"My doctor says I have something called hypertension," she says. "I'm really scared."
January 10, 2012 9:01 AM   Subscribe


 
Look, I know that this thread is not going to go well, because it never does, but I just want to make one thing very clear: if fat-shaming worked to make people thin, no one would be fat in America any more. As a society, we have definitely got that aspect covered.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:04 AM on January 10, 2012 [86 favorites]


I came in to say what WidgetAlley said but not in such a clear way. Can I get partial credit?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:06 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


if fat-shaming worked to make people thin, no one would be fat in America any more

Fair enough. Maybe this thread would be a useful place to ask what strategies might actually work to encourage healthier behaviors that wouldn't be regarded as "fat-shaming." Is the only alternative to "fat-shaming" simply ignoring the problem?
posted by yoink at 9:07 AM on January 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


...and a self-fulfilling prophecy right out of the gate.
posted by rocket88 at 9:09 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


She says parents are in denial. Nearly 1 million Georgia kids are overweight or obese.

I'd love to see a source backing up the first part of that quote.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:09 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


How about promoting healthy diet and excercise as opposed to mass consumerism, particularly in lower income and/or rural areas?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:09 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


The problem when you focus on the individuals in these campaigns is that there's no way of getting around shaming them. NYC has an ongoing and viscerally disturbing "pouring on the pounds" ad campaign that is pretty stark and shocking but without getting "it is a bad thing that you look the way you do" territory like this does. If you want to change people's eating and exercise habits, focus on that.
posted by griphus at 9:10 AM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


FTA: "The ads are part of a five-year, $25 million anti-obesity effort. It includes training pediatricians, getting programs in schools, and setting up a clinic to treat the medical and psychological issues related to obesity."
posted by BobbyVan at 9:11 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


At this point I don't even want more Cocoa Pebbles. I'm just having another bowl out of spite.

They are also delicious.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:13 AM on January 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


griphus - could you try posting that link again? it came thru as a google search.

One of the things many school systems have done is shift towards less nutritious foods in the school lunch programs, often because of budget constraints and economic incentives from companies selling the stuff.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:13 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fair enough. Maybe this thread would be a useful place to ask what strategies might actually work to encourage healthier behaviors that wouldn't be regarded as "fat-shaming."

Execute the CEO of ADM on the National Mall.
posted by atrazine at 9:14 AM on January 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'd love to see a source backing up the first part of that quote.

They're either in denial, they don't know how to properly feed their kids, or they don't care about the health of their kids - which one would you rather it say?
posted by unixrat at 9:14 AM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


How about running the same type of campaign against the (fast) food industry? You know, the industry that keeps pumping out all that nasty, artificial food and pumping in all those nastier ingredients into your food?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:14 AM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


what strategies might actually work to encourage healthier behaviors that wouldn't be regarded as "fat-shaming."

Substantial taxes on processed and unhealthy foods and substantial subsidies on unprocessed, healthy foods. Both the tax and the subsidy would be at the retail level, so that the unprocessed foods are purchased by end-users rather than businesses that turn around and process them into junk.

More spending on school lunches so that all children have access to healthy, balanced meals for at least breakfast and lunch. Ending nonsense like "ketchup is a vegetable."

Labor reforms and subsidized daycare that enable working parents to have enough free time at the end of the day to shop for and prepare healthy meals.

Basically, it should be next to free to live on a healthy diet and an expensive luxury to eat junk food, rather than the other way around.
posted by jedicus at 9:14 AM on January 10, 2012 [91 favorites]


They're either in denial, they don't know how to properly feed their kids, or they don't care about the health of their kids - which one would you rather it say?

How about "they're aware of all these factors but may not have adequate resources available to address the problem"?
posted by elizardbits at 9:15 AM on January 10, 2012 [36 favorites]


Yeah, I contacted the mods to clean it up. Here it is for now.
posted by griphus at 9:15 AM on January 10, 2012


They're either in denial, they don't know how to properly feed their kids, or they don't care about the health of their kids - which one would you rather it say?

I could agree with the "don't know" part, but you left out "aren't able to provide a healthy lifestyle based on their limited resources and what is available in their community."
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:17 AM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is it weird that my first thought was for the kids modelling or acting in those ads? How does one explain that to their kid? "Well Jimmy, they're looking for a certain body type...."
posted by aclevername at 9:17 AM on January 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


> They're either in denial, they don't know how to properly feed their kids, or they don't care about the health of their kids - which one would you rather it say?

Or else some people are just fat like some people are just tall, and you don't know by looking at them or weighing them whether they are healthy or not, and using weight as a substitute or proxy for health is bullshit and hurtful to people, so get the fuck OVER whether people are fat or not, and if you are actually worried about people's health, address it directly.

Trying to make people healthier by making them less fat is like trying to fight AIDS by making people less gay.
posted by edheil at 9:17 AM on January 10, 2012 [22 favorites]


Smoking is way down in the US. Smoker-shaming and government warnings didn't change people's behavior. Outlawing smoking in public places is what changed it. It became a pain in the ass to smoke. It became less of a natural thing. Eventually it became socially unacceptable to smoke around people. And as a result, a lot of people stopped smoking.

What would be the analogy for encouraging weight loss in US society?
posted by Nelson at 9:18 AM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


Substantial taxes on processed and unhealthy foods and substantial subsidies on unprocessed, healthy foods. Both the tax and the subsidy would be at the retail level, so that the unprocessed foods are purchased by end-users rather than businesses that turn around and process them into junk.

More spending on school lunches so that all children have access to healthy, balanced meals for at least breakfast and lunch. Ending nonsense like "ketchup is a vegetable."


You can take that kind of nonsense back to San Francisco, pinko! This is GEORGIA!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:19 AM on January 10, 2012


they don't know how to properly feed their kids

Um, this one!?? That's the whole goddamn problem with our "food" industry - cheap food and bad food exist in the same circle on the venn diagram as a direct result of the way our food economy is set up.
posted by odinsdream at 9:20 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


What would be the analogy for encouraging weight loss in US society?

Smoking isn't a good analogous case, I think. There is no "second-hand" weight gain, and second-hand smoke is the justification for public smoking bans.

Anything that restricts access by the overweight and obese, such as, I dunno, making doors narrower, would be terribly discriminatory, wouldn't it?
posted by edguardo at 9:22 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd like to clarify my comment to state that it's not necessarily that "don't know" means parents are stupid or ignorant. It means they "don't know" how to legitimately convert a $10 bill into valuable, healthy food at the same time as paying other bills.
posted by odinsdream at 9:24 AM on January 10, 2012


Blaming the parents who buy fast food is not the answer here. A more effective campaign would put those billboards in DC and say, "This is what fast food subsidies do to our children."

Make it a law that food has to have some nutritional value and sold in portions that are in line with known dietary realities. Anything else should have a huge warning like cigarettes saying, "Consuming this product can cause fatal heart disease," or "Regular consumption of this product could give you diabetes." Requiring easily visible portion information — "Contains Two Servings" or something similar — on the front of the product would also help a great deal.
posted by deanklear at 9:24 AM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


There is no "second-hand" weight gain...

Well, this might be more of an academic point, but people with shitty eating and exercise habits will impart them to their kids in much the same way as people who smoke in the family home force their kids to breathe smoke.
posted by griphus at 9:25 AM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is GEORGIA!

I should add: This is Georgia: home of both morbidly obese, high priest of Voodoo Economics, Newton Gingrich AND philandering, pizza mogul Herman Cain!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:25 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mark Bittman (NY Times link):
In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

...

THE fact is that most people can afford real food. Even the nearly 50 million Americans who are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) receive about $5 per person per day, which is far from ideal but enough to survive. So we have to assume that money alone doesn’t guide decisions about what to eat. There are, of course, the so-called food deserts, places where it’s hard to find food: the Department of Agriculture says that more than two million Americans in low-income rural areas live 10 miles or more from a supermarket, and more than five million households without access to cars live more than a half mile from a supermarket.

Still, 93 percent of those with limited access to supermarkets do have access to vehicles, though it takes them 20 more minutes to travel to the store than the national average. And after a long day of work at one or even two jobs, 20 extra minutes — plus cooking time — must seem like an eternity.
If those advertisements are to have any value, they'll teach parents that spending those 20 extra minutes are worth it.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:25 AM on January 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm all for training pediatricians, creating health-awareness programs for kids, and setting up clinics: those are all wonderful things to spend money and effort on. It seems so counterproductive to throw a shaming, denigrating poster campaign in there too! If I saw one of those that I felt was targeted at me, and I already had body image or other body-related issues, it would probably make me spend even more time on the couch feeling like there was something morally wrong with me.

yoink, you're right in that ignoring the problem isn't a solution either! 10th Regiment's made a great start, but I would take it even further: I think part of our problem with fat epidemics is a lack of socially promoted, validated leisure time, and a sad dearth of serious play and serious play spaces.

To expand: our society (er, the US's society anyway, sorry to be US-centric) values production of products, goods, services, and that extends to bodies to the extent that we want to make ourselves desirable or enviable, which is in a way a form of consumption. So when we spend a lot of time working out, we do it to "look good," which is something that I think many people feel they don't have time for or an idea that they aren't invested in. It can also play into ideas of self-worth: people with low-self esteem might be less likely to work out, for instance, under the consumables model, because they feel their bodies somehow inherently aren't worth consuming. As a whole however, we are not encouraged to pursue pleasurable, social leisure activities that include physical exercise that aren't targeted at producing a consumable: informal neighborhood soccer leagues, Frisbee teams, long walks with friends, hiking or playing basketball with the family, for instance, are I think frequently viewed as "leisure time" activities, and since "leisure time" is non-productive in the consumables sense, I at least always feel like it's last on my priorities list. It might help if we turned away from a model of exercise as "making you look good" and moved towards leisurely exercise as a way to take time for yourself or maintain social connections, and moved those things up from the very last priority on our social to-do lists. How we would do this is another question entirely, of course!

Furthermore, exercise in many senses is a serious-play activity. Serious-play means those hobbies and past-times that are done for enjoyment but require time devotion, a developed skill and in many cases a dedicated equipment or space. Once again, US culture has oriented itself away from serious-play pursuits, in favor of other forms of passive accumulation of enjoyment. Passive accumulation such as television is great, can be very stimulating and educational, and has many benefits: unfortunately this widespread move towards passive enjoyment has meant the death of the expectation that serious-play such as exercise pursuits will be a part of ordinary life, and subsequently the elimination of communal serious-play spaces, such as parks, community gyms, pools, and other places where the serious-play of physical fitness might be pursued. Once again, how we shift back into a paradigm that sees hobbies involving exercise as supported, realized commonalities in social life, I'm not sure. But I think developing programs with an eye towards eliminating the conflation of exercise with the consumable body, valuing it as leisure time instead of a task or work, and creating the opportunities and training the skill-sets to pursue it would go a very long way.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:25 AM on January 10, 2012 [21 favorites]


What would be the analogy for encouraging weight loss in US society?

There's not a direct analogy because there's no one readily identifiable essential component of the obesity problem the way there is with smoking. You can ban smoking in public places, but you can't ban "being obese" for obvious reasons, nor can you ban "doing things that lead to obesity" because a) there are a million such things b) they're different for different people and c) we don't even know what all of them are or how they affect different people differently.

I think the only solution is to start at the beginning with systemic changes that make it less likely that people will become obese in the first place (e.g. the ones discussed above). Barring a significant improvement in weight-loss treatments (e.g. if adipotide lives up to the hype), it's basically impossible to get large numbers of adults to lose weight and keep it off. We should cut our losses and focus on raising future generations of healthy children who become healthy adults.
posted by jedicus at 9:26 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Smoking isn't a good analogous case, I think. There is no "second-hand" weight gain, and second-hand smoke is the justification for public smoking bans.

I don't think it makes the case for a smoking analogy stronger, but I think there is a sort of non-literal second hand weight gain, in that people tend to eat, drink, and exercise like the people around them. I know that my wife and my weights go up and down together, with the recent exception of when she started teaching and stopped eating lunch. It makes sense, if she wants seconds, I'm more likely to have them, if I want to go to Snack Club for M&Ms after dinner, we're both going to go.

It's not quite "second hand weight gain," but people aren't really operating independently either.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:27 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or else some people are just fat like some people are just tall, and you don't know by looking at them or weighing them whether they are healthy or not

But that's just not true. Right? Are you saying obesity is not a health risk? Or that some fat people are "healthy" in the same way that statistically some percentage of people with stage-three lung cancer will live longer than some percentage of people without it? In which case, yes, but why does that matter for purposes of the discussion concerning what behaviors we want to encourage?
posted by eugenen at 9:27 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


While I'm glad there's plenty of level-headed commentary in here, most of you have neglected to even approach two of the major contributing factors: income and transportation.

While it's easy to blame fast food companies, consumerism, and "culture" for this problem (and they are heavily-contributing factors) we also have to consider that large populations in both urban and rural Georgia don't even know how to get healthy food.

Poorer residents are very often on government assistance and don't have high quality food nearby. Mechanicsville and Peoplestown, for instance, are miles away from a grocer. Many of the people living there don't have cars and don't want to wait an hour for the next MARTA bus. Hence, residents are more likely to buy chips and other trash options from the convenience store, since their food stamp cards allow for it.

The woman interviewed in the piece was living in Griffin, an more rural area I lived in a few years back. Income and education in Griffin are quite low. Assuming that these people can be gotten to with an outreach program, the odds of them understanding and internalizing the salient points is not that great. Because they can buy more corn-syrup-laden goods than veggies with their dollars or government subsidy, there's not much in the way of healthy shopping out there. If I remember correctly, they had a Super Walmart a few years back, so their access is better than, say middle-o-nowhere, GA or Vines City.
posted by medra42 at 9:27 AM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Gahd, I mean to enclose "fat epidemics" in quotation marks in my above comment, since I'm pretty far on the side of it's hard to tell by looking at someone whether or not they're healthy. Please read "fat epidemics" above in the appropriately skeptical voice.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:29 AM on January 10, 2012


If those advertisements are to have any value, they'll teach parents that spending those 20 extra minutes are worth it.

Are you kidding? When you're starting from scratch not knowing how to shop or cook, it's not "twenty minutes plus cooking time" it's "hours." I barely know how to cook and I've fucked up quite a number of meals, sometimes they ended up inedibly bland and I suffered through them, sometimes they were so bad they had to be thrown out.

If I had kids and a lot less money, I don't know if "oh my cooking experiment failed and that was the food money looks like the kids aren't eating tonight" isn't exactly a situation I would want to face.
posted by griphus at 9:30 AM on January 10, 2012 [25 favorites]


I really wish I could do a better job of proof reading.. or edit my comment for better grammar. ;)
posted by medra42 at 9:31 AM on January 10, 2012


BobbyVan - check out the comments on the article you linked...NYT readers basically took Bittman's argument apart.
posted by Wylla at 9:31 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is the only alternative to "fat-shaming" simply ignoring the problem?

I find it easy enough to ignore all those public welfare issues that actually are my problem, I don't see why I can't ignore this one too.
posted by howfar at 9:31 AM on January 10, 2012


Not to go further down the "pinko" road, but when I lived in China the old state-issued Danwei housing system usually included open, outdoor common areas with cheap, simple (to use and maintain) excercise equipment and space for fruit and vegitable vendors to trade. As these places are more and more torn down in favor of western shopping centers, supermarkets, and fast-food joints, so spikes the Chinese obesity epidemic. Go figure.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:32 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


One of the hardest things we are going to have to address to deal with obesity is the overwhelming association with love and food. It makes total sense when you are an agrarian based culture and feeding the farm hands (children) large portions of carbs and fats means that they can work and keep the farm going. In those cases it is an act of love to give a second helping, because that means that all are provided for.

I've seen this in my own family. My dad and his brothers grew up on a farm and mealtimes for them was in equal parts about quantity and quality. My paternal grandmother would take it personally if you didn't clean your plate, because you didn't appreciate what she had done. None of my dad's family farms anymore, they're retired teachers and scientists, but they still eat like they are 18 year old farmboys. And that's how they've taught their children how to eat and everyone has weight problems and it's starting younger and younger. None of my generation of grandchildren had weight issues until we hit our 30s, my younger cousins have been struggling with their weight since their teens or earlier. And the newest generation is still in diapers and facing the same issues.

