Why we are fat

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btilly
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Why we are fat

Postby btilly » Mon May 18, 2009 3:58 pm UTC

As a society we've done something remarkable, and most of us don't think about it much. We've become fat. To see how dramatic the shift over time is, look at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/trend/maps/. The question is why. Well for a start we can easily rule out straight genetics. If you're overweight, the odds are extremely good that someone with your genes would not have been overweight 30 years ago. The obvious explanation is consumption. But if we go by self-reporting, there is no difference in what fat and skinny people eat. Even if you give people detailed food diaries to fill out, there is little difference. But a classic study by Sharon Pearcey and John de Castro had people keep a detailed food diary, and also take before and after pictures of everything that they ate. The result? Everyone under-reported consumption. However obese people under-report by more. The difference was about 400 calories per day, which is enough to explain gaining 2 pounds every 3 weeks.

Therefore the statistics show that most overweight people are eating too much and are not aware of doing so. Furthermore the cause is new - people didn't do this 30 years ago. What changed?

I've just learned a lot about the answer from reading The End of Overeating by David Kessler. Just to verify that he's not a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist, he's a pediatrician who was FDA commissioner under both Bush Sr. and Clinton who has also been the dean of both the Yale and UC San Francisco medical schools. In short, he's got a good grasp of mainstream science.

The answer is that the food industry has figured out what it takes to make us consume more of their product. The result is http://thisiswhyyourefat.com/. The question is why it works so well.

To understand we need to know about 3 facts of the human brain. The first is that there is a homeostatic system to maintain our weight. In normal conditions it works well. Through the 1970s the normal person would add 1-2 pounds from 20 to 40, then lose the weight again by 60. Note, that's 1-2 pounds, not 10-20. People don't do that any more. The second key fact is that we have a strong hardwired response to sugar, fat and salt. Individually those ingredients are attractive up to a certain concentration. Combined we accept more of each than we would individually. The right combination, which the food industry calls "the bliss point" hits our dopamine system hard. How hard? In experiments with rats, rats are willing to do almost as much to get processed food as they are to get cocaine. Including eating well past the point of satiation. The third is that we habituate to any given sensation. Without variety, we will lose interest in anything.

With this in mind, what is the food industry doing? They are producing a product designed to sell well, which means that it is designed to hit our sugar-fat-salt bliss point, bypass our habituation barrier, and override our natural homeostatic weight maintenance mechanism. Don't think of this product as food, think of it as a drug delivery system. First it has to contain the drug (sugar, fat and salt). All food sold in restaurants, including apparently healthy things like salad, do. Secondly it should deliver the dose efficiently. That means that the food should be easy to chew and should get swallowed fast. Thirdly the experience of eating it should be complex. Which means layers of different tastes and textures. (Though the variety of textures will always dissolve easily into an easily swallowed mash.)

This is done with intensive food processing. Even if you wanted to, you couldn't buy a fresh piece of chicken and then in your kitchen make it as easy to chew as any chicken you'll find in any restaurant you care to name. Your chicken will also not be by weight 15-40% injected sugar, salt, fat and water. (The water is there because it is cheap.) You can't do that because you don't have the necessary heavy machinery to process then flash freeze food into something that can be deep fried then sold under the pretense of being food.

If any of this sounds interesting, including techniques for how to fight this addiction, I highly recommend The End of Overeating.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Vaniver » Mon May 18, 2009 5:54 pm UTC

I seem to remember the South Beach Diet starting off with an intense period of 2 weeks or so of not eating any of various foods, in an attempt to reset cravings. It'd be interesting to see if that just weeds out people with low self-control (so the remainder that actually go on the diet are all people predisposed to succeed at diets), or if that actually works (i.e. put people a place where that's all they can eat, and see when their cravings diminish).

So, I was already recreating my diet this summer, as my attention to nutrition was... lacking, and that's not something I want to keep on doing. For the record, I've gained around 3-5 pounds a year over the last three years, and am not yet in the "overweight" category, but probably have dramatically less muscle weight than a standard male of my height does. My concern is more with my vitamin/protein/other helpful things intake, as around 80-90% of my diet is durum wheat pasta (which is high in a number of proteins, but isn't a complete solution, and lacks a large number of vitamins).

One of the things that I think might be an interesting solution, to at least part of the problem, is Bento boxes- it's a box with a few compartments for food in it. The boxes are small, and designed for dense food- with something like rice, each mL is roughly proportional to a Calorie (which doesn't work for things like bread, unless you condense it). And so, if you have a 500 mL Bento box, and you fill it up with dense food, you've got a 500 Calorie meal. It makes portion control easy, and the nutrition guidelines are similarly easy to remember- three parts carbohydrate, two parts fruit/vegetable, one part protein. It also makes it hard to underestimate how much food you're eating- if you can't shut your box, you've got too much food!
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby mosc » Mon May 18, 2009 6:04 pm UTC

Portion sizing is definitely a 21st century health issue I hope we legislate the HELL out of. Plates are too big, packaging does not actually split up servings, relative sizing is distorted, and quantity pricing incentives push towards long term health care costs.

