” 

The CSPI makes very good points and it is clear to me that McDonalds, and most other fast food conglomerates, for that matter, target kids.  Heck, have you walked down a cereal aisle or the yogurt section of the supermarket?  It is all colors and cartoon characters.  This is not a new thing.

The letter states that because of the toys, kids will “pester” parents for happy meals, and thus, the kids will then consume the unhealthy box of food with loads of fat and calories, which will eventually lead to obesity.  But, will it?  I imagine if parents allowed their kids to eat happy meals everyday it could possibly lead to consuming too many calories and an overweight child.  But, this is assuming that the child is not active and that the rest of their diet is unbalanced.  This is a big IF!

I know what you’re thinking, we live in America, most of the kids are overweight and even obese, we have to do something.  And, I totally agree.  However, do we think banning toys in Happy Meals is going to reduce obesity in America?  Maybe, but I have my doubts. 

The thing I don’t like about this letter is that the CSPI insinuates that parents somehow cannot control what their children consume.  It assumes that a 5 year old is the ultimate decision maker of what goes on their plate.  If this is the case, then we have more problems than obesity in America. 

I am not trying to condone what McDonalds or other fast food giants do to get customers, I actually think its pretty shameful.  But seriously, where is the consumer responsibility?  And, to blame a new toy on obesity in America?  Really?  How often does a new toy come out?  Every new movie, every quarter?  It is certainly not everyday.

Just as I wrote about Ronald McDonald and other fictional characters in a previous post, toys are the latest scape-goat for childhood obesity.  Taking away cartoons and toys is not going to make kids skinny.  Kids need to get more activity, including in schools, eat meals at the dinner table instead of in front of the tv or in the car.  Parents need to take responsibility for what young children eat, that’s what parents are supposed to do, right? 

CSPI, I like you, but please stop making ridiculous claims that won’t do anything to curb obesity in America.  Please start spending your money on educating parents on what will make a difference: budget planning, meal planning, cooking, gardening, etc.

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Food as addiction? Doesn’t make sense, does it?  We need food, right?  Food isn’t like cocaine, we have to eat.  However, considering the obesity epidemic that has overrun America and my experience with patients, it appears that many cannot kick their over-consumption habit.

Addicted to food?  Many scoff at such an idea and believe that obese individuals just lack will-power or need to exercise more, which may be partly the case, but what if there is more to it than that?  A study from Nature Neuroscience and another from the Journal of Nutrition, just to name a few, give some insight into the inner workings of brain chemicals in relation to food.

But, what if humans have not quite adapted to the high-sugar, high-sodium, high-fat foods that encompass the modern American diet?  As our food has become increasingly more convenient and processed, so has our waistlines. Coincidence?  Probably not. But, that certainly does not prove that food addiction is real.

I can only speak from personal experience with bulimia, which some experts believe is a form of food addiction.  I actually went to 12-step meetings through Food Addicts Anonymous (FAA).  They had a structured meal plan that was devoid of all sugar and processed foods.  I can’t say if it was the elimination of the processed foods or the structure that allowed me to work on my issues surrounding food and body image, or if I was just “ready.”  But, it was a breakthrough for me at that time.  Before then, no amount of therapy or anti-depressants were able to pull me out of the bulimia spiral.

My diet has changed since the FAA plan and I haven’t felt out of control with food and am able to enjoy desserts once in awhile without overeating, but that wasn’t always the case.  I do believe that my ability to stay sane with food has stemmed from a structure with eating and eliminating most processed foods.  I don’t ever remember a time during my bulimic days that I was binging on apples or salad?  Weird, I know, seems like just the right binge food, huh?

I can’t prove that food addiction is real, but I would guess that many with bulimia, binge-eating disorder, or the main character in the movie Lbs. would have a hard time believing that it isn’t real.  Lbs. was released on March 26, 2010 to limited theaters, mostly on the East Coast.   I am hoping that it will at least get to Chicago, but I may have to wait until the DVD comes out, which is of an unknown date. Below is the trailer to Lbs.

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The 16 food companies that encompass the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) are pledging to cut 1.5 trillion calories from the U.S. food supply by 2015, and 1 trillion by 2012.  Per their press release, the HWCF “manufacturing companies will pursue their calorie reduction goal by developing and introducing lower-calorie options, changing recipes where possible to lower the calorie content of current products, or reducing portion sizes of existing single-serve products.”  And, “is working to promote ways to help Americans achieve healthy weight by balancing the energy (calories) they consume with the energy they expend through physical activity.”

