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Heather McGuire
Instructor Nathan Cole
ENGL-2010-401
7 August 2015
Position Assignment 3 Final Draft
What Is Making Americans Fat?
With a fast food joint on seemingly every corner in
every American city and an abundance of quick
microwavable foods at the grocery store, how can American
society expect to raise children of a healthy weight? No,
one single cheeseburger with french-fries will not make a
child fat, but the abundance of cheap and easy food
Image Credit: Wendy's 2015

available at every turn certainly does not help a child

choose the most nutritious foods available. Additionally, the marketing distractions and cravings
associated with quick, inexpensive, and simple to prepare foods direct society away from
exercise in favor of eating. It is a baited hook, and nearly every American has taken it. Health
should be a priority in America, and it should be made easy for every normal weight,
overweight, obese, and morbidly obese person to choose healthy food and choose to exercise. In
the United States, there is a negative stigma attached to the word fat, but according to the
Merriam-Webster Dictionary it simply means a person has an unusual amount of fat or is
obese. Despite the fact that the American economy expands as fast food and quick to prepare

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meals become increasingly abundant, more effectively marketed, and more convenient,
Americans are becoming increasingly lazy, fat, and diseased as a result.
As the girth of the nations pants grows larger, so too does the quantity of fast food
establishments. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adult and
pediatric overweight and obesity statistics are hovering around thirty percent of the entire United
States populations, as of 2012. Whether an individual is looking for a good old-fashioned
American hamburger, Mexican food, Chinese food, or another type of quick and easy food to
satiate their cravings, rest assured there is a restaurant out there for every desire. Chris Nichols,
author of Fast-Food Facts That Will Blow Your Mind, focuses the attention of his article on
the rapid growth and domination of the fast food industry on the economics of the food market.
With so many available restaurants, over 313,000 in the United States according to Nichols, it is
evident that the American population has an addiction to food that is both cheap and quick to
obtain. He recognizes these companies control the economy of the food market, and they
dominate the supply of meat, produce, and condiments in the United States. Their demand for
massive amounts of these foods drives the overall demand higher, and therefore market prices go
up. This is reflected in the rising costs at the grocery store.
Nichols article also highlights the economic benefits of the fast food industry by
revealing that the average fast food restaurant brings in $753,000 per year. Even though an
average fast food restaurant brings in such a high revenue, Dr. Deborah Cohens book A Big Fat
Crisis claims The diseases associated with obesity costs our medical system an estimated $147
billion per year (14). Although the fast food industry is growing rapidly and boosts the
economy, it does so at the expense of public health.

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Figure 4. Although the average percentage of fast food consumption is only 11.3% for the nation, it is significantly higher in
overweight and obese adults. This suggests that fast food plays an important role in weight gain for adults. (Credit NCHS)

Now, there is no doubt about the growth of fast food chains, but how often are Americans
substituting a restaurant meal for a home cooked meal? The National Center for Health Statistics
(NCHS), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reported that During
20072010, [American] adults consumed, on average, 11.3% of their total daily calories from
fast food. With this information, it is somewhat reasonable to conclude that similar percentages
of childhood calorie intake is also coming from fast food. In addition, the data brief asserts that
previous studies have reported that more frequent fast-food consumption is associated with
higher energy and fat intake and lower intake of healthful nutrients. Just over ten percent of the
average Americans diet consists of fast food, but that number is significantly higher for
overweight and obese individuals as represented in Figure 4 above (NCHS). Whether ten percent
or twenty percent of dietary intake comes from fast food, the lack of nutritional value poses huge
risks to a persons physical wellbeing. As a 28-year-old overweight adult, it is my opinion that

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the four and a half percent increase of fast food calorie intake between normal and obese adults
in my age range is unacceptable. Being able to quickly access food has become the popular
alternative to having a sit down home cooked meal with the family.
Fast food restaurants have learned how to market their products in such a way that people
remember them long after the billboard or commercial. For example, the majority of people
across the globe recognize the golden arches that represent McDonalds or the beautiful models
that eat the latest and greatest thousand (or more) calorie Carls Jr. hamburger. Technological
advancements in television, photography, internet advertisements, and fast food cell phone
applications have paved the way for fast food to continually entice Americans to eat, eat, and eat
again. In her book A Big Fat Crisis, Deborah Cohen, a medical doctor with a focus on health and
risky behaviors, stresses that Advertising encourages impulsive behaviors, and our greatest
vulnerability to advertising, regardless of age or development, is through our noncognitive
processing, when we impulsively react to superficial appearance, gestures, and sounds, and fail
to analyze the information carefully (85-86). She informs us that an individuals mind
automatically and inadvertently responds to marketing works of art. Marketing tactics benefit
the processed food industry at the expense of consumers.
In my experience, the temptation created by the fast food industry is overwhelming. Even
long after a television commercial has ended, I find myself thinking I should really go get some
of that ice cream, or I could go for a cheeseburger and fries right now. On at least a daily
basis, many other normal, overweight, and obese Americans, including children, are exposed to
these same mental images and thoughts. The image of the Wendys Baconator burger above
may still be appealing to ones inner cravings right now. Fast food is not the single source of
quick, easy, and aesthetically appealing foods. Most grocery stores are crowded with multiple