It should be illegal for a movie theater to sell popcorn for $5.00 in a small bag of ~16oz, $5.50 for a medium bag of ~32oz and $5.75 for a large bag of ~128oz.

It should be illegal to sell a product designed for immediate consumption after opening and list it's nutritional information with multiple servings.

It should be illegal to advertise food with X% less ANYTHING. Just list the damn fat content or calorie content on the front. Relative to something else is misleading.

I could go on and on but you get the idea.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby BattleMoose » Mon May 18, 2009 6:08 pm UTC

I am South African, lived here almost all my life, I have toured the USA before with my family.

We were amazed by how much larger food servings were over there when compared to what we have in South Africa. Like the size of a meal you would order in a restaurant or the size of a muffin or really any food product.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby btilly » Mon May 18, 2009 9:23 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:I seem to remember the South Beach Diet starting off with an intense period of 2 weeks or so of not eating any of various foods, in an attempt to reset cravings. It'd be interesting to see if that just weeds out people with low self-control (so the remainder that actually go on the diet are all people predisposed to succeed at diets), or if that actually works (i.e. put people a place where that's all they can eat, and see when their cravings diminish).

Research indicates that the knowledge that something is currently unavailable actually does reduce cravings for it. So I bet that part works. However that benefit is only temporary - when the craved thing is available again, the craving comes back really easily.
Vaniver wrote:One of the things that I think might be an interesting solution, to at least part of the problem, is Bento boxes- it's a box with a few compartments for food in it. The boxes are small, and designed for dense food- with something like rice, each mL is roughly proportional to a Calorie (which doesn't work for things like bread, unless you condense it). And so, if you have a 500 mL Bento box, and you fill it up with dense food, you've got a 500 Calorie meal. It makes portion control easy, and the nutrition guidelines are similarly easy to remember- three parts carbohydrate, two parts fruit/vegetable, one part protein. It also makes it hard to underestimate how much food you're eating- if you can't shut your box, you've got too much food!

That's a nice idea. Unfortunately with processed foods all of those categories have been pre-loaded with fat, sugar and salt, so the calorie count is higher than with natural foods.
mosc wrote:Portion sizing is definitely a 21st century health issue I hope we legislate the HELL out of...It should be illegal to sell a product designed for immediate consumption after opening and list it's nutritional information with multiple servings.

I like all of your suggestions, but particularly this one. A lot of research goes into producing a product which makes it hard to stop consuming. The label should be honest about this.
BattleMoose wrote:I am South African, lived here almost all my life, I have toured the USA before with my family.

We were amazed by how much larger food servings were over there when compared to what we have in South Africa. Like the size of a meal you would order in a restaurant or the size of a muffin or really any food product.

The original idea was that for 50 cents more the restaurant could give you enough food to take your leftovers home and get a second meal. So consumers would perceive it as a good value. But the result is that people got used to increasing their consumption and clearing the plate. So the portions increased even more.

Most Americans these days are so used to overeating that we can't even recognize what it is like to feel comfortably satisfied.

But it is worse. 40 years ago adults didn't snack. Indeed snacking outside of mealtimes in front of others was considered somewhat rude. But now go to an American mall and count how many people you see snacking outside of mealtime...
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Indon » Mon May 18, 2009 10:31 pm UTC

So basically, my hunger no longer strictly correlates with my actually needing food anymore, and my desire to keep eating does not correlate with not having had enough food?

The food industry broke me. :(

Edit: That blog is filled with things I would no doubt find absolutely delicious, which just makes the fact that they apparently have the ability to exploit my food-eating system down to a science just that much more painful.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby poxic » Mon May 18, 2009 10:38 pm UTC

The solution, it seems, is the same as for quitting any other drug: avoid the packaged food like it's poison. Eat only whole things, made from actual plants and optional animal parts, preferably things you've bought and hacked into edible form yourself. You'll hate it until you love it. :D

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Indon » Mon May 18, 2009 10:40 pm UTC

But... but... I like my free time!

What non-processed food is there that doesn't require extensive preparation? (I assume peanut butter and jelly, as well as the bread I make sandwiches with qualifies as processed food)
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby poxic » Mon May 18, 2009 10:48 pm UTC

I've learned to work it into my routine. I go buy the plants required (am vegetarian, avoid animal bits) on my way home from work, then dedicate a couple of hours to hacking and cooking. I stop the cooking just before everything's done, then parcel it out into individual serving containers. For the next two or three days, I have instant food, needing only a couple of minutes in the nuker to finish the cooking and heat it up.

You might find a different rhythm. It's all about making it work for you, and that takes experimenting. Think of it like learning a new skill -- which, actually, is what it is, I guess. The skill of feeding oneself with real, good food in an instant world.

Edit: yes, bread is allowed, provided it's actually got some whole grains and isn't full of sugar and crap. Same with other processed things. I sometimes (1 or 2 times a week) eat a granola bar, one I don't hate and which isn't mostly crap. I do eat processed junk sometimes, but it's an occasional treat or a sometimes-stopgap thing. The basis of my diet is those small buckets of nuke-ready plants-with-spices-and-things.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Vaniver » Mon May 18, 2009 11:24 pm UTC

Indon wrote:But... but... I like my free time!