There is no easy solution to the obesity problem, but awareness can at least start a dialogue about the many complex solutions. And maybe some of them can stick.
posted by teleri025 at 9:32 AM on January 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


what strategies might actually work to encourage healthier behaviors

A big problem is that the notion that "healthy behaviors" are completely under the control of the obese person, like wearing a seatbelt or calling a cab after a few beers. The science is moving further and further from the notion it's a "lifestyle" issue.

I don't think this is something that can be cured by a clever PSA. It's going to require medical science in the long haul, and a course of treatment from a physician in the near term. This isn't a moral failing, it's a medical condition.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:34 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem isn't simply fast food. The traditional down-home southern cooking is absurd for most people.

If I go visit my grandmother, I get treated to a breakfast that is easily 3 or 4 thousand calories. Dinner (at noon) and supper (at night) are almost as bad.

This sort of thing is perfectly fine if you do backbreaking work on a farm all day long, but modern sedentary lifestyles could get away with eating a single one of those meals daily.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:34 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the hardest things we are going to have to address to deal with obesity is the overwhelming association with love and food.

You don't see such obesity problems in other food cultures. In other words, it's not the love of food that's killing us, its the love of shitty food.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:35 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know, I think fat shaming does work. It's just really minor and long term. For example, I am not fat, but I make a bunch of choices because I'm afraid of becoming fat; I allow myself one can soda per week, I eat much better than I used to, I work out harder and run an extra mile or two, I'm taking the stairs more often. All these things I do because I don't want to be fat at 40.

These outcomes are not terribly obvious I'm sure, but could have a huge impact in a generation. In a way it's too late for the obese to change anything. Careful reading of the New York Times article from last month basically confirms that it takes a superhuman effort to go from obese to healthy as an adult; it's all but impossible. Fat shaming ads work on people who are not yet fat and overweight kids who still have a chance to change their habits. Obese adults have been rightly or wrongly written off.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


She says parents are in denial. Nearly 1 million Georgia kids are overweight or obese.

I'd love to see a source backing up the first part of that quote.


The best I can find is:
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta chose the straightforward approach after its survey of two towns in Georgia found that 50 percent of parents did not know childhood obesity was a problem and 75 percent of parents with obese children did not think their child was overweight.

Still thin; I hope someone else can dig up some more details.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:39 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


You don't see such obesity problems in other food cultures. In other words, it's not the love of food that's killing us, its the love of shitty food.
Other cultures aren't as car dependent as we are. Pair love of shitty food with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and you get a more clear understanding of the problem.

Again, like I said there's a lot of factors that feed into America's obesity problem and they are all interrelated. The solution, if there is one, isn't going to be easy.
posted by teleri025 at 9:39 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


NYT readers basically took Bittman's argument apart.

Which part? That it's cheaper to feed a family a healthy meal using simple-to-prepare canned beans and canned vegetables than McDonalds value meals? Or the part about most people in "food deserts" having access to transportation?

If I had kids and a lot less money, I don't know if "oh my cooking experiment failed and that was the food money looks like the kids aren't eating tonight" isn't exactly a situation I would want to face.

Oh please. Let's stop infantilizing parents and making excuses. If you can't prepare a simple, healthy meal for your children without feeding them processed, fast-food garbage that will endanger their long-term health, I'd submit that you should not be having children.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:41 AM on January 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


if I want to go to Snack Club for M&Ms after dinner

What is a Snack Club and how can I join one?
posted by BigVACub at 9:42 AM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is it weird that my first thought was for the kids modelling or acting in those ads? How does one explain that to their kid? "Well Jimmy, they're looking for a certain body type...."

I wouldn't worry too much about it. There are modeling careers for all shapes and sizes, and obesity was a plus vs. a minus for this particular shoot.

This is Georgia: home of both morbidly obese

Speaking as an obese male my major issue with this campaign is: right now traveling through Georgia makes me feel thin. Seriously, I walk into any small town McDonalds and think "Holy crap, I'm the thinnest person in this room." It's a real boost to my self-esteem.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:43 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This isn't fat-shaming (as in "how dare you six-year-olds be fat!") It's parent-shaming (as in "how dare you raise a two hundred pound six-year-old").

Pointing that out does seem to be taboo. We have a major aversion to telling parents what to do with their kids, even when said kids really need help (unless we're indoctrinating people with regards to drugs or alcohol, of course.) Instead, we seem to want to pretend that children with Type II diabetes are the human norm. Well, they're not the norm, and the vast, vast majority of them are not "just fat like some people are just tall" -- not unless American genetics have gone nuts since the 80s.

For the record, I support environmental solutions to the problem, especially more intelligent subsidies, and I doubt the problem will go away until and unless we develop a healthy culture with regards to eating and exercise. But in the meantime, currently obese children need to lose weight as soon as possible. If these ads convince some parents to get help (or even to talk openly about the problem) then they'll be doing a public service.
posted by vorfeed at 9:44 AM on January 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


BobbyVan: "Mark Bittman (NY Times link):
In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

...

THE fact is that most people can afford real food. Even the nearly 50 million Americans who are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) receive about $5 per person per day, which is far from ideal but enough to survive. So we have to assume that money alone doesn’t guide decisions about what to eat. There are, of course, the so-called food deserts, places where it’s hard to find food: the Department of Agriculture says that more than two million Americans in low-income rural areas live 10 miles or more from a supermarket, and more than five million households without access to cars live more than a half mile from a supermarket.

Still, 93 percent of those with limited access to supermarkets do have access to vehicles, though it takes them 20 more minutes to travel to the store than the national average. And after a long day of work at one or even two jobs, 20 extra minutes — plus cooking time — must seem like an eternity.
If those advertisements are to have any value, they'll teach parents that spending those 20 extra minutes are worth it.
"

Has Mark Bittman tried to actually feed himself and his family on $5 a day/person? With no cushion? Starting from scratch? Has he tried to do it living 30 minutes from the nearest reliable location for decent, not over-priced produce, without a car, with sketchy public transportation (and the limitations that puts on trying to transport groceries for a family, especially bulk groceries like beans) and with 20 minutes between getting home and someone getting ready to leave for a second job or a second-shift job? Until he has, Mr. Bittman can, respectfully, kiss my fat ass. Food deserts exist, don't put them in quotation marks. Live in the real world, Mr. Bittman, the world a good portion of Americans live in. Then come talk to me about cooking inexpensively at home.

I'm not in this position, but my parents were close enough, and when a parent has to choose between having enough food that their kids don't go to bed hungry and satisfying holier-than-thou "all you have to do is make better CHOICES" folks like Bittman, most parents are going to choose having ENOUGH, every time. And if making my child not hungry meant spending the few dollars I have on a hamburger at McDonalds (when it won't buy a pound of ground beef at the overpriced bodega on the corner), I'll buy the kid the damn hamburger and go hungry myself. Every time.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 9:45 AM on January 10, 2012 [22 favorites]


If you can't prepare a simple, healthy meal for your children without feeding them processed, fast-food garbage that will endanger their long-term health, I'd submit that you should not be having children.

Submit all you want, but unless you've been getting letters from anxious parents asking for approval, no human being alive gives two shits about what you or anyone else thinks about whether they should have kids or not. They have them and then there are kids and they are alive and they need food. So we're living in a reality where parents do not have the knowledge or ability to prepare food for their children, and neither did their parents, nor their parents before them. And that's what we have to address.

At the end of the day, cursing the darkness isn't going to make the room any brighter.
posted by griphus at 9:45 AM on January 10, 2012 [40 favorites]


In response to BobbyVan: whether you submit that one should not have children without having learned to cook or not, many people have not learned to cook but do have children. And I don't think you're seriously suggesting parenthood licenses.

There is an educational aspect to this; it's important for everyone to know what's healthy and what's not. Of course that job is complicated by the constant change in expert advice as to what's healthy, but there are some basics that aren't likely to change - like what being overweight means.

Something like these shock tactics has to be OK.
posted by Fraxas at 9:47 AM on January 10, 2012


I appreciate the sentiment, but I live really close to Peoplestown and I have a ten-fifteen minute walk to a Kroger with a great produce selection and a thirty minute bike OR MARTA ride to the stupendous selection at the DeKalb farmer's market. I routinely see little old grannies with canvas bags full of collards on the bus and train.

To me, it is really a matter of not knowing the real difference in healthy and unhealthy foods coupled with a knowledge regarding the importance of exercise. I can feed myself at the farmer's market for about 30 dollars a week and eat well, as a society we need to bust the "healthy food is expensive" myth.
posted by stormygrey at 9:48 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, I love to cook. It's in the category of 'hobby' for me. My friends all know this, and so sometimes I get asked to help people learn to cook. I've run across a WHOLE LOT of people who have absolutely no idea how to cook. I mean, like, they have never chopped a vegetable in their lives, don't know the difference between various spices, don't know what 'sear' means, can't boil an egg, and, most importantly, are downright TERRIFIED of cooking. Absolutely terrified. They think it's basically magic. They think that any tiny little mistake, something like adding an extra dash of pepper, could possibly ruin a dish and waste all their money and time. Is it their 'fault' that, when confronted with this, they throw up their hands and give up? I'd argue that it isn't.

I have no idea why they don't teach home ec anymore, but it would work absolute wonders if they did, I think.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:49 AM on January 10, 2012 [18 favorites]


If you can't prepare a simple, healthy meal for your children without feeding them processed, fast-food garbage that will endanger their long-term health, I'd submit that you should not be having children.

Yes, because what this argument was missing is CLEARLY eugenics.
posted by elizardbits at 9:50 AM on January 10, 2012 [25 favorites]


What is a Snack Club and how can I join one?

Oh shit, I should have realized that I said that and edited it out. Snack Club is our house's pet name for the CVS at the end of the block because we mostly go there for snacks. As in, dinner was nice, but I want to hit up Snack Club for some a Kit Kat or tonight my plan is to get drunk and go to Snack Club, you in? I think we were having a conversation about supper clubs on our way to CVS one time, and the name got proposed and stuck.

So, yeah, Snack Club is just CVS. They have plenty of snacks, so anyone can join.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:50 AM on January 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


I can feed myself at the farmer's market for about 30 dollars a week and eat well, as a society we need to bust the "healthy food is expensive" myth.

My grandparents live in the Coney Island projects (where a majority of people are on public assistance) and I spent a couple of summers living with them. There is exactly one supermarket within at least a five-mile radius that stocks fresh fruit and vegetables. They are as expensive as they are in my neighborhood, which is solidly lower-middle-class.

I am glad you have these options nearby. Plenty of people do not.
posted by griphus at 9:51 AM on January 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


I routinely see little old grannies with canvas bags full of collards on the bus and train.

Yeah, but those collards aren't going to be healthy when they're done putting in all the pork fat. At least, if they know how to cook collards, they won't be.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:52 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


This isn't fat-shaming (as in "how dare you six-year-olds be fat!") It's parent-shaming (as in "how dare you raise a two hundred pound six-year-old").

vorfeed, I think you're sort of right in the sense that the message is ultimately for parents to recognize and acknowledge that their children may have health issues stemming from weight, either in the near future or in adulthood. However, children don't exist in vacuums. Any kid who's old enough to read and can understand even basic social interaction is going to comprehend that this poster is portraying something as exceptionally strongly undesireable and probably even understand that there's a certain amount of blaming going on. It's possible to argue about whether the blaming is justified or helpful or what have you, but I don't think it's really logical to argue that this poster campaign's effects will really be exclusively on the parents. Even if it was, it may affect the attitude of the parents in such a way that the shaming gets passed on to the children. So I'm not quite sure how your point changes the frame of the discussion.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:52 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


So we're living in a reality where parents do not have the knowledge or ability to prepare food for their children, and neither did their parents, nor their parents before them. And that's what we have to address.

I think you're projecting a false choice here. The ads in Georgia are but a small part of a broader anti-obesity campaign that includes education programs.

And no, I'm not saying that parents should have licenses or that they should take a cooking class first. But canned foods are widely available (vegetables and proteins like beans and chicken). It's not hard to open a can and heat up something substantially healthier (and less expensive) than fast food pizza, tacos or burgers. People in this country watch, on average, 2.7 hours of TV per day. Excepting for certain extreme circumstances, there's time to cook (or pry open a can and warm something up).
posted by BobbyVan at 9:55 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if there's a correlation between childhood obesity and the drop in schools providing home ec classes for kids. Teach kids to actually cook and give them more tools to make better food choices.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:55 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


No doubt griphus, the concept of "food desert" is real, I was specifically reply to an earlier post saying that communities like Mechaniscville and Peopletown in Atlanta didn't have access to fresh, decent food. I was trying to mash too many thoughts into one post. There is one point, a lot of people have more access than they think, and then a secondary point that I think it maybe a "demand"/cyclical situation where many small corner marts or whatever don't carry fresh stuff because they think no one wants it or it'll go bad and end up being expensive, so people never really learn to cook with fresh stuff but they hear all the time that fresh produce is expensive and internalize it.
posted by stormygrey at 9:56 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


its the love of shitty food.

Meh. We could do worse. It is just that we eat a fucking ton of shitty food. Our proportions are totally absurd. Whenever I travel out of the country, it is shocking to see the difference. Like in continental europe, you have a thimbleful of coffee along with a tiny little pastry, and that is a full breakfast. Sure, the food you eat for dinner is rich with butter and sauces, but there is so little of it, that it is not a problem.

Also, I do think people are either in denial, or they aren't even aware that being this big is actually an issue. My friend just moved to Western Kentucky (a different region, but mostly the same ideas). He put on a lot of weight after getting out of the army. He's pretty big right now, but the locals make fun of him for being so skinny. Call him a metrosexual.

My grandparents live in the Coney Island projects (where a majority of people are on public assistance) and I spent a couple of summers living with them. There is exactly one supermarket within at least a five-mile radius that stocks fresh fruit and vegetables. They are as expensive as they are in my neighborhood, which is solidly lower-middle-class.

Is this Coney Island in Brooklyn? Because there are at least two Key Foods there and at least one Finefare there. Key Foods are the same grocery stores that we have in Park Slope. And not for nothing, there is the Q train which they could take them just a few minutes to reach at least two farmers markets around Prospect Park.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:58 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


A big problem is that the notion that "healthy behaviors" are completely under the control of the obese person, like wearing a seatbelt or calling a cab after a few beers. The science is moving further and further from the notion it's a "lifestyle" issue.

Well, yes and no. Recent research seems to strongly suggest that once you have become obese it is remarkably difficult to lose the weight. But this campaign is about trying to prevent chjildren becoming obese in the first place. That's a rather different point. There was an excellent recent LA Times piece on the stark differences in childhood obesity by socioeconomic background in LA (link). Unless you think that these outcomes are somehow genetically encoded then it's pretty clear that different parenting practices have strikingly different outcomes with regard to childhood eating and exercise habits--which, in turn, will have strikingly significant outcomes with regard to adult health and longevity (all the more significant, in fact, given what we now know about the difficulty of reversing course once you have become obese).
posted by yoink at 9:59 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos, a little fat in your greens won't kill any one! It's all the other stuff piled on. I would posit that a big bowl of greens (cooked with fat, sure!) plus some homemade cornbread is both delicious and nutritionally sound.
posted by stormygrey at 9:59 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd just like to point out that these MARTA ride to the Kroger stories are great and all, but most people in Georgia or Mississippi or any place outside a metro area don't have such luxury as a MARTA bus.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:00 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe if they start arresting kids at school for being overweight?
posted by orme at 10:00 AM on January 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


She says parents are in denial. Nearly 1 million Georgia kids are overweight or obese.
I'd love to see a source backing up the first part of that quote.


Here's a study named "Do parents accurately perceive their child's weight status?" (Department of Pediatrics, University of Utah)

RESULTS: All parents of children with a BMI greater than or equal to the 95th percentile classified their child in a category other than "extremely overweight," and 75% of children with a BMI from the 85th to less than the 95th percentile were misclassified as "about right" or "underweight."

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of parents of obese and overweight children underestimate their child's weight status.
posted by martinrebas at 10:00 AM on January 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


Key Foods are the same grocery stores that we have in Park Slope.

