February 26, 2013
Jill Filipovic in Fight unhealthy food, not fat people argues that we should focus on health not on body size in the debate about obesity. It's public health that should be our concern, not pointing the finger at fat people.
She gives one reason why people turn to fast foods or snack food:
With demanding work days, little time off and disproportionate amounts of our incomes going toward things like health insurance and childcare that other countries provide at a lower cost, is it any surprise that we eat fast-food breakfast on our laps in the car and prefer dinner options that are quick and cheap?
Hence the turn to processed snack food. Filipovic adds that nutrient-deficient chemically-processed "food" in increasingly larger sizes is bad for all of our bodies, whether we're fat or thin or somewhere in between.
What is crucial at this point from a public health perspective is the corporate processed food companies knowingly make heavy use of salt, sugar and fat in their food because it tasted good. The food companies have known for decades now that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities that we consume them, but they use science and marketing to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive. They make lots more money that way.
The main purpose of these giant food companies is to make money. Health concerns are at the bottom of their agenda. They have to keep their profits up. They are on a winner with addictive junk food. Karen Hitchcock in Fat City: What can stop obesity? in The Monthly says that
The pleasures of eating are complex and multifaceted. In our society, consumption is a form of entertainment and pleasure. Eating is part of this: from the theatre of a meal at a fine-dining establishment to a bag of chips augmenting the television-viewing experience. Most people do not overeat because of a feeling of hunger emanating from the stomach; they are giving in to a desire to consume – they are seeking pleasure or relief, or hoping to fill a void.
She adds that in thousands of other labs across the planet, food scientists and marketers are working on ways to make you eat more. They employ highly sophisticated psychological and physiological research to this end; they examine the effects of colour, unit size, price, texture, packaging and advertising on human desire.
Corporations make it easier for us to eat than to abstain. They loudly promote and supply cheap, taste-intense, non-sating food that is bad for our bodies. They know us better than medicine does. When a fast-food chain dropped its television ads for a weekend, its revenue that week fell by more than 25%. There are more shelves in some supermarkets selling highly processed, nutrient-free combinations of starch, fat, sugar and colouring than there are bearing fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and grains combined. Very few people get obese and none get morbidly obese through the consumption of home-cooked whole foods. To get that fat, for most people, takes piles of highly refined, ready-to-chow junk food and drink.
She says that the waiting rooms are full, the waiting lists are long, the demand is swelling. Obesity is in many ways the logical endpoint of the way we live.