What non-processed food is there that doesn't require extensive preparation? (I assume peanut butter and jelly, as well as the bread I make sandwiches with qualifies as processed food)
Get a lower income wife/husband or a servant.

The possibly easier and probably more socially acceptable option is to get a 15 minute cookbook. There's a lot you can make rather quickly- and, depending on your tastes, you might not like any of the fancy stuff anyway. There's both a time and quality difference between baked chicken and chicken kiev (the same chicken, rolled around a lump of butter), but if you don't have the time it's pretty easy to get used to the lower quality.

Also, it's generally helpful to find "set and forget" recipes rather than recipes that require attention. Making pasta, for example, is filling a pot, turning on the stove, putting in the pasta when it's boiling, stirring, coming back in five minutes to stir again, and then it's done in another five minutes. Add on a homemade sauce, and now you need to be in the kitchen to actually watch the sauce (there probably are simple sauces out there, that you can actually leave unattended- but that's not a particularly safe plan). Likewise, frying chicken requires full attention (but is actually pretty quick), while baking it doesn't.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby TheAmazingRando » Mon May 18, 2009 11:31 pm UTC

BattleMoose wrote:I am South African, lived here almost all my life, I have toured the USA before with my family.

We were amazed by how much larger food servings were over there when compared to what we have in South Africa. Like the size of a meal you would order in a restaurant or the size of a muffin or really any food product.
I haven't notice a substantial difference in meal size when traveling abroad (Italy, Switzerland, Taiwan, Mexico), in larger restaurants or in smaller, family-run restaurants. The meals I was served in Italy were actually substantially larger than the meals I'm accustomed to getting back home.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby btilly » Tue May 19, 2009 12:29 am UTC

Indon wrote:So basically, my hunger no longer strictly correlates with my actually needing food anymore, and my desire to keep eating does not correlate with not having had enough food?

Replace hunger with "desire for food". And yes. When someone announces that they brought Krispy Kreme donuts in, you have no actual need for a donut, nor do you want to grab a second because of any lack of food.
Indon wrote:The food industry broke me. :(

Edit: That blog is filled with things I would no doubt find absolutely delicious, which just makes the fact that they apparently have the ability to exploit my food-eating system down to a science just that much more painful.

Ironically processed food actually tastes worse. But it does have associations with the wonderful feeling of having just eaten it. And the sight of it reminds you of how good that felt when you did it last time. This is very real and immediate in the way that the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart attack and stroke are not.
Indon wrote:But... but... I like my free time!

What non-processed food is there that doesn't require extensive preparation? (I assume peanut butter and jelly, as well as the bread I make sandwiches with qualifies as processed food)

You don't have to go overboard, just carefully look at the ingredients. If they've broken out multiple sweeteners so that sugar can go lower on the list of ingredients for your jelly, then I'd get worried. But you can find jellies whose ingredient list is satisfyingly low. Ditto for bread and peanut butter. Particularly if you're willing to go to higher end stores like Whole Foods. Though once you've found the brands that do it, you can often find the same product for a better price in your local supermarket. (Beware the common trick of having two brands that look very similar but are very different products. Cigarette manufacturers used to play that game as well.)

Remember that not all processing is going to kill you. The issue is combining sugar, fat and salt in higher concentrations than they appear in nature. A simple rule of thumb is, "Did they eat this kind of stuff 40 years ago?" If so, then it probably isn't going to make you too fat. 40 years ago people were making peanut butter and jam sandwiches. You can do it today with no worse effects than they had if you can find the same ingredients. And you can.

Similarly when I posted a quick and simple pancake recipe at viewtopic.php?f=39&t=39430 I specified oat flour. Now I could grind my own oats into oat flour, but I can also buy something called oat flour whose only ingredient is "oats". Now perhaps something is lost in the process of making that flour. (That is, after all, the difference between white flour and whole wheat flour. Whole wheat is better.) But even if it is worse for you, it won't be worse in a way that keeps you from recognizing that you've had enough to eat.

Now what does "extensive preparation" mean to you? I think of everything that I do as pretty low effort. But if your idea of normal is 3 minutes in the microwave, then it is going to be an ordeal to spend 10 minutes preparing something that you leave in the oven for 40 minutes while doing other things. It isn't much work, but it requires planning.

TheAmazingRando wrote:I haven't notice a substantial difference in meal size when traveling abroad (Italy, Switzerland, Taiwan, Mexico), in larger restaurants or in smaller, family-run restaurants. The meals I was served in Italy were actually substantially larger than the meals I'm accustomed to getting back home.

It depends where you go abroad. America is not an island, and what has been happening in the USA has been happening everywhere in the Western world to a greater or lesser extent. France is a place where it has happened less. For example a comparison of restaurants in Philadelphia and Paris found that average portions offered in Philadelphia were 25% larger than in France. And the size of the portions was more often advertised in Philadelphia than Paris. Furthermore people are surprisingly unobservant about their food. I get something. It fills my plate. I finish it and feel full. Did I notice whether that was a 10" plate or a 12" plate? I personally will only notice the size of the plate if I am still hungry or had trouble finishing my food.

