Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012 6:32:54 PM
Sizing up Obesity
Does this make me look fat? The odds are it probably does. Obesity is a huge problem in America and it needs to be stopped. According to Technogym, in 1985 there were no states that had an obesity rate above nineteen percent, whereas now, fourteen out of the fifty states have an obesity rating of twenty percent. The other thirty-six states have rates of twenty-five percent or higher. One of the major reasons for the obesity epidemic is enlarged portions and that they're easily available for only a few bucks more.
One of the major causes of obesity is enlarged portion sizes. Portion size is different from serving size. The recommended amount of food a person should eat is called the serving size. How much someone eats of a meal is called the portion size. According to We Can!, food twenty years ago was half the size of food served today. A 350 calorie bagel five to six inches in diameter today, used to be three inches twenty years ago. Another study discovered that twenty years ago a bagel was three inches in diameter and 140 calories. Cheeseburger in paradise? Not anymore. Twenty years ago they were 333 calories versus today when they're a whopping 590. McDonald's first hamburger weighed 1.6oz. Now it's eight, an increase of 500% (Monte). A four and a half ounce cheeseburger has become an eight ounce burger today. Twenty years ago a soda was 6.5oz, and now its 20oz, that's more than triple what it was before. A medium bag of popcorn that's now eleven cups, used to be only five (We Can!). Two slices of pizza today is 850 calories, when it was 500 twenty years ago. If you eat those 350 extra calories two times in a month, you would gain two pounds a year. If you continued to do it you'd gain 40 pounds two decades later (Monte). "When our parents ordered coffee two decades ago, they weren't given as many size options - a standard cup of Joe was 8oz, the size of a small coffee cup" (Monte). Twenty years ago an 8oz coffee with milk and sugar contained forty-five calories. Now it's 16 oz and 330 calories. Today movie popcorn tubs are 630 calories and twenty years ago they were five cups and 270 calories (Monte). "We don't have to eat those extra 360 calories in the tub of popcorn, but that's easier said than (not) done. Studies indicate that when given food in larger containers, people will consume more" (Monte). A test to prove that this is true was done at Cornell University in 1996. Movie theater popcorn was offered in medium and large containers to the participants of this test. The people then split off into two groups, depending upon if they thought it tasted good or not. The outcome was that those who chose the larger size corn ate more than those who chose the medium, regardless of the taste (Monte). Portion sizes being what they are right now, it's hard to tell what a "serving size" should look like. "Today's bagel counts for three servings of bread, but many of us would consider it one serving" (Monte). Restaurants are one of the main reasons we think these outrageous amounts of food are okay.
The obesity epidemic has been increased by restaurants serving one person enough food to feed a small family. While restaurants compete with each other while under the opinion that bigger is better, they serve portion sizes that are equal to two-four normal servings. "Larger portions mean more calories which can add up to extra weight" (We Can). For example, if you are an average-sized, non-exercising woman who buys a "double gulp" drink that's sixty-four ounces. This drink contains more than 600 calories. You can also buy a burrito that is one-thousand-one-hundred calories. The burrito alone is almost three fourths of the entire daily 1,600 calorie amount. If you have them both you are over that amount (Hook). Larger portion sizes at restaurants contribute to larger portions eaten at home.
The abundance of food we're served by other people changes our views on how much food is a healthy amount. "Supersized portions at restaurants have distorted what Americans consider a normal portion size, and that affects how much we eat at home as well" (We Can!). A real world example is when my family and I were all sitting down at the table to eat supper. I had a very large plate of food filled with assorted meats, veggies and such. I ate about close to half of the whole plate. I go to discard the rest into the trash after asking my mom and sister if they want any. My dad looks at my plate, then up to me and says, "You didn't eat anything". People have started to eat as much as they can of what's provided, regardless if they are even hungry or not. "Of course nobody stands over us making us eat. But food psychology being what it is, we do it anyway" (Hook). Research has proven that no matter how food is served- whether in a bowl, plate, or a cup- the more food that's given the more someone will eat. People usually eat more food than they need to if it's put in front of them. What they ate earlier or how hungry they are does not matter (Hook).
Increased portion sizes are not the only reason for the obesity crisis, but nutritionists say it's one of the main contributors. Men consume 166 more calories per day since 1971. Women are consuming over 335 more calories per day then they did back then. Nutritionists believe restaurants, where Americans spend most of their food dollars, have set the "normal" for what a satisfying plate of food at home should look like (Hook).
One of the main problems with obesity and portion sizes is that larger food quantities are available at cheap prices, changing what we think a normal meal is supposed to look like (Monte). "We Americans love to get the most bang for our buck. When confronted with a 32-ounce drink for 99 cents versus a 44-ounce drink for ten cents more, the decision is easy. You'd have to be a sucker not to go big" (Monte). This is the opinion of most people who feel that they need to save every cent possible when they can. What most people don't know are the consequences if they decide to eat/drink all of what they bought.
There are more obese people today than there were five years ago. The current amount of overweight/obese people is more than 120 million! Portion sizes are a problem, but how should they be dealt with? A tip to avoid these oversized portions is keeping them no larger than the size of your fist (We Can!). Other tips to avoid enlarged portions are: packing a brown-bag with a healthy, low-calorie lunch to eat at work. When eating out at a restaurant, instead of ordering an entree, order an appetizer. It's also possible to share an entree or eat half of the meal and bring the rest home for later. Substitute French Fries with a salad when possible. When choosing snacks, instead of sweets serve fruits and vegetables (We Can!). Learn to read food labels, compare market place portions to recommended serving sizes, repackage supersize bags, share a meal, eat half or less, use smaller plates, and skip second helpings (Naval Medical Center).
Here's how to interpret /read a food nutrition label. First look at the serving size. Then look at the calories and the calories from fat. If it passes that inspection, move on to check the items listed below that. Here's where the percents come in. The things that are unhealthy, like cholesterol, sodium, sugars and fats, are good if they have lower percentages. The things that are good for you should have higher percentages; those would be the carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins. How low or high should these percents be? Five percent or less is not a significant amount, that's where all the unhealthy foods should be. Twenty percent or more is a significant amount, and that is the level all the nutritious foods should be at.
The easily accessible amounts of food are one of the reasons for the obesity crisis:
Cheeseburgers and French Fries, drive-in windows and supersizes, soft drinks and candy, potato chips and cheese curls, once unusual, are as much our background as trees, grass, and clouds. Few children walk or bike to school; there is little physical education; computers video games and televisions keep children inside and inactive, and parents are reluctant to let children roam free to play (Taubes 17).
With an increasing amount of fast food restaurants, eating "junk" food is as common as the sun rising and falling.
It can be difficult to change regular eating habits. "The battle against portion size is super-sized. People don't want to hear they need to step away from the table, and appetite is a difficult desire to regulate. But the message is slowly catching hold as consumers begin to understand the seriousness of the obesity epidemic and their power over their own diet" (Hook). Although it may not be very quickly, word is getting around about enlarged portions and its link to obesity, and it will hopefully soon be stopped before our food gets any bigger.
Hook, Debra-Lynn B. Everyday Health. n.d. Web. 6 Nov. 2012.
Monte, Liz. Divine Caroline. May 2008. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
Naval Medical Center San Diego. San Diego CA, 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
Taubes, Gary. Why We Get Fat and What to Do about It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.
The Wellness Blog. Uncovering "Portion Distortion" in the United States. TechnoGym, 26 Aug.
2011. Web. 8 Dec. 2012.
We Can! National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Cancer Institute., 8 May 2012. Web. 6 Nov. 2012.