Yeah, the problem being that they're charging people from the projects -- who live on EBT, WIC and TANF -- the same as they're charging people in Park Slope. And I don't think the Finefair stocks fresh fruit/veg, but I could be wrong.

And AFAIK, the farmer's market doesn't take EBT/WIC/TANF (although I would love to be wrong about this.)
posted by griphus at 10:01 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Meh. We could do worse. It is just that we eat a fucking ton of shitty food. Our proportions are totally absurd. Whenever I travel out of the country, it is shocking to see the difference. Like in continental europe, you have a thimbleful of coffee along with a tiny little pastry, and that is a full breakfast. Sure, the food you eat for dinner is rich with butter and sauces, but there is so little of it, that it is not a problem.

Yes, this is very true. When you've been in Europe for a while and you come back to the States, everything seems comically oversized. You ask for a coke with your meal and it's served to you in a handy bucket. Meantime, you're looking at a meal that would, quite literally, feed four people perfectly well.
posted by yoink at 10:01 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would posit that a big bowl of greens (cooked with fat, sure!) plus some homemade cornbread is both delicious and nutritionally sound.

It sure is, but collards and cornbread are a side dish.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:01 AM on January 10, 2012


And AFAIK, the farmer's market doesn't take EBT/WIC/TANF (although I would love to be wrong about this.)

The farmers markets take all of that. They have a stand where you can pay for all the stuff there with those.

Finefare does have a huge produce section in all the ones I've been in (But I haven't been to the one there.) It is usually "ethnically" skewed towards where it is. Like the one in Inwood has a lot of Latin American/Dominican stuff.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:05 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


And AFAIK, the farmer's market doesn't take EBT/WIC/TANF (although I would love to be wrong about this.)

You are happily wrong about this in NYC at least. It has been a major campaign of the Bloomberg administration to subsidize handheld card readers at farmers' markets. The City Council also has some sweeping legislation to get supermarkets into underserved communities. NYC has some incredibly well designed programs in place specifically to address the problem of food deserts.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:06 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's well known that poor people are much more likely to be fat then wealthier people.
I can feed myself at the farmer's market for about 30 dollars a week and eat well, as a society we need to bust the "healthy food is expensive" myth.
You can get a half gallon of cheap ice-cream for $2, and that might have maybe 1,800 calories? So you could feed yourself ice cream for just $14 a week. That's $127.5 a month vs. $59.5. When you're poor $68 a month can be a lot.
posted by delmoi at 10:06 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would posit that a big bowl of greens (cooked with fat, sure!) plus some homemade cornbread is both delicious and nutritionally sound.

I was just making a joke about the South's love of putting pork in vegetables. You're right, and if we could just convince more Southerners to eat every day like it's New Years' Day, there would certainly be less obesity. Assuming you don't eat all of the required foods (greens, black eyed peas, cornbread) alongside a pork chop as was customary in my family.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:07 AM on January 10, 2012


She says parents are in denial. Nearly 1 million Georgia kids are overweight or obese.
I'd love to see a source backing up the first part of that quote.


Here's more.

To summarize the results of the studies:

* The majority of parents of obese and overweight children underestimate their child’s weight status. Not a single parent of an extremely overweight child thought their child was extremely overweight.
* A majority of parents fail to recognize overweight or obesity in their 5- and 11-year-old children.
* Many parents continue to underestimate their child’s weight status.
* Few parents of overweight and AROW children recognized their child as overweight or were worried.
* Only 10.5% of parents of overweight children perceived their child’s weight accurately.
posted by martinrebas at 10:09 AM on January 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


When you've been in Europe for a while and you come back to the States, everything seems comically oversized.

I'm not sure where this "Europe" you speak of is. Perhaps you have not been privy to all-day Italian meals or a massive German beer and sausage fest?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:10 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Finefare does have a huge produce section in all the ones I've been in (But I haven't been to the one there.)

I think I'm conflating a bunch of memories here but it was either A&P or Finefare who usually stocked produce and didn't or had a selection that was just stocked with old and overripe produce that wasn't going to entice anyone to try to feed their kids a salad that night.

And hooray about the EBT and legislation thing.
posted by griphus at 10:10 AM on January 10, 2012


I think it's more about having a revolt against American thinking and lifestyle in general. Everyone fat or skinny should be participating.

1. our work lifestyle is stressful. Stress equals skipping meals, eating once a day, finding fast meals.

2. fast meals equal heavy salt, sugar, fat, processing

3. if we do go out, how many of you have decent, realistic portions? Not portions for 3? ( Cheesecake Factory is known for their ridiculous portions)

4. higher income usually means desk job. Sitting around. I honestly couldn't tell you when I last took a walk or even got up from my desk.

So I think people should rise up and ask for:

1. better, less stressful work environments. We have a VP from England and he's baffled we stay open from Xmas to NYD. A week vacation? What are you crazy? Take off on 2 weeks or more. The last two companies I've worked for, you ask for 2 weeks, it's like you're asking for a year off .WHY?

2. McDonalds, Taco Bell, are standard drive through options. If you're going to have a drive through, can't someone like Cosi have a drive through to offer healthier options? I mean, yea McDonalds has salads but come on, that shouldn't be your only choice.

3. Lack of time to cook. Thsi is where I'm guilty (and I'm a horrible cook) so I'm buying up Trader Joe's heat and serves, brainwashing myself that his is a healthier option. But it's really not. Can't we package food better in a faster way that isn't so processed? Perhaps meals in a box. Chicken breast, veggies, low fat/organic sauce to stir fry. I know if something was ready to buy I would buy and make it. I go to the store with my recipes in hand and it seems like a chore. I usually forget 1/2 the stuff.

4. Demand that restaurants stop feeding us like it's our last meal. I love tapas and sushi because ithey're the right portions. Otherwise I usually eat from the appetizer lists. My DH though? Hell, he eats like my dad did and my dad had a triple bypass.

5. Desk jobs. Would it kill an employer to "force" employees to take a lunch away from desks to eat healthier and friggen move? I would love to companies to have some sort of recess room that has maybe ping pong, Wiis, and a gym. Get people moving.

6. as for kids, ban the friggen tv, video games (non Wii), and go out and play! I've never seen a "go out and play" commercial as a kid unless they were forcing a product down our throat. Now, that's all you see. Campaigns to get off your ass and play. Sad.


I know it all sounds up to the individual but if people push towards having these things in bulk, perhaps we can change our overall mindset and as a whole, everyone can get healthier.
posted by stormpooper at 10:10 AM on January 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


a massive German beer and sausage fest

This could refer to so many things.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:11 AM on January 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


As a fellow Southerner I got the joke, but I think it should be emphasized that your mug of bacon grease (what, you didn't grow up with a thing of bacon grease next to the stove?) doesn't have to be tossed (that would be a special kind of heresy), but like Bulgaroktonos said, you just get the beans and greens, you don't get the entire fucking pig.
posted by stormygrey at 10:12 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


NYC also has the green carts. There is one downstairs from me. He is there till like 2 am trying to sell people 5 containers of blueberries for $1 or two dozen bananas for a nickle.

The prices are so cheap I wonder where that stuff comes from.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:12 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, and, finally, the Park Slope market is about 45 minutes outside of the CI projects. So if you've got kids, you either have to arrange [and possibly pay] someone to watch them or take them on two forty-five minute train rides and shop with them in a crowded outdoor area (which I can only assume is harder than a less-crowded indoor supermarket) while carting enough grocery bags to feed a family. Not impossibly, but it's no substitute for having something nearby.
posted by griphus at 10:14 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


The prices are so cheap I wonder where that stuff comes from.

Fell off the truck this morning! ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:16 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Has there been any survey or other epidemiological study of obesity rates among the poor, which controls for how many generations removed from immigrants you are? That is, comparing poor immigrants with poor assimilated people? I'm very curious about how departure from your ancestral culture/foods/cooking methods affects health.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:17 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


These people do understand how denial works right? Presenting obesity as a horror that must be avoided really doesn't seem like the best strategy to stop people denying the evidence before them.
posted by howfar at 10:17 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


If those advertisements are to have any value, they'll teach parents that spending those 20 extra minutes are worth it.

The article you quote there was not written by anyone who has been poor with kids.

Twenty minutes to cook. Call it an hour at least to shop for everything, another ten to clean up after preparing the meal. That's an hour and a half.

Then there's the fifteen minutes convincing the kids that beans and rice again is a good dinner. Another five to get them to the table. They're not pleased, because there's only so many different meals you can cook with that sort of a restricted palate. Add another twenty because your toddler is going through the "chips and hotdogs only" part of picky eating.

What's that, two hours, ten minutes? That dinner didn't cost fourteen bucks. If you have the misfortune of earning minimum wage in Georgia (which a quick check is $5.15 an hour - wtf, Georgia??) that's something like another ten bucks on top for the time you aren't at work. That dinner was a shade over twenty four dollars, or roughly four hours of your time, versus $15 worth of McValueCrap, or three hours of time already expended. Your time is worth money, too, even if you are being paid next to nothing for it.

Furthermore, when you are working two jobs and your entire time at home per day is something like ten hours or so, that extra time is fucking precious. You probably don't see as much of those fat kids of yours that you'd like, and that extra time spent cooking is really noticable. You've just spent 20% of your free time you could have spent with your kids badgering them to eat the same boring crap they ate yesterday. And you still have homework, and sports, and god knows what other drains on your time. Providing you're not worn out from work. And house work. And all the other shit that eats up your time and energy when you're poor.
posted by Jilder at 10:18 AM on January 10, 2012 [21 favorites]


Anyway, they're spending $25 million on this whole campaign. That works out to about $2.54 per citizen of Georgia. Apparently Georgia's tax revenue in 2012 is about $18,162,513,870, or just $1,847 per person.
posted by delmoi at 10:18 AM on January 10, 2012


4. Demand that restaurants stop feeding us like it's our last meal. I love tapas and sushi because ithey're the right portions.

This is another place where price comes into it. Places with reasonable portion sizes are almost always more expensive than places with huge portions. Tapas? An arm and a leg for what you get, even compared to casual dining places like Applebees, much less McDonalds.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Living in Atlanta, I've seen the commercials and billboards and I'm 100% on board with this.

It's not fat-shaming, it's informational. Your kids shouldn't be fat.There are serious health consequenses if a change isn't made early. Kids don't have to be fat and there are resources that will help you if you need it.

First, let's start with the school lunch. This is a US Department of Ag initiative. During the Depression the idea was to provide as many calories as a kid would need in a DAY, just in case it was the only meal he or she might eat that day. Somehow, that is still the norm. Loaded with fat and carbs, the school lunch is ballast. Also, we've added a school breakfast, so that's another shot of carbs and fat.

Let's also mention that these lunches are made with government supported/provided ag products. Processed cheese, processed meats, milk and canned fruit and veggies. Pretty much anything that used to be food has been smashed, moulded and fried to simulate food.

We all know this is not food, it's a food-like substance. I believe that if the school lunch changed materially, and the snack and pop machines were eliminated from school, that 50% of your problem could be addressed that way.

The next item, and again the delivery system can be through school, let's teach kids about nutrition and cooking IN SCHOOL! I know, it's not football or intelligent design, but it's a useful life-skill.

I started cooking family meals when I was 12 and I had home ec in middle school. There's no reason younger kids couldn't learn a bit about different foods as part of a science cirriculum and build on that before we turn them loose in a kitchen. Every 8 year old should know how to make a salad.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:20 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure where this "Europe" you speak of is. Perhaps you have not been privy to all-day Italian meals or a massive German beer and sausage fest?

Ignoring the easy joke, those things are for red-letter-day feasts and only happen a few times a year. Americans feast every single day.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:21 AM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ruthless Bunny, I'm curious about your choice to say that you support the campaign and then going on to list other, more structural solutions that would help the problem more. Can you elaborate on why you think the damaging, shaming portion is necessary when we could be taking steps like the ones you outlined below your statement of support? Do you think the shaming somehow helps the efforts to create other solutions (not being sarcastic here, actually want to know)?
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:23 AM on January 10, 2012


Other issue to consider is that a lot of kids won't eat healthy food. I don't know why this is, and I'm sure there are many reasons and unique reasons for these kids. Often, it is much easier to feed a kid a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets with a small Mr. Pibb and a side of fries than to feed a kid a proper home-cooked meal, because kids won't eat the proper home-cooked meal. If you are a frazzled parent, you would rather see your kids eat and be happy, than not eat and be unhappy.

I don't think kids are predisposed to craving just junky food, though. Growing up, my family took pride in the meals they made, so I have a healthy craving for home-cooked meals and vegetables that I later found out were pretty healthy. How do you make kids prefer, or even crave, a healthier home-cooked meal? Not sure.

Like I said, that's just one aspect of the issue they need to address.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:27 AM on January 10, 2012


If you have the misfortune of earning minimum wage in Georgia (which a quick check is $5.15 an hour - wtf, Georgia??)

The federal minimum wage is $7.25, which would trump Georgia's. Your larger point stands, however.
posted by jedicus at 10:28 AM on January 10, 2012


Do you think the shaming somehow helps the efforts to create other solutions (not being sarcastic here, actually want to know)?

I don't think of the campaign as a shaming technique. Although I wondered if the kids in the pictures volunteered to be in them. It's meant to shock parents.

I was an overweight kid and trust me, my parents were ALL over it. I struggle with weight every day, but at least my parents were trying to help me. There are folks here who think it's okay to over-feed their kids, not because they don't love their children, but because they don't know any better.

I'm hoping that the pictures and the words shock parents into a positive action. Our society is wired for high-calorie, low quality food. Convenience is more important that taste and health. Some folks would do better, if someone showed them how.

I also believe that public schools are responsible for not only intellectual education but for physical education. If the state governement was sincere about addressing the problem, then let's start in school.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:32 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has Mark Bittman tried to actually feed himself and his family on $5 a day/person? With no cushion? Starting from scratch? Has he tried to do it living 30 minutes from the nearest reliable location for decent, not over-priced produce, without a car, with sketchy public transportation (and the limitations that puts on trying to transport groceries for a family, especially bulk groceries like beans) and with 20 minutes between getting home and someone getting ready to leave for a second job or a second-shift job? Until he has, Mr. Bittman can, respectfully, kiss my fat ass. Food deserts exist, don't put them in quotation marks. Live in the real world, Mr. Bittman, the world a good portion of Americans live in. Then come talk to me about cooking inexpensively at home.

This argument was made extensively and repeatedly when that Bittman article was originally linked on Metafilter, but it seems to me a rather problematic one--or, at least, a rather one-sided one. Yes, to be sure, there are families like the one you describe, and for them it may, in fact, be a perfectly rational choice to live off fast-food. But it is simply not the case that the typical lower-class American is massively over-employed, such that they are constantly moving from job to job to job with no down time in which to cook a meal. In fact, unemployment and underemployment are massive problems for the American poor--and obesity remains a huge problem for the unemployed and the underemployed. It is simply not the case that poor Americans typically do not have the time or means to cook a meal, or to seek supplies for that meal in relatively distant locales.

Food deserts do exist, but there is an abundance of research demonstrating that there is little or no correlation between access to supermarkets and the consumption of a healthy diet (there is evidence, however, that proximity to fast food restaurants correlates to an increased consumption of fast food--especially among men). So there is clearly more going on here than simply a lack of access to healthier and cheaper alternatives.

Lastly, I would like to point out that to say that poor Americans could make better use of their time and money than they typically do is not the same thing as to say that their poverty is their fault or that they would immediately cease to be poor if they managed their time and money better than they do.
posted by yoink at 10:36 AM on January 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


I wonder if there is a split here based on childhood experiences. I was also an overweight child, I also don't think poorly of this campaign. Being a fat kid is hard, really hard, if my parents and my doctors weren't all over it, I would have been not just "chubby" but out and out morbidly, deathly obese.

I grew up marking down food choices which led me to internalize what a healthy meal looked like. Starting at about age 8 I was on a doctor directed diet. It wasn't extreme, about 1000 calories a day and I got one starch a meal (that is what they called it back then). So imagine being eight and being hungry and looking at a typical cafetiera lunch, pizza, corn on the cobb, broccli, and a roll. I could have the broccoli and one other thing, that's it. It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that what my school was serving me was something that the doctor said I couldn't eat.

