Woods 1 Michael Woods Instructor: Malcolm Campbell English H1103 Date: 11/5/12

Obesity Blame Game, Fast Food Industry vs. People

"According to a news segment on obesity in America, by network Al Jazeera, within the next 18 years the number of obese people in the US is expected to rise to 42 per cent of the adult population. What is obesity though? According to WebMD, Obesity is an excess proportion of total body fat and one is considered obese when his or her weight is 20% or more above normal weight. But who is to blame for this mind-blowing statistic; the fast food restaurants, or the people that are giving into the industry? A lot of the time, we love to throw the blame off of ourselves and find a scapegoat which is where the fast food industry finds itself. What if I told you it was the America people's fault for becoming one of the most obese nations in the world? My Own Look Throughout my exploration on who is to blame on the obesity in America, I decided to conduct a little research of my own in which I become the guinea pig of my own experiment. For about a month I recorded how many times that I went to a fast food restaurant for weekdays, and the weekends. I also recorded how many times that fast food restaurants were an option when talking over plans with friends and family to determine where we were going to eat. Alarmingly, over the past month, fast food restaurants were one of the first options that were suggested to the group of people that I was around. This discovery strengthened my curiosity

Woods 2 more and more as to what is making the buzz so hot around the fast food industry and who is to blame for the obesity of America. Home vs. On the Go One of the most eye popping statistics was that a fast food restaurant was suggested every time we spoke about where we would like to eat. According to the data I gathered, I noticed that one in every two meals during weekdays consisted of fast food, and almost two thirds of my meals on the weekends involved fast food. So I began looking into how my statistics matched up with America and surprisingly, according to Time Magazine, "the national average of eating fast food was 3.7 times per week", which is about one half of my average (Zoglin). One of the main contributing factors of fast food being consumed was the fact that we were on the run trying to get somewhere; which is the story of many American families that deal with church events, school events, recreational games, or band concerts. Now more than ever, American families are always on the move which brings in more revenue for these fast food industries. We live in a society where home cooked meals have been replaced by getting a quick bite to eat at Jack in the Box before an event. Being always on the move and eating fast food is a positive feedback loop because generally when individuals are constantly on the move, they tend to stress more, which increases their likelihood of becoming overweight/obese. The bottom line is that we are either too busy or too lazy to cook our own meals at home, in turn we are consuming less healthy food. According to my father Scott Woods, "Fast food industries have identified most of the American family lifestyles and have perfected the art of supplying good food that is easily accessible." Being a doctor for 15 years, my father has seen obesity and its effects on a regular basis. One way they have made them more accessible is by selling burgers that are already cooked for a dollar each, opposed to individuals going to the

Woods 3 grocery store, buying raw meat, and cooking it for themselves. Hyman speaks to this: "In 2010, 50 percent (of meals) were eaten away from home and one in five breakfasts is from McDonald's." This is direct evidence that the kitchen has moved from inside of the homes, to the inside of the family car. Placing blame on either the fast food industry or the individual in this case is a very shady area because some families can't help but to be busy with activities, or even work. The People Obesity in America is taking the world by a storm making the U.S.A. number one in the world with a total 30.6% of our population! (OECD Health Data) We love it when America gets ranked number one in something, but this is one of those categories we should be ashamed of. Not only are we ranked number one, but the country that is closest to us on the charts is Mexico who are an astounding 6.4% of their population below us. Although it does not sound like a lot, we are speaking in the terms of millions of people. Technology Through the advancement of technology, America has slowly becoming more dependent on material things to make their life easier, thus, increasing obesity rates. The advancement in transportation is a great example because most of the population walked, biked, or rode horses to work before Henry Ford constructed the assembly line and invented to Model T, doing this would keep literally millions of people on their feet, which burns calories and keep those individuals healthier. After the Model T was produced, many citizens began to rely more on cars to get them to places instead of either walking, biking or riding horses. Also, the workplace has dramatically changed; many people now have jobs that involve a lot of sitting at a computer desk for 8 hours a day, then leaving to go home and chill on the couch. We have been in a rut for quite

Woods 4 some time because we are generally used to being lazy; so lazy that it has come to the point where we do not care about our health sometimes. We are aware that we should eat healthier and exercise, but for some reason we refuse to get out of the hole that we are digging ourselves into. We would rather come home from work with chicken from Bojangles than cook a healthy dinner at home. I've heard on several occasions that my parents were "too tired to cook because of work", which is a great indication that we are sacrificing our energy, for our health. Our mindset is skewed in a way that we view our overall health. Unless we become more educated and motivated to change from the ways that we are living right now, we are on our way to the MAJORITY of our population being obese. Our Choices Choices are everywhere, good, bad, and ugly. They are what shape our daily lives and keep us always on our toes to make the right decisions. We make choices every day that are influenced by our own desires, and by our peers; and speaking in health terms, we are not making the best decisions for our bodies. From personal experiences, I often lose my eating and drinking values when I am hanging around my friends. I have slowly started to quit drinking soda, but every time that I am with my peers, they encourage me to consume soft drinks. There is just something about the environment that makes me lose myself for a moment which lets the temptation of not eating right seem so "ok" to do. So the environment or social group an individual is involved with can determine whether they make the right decisions when it comes to eating and drinking healthy (WebMD). At the end of the day everyone chooses things for themselves, and that decision is a lot of times bombarded with temptations, peer pressure, or just the amount of time and energy they have.