But for a better comparison you need to compare what we consume today with a generation ago. Look at http://www.divinecaroline.com/article/2 ... -size--now and tell me whether you believe that portion sizes have changed. (Incidentally the standard plate today has 44% more surface area than the standard plate did when I was growing up.)
Last edited by btilly on Tue May 19, 2009 1:01 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue May 19, 2009 12:48 am UTC

I don't disagree that they've changed, I was just responding to that post and pointing out that it isn't strictly an American thing.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Indon » Tue May 19, 2009 1:47 am UTC

Man, I just ate when I was hungry and figured my metabolism just wasn't effective at burning calories. I guess for real weight control I'm going to need to be much more strict about monitoring what I eat - or at least, how much of it I eat.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Vaniver » Tue May 19, 2009 2:37 am UTC

btilly wrote:Ironically processed food actually tastes worse.
Depends on the process. I'm all for, say, applying heat to meat. :P
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby btilly » Tue May 19, 2009 5:25 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
btilly wrote:Ironically processed food actually tastes worse.
Depends on the process. I'm all for, say, applying heat to meat. :P

Heh, you got me. Some processing clearly is good for us, and tastes good as well.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby LaserGuy » Tue May 19, 2009 5:51 am UTC

I think a large part of the problem that no one has touched on yet is the fact that we are, as a culture, lazy as hell. We drive to work, sit at work at a computer for all day, drive home, sit in front of the TV, go to bed. How many calories do you honestly need to maintain your weight when your the only time your heart rate goes up is when you speed through a yellow light on your commute home?

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Zamfir » Tue May 19, 2009 8:33 am UTC

Bicycles are the solution to so many problems of society.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Amarantha » Tue May 19, 2009 10:50 am UTC

This doesn't surprise me. I find that I lose weight more easily when I make my own food than when I eat takeaway/restaurant food, even when I'm using vast amounts of butter and cream. Imo it's partly the ingredients and partly the portion sizes. The amount of pasta I cook or the amount of tuna mornay sheol puts on his toast are less than a restaurant would generally serve.

My husband and I both work full-time and study part-time, and sometimes we spend a few weeks being too tired/lazy to cook, but once we get jack of takeaway and find the motivation to make a few meals, we wonder why it took so long. I've just made a dead-easy fish pie that'll last a week, and things like sandwiches and antipasto are but the work of moments.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby quartercirclefish » Tue May 19, 2009 1:30 pm UTC

mosc wrote:Portion sizing is definitely a 21st century health issue I hope we legislate the HELL out of. Plates are too big, packaging does not actually split up servings, relative sizing is distorted, and quantity pricing incentives push towards long term health care costs.

It should be illegal for a movie theater to sell popcorn for $5.00 in a small bag of ~16oz, $5.50 for a medium bag of ~32oz and $5.75 for a large bag of ~128oz.

It should be illegal to sell a product designed for immediate consumption after opening and list it's nutritional information with multiple servings.

It should be illegal to advertise food with X% less ANYTHING. Just list the damn fat content or calorie content on the front. Relative to something else is misleading.



Large sized plates are used to great effect in good restaurants. A large expanse of plate with a small mounded meal/desert in the middle with a drizzled sauce pattern looks great. Why the heck should that be outlawed, and if an exception is to be made, how would it be possible to be enforced. Stay out of my crockery decisions.

The movie theater sells popcorn like that (and most fast throughput meal places do the same) not as part of a global anti-health conspiracy but because of the cost. The main cost in the popcorn is the person serving you and the space you take in the que, so larger sizes actually cost bugger all more as the additional cost is only ingredients.

I agree with you kind of on the serving point. Although in my country, you can list servings but you also have to list per 100g or per 100mL usually, which gives a good benchmark for comparison.
Which segues nicely onto your last point. If I have a choice between two otherwise identical products and one has a fat content on the front as it is low fat and the other doesn't as it is full fat, I can do two things. 1. Look at the back of the full fat product for the nutritional information. The product is now in my hand and I am more likely to just ignore the difference and buy it (store marketing is mostly about getting the product in your hand). 2. Take the one that isn't throwing the fat content in my face. How am I to know that 10g of fat is very low for this ingredient?
It gets even worse for non side by side comparison. Why should I be expected under your model to know the average fat or calorie content of all the food I want to buy? How am I to do a non-side by side comparison of two products and work out which is full fat and which is reduced fat?

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Spacemilk » Tue May 19, 2009 5:36 pm UTC

mosc wrote:Portion sizing is definitely a 21st century health issue I hope we legislate the HELL out of. Plates are too big, packaging does not actually split up servings, relative sizing is distorted, and quantity pricing incentives push towards long term health care costs.

It should be illegal for a movie theater to sell popcorn for $5.00 in a small bag of ~16oz, $5.50 for a medium bag of ~32oz and $5.75 for a large bag of ~128oz.

It should be illegal to sell a product designed for immediate consumption after opening and list it's nutritional information with multiple servings.

It should be illegal to advertise food with X% less ANYTHING. Just list the damn fat content or calorie content on the front. Relative to something else is misleading.

I could go on and on but you get the idea.


First of all, legislation is not the cure-all, and it should never be the very first idea we turn to. That being said, I agree with a couple of your points on the basis of false advertising. It IS misleading to compare a product to something, when nowhere on the package do you mention what you're comparing to, or how you got that information, or even what the comparative product had in it.