I started cooking early, by late middle school was often in charge of supper since my parents worked. My mom instructed to me to always have something green, then something yellow or orange, one starch and one protein or bean. I was SO lucky to have been exposed to that kind of thinking early on in a somewhat rural part of Georgia. I could have been an exceedingly unhealthy person.
posted by stormygrey at 10:39 AM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


What's that, two hours, ten minutes? That dinner didn't cost fourteen bucks. If you have the misfortune of earning minimum wage in Georgia (which a quick check is $5.15 an hour - wtf, Georgia??) that's something like another ten bucks on top for the time you aren't at work. That dinner was a shade over twenty four dollars, or roughly four hours of your time, versus $15 worth of McValueCrap, or three hours of time already expended. Your time is worth money, too, even if you are being paid next to nothing for it.

Furthermore, when you are working two jobs and your entire time at home per day is something like ten hours or so, that extra time is fucking precious.


The average American watches something like 4-5 hrs TV per day. That increases as you descend the socioeconomic ladder. Yes, there are families that have only 10 non-working hours in the day, and cooking and preparing a meal would be a real hardship for those families. They are not typical of poor and working-class American families. The calculation of how much your time is worth per hour is simply meaningless if no one is going to pay you for those hours in any case. If the choice is between giving up an hour of your precious, precious time to watching the Kardashians on TV and spending it cooking a reasonably nutritious meal, then it's pretty clear which is the sounder economic choice.

The US economy would be radically different if the typically "poor" family member's problem was that s/he had more jobs than s/he knew what do do with.
posted by yoink at 10:44 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


WidgetAlley, I think you're really onto something with your theory of our society de-prioritizing serious-play activities in our daily lives because they don't produce a "consumable product." Thanks for that. It's a very interesting way of framing the situation that I haven't encountered before.

Just thinking along those lines, it strikes me that we also fetishize serious-play when it's done professionally -- professional or even college-level sports, etc. But that's precisely where it does fit into the "consumable product" model.
posted by treepour at 10:54 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The average American watches something like 4-5 hrs TV per day. That increases as you descend the socioeconomic ladder.

Well, we've gotten two different numbers for how much TV Americans watch here that vary pretty wildly (2.7 v. 4-5); I have no idea what the numbers actually are, but I'd be interested to see how much of that TV is watched on weeknights by people with jobs.

I also think that the TV thing is also misleading because it's not like these activities are interchangeable. When I get home, I don't have a lot of energy and I don't have a hard job. The time I spend watching TV makes me less tired, time I spend cooking makes me more tired. I'm guessing for a lot of people feel the same way, so telling them to "stop watching TV and cook" is going to sound crazy to them.

I also think that these numbers would never get thrown around if the activity in question weren't watching TV, an activity that people already don't like.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:55 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


5. Desk jobs. Would it kill an employer to "force" employees to take a lunch away from desks to eat healthier and friggen move? I would love to companies to have some sort of recess room that has maybe ping pong, Wiis, and a gym. Get people moving.

I am eating at my desk in clear voilation of written guidelines and will most likely not go downstairs to the gym today. But I'm just one idiot. A number of my co-workers have lost weight via office and office-supported programs.

"Join the Jennie Craig group!" couldn't be read as shaming, I don't think, but some of the health emails we get might seem that way.

Many large organizations see a benefit to spending on weight-loss programs because healthy employees are more productive and fitness benefits are good for recruiting. I doubt Georgia's poor will be able to get in on this what with their lack of corporate jobs and all.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:55 AM on January 10, 2012


I don't have a lot of energy and I don't have a hard job. The time I spend watching TV makes me less tired

(This isn't directed towards you specifically) Don't you see this downward spiral? A proper diet would make you feel a lot better.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:59 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


(This isn't directed towards you specifically) Don't you see this downward spiral? A proper diet would make you feel a lot better.

I eat pretty well, in part because I overcome the desire to set on the couch and cook most nights, but I'm dubious about the claim that a proper diet will make most people feel better than an extra hour of not doing anything. There's not anyway to prove or disprove it, but my own experiences don't bear it out.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:02 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about "they're aware of all these factors but may not have adequate resources available to address the problem"?

Food deserts exist, don't put them in quotation marks. Live in the real world, Mr. Bittman, the world a good portion of Americans live in. Then come talk to me about cooking inexpensively at home.

We've had this discussion before:

Better access to supermarkets doesn't improve people's diets

She says parents are in denial. Nearly 1 million Georgia kids are overweight or obese.

I'd love to see a source backing up the first part of that quote.


When the doctor said she had type 2 diabetes, I didn’t realize what we ate would make her sick… I just always thought she was thick like her mama.”

Every thread on obesity here has it's share of people claiming weight has no relation to health, and that it's not a good proxy for weight on average. That right there is indicative we have a massive national denial problem.
posted by formless at 11:07 AM on January 10, 2012 [15 favorites]


Just want to link Ta-Nehisi Coates on obesity and class. Why better access supermarkets doesn't necessarily change things. Food is about enjoyment and control of something in your life, something not all of us have a lot of.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:16 AM on January 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


I live in Atlanta and the two types of billboards I see the most are the ones targeting obesity and the ones targeting meth.

They are two visually conspicuous issues and these billboards are an avenue to call attention to them also in a visual way.

formless is on the right track. This is an education issue, but people cannot be educated unless they know it's an issue.
posted by Constant Reader at 11:21 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The more I think about this, the more I'm getting riled up. I think this campaign is what we need. Its not cute, feeding your kid to unhealth. As vigilent as my family was, it wasn't until college when I really started losing some weight and getting athletic. I'm about 5'7, when I got around 150 they all worried, when I got to 142 they fretted "are you taking care of yourself". I was far, far from skinny, never even near approaching thin. I was a solid 8/10.

Its hard to defend yourself when being healthy makes people ask if you are sick, when only eating the vegetables on the table at Grandma's house evokes both passive and out loud critism and gossip. This is something that happens in the south and probably everywhere.

I've been really poor, I've been to my even poorer relatives house's in rural Alabama. I've never seen an unavailability of decent food, what I've seen is cooking for a lifestyle we don't have anymore, we don't work in the fields, granny sold the farm in the 60s guys. The Food/Love correlation is so ingrained in our society, it feel wrong to not feed a child who says they are hungry. Making excuses is just not going to cut it, treating parents like idiots who don't know how to procur food is just patronizing, to me it really is about changing the relationship we have with food.
posted by stormygrey at 11:21 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm certainly not into fat-shaming and I've been on record many times in the past stating clearly that obesity is a medical problem over which the individual has limited control. On the other hand, I admire the balls of this campaign: WAKE UP PEOPLE YOU ARE KILLING YOUR OWN CHILDREN!!!

My view is that the nationwide obesity epidemic has its roots in the way the government manages our food economy. If I were to run my own public awareness campaign, it would be even more brutal, would feature kids on dialysis and in the ICU with their grieving parents with the message ARE YOUR CORN SUBSIDIES, UNRESTRICTED JUNK FOOD ADVERTISING TO CHILDREN, CRAPPY SCHOOL LUNCHES, AND CHEAP FACTORY FOODS REALLY WORTH ALL THIS??! Then I would run it in every congressional district represented by someone who took campaign contributions from ADM.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:23 AM on January 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think these ads are a good idea. I mean, if someone wants to live an unhealthy lifestyle and they're an adult, that's fine, but all that stuff goes out the window when kids are involved. Letting your kid get morbidly obese is just bad parenting.

Yes, I understand there's a genetic component to these things, but guess what? Lots of things have a genetic component. Look, I have a somewhat uncommon OCD-spectrum disorder. And I realize that if I ever have biological children, and I see signs of them taking after me in that regard, I'll have to sit down and explain a few things to them. But you can be genetically predisposed to something and yet take precautions to mitigate its effects.

And actually, I get pretty ticked off when people blame their problems on "bad genetics" because I have some shit that I struggle with every day, and generally do a pretty good job of not letting it ruin my life.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:24 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I eat pretty well, in part because I overcome the desire to set on the couch and cook most nights, but I'm dubious about the claim that a proper diet will make most people feel better than an extra hour of not doing anything. There's not anyway to prove or disprove it, but my own experiences don't bear it out.

I think you'd be hard pressed to find a study that shows negative health outcomes (emotional, psychological or physical) for the person who devotes an hour to cooking a meal each day that would otherwise be spent in front of the TV. I would be very, very happy to wager on the outcome of any such study.

You know it's a good instinct to think "wait, before I go around telling poor people how to run their lives I should stop and think if I really understand the realities of their situation." That is not the same thing, however, as saying "all poor people are perfect exemplars of homo rationalis who are in every way maximizing utility at all times and in all aspects of their lives." It actually is possible for poor people--just like middle class and wealthy people--to make better choices with their time and money than they, typically, do. In fact, the notion that they are always making the best of their situation that it is possible to do seems to rather minimize the harm poverty does. Apparently every poor person in America gets the best imaginable education available in everything relating to the practice of everyday life and is incapable of being in any way better informed--that's a pretty utopian belief.

It's not necessarily paternalistic and clueless to try to help poor people do better with the resources--however meagre--available to them. Especially when any marginal improvement they can yield from that process is likely to be far more significant in its impacts for them than for wealthier people.
posted by yoink at 11:25 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Trying to make people healthier by making them less fat is like trying to fight AIDS by making people less gay.

Because AIDS is a gay cancer, right?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:26 AM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


To paint a real, serious food desert + lack of transportation as being the typical situation of an overweight/impoverished person or family is probably not accurate. Grains, beans, and tinned meats (tuna, salmon, sardines, chicken) are not perishable, are very widely available, and are inexpensive. Every rural, only-store-for-twenty-miles super Wal-Mart in the world has a variety of healthy frozen vegetables and non-perishable staples.

It's not blaming poor people or judging them to say that it is technically possible for them to eat healthy on their budget. It simply means that there are more fundamental problems that cause them to not care or understand the problem. Or it means some external factor, if they do know and care, is preventing them from acting differently. Time and effort are scarce resources in most people's lives, and it's draining being poor.

A lot of advertising time and money, and huge government subsidies, are spent enabling poor choices. Changing that would likely do much more to improve the situation than making sure people who were too stressed and defeated to give a shit had access to fresh lettuce within three miles of their house instead of within seven miles.
posted by jsturgill at 11:30 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


That is not the same thing, however, as saying "all poor people are perfect exemplars of homo rationalis who are in every way maximizing utility at all times and in all aspects of their lives."

I'm not arguing that picking the hour on the couch is rational, just that many (if not most) people are going to pick the hour on the couch most of the time, and that our energies are better put into something other than telling people (poor or not) that they have plenty of time to do a thing they don't enjoy (cooking) if only they give up the time doing something they do enjoy (watching TV).

This is especially true when the real problem isn't people not cooking, it's obesity. Getting people to cook at home can help that problem, it's almost certainly part of the solution, but's not all of the problem. I cook all the time and make food that's just as unhealthy as going out; getting people to eat healthier food, whether homemade or not, is more important.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:33 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just want to link Ta-Nehisi Coates on obesity and class. Why better access supermarkets doesn't necessarily change things. Food is about enjoyment and control of something in your life, something not all of us have a lot of.

That was a pretty crappy piece of social-analysis by anecdata. I would say that nothing at all that we know about the study of happiness suggests that anyone, poor or wealthy, can significantly improve their overall happiness by being obese. I very much doubt that those poor people who, by whatever mechanism, have managed to stay thin and maintain a reasonably healthy diet would report an overall lower state of "enjoyment" in their lives than those who have not.

France, famously, has far less of an obesity problem than America. Out of your average thin French person and your average fat American person, which do you think derives more pleasure from thinking about, preparing and consuming food?
posted by yoink at 11:33 AM on January 10, 2012


prices are so cheap, I wonder where this stuff comes from

Well here is their staff. They work cheap.
posted by stormpooper at 11:34 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not arguing that picking the hour on the couch is rational, just that many (if not most) people are going to pick the hour on the couch most of the time, and that our energies are better put into something other than telling people (poor or not) that they have plenty of time to do a thing they don't enjoy (cooking) if only they give up the time doing something they do enjoy (watching TV).

The whole point of any education campaign is, self-evidently, to convince people that they will, in the long run, be happier doing the thing they don't want to do than the thing they do want to do. If they already want to do the thing you don't need to educate them to do it. People preferred smoking to not smoking. That hasn't stopped anti-smoking campaigns from being, overall, enormously successful.

This is especially true when the real problem isn't people not cooking, it's obesity. Getting people to cook at home can help that problem, it's almost certainly part of the solution, but's not all of the problem. I cook all the time and make food that's just as unhealthy as going out; getting people to eat healthier food, whether homemade or not, is more important.

It is incredibly hard to get healthy food in a restaurant. Especially in a cheap restaurant. If you're going to make anything like a significant impact on childhood obesity it will have to be via more home-cooked meals as well as healthier school lunches. There is simply no way to do it by steering people to healthy alternatives to McDonald's, because those essentially don't exist.
posted by yoink at 11:39 AM on January 10, 2012


A nurse who treats obese people once told me that if there was a way to teach people to only eat when they are hungry, obesity would be considerably reduced.

Many people eat mindlessly or use food as an emotional crutch. Then factor in a baseline sedentary lifestyle to that which becomes compounded because many obese people are extremely self conscious and therefore won't join a gym or even exercise at all because they feel gross or don't see a quick effect. On top of all of this you have the destructive effects of fad dieting, societal pressures, and poverty.
posted by Renoroc at 11:40 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was a pretty crappy piece of social-analysis by anecdata.

I think it is worth considering other points of view.

Every time this comes up on MetaFilter this is what I see:

"Poor people can only afford junk because of corn subsidies"
"but rice and beans only costs 50 cents"
"poor people can't buy food because there are no stores in the ghetto"
"poor people are too busy being poor to cook"
"well if they watched less tv the could cook"

Then random:

"Energy in energy out people! it is SCIENCE!1!!!"


It is fucking clockwork. If we all get an opinion then Coates gets his too.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:41 AM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


It is depressing (but unsurprising) that some of the same folks who breathe fire when Michelle Obama talks about childhood obesity -- that socialist commie in the White House shouldn't be telling us how to feed our children! -- also want to have healthy, well-fed kids without any systemic changes in the way our government (along with the lobbies who wield power over it) works, other than the all-purpose "Make government smaller!" The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the grease gets poured down our kids' gullets.

Ruthless Bunny: We all know this is not food, it's a food-like substance. I believe that if the school lunch changed materially, and the snack and pop machines were eliminated from school, that 50% of your problem could be addressed that way.

So, where's the money going to come from to do this? You single out the Department of Agriculture. ConAgra and Schwan Foods lobbied to force the USDA to count pizza tomato paste as a school lunch vegetable in the most recent agriculture appropriations bill, and Congress rolled over like a cheap rug. As long as the processed food giants and the American Restaurant Association have silos of cash to dump, not much will change.

stormygrey: I can feed myself at the farmer's market for about 30 dollars a week and eat well, as a society we need to bust the "healthy food is expensive" myth.

As a society we need to stop the ConAgras and Schwans from having such an inordinate say over what we feed our kids. All the billboards in the world are virtually meaningless otherwise.

yoink: Out of your average thin French person and your average fat American person, which do you think derives more pleasure from thinking about, preparing and consuming food?

Out of those two countries, which has the bigger social safety net? Which has the lower Gini coefficient? Which actually still has a semi-functional government?
posted by blucevalo at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


That was a pretty crappy piece of social-analysis by anecdata. I would say that nothing at all that we know about the study of happiness suggests that anyone, poor or wealthy, can significantly improve their overall happiness by being obese.

I think the idea is that people optimize short-term happiness over long-term happiness, due to cognitive biases we all have. And the solution to that is to create a better social structures and support to encourage healthy behaviors. Or like this campaign is doing, raise awareness that overweight is not healthy.