I just have a couple of points to make:

1. The names of the companies that make up the HWCF are listed below.  From the looks of these, I am pretty sure their only goal is more revenue, not reducing the incidence of obesity in the U.S.

  • Bumble Bee Foods, LLC
  • Campbell Soup Company
  • ConAgra Foods
  • General Mills, Inc.
  • Kellogg Company
  • Kraft Foods, inc.
  • Mars, Incorporated
  • McCormick & Company, Inc
  • Nestlé USA
  • PepsiCo, Inc.
  • Post Foods/Ralston Foods, LLC
  • Sara Lee Corporation
  • The Coca-Cola Company
  • The Hershey Company
  • The J.M. Smucker Company
  • Unilever

2. “Cutting” calories to these companies means creating more crappy, low-calorie foods full of chemicals, additives, and fillers.  Their goal is not to promote more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  Do not be fooled by their shiny packages and fancy labels.  Their goal is for you to purchase more, more, more.

3. In 2008, according to the USDA, 38 million Americans, 13.9 million being children, live in households that suffer from hunger or live on the edge of hunger.  Yes, that is correct, 38 million fat Americans do not have enough food to prevent hunger for them and their children.  Do we see something wrong with this?  These companies have enough food and resources to wipe out hunger in the U.S.  But, why isn’t this happening?

I have one question for the HWCF:

If you are truly concerned about the health of U.S. citizens, have you ever thought to use those huge profits you make off of us fat Americans to create subsidies for healthy foods like produce so that more Americans can have access to these foods and less of our population has to suffer from hunger?

You may think you have fooled the majority, but you have not fooled me.

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I just heard that a consumer advocacy group is rallying to get Ronald McDonald banned because he has “hooked kids with unhealthy foods, spurring a deadly epidemic.”  WOW!  Who knew?  Next, we will ban Santa Claus because he is obese, the Easter bunny because he keeps delivering chocolate, and the tooth fairy, well, because I am sure he whispers in the kids’ ears to go buy all the junk food they can with the money they get from their teeth.   Now, I don’t like how McDonald’s, or most of the food industry, market their foods, but where is the personal responsibility?  Do we really think banning a scary-looking clown is going to bring down obesity rates in America?  People have gone off their rocker!!!    Don’t parents still have the final say in what their kids eat?  Are parents somehow mesmerized by Ronald McDonald?  Maybe he has some super-sized powers that I am not aware of??  Maybe he carries french fries in his pocket??  Because if it were me and Ronnie in a dark alley, I would run  and scream my bloody head off at just the sight of him.  I guess I don’t see the allure.  I don’t remember wanting to go to McDonald’s as a kid because of Ron.  McDonald’s was a treat.  Not to mention, the portions were not nearly as big as today.  Huh, maybe that could be the reason for rising obesity rates??  Large portion sizes??  People eating at fast food more??  Nah, its the fictional characters, duh!

Now, I am not stupid.  I know these companies use these characters to entice children to eat their foods.  However, I again state that parents need to be responsible for what kids eat.  I am not saying that McDonald’s should be banned from a kids diet.   I don’t have kids, but if I did, I would probably let them enjoy McDonald’s every once in awhile.  I am just saying that the parents are the adults in that relationship and should be making the choices of what is consumed in the household and what goes on their child’s plates.

Also, if we are going to ban Ronnie, then we need to look at the Cookie Monster, oh, that’s right, he’s being considered.  Well then, the Hamburgler should certainly be banned, right?  Well, he eats all the hamburgers he can steal, so he is promoting obesity and theft.  Very bad.  What about Tony the Tiger?  He makes us believe that if we eat Frosted Flakes, we will be very strong, uh, that’s not true?  Damn.  Maybe we should burn down the Keebler Elves’ house?  Just say’n, with all the cookies they’re making…seems reasonable.  Yep, I am pretty sure that if we destroy all fictional characters, obesity would also be destroyed. Down with Chef Boyardee.

I could go on and on making fun of this, but I will end my sarcasm here.  I could list the many great things that Ronald McDonald charities does for kids and families, but my real point today is that these advocacy groups and others are spending their money, probably some of our money, too, trying  to ban fictional characters and finding other ridiculous culprits for obesity.  Should we not be spending this money on educating parents and others on budgeting, meal planning, grocery shopping, and basic cooking skills?  Providing instruction on planting their own garden, seasonal foods, and canning foods for winter?  I am certainly not under the impression that all families will do this, but some will, and in doing so, they will have acquired new skills  in feeding their families, whether low or high income.

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