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Fast Food Industry The fast food industry has been observing people for years in attempt to figure out their different economical and social patterns. They conduct this research in order to identify and better appeal to their target market through advertising. Some of the attention is also given to the food industry itself in order to come out with the best products and the products the consumers would like to purchase. One thing that we do know for sure is, fast food restaurants would do almost anything in order to keep the customers flowing in their business. Advertisements Billboards, commercials, flyers, emails, junk mail. There is no doubt that companies everywhere are trying to influence us on buying/consuming their products. "The fast food industry spent more than 4.2 billion dollars in 2009 on TV, advertising and other media!" reports Fast Food Facts. With any other ad, fast food restaurants really try to drive home that they have the cheapest "fill in the blank" in town and you should go try it. It seems like we cannot go 10 miles down the highway without finding some kind of fast food restaurant. These restaurants are making themselves more available to the public by staying up later, cheapening their prices, and ultimately globalizing their companies. "One of the biggest targets for the industry are low income families, and teenagers. In fact, young adults that range from 12-17 years old see on average 4.7 fast food ads per day!" (Fast Food Facts) The advertising has hit the nail on the head because they understand that teenagers do not have a lot of money, so they specifically advertise to them. This fact was no surprise to me because where I am from, there are at least 5 fast food restaurants that are within a mile of the high school that I attended. Just like a fish taking the bait, once school was out, many

Woods 6 of us would flock to those restaurants where they would have special discounts going on. We would often times skip lunch so that we would be hungrier later when school got out. Knowing that the food at school was healthier for us, the taste factor took precedence over our health. By taste factor I mean being able to choose and customize what I wanted to eat, which I am unable to do at school. The way that fast food restaurants target low income families and teenagers is by making their products super cheap and creating the dollar menu, or a value menu. They compete with each other about who has the cheapest burger in town which attracts the teenagers and low income families to supply to their kids for a small price. Another big market for these companies is getting the children along board with eating at their restaurant. Every young adult and parent knows that younger kids will cry and complain about something until they get what they want. Fast food industries have utilized this to their advantage by advertising incentives for a child to choose one restaurant over another. Things like the Happy Meals from McDonalds come with toys for the children to play with after or before they have eaten their dinner. So often times parents will eat at McDonald's one night instead of eating a home cooked meal. I remember when I was little, I would bug my parents to take me to McDonalds. Why? Because I knew that things like Pokémon toys came with the meals. I would throw the worst temper tantrums until my mom realized a simple Happy Meal was all it took to satisfy me. So, companies have incorporated toys into their marketing scheme in order to influence the children to choose one fast food industry over another. Fast Food Revealed Fast food is the cheapest, easiest way to purchase food in our society, although cheaper almost never means healthier when it comes to the fast food industry. One of the biggest concerns for food industries is not to put the healthiest product out there, but to put the cheapest,

Woods 7 best tasting product. This is why burgers such as the Big Mac and Whopper became so famous. They were loaded with calories and grease which took America's taste buds on a ride, for a very cheap price. It is really sickening to actually think over the fact that these businesses care absolutely nothing about your health, or the health of others. Their primary concern is to just make money. They make petty attempts to offer "healthy" food items to choose from at their restaurant, but we all know what makes the business go round. It almost sounds like the fast food industries are trying to pollute us with the food that we need to survive. I am sure that the original intention of McDonald's was not to produce food that would eventually degrade America's health, but that is the result that we are looking at today. As these fast food businesses start to get bigger, the prices start to get a little lower, and the number of them start to grow exponentially. McDonalds alone stretches across 118 countries and over 33,000 active stores in the world! Numbers like these are shoveling in millions, possibly even billions of dollars every day to fund a company that is figuratively and literally, leading cattle to the slaughter. Now I begin to wonder how we support these companies that have nothing in mind but how much bigger their next paycheck might be. There are human lives at stake but they continue to produce harmful food and place all blame on people and none on themselves. It really is a terrible thing to discover while conducting this research, but I think now my question would rather be. Why are Americans so unconcerned about their health and what they eat? Also, where is this apathy towards our health condition coming from? Conclusion All in all, the fast food industry has a positive correlation to the obesity in America. You can look at it in two ways: the first one being that it is the people's fault because they ultimately have a choice on what to eat and what not to eat. The second is that the fast food industry is to

Woods 8 blame, due to the ridiculous amount of unhealthy food they serve. People really do not see unhealthy fast food as a choice, but as a necessity.

Woods 9 Works Cited 2005, OECD Health Data. "Obesity Statistics - Countries Compared." NationMaster.com. Nation Master, Web. 08 Nov. 2012. "Fast Food FACTS in Brief." Fast Food FACTS â Fast Food Facts in Brief. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Nov. Fast Food: Is It Really the Cause of Obesity? by Isabel Remedios. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2012. Hyman, MD, Mark. "How Eating at Home Can Save Your Life." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 09 Jan. 2011. Web. 08 Nov. 2012. "The Influence of Peers on Diets." LIVESTRONG.COM. Web. 08 Nov. 2012. "More About MOOD." Peer Pressure: How It Affects Eating Healthier and Exercising More. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. "New Studies Show How Food Industry Targets Children ~ Newsroom ~ News from CSPI ~ Center for Science in the Public Interest." New Studies Show How Food Industry Targets Children ~ Newsroom ~ News from CSPI ~ Center for Science in the Public Interest. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. "Number of McDonald's Restaurants  Worldwide." About.com Geography. Web. 08 Nov. 2012. "Obesity Facts, Causes, Emotional Aspects and When to Seek Help." WebMD. WebMD, 18 Jan. 0031. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. "Who Is to Blame for the US Obesity Epidemic? - Inside Story Americas - Al Jazeera English. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2012. Zoglin, Richard. "Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews." Time. Time, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2012.

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