It doesn't need to be either/or, we can both offer better exercise/food options, tax unhealthy food and at the same time use what may be considered shaming to encourage healthy behavior.
posted by formless at 11:44 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is incredibly hard to get healthy food in a restaurant. Especially in a cheap restaurant. If you're going to make anything like a significant impact on childhood obesity it will have to be via more home-cooked meals as well as healthier school lunches. There is simply no way to do it by steering people to healthy alternatives to McDonald's, because those essentially don't exist.

Well that's why changing the economics of food, especially subsidies, is so important. If it were as cheap for McDonald's to make healthy food as it is to make unhealthy food, they would make it. McDonald's doesn't want people to be fat, they just want them to eat at McDonald's.

Obesity in America is a systemic problem, I don't know why people keep insisting that it has individual solutions.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:47 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would like to state that as much as I would like to see childhood obesity drop off the face of the earth, it probably won't.

I agree that I wish parents had ready access/skills/yen to create healthier foods for their kids and themselves. But believe me, I have already stuck my foot in it one time when I visited my sister and saw her feeding my nieces hotdogs and goldfish crackers for dinner. My sister and her husband are not overweight--they're pretty active being the parents of toddlers--but they do spend a lot of time watching too much TV, their cabinets and fridge are stocked with 85% processed foods. Neither of them cook. When asked why, my sister gives me this look as though it never occurred to her she should bother to cook when there are foods in the grocery store that can take care of that for her. Because I love them, I always make them a home-cooked meal when I visit (for their part, they ask if I will; I don't force it on them). Of course, now that I'm vegan--a truly First World dietary choice if there ever was one--I can guarantee she won't be as inclined for me to cook when I visit in May.

My rambling point is: parents don't like being told how to raise their children, no matter how good your intentions are.

And as for the hotdog/goldfish cracker dinners?

"I'm just happy I can get them to eat something."
posted by Kitteh at 11:47 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is fucking clockwork. If we all get an opinion then Coates gets his too.

Several of us have linked to or referenced large scale and well controlled studies to back up our opinions. You linked to "I ate when I was unhappy, therefore poor people eat because they're unhappy." Yeah, we all get our opinions, but some of us are trying to base them on evidence.

yoink: Out of your average thin French person and your average fat American person, which do you think derives more pleasure from thinking about, preparing and consuming food?

Out of those two countries, which has the bigger social safety net? Which has the lower Gini coefficient? Which actually still has a semi-functional government?


Um...how do any of those questions relate to the point I was addressing?
posted by yoink at 11:49 AM on January 10, 2012


It is obvious people optimize short-term pleasure over long-term happiness. Why do people drink, why do people do drugs, why do people skydive or drive 200 miles and hour.

I have accepted that some people don't give a shit about being healthy, they want to eat cocoa pebbles, tut-tutting and making noises about educating people, like they don't fucking know anything about food, is crazy
posted by Ad hominem at 11:50 AM on January 10, 2012


Out of those two countries, which has the bigger social safety net? Which has the lower Gini coefficient? Which actually still has a semi-functional government?

Just to feed what I assume was a troll, the answers are France, France, and both.
posted by homotopy at 11:58 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why do people drink, why do people do drugs, why do people skydive or drive 200 miles and hour.

If anybody were driving 200mph or skydiving with a small child, I would hope there wouldn't be many defending them.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:59 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would say that nothing at all that we know about the study of happiness suggests that anyone, poor or wealthy, can significantly improve their overall happiness by being obese.

There was nothing at all in that article discussing "overall happiness" on some kind of longer form scale, or about people's reported level of "enjoyment." I would venture that there is no poor person, obese, thin or in between who associates an individual food choice with his/her long-term happiness, if he even thinks about it at all.
posted by ndfine at 12:03 PM on January 10, 2012


Last night I took a fucking can of condensed celery soup (organic) that cost me $2.49 in Manhattan. 3 servings but I ate it all because I'm a big guy. Then I added a red pepper $.79 and an onion ~$.50. I also ate a piece of wheat bread. Wow, so fucking expensive and hard to cook. And it all cost less than $5.00. If you really live in a place with no grocery stores, then I feel really bad for you, but all this "it's so expensive to eat healthy" nonsense is bullshit. People just like to eat crap. A Big Mac meal is almost $8 where I live.
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:06 PM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well that's why changing the economics of food, especially subsidies, is so important. If it were as cheap for McDonald's to make healthy food as it is to make unhealthy food, they would make it. McDonald's doesn't want people to be fat, they just want them to eat at McDonald's.

Obesity in America is a systemic problem, I don't know why people keep insisting that it has individual solutions.


I'm happy to believe that there are "systemic problems" underlying all this. In fact I think there are. I'm not convinced, however, that you're identified the right ones or, at least, the most significant ones. That is, the subsidies that support McDonald's pricing structure are only a relatively small part of the problem. It's clearly not, in fact, simply economic need that forces people to eat unhealthily in the US. Poor people are not simply buying the cheapest food available to them. It has been established time and again that poor people could spend less money and eat more healthily. No doubt raising the price of McDonalds would drive some non-trivial number of people to seek healthier alternatives, but it's simply false to suggest that this by itself would solve the entire problem. Poor nutritional choices are also, in part, a matter of broadly "cultural" practices in lower-middle-class and below socioeconomic groups in the US. It's not as if there is some minimum price one has to pay for a soda drink at a movie and because of corn subsidies in the US the soda drinks have to be double or triple the size that they are in the EU. It would be equally possible for the drink to be the same size in the US and the price to simply be half as much.

Changing food cultures is an extremely difficult thing to do (even quite strong economic forces face stiff resistance from people's cultural understanding of what constitutes a 'proper meal'--you won't see Chinese people abandon rice readily, for example, even if some other grain is economically competitive) but it's definitely not impossible. Americans eat far more in an average meal today than they did forty years ago. There is already every economic incentive for them to eat less. I suspect that removing corn and other agricultural subsidies would have at most a minimal impact on that overall picture.

Similarly, for those above who suggest that if Congress simply stood up to Big Ag then school lunches would be reformed overnight. The situation is more complex than that. LAUSD recently undertook a drastic reformation of its school lunch menu (and this despite the supposedly unchecked power of Big Agriculture). The problem is that the kids overwhelmingly rejected the new menu and started buying unhealthy food from outside sources (which, again, suggests that direct economic pressure is really not that strong a factor in these choices). See this LA Times article.
posted by yoink at 12:09 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Healthy meals need to be as convenient, tasty, and affordable as junk food, which is certainly not the case in most of America.

Taste is the deciding factor. For a healthy dish to taste better than day old microwave pizza takes time, energy, and commitment, three things in short supply for most people.

And fast food is a reward. A parent who can't afford to buy their teen a pair of Air Jordans or the latest edition of Call of Duty can still take them out for pizza and ice cream.

And the only chain I know of that attempts to offer healthy affordable meals is Jason's Deli, and their prices would be out of reach for most working class families for anything other than the occasional splurge. Plus, they don't have a drive through, and the drive through is the primary way most Americans eat.
posted by Beholder at 12:12 PM on January 10, 2012


Last night I took a fucking can of condensed celery soup (organic) that cost me $2.49 in Manhattan. 3 servings but I ate it all because I'm a big guy. Then I added a red pepper $.79 and an onion ~$.50. I also ate a piece of wheat bread

Yeah, it's hard to imagine why we're having trouble getting people on the "can of celery soup and piece of bread" diet.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:12 PM on January 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


I have accepted that some people don't give a shit about being healthy, they want to eat cocoa pebbles, tut-tutting and making noises about educating people, like they don't fucking know anything about food, is crazy

Some people deliberately seek HIV-positive partners in order to have unprotected sex with them. Therefore sex-education is pointless.

Some people refuse to wear seatbelts. Therefore mandating seatbelts in cars and encouraging their use is pointless.

Some people make really bad arguments. Therefore the entire education system is a waste of time.
posted by yoink at 12:13 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah but that is the thing. I don't see anyone educating anyone here.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:16 PM on January 10, 2012


This might be apropos of nothing, I'm not sure, but I am curious of the "picky eater" phenomenon is a strictly American thing or if you encounter it, say, in Europe. I'm thinking of kids that will only eat hot dogs or whatever (typically heavily-processed) food. I have seen this happen with cousins of mine and I don't understand it at all and I wonder if there is some sort of connection there.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:18 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think one of the biggest problems is American food culture in general. The whole thing is so consumerist. I mean, why do people eat fast/processed food? Because billions of dollars have gone into developing foods that hit all the deliciousness receptors in our brains, and then billions more into marketing this food in such a way that appeals to whatever segment of the population they're targeting. It's neuroscience and psychology, and sadly, that shit works.

I think it bothers me the most when bad food is advertised to children. I mean, breakfast cereal? For real? That shit is just straight sugar and carbs. Who said this is what you're supposed to eat for breakfast?

Personally, I think it should be illegal to advertise anything to children. It's just not fair; children have no cynicism filter. They don't know that advertisements exist to lie and manipulate. All they know is that an adult on TV is telling them to go ahead and eat a hamburger that they already want to eat because that hamburger is the end result of billions of dollars of deliciousness research.

So yeah, I dunno. I don't have a problem with these ads. If McDonalds can put billions of dollars into manipulating children into eating bad food, I see nothing wrong with balancing the playing field.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:19 PM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


And fast food is a reward. A parent who can't afford to buy their teen a pair of Air Jordans or the latest edition of Call of Duty can still take them out for pizza and ice cream.

Nobody objects to fast food as a "reward." It's having it as a default choice for dinner that is problematic.

Yeah, it's hard to imagine why we're having trouble getting people on the "can of celery soup and piece of bread" diet.

I have never had a meal in any of the major US fast food chains (BK, McD, Wendy's etc. etc.) that was more enjoyable than that sounds. This is where the "food culture" thing is so important. Clearly it's not an economic decision that makes you and others think "Ugh, celery soup and bread!!!" vs "Yum!! McDonald's!!"--it's purely a matter of enculturation. Celery soup with (good) bread sounds delicious to me. I haven't entered a McDonald's by choice since I was a youngish teenager--and the thought of their food is vaguely repellent to me (and I love a good burger and fries--it's just that what McD's serves is not what I would call a "good burger and fries").

Personally, I think it should be illegal to advertise anything to children.

Yeah--that's a "systemic" change I could get behind. Just one of the reasons I was entirely supportive of the San Francisco Happy Meal Toy ban. But I certainly found myself in a tiny minority there.
posted by yoink at 12:25 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, it's hard to imagine why we're having trouble getting people on the "can of celery soup and piece of bread" diet.

I dunno what to say, it was really fucking good. I like steak too.
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:32 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think everyone realizes that we need several systemic changes to make a big impact on our obesity problem. There's no reason small efforts like this can't be tried and evaluated at the same time as people are fighting the good fight on the big stuff.

Someone above insisted that smoking didn't start to disappear from public life until the public bans started being put in place. That's true in my experience. But those public bans didn't come out of nowhere. There were decades of groundwork that had to be laid before the public was ready for a smoking ban. I think the ads helped in the case of smoking, and I think these ads might help in the case of obesity.

If the effect of the ads can be evaluated, such that we have real data as to whether they help, then I think it's worth it, "fat shaming" or no. The problem is that bad. We have to try everything within reason that might help combat it.
posted by gurple at 12:33 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


So yeah, I dunno. I don't have a problem with these ads. If McDonalds can put billions of dollars into manipulating children into eating bad food, I see nothing wrong with balancing the playing field.

Afroblanco, I think where we differ is that I don't see the Georgia awareness ads as balancing the playing field at all-- in fact I see them as contributing to the negative slide that pushes towards unhealthy choices. I agree with you that food culture is horrendously consumerist, to the extent that it's really almost comical how well the food itself and the advertising has been manipulated to be pleasurable to us. But countering an ad that bills McDonald's as pleasurable with one that can easily be interpreted as saying being fat reduces your worth as a person is not evening the playing field. A true evening of the playing field would be an advertising campaign designed to make healthy food pleasurable, not one that makes you feel guilty about eating the stuff that's been aimed and fired at you through the double-barreled shotgun of advertising and neurochemical reward.

(I particularly hate the "It's hard to be a little girl if you're not," because that so obviously and hatefully manipulates the figurative expression of what it means to be a little girl-- pleasant, carefree, loved and optimistic-- into a body image issue, where if you're not a certain physical size you can't represent those traits. It might work, but if it works it comes out of a place of fear and shame and self-loathing; a place of, "I don't want to be worthless, I don't want to be like them [other shamed fat people], I want to have my self-worth validated by being thin." And sure, that approach might work for a while, but it also turns eating healthily and exercising into a psychological punishment. Is it really healthy if people do it, not out of a place of desiring health and wanting a body that can do lots of fun things, but out of a place of desperate conformity?)

Nobody objects to fast food as a "reward." It's having it as a default choice for dinner that is problematic.

Actually, I do object to using unhealthy food as a reward. Imagine you're a kid and your mom takes you out to pizza when you do well on an exam. If that sort of pattern becomes reinforced through frequent food-based rewards as a child, I would think that would influence behavior patterns when you're older, too: and so when your job sucks, and your apartment sucks, and your commute sucks, and your partner isn't being very supportive at the moment, your first instinct is to game the system and make yourself feel a little better by triggering those reward feelings by eating pizza or ice-cream or whatever. That's certainly how it's worked for me (anecdata, I know, you can give me a clip 'round the ear for it-- bad social scientist! Bad!)
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:40 PM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Taste is the deciding factor. For a healthy dish to taste better than day old microwave pizza takes time, energy, and commitment, three things in short supply for most people.

I think this is the common misconception that gets us in trouble, that you can't make healthy food taste as good as processed food without a ton or resources and effort. It depends on your palate, and what your body has come to learn tastes better via a bunch of factors.

Data point: I saw a family that had purchased a few boxes of those frozen pre-made peanut butter and jelly concoctions at the supermarket in front of me at line. How in the world does that taste any better than a homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Boggles.

And that celery soup sounds pretty good.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:42 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


>Nobody objects to fast food as a "reward." It's having it as a default choice for dinner that is problematic.

Actually, I do object to using unhealthy food as a reward.


Yeah, me, too.
posted by gurple at 12:44 PM on January 10, 2012


I look forward to reading more instructions from educated privileged, folks about how poor people can stop being stupid fat fucks.
posted by mobunited at 12:48 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought it was more about educated privileged folks explaining why poor people have no other choice but to be stupid fat fucks. I'm confused.
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:51 PM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


Actually, I do object to using unhealthy food as a reward. Imagine you're a kid and your mom takes you out to pizza when you do well on an exam. If that sort of pattern becomes reinforced through frequent food-based rewards as a child, I would think that would influence behavior patterns when you're older, too: and so when your job sucks, and your apartment sucks, and your commute sucks, and your partner isn't being very supportive at the moment, your first instinct is to game the system and make yourself feel a little better by triggering those reward feelings by eating pizza or ice-cream or whatever. That's certainly how it's worked for me (anecdata, I know, you can give me a clip 'round the ear for it-- bad social scientist! Bad!)

My family always made elaborate birthday cakes for birthday parties. I loooved, those cakes. Somehow I manage not to eat birthday cake for dinner every day. There's absolutely nothing wrong with teaching kids "this is food to have as a special treat, but not food for every day." Most of the thin, fit people I know enjoy rich, fatty food and sweet desserts--they just don't enjoy the thought of eating them every night.
posted by yoink at 12:57 PM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I look forward to reading more instructions from educated privileged, folks about how poor people can stop being stupid fat fucks.

Please explain how it matters where the ideas come from.

Sure, your statement feels all righteous, it's got that going for it. But would you rather the poor, stupid, fat fucks stay fat because the ideas for how to change the situation come from a distasteful place?
posted by gurple at 12:59 PM on January 10, 2012


I thought it was more about educated privileged folks explaining why poor people have no other choice but to be stupid fat fucks. I'm confused.

You obviously do not believe you're as confused as a poor fat fuck, in any event. I mean, that's what we're all bonding about, right? Not being them and having the freedom to there-there or tut-tut with that special spirit of righteousness?
posted by mobunited at 12:59 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Afroblanco, I think where we differ is that I don't see the Georgia awareness ads as balancing the playing field at all-- in fact I see them as contributing to the negative slide that pushes towards unhealthy choices

You're right, we do differ on that point. I don't buy the "fat shaming" angle, and I don't even like using that term, because I don't agree with the way it frames this discussion. I don't think these ads shame the obese children; if anything, they shame parents for letting their kids get fat -- which I'm totally in favor of.