As far as the product designed for immediate consumption - I thought with some of those things, there was a standard serving size? It seems like all drinks are based off of an 8 oz. serving size, or chips are based of an X oz. serving size - at least that's been my general impression. It may be that what you find misleading is actually a requirement of these companies - but really I don't know. If it's not a requirement, then yes I agree. edit: I just looked at the single-serving bag of pretzels I had this morning, and it's got a serving size of 0.9 oz, since that's how much is in the bag. Of course this bag was packaged as a "100 calorie snack" which is splashed across the front of the bag. So there probably isn't a "standard serving size."

But making it illegal for a theater to sell popcorn that way? That's just silly. You can't and shouldn't legislate things like that. The most you should do is legislate the information they're given to make choices about food. So instead of requiring some arbitrary portion sizes that the government, in its infinite wisdom, has decided upon, instead regulate the nutrition information a consumer is given. In my opinion, all restaurants should be required to provide the nutritional information for each dish; I hate reading menus and seeing a "low-fat" option - low-fat compared to what? On what scale? It should also be expected - not legislated, but expected - that consumers can request a "half portion" dish at a reduced price, so they can get more reasonable portions without paying full price.

And regulating plate sizes, like quartercirclefish said, is also very silly. And aesthetics of food aside, a double cheeseburger with extra cheese and extra bacon, pile on the mayo, can fit in a relatively small plate and still fulfill your entire caloric quota for a day.

If you're concerned about health costs that can or will be absorbed by the public, well, that's sort of what you sign up for when you agree to government-financed health care. If you're upset that obese people who eat too much are costing you too much, what about that kid who ate nothing but sugary foods and now has diabetes? Are you going to tell his parents what to feed him? Or what about the person who only runs a couple times a week - they're still running, but if it's not up to your governmental standards, are you going to tell them to run more? Or how about me - as a kid I read all the time and I guess I didn't eat my carrots, because now I have bad vision - supposedly it's not genetic because my whole family has great vision - so are you going to punish kids like me? And on and on and on . . . I'm not saying I don't think people should make an effort to be healthy; I'm just a little disgusted that the immediate response is to come up with more rules, rather than trying to find another way that convinces people to make the right choices instead of forcing it on them.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby BattleMoose » Tue May 19, 2009 9:17 pm UTC

Its clear that the food industry is taking advantage of peoples ignorance in terms of food calorific and nutritional value and satiation points in order to maximise profits. While this is good for the food industry its bad for the people and I think it's fairly obvious that the net societal benefit is negative. (The benefiet acrued by the food industry is outweighed by the negative effects it has on people and health care. Some fancy sums could probably be done based on the societal health cost of obesiety and compared to additional profits of the food industry)

Capitalism often needs to be legislated because individual and company profits do not factor in societal costs, there is alot of legislation in every industry and for the most part it is a good thing. If legislation has a net positive societal effect, then legislate away.

I am not sure how the legislation should done, but I am certainly convinced of the need for it.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby btilly » Tue May 19, 2009 10:03 pm UTC

BattleMoose wrote:Its clear that the food industry is taking advantage of peoples ignorance in terms of food calorific and nutritional value and satiation points in order to maximise profits. While this is good for the food industry its bad for the people and I think it's fairly obvious that the net societal benefit is negative. (The benefiet acrued by the food industry is outweighed by the negative effects it has on people and health care. Some fancy sums could probably be done based on the societal health cost of obesiety and compared to additional profits of the food industry)

Read the first post again. It isn't just about exploiting ignorance. The food industry is delivering a drug that, in other animals, elicits a measured response slightly below cocaine. The food industry is like the tobacco industry - they encourage an addition that gets people to consume to the detriment of their health even when those people don't want to.

As a prime example I offer the many people who go on diets, then wind up gaining it all back with interest. I'm sure you've known some.

BattleMoose wrote:Capitalism often needs to be legislated because individual and company profits do not factor in societal costs, there is alot of legislation in every industry and for the most part it is a good thing. If legislation has a net positive societal effect, then legislate away.

I am not sure how the legislation should done, but I am certainly convinced of the need for it.

Legislation may not be necessary. Given how unhealthy and addictive the product is, if we can prove that companies know exactly how unhealthy and addictive it is, yet deliberately worked to make it more so with deceptive practices, then the food industry should wind up liable under the same principles that hit the tobacco industry. I believe that if nothing changes, then it will just be a question of time until this happens.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Weezer » Tue May 19, 2009 10:27 pm UTC

mosc wrote:Portion sizing is definitely a 21st century health issue I hope we legislate the HELL out of. Plates are too big, packaging does not actually split up servings, relative sizing is distorted, and quantity pricing incentives push towards long term health care costs.
It should be illegal for a movie theater to sell popcorn for $5.00 in a small bag of ~16oz, $5.50 for a medium bag of ~32oz and $5.75 for a large bag of ~128oz.
It should be illegal to sell a product designed for immediate consumption after opening and list it's nutritional information with multiple servings.
It should be illegal to advertise food with X% less ANYTHING. Just list the damn fat content or calorie content on the front. Relative to something else is misleading.
I could go on and on but you get the idea.