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frozen food aisles that contain everything from TV dinners to ice cream and cakes. These
products are also marketed in a manner similar to fast food. Sure, you can find fresh or frozen
fruits, vegetables, and meats in the grocery store too, but they do not have a pretty package or a
commercial with a catch phrase. It is easier to grab a box that only needs to be thawed or heated
in the microwave in five minutes or less than it is to purchases raw meat, vegetables, fruits, and
grains to create a meal from scratch that may take thirty minutes or more.
The convenience of processed foods, whether frozen, boxed, canned, or jarred, appeals to
many American families because of a concept referred to as the opportunity cost of time.
Opportunity cost is a sacrifice of one thing that an individual must make in order to obtain
something else (McConnell). In the case of food, society is willing to sacrifice money, nutrition,
and health in exchange for the time saved that would be required to prepare food. This is another
reason why fast and processed foods have become so popular. Our nation values time, so people
are willing to give up the benefits of raw and made from scratch food in order to use that time
doing other things. Reluctantly, I admit that I too have made choices to save time instead of
preparing meals at home. This has cost me some aspects of my health including the fact that I am
overweight.
Not only are Americans too busy to cook meals anymore, but exercise and physical
activity seem to play a lesser role in modern society. According to the Facts and Statistics
presented by the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) less than 5% of
adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day, and only one in three children
are physically active every day. These numbers are astounding! Both children and adults are
spending more time in front of television and computer screens instead of participating in

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physical activities. Essentially, eating fast food has aided in providing Americans with more time
to do less physical work.
The PCFSN Facts and Statistics report also highlights the fact that since the early 1970s,
the amount of fast food locations and chains have more than doubled, contributing to an increase
in solid fats and added sugars; refined grains; sodium; and saturated fat in the typical
American diet. According to the CDC, these factors are some of the main reasons behind the
increase in type two diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer in obese and overweight children.
In the past, these conditions have been primarily linked to aging adults, but with increased
consumption of fast food and decreased physical activity these diseases are becoming more
prevalent in younger generations.
To me, the problem is clear. Fast food and processed food conglomerates are helping
American obesity rates rise. Despite the significant monetary contributions to the nations
economy and the jobs provided by the convenience food industry, economic costs still exists.
These costs are passed on to consumers in the form of health care costs, rising costs of groceries,
and obesity related diseases. Instead of weighing the opportunity cost of time, Americans should
weigh the opportunity cost of health. Families should take the time to cook more meals whether
they are a large family or a single individual. Include the whole family in meal preparation, and
save time that way instead of stopping at the local drive thru to pick up dinner. If an individuals
is not watching television or browsing the internet, they are less likely to see the fast food
commercials. Reducing screen time can reduce the impact marketing has on societys food
choices. Adults of America, get off the computer, stand up at your desk while you work, coach a
childrens athletic team, take more walks, run, jog, or dance. Set the example for future
generations to follow. By preparing unprocessed, made from scratch meals and focusing on

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being physically active as a priority, America can help stop the negative influence and control
that fast and processed food have on health and wellbeing.

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Works Cited
Childhood Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. 2012. Print. 24 Apr. 2015.
Cohen, Deborah A. A Big Fat Crisis. New York: Nation Books. 2014. Print.
Combatting Childhood Obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. 2012. Print. 23 Sept. 2013.
"Fat." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 23 July 2015.
Fryar, Cheryl D., M.S.P.H., and R. Bethene Ervin, Ph.D., R.D. Caloric Intake From Fast Food
Among Adults: United States, 20072010. NCHS Data Brief. No. 113 (2013). Web. 23
July 2015.
McConnell, Campbell R. Microeconomics, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. 2015. Print.
Nichols, Chris. "Fast-Food Facts That Will Blow Your Mind." Yahoo Finance. The Exchange,
12 July 2013. Web. 23 July 2015.
Baconator. 2015. Photograph. Wendys. Web. 23 July 2015.
United States. President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Facts and Statistics. n.d. Web.
23 July 2015.