Anyway, I totally think these ads help to level the playing field. They remind me of the anti-smoking ads that show a diseased lung, or the faces of meth site. McDonalds doesn't feature sad obese children in their ads; they show happy, fit children playing with Happy Meal toys. I think it's totally fair to have ads that say, "if you feed your kids too many happy meals, this is what they're gonna look like".

Sometimes you gotta confront people with what lies at the end of their fork.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:00 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


But would you rather the poor, stupid, fat fucks stay fat because the ideas for how to change the situation come from a distasteful place?

I think it's telling that my ironic word choice of "stupid, fat fuck," is the one thing that has not been questioned.
posted by mobunited at 1:00 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's telling that my ironic word choice of "stupid, fat fuck," is the one thing that has not been questioned.

Aw u mad bro? Maybe you need to go back and figure out to troll a bit better.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:05 PM on January 10, 2012


Interesting. I am actually quite surprised at the level of (apparently well documented) denial going on with parents. I figured it was mostly "well, they'll grow out of it when they hit a growth spurt" kind of minimization, coupled with some "well, what can you do - they're big like their parents" rather than "well, no, they're not fat".
posted by rmd1023 at 1:05 PM on January 10, 2012


I think it's telling that my ironic word choice of "stupid, fat fuck," is the one thing that has not been questioned.

I think it's ironic that you're using the word "ironic" here.
posted by yoink at 1:07 PM on January 10, 2012


Yeah, to bring up the anti-smoking campaigns again.

Smoking is way down in the US. Smoker-shaming and government warnings didn't change people's behavior.

I think the vast visual history of anti-smoking ads is direct proof that shaming was unabashedly used to successfully change personal behavior:

If what happened on your inside happened on your outside, would you still smoke?

Smoking is very glamourous

Anti-smoking model
posted by formless at 1:10 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see an ad campaign addressing the question of why we have become* totally incapable of addressing difficult issues without it devolving into rhetorical one-upsmanship.

* I'm willing to concede the point that this has always been the case and is just more in your face and visible thanks to the internet, etc.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:13 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aw u mad bro? Maybe you need to go back and figure out to troll a bit better.

Yeah, I am. I work with poor people for a living. I would rather my job go out of style than constantly wipe off the psychic shit poured on them by their "betters."

Because they're told they're shit for not having enough money.

For not being able to pay the rent.

For not being able to take care of the kids.

For being mentally ill.

For being illiterate.

For having no familial support systems.

Here's the truth. This sort of campaign is not designed to help those people. It is designed to help property owners and voters believe they are helping while also indulging the socially acceptable, perverse and contradictory desire to make them fuck off and die.
posted by mobunited at 1:14 PM on January 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think the comparison to anti-smoking ads is a good one. The anti-smoking campaign was hugely successful and it seems to provide a good model for an anti-obesity campaign.
posted by Justinian at 1:14 PM on January 10, 2012


Interesting. I am actually quite surprised at the level of (apparently well documented) denial going on with parents. I figured it was mostly "well, they'll grow out of it when they hit a growth spurt" kind of minimization, coupled with some "well, what can you do - they're big like their parents" rather than "well, no, they're not fat".

I was interested to see that, too. My parents were very concerned about my weight as a kid (as well they should have been since I'm probably 30 lbs overweight right now), and told me in no uncertain terms that my weight was a problem. They had no idea what to do about it, but they certainly knew. I wonder if something's changed or if my parents were the exception.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:16 PM on January 10, 2012


I know what let's do! Let's shock our corporate overlords into switching the HFCS in processed foods back to good old sucrose.

Then give it a few years and see what happens.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:17 PM on January 10, 2012


Actually, I do object to using unhealthy food as a reward.

tbh I think using food in general as a reward (&/or punishment) sets you up for seriously unhealthy attitudes towards eating.
posted by elizardbits at 1:18 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think part of the success of the anti-smoking campaign was how it targeted children. A lot of parents who smoked when I was growing up quit due to pressure from their kids coming home every day thinking their parents were going to die.

This ad campaign is excellent. Things like diabetes and HTN are far more prevalent in children than just poverty/food deserts can explain. It comes down to the choices people make, and the long term habits they form.
posted by rosswald at 1:20 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd like to see an ad campaign addressing the question of why we have become* totally incapable of addressing difficult issues without it devolving into rhetorical one-upsmanship.

Because weight is a personal issue, and people have trouble discussing personal issues in a mature and objective manner. Maybe not everyone, but enough to trash threads.

A blunt force way to address this problem is forcing fast food chains to offer a wider variety of healthy meal options. If MD sells happy meals why can't they sell a healthy meal or a veggie meal. No need to add a question mark, because everyone knows the answer already.
posted by Beholder at 1:25 PM on January 10, 2012


tbh I think using food in general as a reward (&/or punishment) sets you up for seriously unhealthy attitudes towards eating.

I think this sounds kinda plausible as a Noble Sentiment until you stop for a second to think about it. Essentially you're saying you should simply never eat anything you wouldn't make a staple part of your diet. In other words, never eat chocolate, never drink port, never eat anything in a rich sauce, never have a milkshake etc. etc. etc.

Any food that you, personally, regard as delicious but which you know to be something you should eat in moderation is a "reward" by definition whenever you eat it. You're eating it because it "rewards" you with its taste (and not with its inherent nutritional qualities). The only people I know who rigorously exclude all "treats" from their diet are either utterly uninterested in food or are seriously effed up about it. The people I think of as having a sane, happy and healthy relationship to food are usually people who derive very strong enjoyments from "treats" but who also recognize that you can't have them every day.

I think it's fine if somebody takes their kids out to the pizza parlour for their birthday or to celebrate a victorious soccer game or what have you. It's not fine if they eat pizza three nights a week.
posted by yoink at 1:31 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


For being illiterate.

So are adult literacy campaigns also evil? After all, you can't tell illiterate people that becoming literate will help them without implying that being illiterate isn't as good as being literate. It's pretty clearly illiteracy-shaming.

Mind you, whatever you're doing (some kind of psychological counseling?) is pretty obviously "psychological ill-health" shaming, because you're telling them that they need your fancy-schmancy counseling in order to live happier, fuller lives. How do you live with yourself, man?

To repeat myself from above: I would like to point out that to say that poor Americans could make better use of their time and money than they typically do is not the same thing as to say that their poverty is their fault or that they would immediately cease to be poor if they managed their time and money better than they do.
posted by yoink at 1:35 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Essentially you're saying you should simply never eat anything you wouldn't make a staple part of your diet.... You're eating [a tasty food] because it "rewards" you with its taste

There's a difference between receiving a taste reward from food and using a tasty food as a reward for good behavior.

I wasn't rewarded with food, much, growing up. Once, though, I partcipated in this reading program where you were rewarded with pizzas after reading X number of books. I was already reading plenty of books. What the program did was get me to crave pizza.
posted by gurple at 1:37 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


(which, I might ad, was a mighty successful ad campaign by Pizza Hut that should never have been allowed anywhere near my public school)
posted by gurple at 1:37 PM on January 10, 2012


I think it's fine if somebody takes their kids out to the pizza parlour for their birthday or to celebrate a victorious soccer game or what have you. It's not fine if they eat pizza three nights a week.

It's pretty easy to reward kids with food, and so it tends to be our default reward for kids. I don't really have to imagine how that can mess with your relationship with food because I'm married to someone who strong associates any and all events worthy of minor celebration(like it being Friday) with the large, unhealthy meals. Getting her to accept that some days dinner is going to be mediocre has been hard.

Now that's not to say that the occasional pizza party is a terrible idea for kids, but it's also not completely harmless for all individuals.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:42 PM on January 10, 2012


You make a point, but my local library as a kid had a program where they rewarded you with books for reading books. It was great for me and the rest of the bookworms, but I'm not sure how it was supposed to get kids to read who weren't already enjoying reading.
posted by griphus at 1:43 PM on January 10, 2012


There's a difference between receiving a taste reward from food and using a tasty food as a reward for good behavior.

Well, yes and no. You get the "reward" (the taste) by engaging in the "behavior" of eating the food. I agree that it would be a bad idea to reward "good behavior" with junk food because you are going to hope that "good behavior" is manifested more frequently than you want your kid to eat that food. But using it as a treat on special occasions (birthdays etc.) is something else again.

Again, most of us the people I know grew up eating birthday cakes on their birthday and regarding that as a great treat. Almost no one I know eats cake as a daily part of their diet. The idea that giving people certain kinds of special food as a treat must necessarily warp their relationship to food is demonstrably false.
posted by yoink at 1:48 PM on January 10, 2012


Essentially you're saying you should simply never eat anything you wouldn't make a staple part of your diet. In other words, never eat chocolate, never drink port, never eat anything in a rich sauce, never have a milkshake etc. etc. etc.

That is so far from what I'm saying that it's well into the land of the wild and bizarre.
posted by elizardbits at 1:49 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


the psychic shit poured on them by their "betters."

I'm not sure what "psychic shit" is being poured anywhere: people are slowly killing their kids, and it isn't just poor people doing it. Other people want to fix this. All those other things you listed are problems too, and yet others want to fix them as well. I'm terribly sorry that some people that want to help others aren't doing it in the exact way that you would want them to.

Addressing your other point: I can't speak for others, and this place is a haven of elitists, but I'm certainly not a "better." I can give you a full list of my "I grew up in poverty" credentials if you'd like.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:51 PM on January 10, 2012


The idea that giving people certain kinds of special food as a treat must necessarily warp their relationship to food is demonstrably false.

Almost any statement about how people will "necessarily" respond to something is going to be false. Smoking isn't necessarily addictive, for example, but it's best to work in the world of how people will likely respond rather than how they will necessarily respond.

Also, the cake for your birthday is completely unlike pizza for behaving well or getting good grades or whatever, since your birthday only comes once per year and you can't make it come or not come. That's a treat, not a reward. I think the difference is important because if you're rewarded with unhealthy food, you come to expect the food as something you earn and work toward, which can lead to overindulging when you're an adult and in total control of what you eat and when you get rewarded. If your association is with special events and days, holidays, birthdays, etc. you still can't make your birthday happen twice a year.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:56 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


My family always made elaborate birthday cakes for birthday parties. I loooved, those cakes. Somehow I manage not to eat birthday cake for dinner every day. There's absolutely nothing wrong with teaching kids "this is food to have as a special treat, but not food for every day."

I would argue that there's a huge difference in this model, which is eating bad for for occasions and the practice of eating bad food for rewards. Birthdays are not something you achieve in the sense that eating birthday cake is a reward for a behavior. It is something you do on a designated day. Whereas when you use food as a reward for behavior-- to use the same previous example, for getting good grades-- the reward can be unlocked, theoretically, at any time. The food becomes associated with feelings of achievement, not with a specific temporal event in the sense that birthdays and Christmas are specific temporal events, and therefore it becomes easier to game the system and unlock the reward whenever you want. It's a lot easier to convince yourself that you need ice-cream because you've had a bad day and you're worth it than it is to convince yourself it's your birthday every day.

Any food that you, personally, regard as delicious but which you know to be something you should eat in moderation is a "reward" by definition whenever you eat it. You're eating it because it "rewards" you with its taste (and not with its inherent nutritional qualities).

You're right in that taste instead of nutrition is a type of reward, but I would argue that eating something because you like the taste is a fundamentally different type of reward than eating something because you associate it with prior behaviors that carried significant psychological weight: in the case of the test, being physically rewarded with taste because you achieved a socially-sanctioned behavior is significantly different than just being physically rewarded with taste because you wanted to eat something and so you did. (There's a lot of layers of meaning here!) And while it's certainly true that people with weight problems might get that way because they enjoy being rewarded solely with taste, it also adds a layer of complexity when you combine the reward of sheer taste with the possibly even more potent reward of past positive emotional feeling (Mom's taking me out to dinner because I Did Well!), and a life that may not offer a whole lot of other meaningful opportunities for emotional validation.

I'm certainly not saying in any capacity that we can't eat things we enjoy that aren't good for us. I am saying that tangling them up with an added layer of social/parental validation attached to some kind of achievement turns them into a particular type of reward that may be more damaging than the simple, "This tastes good, so I'll eat it!" equation.

Honestly, like everything, I think that in moderation food-based rewards are probably fine, as long as they're mixed up with other types of rewards so we don't become fixated. But Bulgaroktonos is right that the reward-with-food model is, as far as I can tell, hugely prevalent, and it may be problematic.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:01 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is so easy to overlook my privilege in having grown up in a home where we had enough money and a stay-at-home mom who cooked reasonably healthy, if not particularly delicious meals 7 nights a week. I try to be conscious of that, and I try not to judge people who have less agency than I do.

At the same time, when I see families wheeling morbidly obese toddlers along in strollers, quieted by a giant bag of doritos and bottle of soda -- which is not at all an uncommon sight -- my gut reaction is that these people don't know what the fuck they're doing. I live in a neighborhood where you can easily buy 3+ pounds of apples for the cost of a bag of chips. It's the furthest thing from a food desert.

There comes a point where the excuses just aren't good enough -- letting your kid become drastically overweight is abusive, IMO, and I don't think you need to be wealthy or privileged to know better. I don't know if shaming people will be effective, but something needs to break the cycle. If people were poisoning their kids, well-meaning or not, educated or not, privileged or not, we as a society would put a stop to it. When people are basically giving their kids diabetes, I don't think the situation is that different.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 2:16 PM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Here's another question I have about this whole thing: do MeFites think this campaign is more effective than another, gentler (I would use the term "less shaming" but I understand and respect that not everyone shares that opinion) advertisement campaign would be? If so, why?

The reason that I ask is I'm seeing some backlash about how this may be a poorly designed campaign for reasons that have nothing to do with fat shaming. Do you, dear MeFites, leaving aside all questions of what kind of effect, think the starkness of the design and the message will actually have an impact? I don't know but I would be interested in finding out.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:21 PM on January 10, 2012


Not too long ago we had a conversation about building supermarkets in food deserts not making much of a difference. I made a comment about farmers markets being great and how we should just have more of those, please.

It was probably one of the dumber comments I've ever made on the blue because I thought about it for a bit and realized that farmers markets really don't make any difference if you don't know what to do with the food there or don't like the things that are available.

I say this because almost no one in my family would be caught dead in a farmer's market, at least the half on my mother's side.

My mother was one of 18 kids and grew up in a family that was so poor that I still have a hard time understanding it. As you can imagine, cooking for 20 people on a daily basis limits the menu quite a bit. Everyone mostly ate hotdogs, spaghetti, and PB&J with the occasional fruit and almost never a vegetable.

All of my aunts and uncles are grown and most of them have palettes that resemble that of a five year old. I have an uncle who thinks that rice is too exotic for his taste, and another one who eats like a preteen without parental supervision, mostly subsisting off of chips and cookies. Almost any of them have good jobs that would provide money for lots of different kinds of food, but they stick to what is familiar and would have zero interest in what's at the farmer's market outside of potatoes and bread.

The few who have managed to adapt themselves to new cuisines married spouses who are adventurous cooks and shoppers or married an immigrant and adopted their food culture.

It's not that people in my family don't know how to cook. They make well what they do cook. Instead, it's that the poverty they grew up with that is still following them today and influencing their food choices, and to a great degree influencing what they feed their children.

On the other hand, my Dad's family that was just as poor as my mother's family. However, they brought over their eating habits from Cuba, an entirely different animal when it comes to meals on an extreme budget. Those meals are healthier and more oriented to fruits and veggies. That side of the family is full of adaptable eaters and who like making and eating fresh food.

So, I guess it's not as simple as presenting more healthy options or having more money for food. No amount of money will change what people with impoverished palettes choose to eat unless there is someone in their household who will cook healthy food and put it in front of them every day. And even then...

I have no idea what the solution should be other than finding ways to get kids to eat lots of different kinds of food from lots of different places, early and often, regardless of what their parents are eating.
posted by Alison at 2:23 PM on January 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm in the "massive systemic issues" camp when it comes to the so-called obesity epidemic, but I'm also pretty understanding about how easily one can get completely uncentered by the way life works now.

