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Sarah Hummel

Doctor Stumphy
ENG 102
2 March 2015
The American dinner table, which once symbolized high-quality, nutritious, lovinglyprepared food, has taken on a new meaning. In fact, it is rarely a table at all, so perhaps it
should be referred to as the American booth or the American minivan speeding away
from the drive through window. Most Americans have not even realized the change.
McDonalds golden arches have pervaded our society, shining from every street corner,
and we blindly flock to these signals of our supposed happiness. Between bites of
hamburger and sips of Coca-Cola, do we realize that we have traded our American
agricultural heritage of nutrients and health for some hamburger filler and greasy fries?
Fast food was not always a driving force in the United States. At one time,
Americans gathered around actual dinner tables every night and spent time with family.
We took the time and initiative to prepare healthy home-cooked meals, and even grew our
own fresh fruits and veggies in the backyard. At one point, we actually cared about what
we were putting into our mouths and how it impacted our health.
This all changed when the fast food epidemic began. The first Mcdonalds opened its
doors in 1940, and was first franchised in 1955. Burger King and Wendys soon followed,
and fast food joints began to pop up around the United States at an alarming rate. Since
the early 1960s (not long after these franchises opened), the obesity rate has more than
doubled (Overweight and Obesity Statistics).
The convenience of fast food first started this downward spiral in the American diet.

It is convenient to be offered that jumbo soda. It is convenient to super-size our meals.


Why bother spending time laboring over the stove at home when the Burger King down
the street conveniently has food already prepared? Our busy schedules have overtaken our
lives and our food choices, and many Americans have come to rely on this convenience.
A survey conducted by Mandela Research supports this finding, stating that the majority
of Americans are eating out approximately 5 times per week (Americans Eat Out About
5 Times a Week). Erich Schlosser, author of the book Fast Food Nation, reported during
an interview with CBS HealthWatch that Americans spend upwards of 100 billion dollars
on fast food per year (Americans are Obsessed with Fast Food).
As health care bills due to obesity rise, Americans are coming to realize that our
food choices can either be helpful or detrimental to physical well-being, yet many of us
still frequent the same fast food restaurants and eat the same high-calorie meals. Why are
we Americans choosing to consume food that is essentially killing us? Perhaps it is the
attitude of self-entitlement that has pervaded American society. We deserve to eat what
we want, how much we want, when we want. Yet when our doctors bring us the news of
heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, it suddenly is not our fault. We blame the
nearby all-you-can-eat buffet, our up-selling waitress, and all the mouth-watering
television commercials.
We feel this self-entitlement because junk food tastes good. We equate these yummy
foods with happiness, and doesnt everyone deserve to be happy? When this conclusion is
reached, there are no more boundaries. If one chicken sandwich brings happiness, then
two will produce joy and three achieve ecstasy. McDonalds has directly taken advantage
of this attitude by marketing the Happy Meal to children, insinuating that one can not be

happy without having one. Other restaurant chains have followed with similarly marketed
kids meals. The result: 157,000,000 children between the ages of 8-14 eat fast food every
month (Fast Food).
Most importantly, the American dinner table has come to symbolize that we no
longer care about, or take pride in, the food we consume. Americans realize fast food is
detrimental to health, yet remain indifferent. According to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, approximately one-third, or 78.6 million, of the adults in the United
States are obese. Many health-care providers predict that this number will soar to nearly
one-half of the population by 2030. The result: upwards of 100 billion dollars are spent
on health care costs directly related to obesity, and that number is rising (Adult Obesity
Facts).
It is time for Americans to not only become conscious of the food (and how much of
it) we are eating, but also to make proactive decisions to improve our health. I am not
proposing we all turn into health-freaks who munch on lettuce and carrots all day, or even
that we boycott fast food restaurants for the rest of our lives. Americans just need to start
making small choices that could have some big benefits. Switch out one soda a day for a
glass of water. Instead of buying that extra-large value meal, change it out for a small
one. Cook up something at home instead of eating out. Lets transform the American
dinner table back into a symbol of health and nutrition, and fill it with food that we can be
proud of eating.

Works Cited
"Adult Obesity Facts." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, 09 Sept. 2014. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
"Americans Are Obsessed with Fast Food." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 31 Jan. 2002.
Web. 16 Feb. 2015.
"Americans Eat Out About 5 Times a Week." UPI. N.p., 19 Sept. 2011. Web. 22 Feb.
2015.
"Fast Food." Fast Food. Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation, n.d. Web. 24 Feb.
2015.
"Overweight and Obesity Statistics." Weight-Control Information Network. N.p., n.d.
Web. 22 Feb. 2015.