Wow a little legislation happy are ya. I don't think that any of those problems are valid ones to be solved by legislation. All of those are aspects of society that shouldn't be regulated, the price of snacks vs how big they are should be purely the choice of the seller, if you don't want to eat 128oz of popcorn then buy the smaller one, it is a choice that should be made by the individual. All of what you listed isn't criminal behavior, its misleading and not even all that misleading anyways. For something that splits up the nutrition into multiple servings you can do something called "multiplication" to figure out how much fat/salt/sugar you are eating when you eat the whole thing.
As for your final point you look on the back to see how much fat is actually in it, they are still required to put in how much fat there is in it no matter what percent they put on the front.

BattleMoose wrote:Its clear that the food industry is taking advantage of peoples ignorance in terms of food calorific and nutritional value and satiation points in order to maximise profits.

You said it right there, "peoples ignorance" thats whats causing the increase in obesity. People ignorant about nutrition, ignorant about proper exercise, ignorant about serving size, ignorant enough to be taken in by transparent marketing ploys. In many ways it is more the fault of the consumer than the marketers, all the marketers can do is put themselves in a good light they require people to believe them to create these problems. As they say Caveat Emptor.
I think the way to solve this problem is not through intervention with marketing but by informing people so they can make their own choices one way or the other.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Azrael » Wed May 20, 2009 11:20 am UTC

This doesn't need to be a thread full of disconnected, individual eating habits. Stick to the topic.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby General_Norris » Wed May 20, 2009 1:17 pm UTC

Let me get this straight.

The evil food-making-companies makes tasty food so it is it's fault because now I don't have the will power to eat less?

Sorry but I disagree.I mean you are trying to compare sugar and fat with drugs and that's wrong. Do you remember that lawsuit? The one where an obese man filled a suit against fast-food restaurants because they didn't tell him that he should not eat hamburguers so many times a week? Who's to blame? The company who follows the law or the ignorant obese?

Also I would like to point out that people do not eat at restaurants as much as they eat at their house. Also you talk about how companies use the "bliss point" to sell us more but you don't show any research that shows X company does it.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby brume » Thu May 21, 2009 11:47 pm UTC

The average diet includes 2000 or so calories per day. They can add up quickly - 150 calories in a cookie, 250 in a big glass of milk, 200 in just 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. To maintain a constant weight, intake and burn rate have to be equal. It takes 1 1/2 hours of brisk walking on a treadmill to burn off about 400. Go 500 calories short per day, and you'll lose about a pound of fat a week - 3500 calories per pound.

A good method to lower craving is to eat smaller portions at a meal sitting. Your stomach might complain a little, but once it resets to a smaller shape, it stops sending those feed me signals. Eat big meals and stretch it out every time, and it acts hungry as soon as it starts to empty.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby BattleMoose » Fri May 22, 2009 1:20 pm UTC

I think the general idea is that on food products, particullarly fast food products, that the calories contained in them is listed. And recommended daily calorie intake.

Soda: 150 calories
Burger box: so much
Popcorn: and so much

The precedent has been set by the tabacco industry, they have to put warnings on their boxes similiar idea. Except, while everyone knows smoking is bad for your health, I think very few people know how much of their daily calorie intake a soda comprises.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Angel on the Steps » Fri May 22, 2009 3:02 pm UTC

BattleMoose wrote:Except, while everyone knows smoking is bad for your health, I think very few people know how much of their daily calorie intake a soda comprises.


And not just soda either... I'd bet a lot of people don't really know much about the nutritional values of their food. I've seen more than a few people go heavy on fruit juice, certain sugar-heavy cereals or nuts while trying to lose weight, under the mistaken belief that they are healthy food and therefore can't possibly contain many calories... right? Uh oh.

As for the "why we are fat" bit, I'll be more inclined to believe food by itself can be addictive, period, and you don't really need to "tamper" with it to create feelings of addiction. I know I've certainly been addicted to pure sugar and even sunflower seeds (how much more unprocessed can you get?)... anything will do really! To be sure, the food industry may be giving a bit of a push in the overeating direction, but I very much doubt they're the main culprits here.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby btilly » Fri May 22, 2009 3:52 pm UTC

General_Norris wrote:Let me get this straight.

The evil food-making-companies makes tasty food so it is it's fault because now I don't have the will power to eat less?

Not exactly. The food they make isn't that tasty. But it does set off our dopamine systems. In animal models this quickly results in extreme obesity. Looking at obesity statistics over time in western countries, it clearly is having that effect on us. (You don't actually need statistics to see the obesity epidemic. Go look on youtube for video from the 60s of public events, then look at how skinny the people in the crowds are. Once you notice it, the difference is quite shocking.)
General_Norris wrote:Sorry but I disagree.I mean you are trying to compare sugar and fat with drugs and that's wrong. Do you remember that lawsuit? The one where an obese man filled a suit against fast-food restaurants because they didn't tell him that he should not eat hamburguers so many times a week? Who's to blame? The company who follows the law or the ignorant obese?