Because my parents were back-to-the-landers back in the seventies, I know how to cook, how to garden, how to be self-reliant, and how to use ingenuity instead of cash. This morning, I heard a piece on NPR about recycling hotel soap, and I snorted a bit because I use hotel soap to make laundry detergent at a fraction of the cost of the official stuff. When I hear people complaining about not having money, I want to sneer about how people could save money by, among other things, making their own stuff, but man—people just look at you like you're an alien when you say things like that.

We're just at the end of the swinging pendulum when it comes to actually doing stuff anymore, and a romance for the pleasure of handiwork is just a fleeting, daydreamy thing. We had all this decades-long trip of magical prosperity and consumption, and it trained generations, even the poor folks, to just think of life as a cargo cult, where food is stuff that you buy, not something joyous and rewarding. We've built a society based on absurdly expensive consumer goods, so we have to work harder and stress ourselves more, and we come home and feel too tired to do anything but reward that feeling with time on the couch, sucking at the glass teat of our various screens.

I'd been sort of smug about a lot of it, myself. Hell, I can afford a nifty car because I do my own mechanical work, and I live a decent lifestyle on a limited income because I substitute labor for cash a lot of the time, and it's way, way too easy to do the American thing and think, "well, I can do it, so why can't other people do it?"

Of course, I'm childless, single, and pay $450 to rent a great little apartment because I was doing the landlord back in the eighties and nineties, so I don't have a lot of complications. Of course, I sort of randomly ended up with parents that believed in things that were far, far from the mainstream when I was reared in a semi-rural place where we got more than half of our food from a quarter-acre garden and our flock of chickens. Of course, I lucked into circumstances that furthered my interests in a DIY life, and once I had that spark, it was just a matter of cultivation.

I'd been sort of smug, but I didn't earn that right. How most people live, and how they eat, and how they spend their money are more determined by the whims of the glass teat and the big money behind it, and it's not their fault. It's easy to look down on people who don't get it right, but harder to do so when you start comparing roots and histories. People tend to know what is around them when they come of age, and what's out there is wretched.

When I decided I wanted to trim my weight in 2006, I planned out my attack using a spreadsheet, and made it work. Lost seventy pounds. Oh, I was a minor hero to the people who love to fret about obesity, and a great example, but it wasn't me—like many of the good things in my life, it was an accidental opportunity that I was primed to take.

I went from a cruddy cubicle farm career to a failed career as a contractor, then to a crazy museum where I was on my feet all the time, walking back on forth for miles a day, often carrying heavy things. I ate right, but when I'd have those little glycemic collapses that happen when you're dieting, I wasn't stuck in the hell of an office, so I'd climb a ladder into a little hidey hole I'd carved out on the access way of a major HVAC unit and curl up for a siesta on a mat of folded packing blankets. In that job, I worked to a performance goal that didn't require sustained, factory-worker drone energy, so I could bust ass for a while, then hide out and let my blood chemistry get back to something normal.

"What's your secret to losing all that weight?" people would ask, and after a while, I understood that the secret, for me, was to win a few lotteries, from genetics, to family, to fixations and unexpected windfalls.

I shared my spreadsheets, my methods and workarounds, like how to eat healthy and cheap when all time allows is fast food and crappy supermarkets, but that's just a fraction of how it all worked. When I changed careers again, from one where my ass rarely touched a chair and where my time was loose and unstructured to one where I spend too much time at a desk and there's really nowhere to walk as a part of my work, thirty-five pounds came right back on, and old bad habits came right back, and I lost focus on my center, and the thing is, I'm not an idiot or a failure in this—I just lost the free bump I got from things that really weren't remotely connected with discipline or self-control.

Six years after what I hoped was a new equilibrium, I'm working out another, because I'm not meant to be a rail-thin member of the slim community, but my scooter ought to be able to make it past 50 MPH and I am really, really tired of pulling up my fucking pants all the time. It's instructive to have slipped back, so that I can have a perspective on my way of thinking. Back in 2006, I was Mr. Brilliant, having beat the system, but no matter how smart you are, things can change. Pulling yourself out of a funk is hard enough when you're basically middle class, well-educated, and unencumbered by complexities like a family life—imagine life as someone with a spouse and kids in some half-dead rural town where there's no work, no way to get around, and no cultural celebration of the value of being hands-on.

Just beating that tired old dead horse about obesity is so...inadequate. It's a problem that we're trying to solve without solving what's underneath it, or addressing the greater cultural issues that feed the demon. Why do people watch TV for four hours a day instead of going outside to play or walk the dog or ride a bike? Why are we so exhausted after our worthless workdays that all we want to do when we get home is cocoon and consume? The sort of elitist imperative, where we maintain this absurd lifeless kind of life that we compensate for with artificial food morality and fake physical activity that's supposed to fix the problem isn't it, and doesn't work for anything but a tiny minority who just naturally mesh with that kind of approach.

Trying to solve a problem that's not really about food and exercise with food and exercise just isn't going to work, and when you add big steamy dumps of shame to the pile, you're just furthering the decay. We do it because we're lazy in the West and we'd love to cure symptoms because it makes us feel good about ourselves, but last change isn't going to happen until we go deeper.

For those of us in the know, though—we should be setting examples, not pushing more judgment and shame, and not in a hoity-toity told-you-so sort of way. If life can really be joyous when it's in our hands, we should show that, and share it, too.
posted by sonascope at 2:23 PM on January 10, 2012 [26 favorites]


Picky eating, like many things, seems to correlate with the duration of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding seems to affect children's sense of fullness, as well. Georgia has pretty dismal breastfeeding rates, so maybe there's a lot of picky kids being served hot dogs and French fries because that's all they'll eat. And maybe those poor kids just keep eating.

I think that breastfeeding is going to be revealed to have more and more connections to public health issues and then we are going to have to get over our reluctance to really talk about it. Not just because we're squeamish puritans, but because there is a real reluctance to tell people what they should do with their bodies. Especially poor women. I've been involved in parenting discussions online for years, and some of the exact same attitudes in this thread come up time and time again - "You can't tell a young single mom working at Walmart all day that she has to nurse her baby! Where is she going to get a breast pump? Where is she going to use it? It's just easier to get formula from WIC.". This is true, but the answer isn't "oh, well, Abbot Labs wins again" it's "ok, so how do we make work/life conditions in this country work for babies, even the babies of the poor?". Being able to nurse your children for the optimal amount of time (which we know is longer than 6 months) shouldn't be a privilege, just like having access to nutritious foods shouldn't be a privilege. Heck, having one adult at home planning menus and shopping and cooking and doing childcare and all that other necessary stuff shouldn't be a privilege, either. I think I'm turning Swedish.
posted by Biblio at 2:26 PM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't want to disappoint all the people who believe the US is the special snowflake of the world, but the obesity "epidemic" is hitting Europe and other very affluent countries too. Not as extreme as in America perhaps, but there are plenty of lardasses in Holland too (I'm sitting on one). Too much cheap, tasy food that's instantly available, too much seduction and not enough saints that can resist temptation.

What I hate about any of these sort of health discussions (drink less, don't smoke, exercise, eat your vegs and fruits, don't be obese) is that they turn moral judgments pretty damn quick with people who don't "sin" condemning those who do: smokers look down on alkies, alkies on filthy smokers, health nuts on those slobs watching tv and nobody likes a fatty, not even the fatties ourselves.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:27 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


And this is what I'm talking about:

"I'm not sure what "psychic shit" is being poured anywhere: people are slowly killing their kids"

Equating feeding your children the wrong food so that they'll be growing up obese and are more likelty to suffer a range of health problems is not the same as killing them, unless you want to arrest anybody feeding their kids a cheeseburger.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:32 PM on January 10, 2012


And fuck yeah, you know what I thought when watching Supersize me? Damn, a double whopper would hit the spot right now...
posted by MartinWisse at 2:36 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Equating feeding your children the wrong food so that they'll be growing up obese and are more likelty to suffer a range of health problems is not the same as killing them, unless you want to arrest anybody feeding their kids a cheeseburger.

In 2007, diabetes was listed as the underlying cause on 71,382 death certificates and was listed as a contributing factor on an additional 160,022 death certificates

posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:53 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's say you know a kid who's obese, and he's feeling bad that he can't keep up in sports, gets picked on, and is socially ostracized. Maybe he's also dealing with body image/self esteem issues. You want to help. Do you:
a) Rail against society's obsession with thinness, lobby for the government to regulate or outlaw certain food choices, blame poverty, HFCS, and the advertising industry, while telling the kid he's perfect just the way he is, or
b) Help him lose weight
Because I'm 100% on board that his problems aren't his fault and society is fucked up and the system sucks and fast food companies and their advertisers are scum. But one of those choices above has a small chance of helping and the other is just tilting at windmills.
posted by rocket88 at 2:57 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Or
c) put down the Choose Your Own Adventure and recognise that life is not comprised of simple either/or distinctions.
posted by howfar at 3:12 PM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Which one of those options covers putting up a sign outside his house telling him to stop being fat?

No one has suggested that you should ignore individual weight problems because there are societal problems, nothing is gained by suggesting that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:16 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Uhh, you suggested the very exact same thing upthread:

Obesity in America is a systemic problem, I don't know why people keep insisting that it has individual solutions.
posted by formless at 3:32 PM on January 10, 2012


Yes, I said that the obesity problem in America is a societal level problem with societal level solutions and that it cannot be solved without using purely individual level solutions. I never said "don't bother trying to lose weight."

Stop pretending to be daft to score cheap points.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:39 PM on January 10, 2012


Uhh, you suggested the very exact same thing upthread:

Obesity in America is a systemic problem, I don't know why people keep insisting that it has individual solutions.


The existence of individual solutions to individual problems is not the same thing as individual solutions to a systemic problem. If the building is on fire my individual solution of going outside is not much use to the people suffering the systemic problem of being trapped on the 4th floor.
posted by howfar at 3:39 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or
c) put down the Choose Your Own Adventure and recognise that life is not comprised of simple either/or distinctions.


I agree, but many of this thread's responses to the problem of obesity have been along the lines of a) above. It's not that they aren't correct, but assigning blame for a problem often doesn't contribute to its solution.
posted by rocket88 at 3:42 PM on January 10, 2012


Yes, I said that the obesity problem in America is a societal level problem with societal level solutions and that it cannot be solved without using purely individual level solutions

Right, but each individual can solve their individual obesity problem using individual solutions.

I'm not saying the system isn't broken. The food system in the US is broken, there are a lot causes of the obesity epidemic.

But that doesn't mean individuals can't make personal choices that lead to healthier lives. We should work on both sides, the social and the personal.
posted by formless at 3:49 PM on January 10, 2012


I think the campaign is a good idea. All the people that I know who are fat are fat because they eat too much, in terms in quantity and quality, myself included, and they're also inactive. I'm starting the new year off trying, once again, to eat better. I spent $100 last week on groceries, fresh veggies, salad stuff, lean meats, etc., and I opened my fridge when I was hungry a few days later and thought there was nothing in there to eat. I was looking at a fridge filled with fresh food and I'm thinking I should go out for pizza or tacos.

Changing habits is really hard under the best of circumstances. Changing food habits even more so I think. We all eat certain foods, whether it's based on the food we grew up eating or food that we're used to eating. For me, having the fridge full of veggies was just a pain (at that moment). I had to think about what to do with the head of cabbage, broccoli or brussels sprouts, all of which I like, but it seemed a chore to think about what to do with them. Ordering a pizza just seemed easier (but I resisted). Sure meal planning is good and fine but the reality is, sometimes you're hungry and lazy or tired or just don't want to cook. I'm a good home cook and I have dozens of cookbooks, a stand mixer, food processor, blender, copper pots, tons of kitchen bells and whistles and I can cook healthy food just as easily as fatty, overly processed food but it's hard to get to that place where a healthy choice is the first thought that comes to mind. And for people that don't like or know how to cook it's much more difficult.

When I lived with a fat friend, she was floored that I bought only fresh vegetables, she always bought canned or frozen. She doesn't like to cook and owns no cookbooks. She wants to lose weight and keeps trying quick fixes. When we were in college, we were both "good" eaters but she was a jock and played every sport and I was one of those skinny people that could eat whatever they wanted. Age caught up with me (and with her) but she's had a stressful life and developed especially bad eating habits. She needs to lose about 100 pounds and I need to lose about 35.

I lost weight on Weight Watchers several years ago when I was unemployed. I couldn't afford to eat out, I had plenty of time to work out and I needed a distraction from what felt like sending resumes into online black holes. Then I got a job, a stressful job. I had money to eat out, less time to work out, and I started de-stressing in front of the TV with pizza, lasagna, tacos and glasses of wine. I fell right back into my old habits, they're comfortable and familiar and unconscious. So, I'm at it again.

So, I think the reminders are a good thing. Give people pause when they think of going through the fast food drive-thru.
posted by shoesietart at 4:09 PM on January 10, 2012


I don't think this campaign is perfect, at all, but I do think that it (along with the other things mentioned, like the clinician work) represents a baby step towards thinking about the systemic changes that are needed to actually make a dent in the problem. I suspect we will look back on this as ineffective and maybe misguided, but as an initial step in a long history of learning how to effectively approach the issue.
posted by Forktine at 4:37 PM on January 10, 2012


These threads always make me hungry.
posted by naoko at 5:43 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Modern American culture is all about denying reality and pursuing stupid fantasies. The Tea Party ignoring basic math and squalling about entitlements with one hand out, the evangelical right and their magical fantasy kingdom, obese people saying they have to eat fast food to avoid hunger, underwater home owners thinking a refi program will make them able to afford their house. Everyone thinking everything will be handed to them soon enough, probably right around the time they lose 30 pounds, and all they have to do in the meantime is drive around in their SUV and consume. Feeding your children till they pop and making excuses about it happens because its culturally ok to simply not do unpleasant but necessary things and its culturally ok to talk complete rubbish about simple facts.
posted by fshgrl at 5:57 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been overweight since age 6. I've accepted that the world will always hate me. Maybe the next life will be better. *shrug*
posted by SPrintF at 6:05 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there anybody anywhere who went to elementary school with a fat kid who wasn't constantly picked on for it?

I live in Georgia and (regardless of anything else about the campaign)the billboards make me want to cry for the fat kids who are just going to be bullied a little bit more because of this. If we agree that it's not the kids' fault, and it seems that we do, why hold the kids up for ridicule like this? The money being spent on these unpleasant ads could have surely been used in the campaign in some other less mean way.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:22 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]



What blows my mind in these threads is how much anger there is, from some posters, towards poor people who don't eat and think about food the same way they do.

Perfect example of why we have so much wealth inequality in this country: People hate the poor. Maybe not as an abstract concept, but, an actually poor person: Yeah, there's a lot of hostility. I mean, "Why don't these poor fat people just eat beans and rice or maybe condensed celery soup!?" Seriously? It's the same thing republicans complain about whenever anyone poor buys anything nice for themselves. It's like you want poor people to suffer for being poor. There's food that's delicious and satisfying out there, that's also low calorie. But that stuff is way more expensive then snickers bars and the McD's dollar menu. Yes, it's possible that they could live off beans and rice in appropriate amounts and never eat anything tasty but who the fuck is actually going to do that?

Instead, what we get is this angry ranting which basically boils down to being mad that they might want to enjoy something pleasurable, instead of suffering constantly due to their poverty (or spend time cooking and cleaning instead of watching TV)

Food is just one aspect, but it's probably the most common manifestation on Metafilter. Another example would be complaining about poor people buying nice things for themselves when they save up some money, etc.

--
First, let's start with the school lunch. This is a US Department of Ag initiative. During the Depression the idea was to provide as many calories as a kid would need in a DAY, just in case it was the only meal he or she might eat that day. Somehow, that is still the norm. Loaded with fat and carbs, the school lunch is ballast. Also, we've added a school breakfast, so that's another shot of carbs and fat. -- Ruthless Bunny
There are probably lots of kids for whom it will be the only meal of the day, especially in Georgia.
We all know this is not food, it's a food-like substance. I believe that if the school lunch changed materially, and the snack and pop machines were eliminated from school, that 50% of your problem could be addressed that way. -- Ruthless Bunny
Ugh, enough with this 'food like substance' stuff. Food is food. The fact you don't morally approve of it doesn't transform it into 'not food'

I'm all for making school lunches healthier, and the school lunch program is ridiculously politicized. It could obviously be better.

