Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Primary Cause of Obesity

I'm constantly amazed by quotes detailing how complicated it is to pinpoint blame in the obesity epidemic. In my mind, it's the treatment that's complicated, while the problem, well I think it's pretty obvious.

As everyone on the planet knows, the world is getting heavier - fast. So what's changed?

Have our genetics changed in the past 100 years? Of course not.

Is there a terrible virus, bacteria, fungus or parasite that we can blame? Nope.

Is it genetically modified crops, or pesticides or us using the air conditioner more frequently? Good grief no.

So what's changed in the past 100 years? For lack of a better term - our foodscape.

Sure genetics, hormones, learned behaviours and maybe even the temperature you set your thermostat on have a bearing on weight, so do thousands of other variables, but without any question whatsoever the environment is to blame.

I read an article yesterday in a Big Food tradezine that had a fabulous quote by a food marketing big wig named Harry Balzer (I swear I didn't make up the name),

"Americans now use restaurants like their parents traditionally used grocery stores"
This particular article looked at how our use of restaurants has changed in the past 50 years. It stated:

  • Americans spend 48 percent of their food dollars on restaurant fare, up from 25% 50 years ago.

  • The average American ate 208 meals prepared outside the home last year.

  • Americans gobbled down an average 127 to-go meals per person in 2006, compared with 81 eaten inside a restaurant.

    To live in 2007 and maintain a healthy body weight while eating out an average of 208 meals outside of the home would border on the impossible. The calories associated with restaurant portions and foods are ridiculously high and while certainly it is possible to make some healthy or lower calorie restaurant choices, eating out 4 times per week, you're almost certainly going to make quite a few that are less than ideal. Furthermore you're also going to train your eye to expect the restaurant sized portions that we have seen evolve over the past 4 decades.

    Now I'm not blaming solely restaurants, I'm blaming food in general because that is what has changed - how we eat has changed, where we eat has changed, what we eat has changed, how often we eat has changed, and why we eat has changed.

    Rich Rojko, a manager at the high end Ruth's Chris steakhouse chain that now offers takeout had this to say,
    "Eating has become something that people do while they're doing something else."