You've asserted that the comparison to drugs is wrong, but you've provided no real arguments backing that up. The effect on the brain of sugar, fat and salt is exactly the same as drugs. What then is the difference? You ingest a substance, it has an effect on the brain, and this drives behavior. I fail to see the distinction. And in terms of the effects on behavior, there is no distinction.

While we are on the topic, you're quite wrong to characterize the problem as people who are "ignorant obese". Is it ignorance of their bank account that makes cocaine addicts spend all of their money? Of course not! Similarly someone who has developed an addiction on sugar, fat and salt need not be in the slightest bit ignorant to keep on eating such foods. In fact large numbers of people routinely fail to eat more healthily despite knowing better, and trying their hardest. Breaking an addiction is generally easier said than done.
General_Norris wrote:Also I would like to point out that people do not eat at restaurants as much as they eat at their house. Also you talk about how companies use the "bliss point" to sell us more but you don't show any research that shows X company does it.

Location only matters if it changes the quality of what we eat. More often than we should, we eat takeout at home. Or snack on junk food. Or eat some pre-processed food we bought in a store that is easy to prepare. All of these foods are likely to be high in sugar, fat and salt.

If you want research backing any of this up, including evidence that food companies are deliberately manipulating this system, go buy the book. If you're not happy with a summary of the science presented by someone who is a doctor, former FDA commissioner, and former dean of 2 of the top medical schools in this country, then you can turn to the pages in the back which contain followup notes, including many citations of relevant scientific papers.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby markfiend » Fri May 22, 2009 4:05 pm UTC

btilly wrote: If they've broken out multiple sweeteners so that sugar can go lower on the list of ingredients for your jelly, then I'd get worried.

Strangely, this is not the case in the UK (and I think in the whole of the EU) -- ingredients have to be listed in order of most to least (by mass I think). Hence many brands of "meat and potato pie" are now called "potato and meat pie" because they have more potato than meat in them.

So if sugar's low on the list, there's relatively less sugar, and it's better for you calorie-wise.

Foods also have to list things like calorie content, fat, sugar and salt content, all compared with daily recommended amounts.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Rinsaikeru » Fri May 22, 2009 4:25 pm UTC

Re. Plate sizes.

It's quite like the optical illusion where there are two circles surrounded by other circles either larger or smaller.http://www.thenoisingmachine.com/blog/images/ebbill.jpg

A consistent amount of food looks like more on a smaller plate.


If at a buffet people will both take and eat more food with larger plates than they will with smaller plates. (I recently saw this demonstrated on an episode of the Food Network's show Food Detectives--not a scientifically founded study but still quite enlightening.) This isn't to say large plates should be outlawed, but there certainly needs to be more awareness about how it affects eating habits.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that individuals shouldn't ultimately be responsible for their own consumption--but when an entire food industry is out to convince you to eat more, there needs to be some recourse and protection for the general consumer.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri May 22, 2009 4:55 pm UTC

It bears mentioning that humans are not 'meant' to subsist on the massive diets we consume. One purported link to obesity is fat storing adaptations for wandering people; it was to their advantage to store consumed food stuffs biologically over time.

Our eating habits are based on ~1000 years of cultural weirdness (Vomitorium? Recreational Drinking? Meat rich diets?) tacked over more then 100,000 years of biological pressures. The two don't really sync.

I find that I have a really strong revulsion to the obese, and I sort of feel guilty for it. But the fact of the matter is the various food industries have falsely advertised and created a lifestyle that is unhealthy and wasteful. While we may be genetically predisposed to obey their campaign, I really find it a pretty lame excuse. Put down that double bacon cheeseburger and go for a jog.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby btilly » Fri May 22, 2009 6:02 pm UTC

markfiend wrote:
btilly wrote: If they've broken out multiple sweeteners so that sugar can go lower on the list of ingredients for your jelly, then I'd get worried.

Strangely, this is not the case in the UK (and I think in the whole of the EU) -- ingredients have to be listed in order of most to least (by mass I think). Hence many brands of "meat and potato pie" are now called "potato and meat pie" because they have more potato than meat in them.

So if sugar's low on the list, there's relatively less sugar, and it's better for you calorie-wise.

I'm sorry if you didn't understand my description, but this is the same in the EU and USA. Ingredients have to be listed in order of most to least. However you've got a choice. If you just use sugar, it goes high on the list. If you use (for example) sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and cane syrup you can wind up with the same basic recipe, but you're using less of each sweetener. Therefore some other ingredient moves up, and it doesn't look as bad. If you read a list of ingredients and see multiple nearly identical sweeteners in a clump, this is usually why it happens.
markfiend wrote:Foods also have to list things like calorie content, fat, sugar and salt content, all compared with daily recommended amounts.

They have to list them relative to a serving. It is up to the manufacturer what a serving is. For instance if you decide that a serving of pop is an 8 oz can, then you can say that a 20 oz bottle is 2.5 servings and list the amounts for a single serving. Even though you know most people will consume pretty much the whole bottle at once. Yes, you can figure out what is in the bag with a little bit of math, but manufacturers are very aware that most people won't do the math.

Tell me this. Suppose you're making a type of potato chip. Suppose you've carried out extensive market research to develop a chip that people can't stop nibbling on after they start. Suppose further that you're marketing them with, "Bet you can't eat just one!" And your market research says that you will win that bet, the average serving is pretty much the whole bag. Given all of this, how honest is it to say that 1 serving is a very small fraction of the bag? (This is, of course, a real example.)

Not that it matters. Even when people know how bad the product is for them, they have trouble resisting.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby quartercirclefish » Sat May 23, 2009 3:06 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Our eating habits are based on ~1000 years of cultural weirdness (Vomitorium? Recreational Drinking? Meat rich diets?) tacked over more then 100,000 years of biological pressures. The two don't really sync.


Vomitorium, a space in an amphitheater for crowds to exit by? Surely not the mistaken belief that Romans used it for vomiting during a binge purge cycle? http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-vom1.htm

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat May 23, 2009 4:33 am UTC

I saw it on the History Channel, it must be true!

Fine, even if such a specialized space did not exist, I see no hard debunking of the plausibility of the practice. And dats whack yo.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Rinsaikeru » Sat May 23, 2009 5:20 am UTC

There is an actual vomitorium in the Hauf Brau Haus in Munic--I've got a photo.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby markfiend » Sat May 23, 2009 11:29 am UTC

btilly wrote:I'm sorry if you didn't understand my description, but this is the same in the EU and USA. Ingredients have to be listed in order of most to least. However you've got a choice. If you just use sugar, it goes high on the list. If you use (for example) sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and cane syrup you can wind up with the same basic recipe, but you're using less of each sweetener. Therefore some other ingredient moves up, and it doesn't look as bad. If you read a list of ingredients and see multiple nearly identical sweeteners in a clump, this is usually why it happens.
Ah yes. I did misunderstand you. As well as this, I actually thought you were talking about artificial sweeteners, not various sugars. :oops:
btilly wrote:They have to list them relative to a serving. It is up to the manufacturer what a serving is. For instance if you decide that a serving of pop is an 8 oz can, then you can say that a 20 oz bottle is 2.5 servings and list the amounts for a single serving. Even though you know most people will consume pretty much the whole bottle at once. Yes, you can figure out what is in the bag with a little bit of math, but manufacturers are very aware that most people won't do the math.
Hah! yes, a 500ml bottle of UK Coke claims to be 2 servings when obviously most people will drink a whole bottle as a single serving.

They have to put per 100ml or per 100g figures, but like you say, most people don't do the math.

My bad.
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Re: Why we are fat

Postby General_Norris » Sat May 23, 2009 12:33 pm UTC

You've asserted that the comparison to drugs is wrong, but you've provided no real arguments backing that up. The effect on the brain of sugar, fat and salt is exactly the same as drugs. What then is the difference? You ingest a substance, it has an effect on the brain, and this drives behavior. I fail to see the distinction. And in terms of the effects on behavior, there is no distinction.


You see you are the one who should bring the arguments not me. You have not shown me any proof of any kind that this food is adictive. You point to a book I cannot check, that book could be about anything unrelated. Let's supusse I talk about a book caled "How you are wrong" and I tell you to go check it because it has all you need to know. Will you accept that as "evidence"? I doubt it,

Also I don't know you but I don't eat

takeout at home. Or snack on junk food. Or eat some pre-processed food we bought in a store that is easy to prepare. All of these foods are likely to be high in sugar, fat and salt.


"more often that I should". Prove we eat those things because we feel an impulse to do so caused by an adiction to a certain combination of sugar, fat and salt and not because we just like it or we are lazy or whatever. Correlation doesn't imply causation.

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Re: Why we are fat

Postby Kendo_Bunny » Sat May 23, 2009 4:57 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I find that I have a really strong revulsion to the obese, and I sort of feel guilty for it. But the fact of the matter is the various food industries have falsely advertised and created a lifestyle that is unhealthy and wasteful. While we may be genetically predisposed to obey their campaign, I really find it a pretty lame excuse. Put down that double bacon cheeseburger and go for a jog.


And then there are those of us who have actual, legitimate medical conditions that make weight loss extremely difficult. That's one major reason why I'm against legislating food or putting sin taxes on the overweight - only the doctor and the person know that that person is overweight because of a medical problem. (The other reason is I believe the government should keep it's damn snout out of people's private business. If it's not their business who I'm sleeping with, it's not their business what I'm snacking on). You can't know if the person you're reviling hasn't eaten a bacon cheeseburger in a year and just felt like having one that particular day. You can't know if they have an underactive thyroid (or have had thyroid cancer and had it removed), if they have PCOS, if they're insulin resistant...

The South Beach Diet actually does reset cravings to some degree - I lost 50 lbs. on it, and I'm planning on starting it back up again in June, with my new medication. The thing I liked best about it is the occasional sweet pastry wasn't treated as the devil, as long as it didn't become a habit. I won't lie: sometimes I wanted nothing more than a big piece of fresh-baked bread or a slice of pound cake, but that was also before I really learned to like most fruits and veggies. This time around, that should be easier. Cutting HFCS out of my diet for Lent didn't help me lose any weight, but I did lose my taste for most things containing it. So taste buds and cravings can be reset a bit, but it's up to the individual whether they want to. I have more health problems from being bulimic than I do from being overweight.


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