Anyway, this program is just trying to shock people because they want people to notice they are doing something, without spending enough money to actually make changes that will work (like better school lunches)
I live in Atlanta and the two types of billboards I see the most are the ones targeting obesity and the ones targeting meth.
Hey, that gives me an idea! Why not just give fat kids meth!? Solve two problems at once.
This is especially true when the real problem isn't people not cooking, it's obesity. Getting people to cook at home can help that problem, it's almost certainly part of the solution, but's not all of the problem. I cook all the time and make food that's just as unhealthy as going out; getting people to eat healthier food, whether homemade or not, is more important. -- Bulgaroktonos
Yeah, why do people think cooking is a panacea for weight? It's easy to cook food that's loaded with fat, and delicious. For example, I tried making these French fries a couple times and they were really good.

Plus, there's the whole issue of cleaning as well. Even if cooking is fun cleaning up all the pots and pans afterwards is not.
That was a pretty crappy piece of social-analysis by anecdata. I would say that nothing at all that we know about the study of happiness suggests that anyone, poor or wealthy, can significantly improve their overall happiness by being obese. -- yoink
He didn't say they could increase their overall happiness by being obese, he said they could increase their immediate happiness by eating tasty junk food, as opposed to trying to delay gratification and enjoy being skinny later.
Several of us have linked to or referenced large scale and well controlled studies to back up our opinions. -- yoink
None of which have anything to do with what Coates was saying, not that it would be difficult to show his premise as true using various studies.
Last night I took a fucking can of condensed celery soup (organic) that cost me $2.49 in Manhattan. 3 servings but I ate it all because I'm a big guy. Then I added a red pepper $.79 and an onion ~$.50. I also ate a piece of wheat bread. -- gagglezoomer
Wow, that sounds satsfying. Maybe we should just start feeding poor people gruel out of big vats again. Organic gruel of course. I'm sure they would totally give up eating at McDonalds.
So are adult literacy campaigns also evil? After all, you can't tell illiterate people that becoming literate will help them without implying that being illiterate isn't as good as being literate. It's pretty clearly illiteracy-shaming. - yoink
That is completely ridiculous. Anyone with a brain knows that there is positive and negative encouragement. "reading is awesome" won't shame anyone who doesn't know how to read anymore then "skydiving is awesome" shames people who don't know how to skydive.
In 2007, diabetes was listed as the underlying cause on 71,382 death certificates and was listed as a contributing factor on an additional 160,022 death certificates - Threeway Handshake
By that metric, teaching kids how to drive is also 'killing' them since driving results in a lot of death.
posted by delmoi at 8:44 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, why do people think cooking is a panacea for weight? It's easy to cook food that's loaded with fat, and delicious.

Sure, but it's equally easy to cook food that's healthy, whereas getting healthy food from a restaurant is much more difficult. Restaurant meals contain far more calories than a healthy version of the same thing made at home (restaurants lean on fat, especially butter, to give their food more flavor; at home you can lean on spices for flavor, and that means fewer calories.) Many of the options which are perceived as "healthy" on restaurant menus (like, say, Asian salad with grilled salmon) are often huge calorie bombs. The dinner-sized version of that salad at Chili's is over 1000 calories (in fact, this is true of nearly every one of their "Large" salads). In comparison, a classic Chili's burger (sans fries) has an arguably-better fat/carb/protein ratio and fewer calories, at 800 (neither item should have that kind of calorie count if cooked in a healthy way at home.) And Chili's is a relatively good restaurant, in that it prints calorie counts and nutritional info for some of its dishes in the menu (although whether those counts are accurate is another question). Most places don't display any health information on the menu at all.

In short: eating out makes it harder to cut calories and harder to eat good, healthy food. Cooking at home isn't a panacea for significant weight loss, but it does make it a whole lot easier.

Wow, that sounds satsfying. Maybe we should just start feeding poor people gruel out of big vats again. Organic gruel of course. I'm sure they would totally give up eating at McDonalds.

See, the thing is that this celery-soup-with-fresh-veggies meal sounds great to me, and quite satisfying -- much more so than McDonalds, which I don't really like. The same goes for homemade beans and rice. This is all a matter of palate and taste. You may think that these meals aren't "satisfying" and amount to "suffering constantly", but I think that has more to do with you than it does the meals.

This is why I think it's important to teach people how to make good healthy food -- isn't that the point of cooking? Nobody wants to spend an hour in the kitchen so they can eat things they don't like; the key is to make healthy (or at least healthier-than-the-restaurant-version) things you do like.
posted by vorfeed at 10:16 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


See, the thing is that this celery-soup-with-fresh-veggies meal sounds great to me, and quite satisfying -- much more so than McDonalds, which I don't really like. The same goes for homemade beans and rice. This is all a matter of palate and taste. You may think that these meals aren't "satisfying" and amount to "suffering constantly", but I think that has more to do with you than it does the meals.

There's a fair degree of truth to this. Healthy eating is like a lot of healthy activities - it takes work and is rewarding over a longer term and on a different level than unhealthy alternatives. This is what people upthread were trying to say about not wanting to eat a birthday cake every day. Sure, there's part of me that can understand the appeal of eating a birthday cake or bloomin onion or bag of doritos every day, but to only understand that appeal is to be the guy who's all "let's get wasted!!1" when your friends want to go out for a hike

Step 1 is, Americans have to stop thinking eating until you feel sick and hate yourself and have to nap is totally fucking awesome
posted by crayz at 10:30 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


What if they do develop some drug like in that previous mefi post.

I would be interested in reading peoples responses after something effective like that is developed and passes human testing.
posted by Iax at 10:36 PM on January 10, 2012


I think a big part of the problem is the fear that seems to be so prevalent nowadays. Don't let little Jimmy play in the woods -- there could be hunters out there! Don't let Jane ride her bike in the neighborhood -- she could get hit by a car! And besides, there are pedophiles EVERYWHERE -- didn't you see the news about that poor girl in Wisconsin??

Best to keep them inside. Not to worry, they get plenty of exercise playing Wii. We'll get em a NordicTrack when they're older.
posted by LordSludge at 11:09 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]



Yes, I said that the obesity problem in America is a societal level problem with societal level solutions and that it cannot be solved without using purely individual level solutions

Right, but each individual can solve their individual obesity problem using individual solutions.


Wrong.

If only everybody cycled to work and didn't use their cars than we wouldn't have global warming, but it's pretty clear that this isn't a realistic solution to the problem as we all know that without the right infrastructure for many people it's just not possible to bike to work -- too far away, too dangerous, they need to travel for their jobs -- not to mention that there are other sources of CO2 you can't replace by biking.

In theory it should be possible for anybody to eat a healthy diet, have enough exercise and not be overweight, but it's also clear that such a simple solution is not good enough for the majority of people or America wouldn't have an obesity crisis in the first place.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:12 AM on January 11, 2012


Sure, there's part of me that can understand the appeal of eating a birthday cake or bloomin onion or bag of doritos every day, but to only understand that appeal is to be the guy who's all "let's get wasted!!1" when your friends want to go out for a hike
Well, there's nothing preventing 'that guy' from eating birthday cake, while his friends munch on Kale, or whatever. There isn't nearly the same 'incompatibility' as with hiking and getting hammered.

The other thing is, you know, people like eating junk food. It tastes good. It's good for you guys that you've internalized not wanting to eat unhealthy food all the time, but really, it's not the default for everyone.

It's like if you had a beautiful sex partner who was always ready to go. Some people have low sex drives and might not have that much sex with them. Other people would have a lot.

People who say things like "I just had some soup and I'm fine" or think it's weird that people like eating junk food -- it's like people with low sex drives being flabbergasted that someone might want to have sex every day, instead of once a month.

Of course, with sex there isn't the same moral dimension (there's another moral dimension, of course, but you don't see many people complain about people having sex on metafilter). So you end up with this situation where people are not only flabbergasted that people might actually enjoy eating foods, but also that but also look down on anyone who does as being somehow weaker or whatever. It's ridiculous.

The other thing, in terms of cost. There is plenty of food that's delicious and low-cal, but it tends to be pretty expensive. Yeah you can eat nothing but heads of lettuce, baked potatoes, and whey but it's not something people will enjoy doing.
posted by delmoi at 4:15 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The other thing is, you know, people like eating junk food. It tastes good. It's good for you guys that you've internalized not wanting to eat unhealthy food all the time, but really, it's not the default for everyone.

It's like if you had a beautiful sex partner who was always ready to go. Some people have low sex drives and might not have that much sex with them. Other people would have a lot.


Honestly, junk food disgusts me. It is too fatty, too salty just blowing out all the senses. In your sex analogy, its like the guy who spends all his money on cheap prostitutes every night. You can make the argument that he just likes sex more than you and me. But I'd make the argument that he's a bit lonely and broken and his craving is a symptom of that.

There's this pervasive culture in the United States of bigger, saltier, fatter equals better. You see it in every metafilter thread where someone posts about how someone has cooked some monstrosity like a pure bacon fat burger with extra bacon. You open up the thread and there's the usual "I want this now!" type comments. I know most people are joking but there's some truth underneath that humor.

The other thing, in terms of cost. There is plenty of food that's delicious and low-cal, but it tends to be pretty expensive. Yeah you can eat nothing but heads of lettuce, baked potatoes, and whey but it's not something people will enjoy doing.

I love food so I am a bit offended that you characterize people who love good food as Kale and lettuce eaters. I actually hate Kale.

Lets be specific. For lunch, I had a pan fried chicken breast over a stew of white beans and tomato sauce. Delicious. The breast was cut off a whole chicken which are relatively cheap things in most markets. Beans were cheap. The tomato sauce was made with tomatoes and some onions and some spices. It wasn't ridiculously hard to make either.
posted by vacapinta at 6:06 AM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Honestly, junk food disgusts me. It is too fatty, too salty just blowing out all the senses. In your sex analogy, its like the guy who spends all his money on cheap prostitutes every night. You can make the argument that he just likes sex more than you and me. But I'd make the argument that he's a bit lonely and broken and his craving is a symptom of that.

This expresses my thoughts on the matter. Honestly, I don't know if it is an issue of brain chemistry that I don't find junk food compelling, or maybe because of my childhood, in which junk food was a rare reward but never part of normal eating. (Seriously, for all of elementary school, my parents used fast food as a once a year special treat. I'd get so excited about that stupid hamburger, it was like they were handing me a million dollars.)

Either way, the reality now is that the way I eat day to day just doesn't have a lot in common with the way an average person eats, I think. At least when I look at people's carts in the grocery store, their food choices are definitely not the same as mine. It's not deprivation at all -- I eat the way I do because it is easy, not all that expensive, and makes me happy. But I'm not saying it's a panacea for a society that has a broken relationship with food, either -- these things are solved culturally and politically, not individually.

The other thing, in terms of cost. There is plenty of food that's delicious and low-cal, but it tends to be pretty expensive. Yeah you can eat nothing but heads of lettuce, baked potatoes, and whey but it's not something people will enjoy doing.

I dunno. I eat fairly cheap, but I eat very tasty. Dinner was beef in an oniony sauce, with rice and steamed frozen vegies on the side. Not deprivation food at all, and definitely not expensive or difficult to make. Again, I'm not saying that this is some model for how everyone should eat, just that it's an example of extremely flavorful and satisfying week-night cooking that was not much, if at all, more expensive than getting fast food.
posted by Forktine at 6:22 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I now have horrible arthritis in both arms and shoulders from carting home good foods for my kids. Both got nursed just over 2 years. We were very poor.
One thing really irks me about this whole debate of McDonalds/fast foods vs healthy foods for poor people:
You can't go to a resteraunt and use an EBT card to pay. If cash is short then fast food places actually are not a preferred means of getting food. 
I suppose if you were working poor with no EBT you might go out to eat more. 
Re: Farmer's Markets: in my town supposedly they take EBT, not true actually. They always seem to have 'forgotten' the card processing machine. I can tell you from bitter experience that cheap bags of peppers can go bad FAST! Better make that ajvar right now!
I think I'll stick to Safeway and Fred Meyer's and the local fish deli, at least I know they'll take EBT and not look at me like I am scum.
Both my kids are good cooks. 
Re: Second hand fat, if you cook a fast food place, even if you eat NOTHING at work, and follow a low fat diet ay home, the fat in the air can still raise your cholesterol. You breathe it in. 
Re: Europe, I lived in Sarajevo a year, you could get a lot of really greasy food there, and sweets, or you could buy exactly how much you needed and pay less, or even go out for soup, and have that be cheaper than eating at home as well as being pretty healthy.
I saw damn few fat people there.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:39 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's this pervasive culture in the United States of bigger, saltier, fatter equals better. You see it in every metafilter thread where someone posts about how someone has cooked some monstrosity like a pure bacon fat burger with extra bacon. You open up the thread and there's the usual "I want this now!" type comments. I know most people are joking but there's some truth underneath that humor.

The reason we have a culture of bigger, saltier, fatter equals better is because many people (probably most) actually do prefer those things. There are good reasons for it, too, in a time when food was less plentiful. It's good that there are people who think that junk food tastes gross, but most people don't, so convincing people that junk food is gross is not really a winning strategy.

I dunno. I eat fairly cheap, but I eat very tasty. Dinner was beef in an oniony sauce, with rice and steamed frozen vegies on the side. Not deprivation food at all, and definitely not expensive or difficult to make.

That meal sounds good, but as an overweight person, I cannot eat that and lose weight. The rules are different for people that already overweight, and all the lifelong thin people in the world coming in to brag about their delicious meals won't change that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:55 AM on January 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's good that there are people who think that junk food tastes gross, but most people don't, so convincing people that junk food is gross is not really a winning strategy.

Well I like smoking and fucking without a condom so screw this whole preventing preventative diseases thing, yeah? Let's have fun!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:09 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well I like smoking and fucking without a condom so screw this whole preventing preventative diseases thing, yeah? Let's have fun!

Condom use went up because people didn't want to get diseases, not because some guy raved to them about how sex without a condom felt "gross." I was making a comment about what strategies will work, not saying that it's stupid to try to deal with the obesity problem.

I suspect that you knew that, but it got in the way of your dumb joke, so you ignored it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:16 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suspect that you knew that, but it got in the way of your dumb joke, so you ignored it.

FYI, the ads are not about "junk food tasting gross," the ads are about childhood obesity being bad. People are making the excuse that good food tastes bad and that junk food tastes good, and that doing dishes is hard.

and all the lifelong thin people in the world coming in to brag about their delicious meals won't change that.

Wow. Implying that I have been thin for my entire life? Do you know how hard I have worked? How hard anybody has worked? Do you sit at the end of marathons and disparage the runners being born able to complete the race?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:26 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


FYI, the ads are not about "junk food tasting gross," the ads are about childhood obesity being bad. People are making the excuse that good food tastes bad and that junk food tastes good, and that doing dishes is hard.

I know what the ads are about, I was responding to a specific thing someone else said about how they felt that junk food tasted gross. I don't think that will work as an argument in favor of no eating junk food because a lot of people don't feel that way. I wasn't talking about the ad campaign, which was pretty clear from the fact that I quoted vacapinta and not anything from the article.

Wow. Implying that I have been thin for my entire life? Do you know how hard I have worked? How hard anybody has worked? Do you sit at the end of marathons and disparage the runners being born able to complete the race?

I said that the specific meal that SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOU mentioned is not a diet I could eat as an overweight person and lose weight, a more extreme diet is necessary for me, because I've been overweight since I was in fourth grade; a diet that works for a person who has been thin all their life won't work for me. I never said anything TO or ABOUT you, and I have no idea why you've decided to be all fighty and weird to me like I did.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:35 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


What blows my mind in these threads is how much anger there is, from some posters, towards poor people who don't eat and think about food the same way they do.

With all due respect, I think this is bullshit. All of the obese people I know are middle class and have access to the same or better resources I do. I don't know who first equated obese people with poor people in this thread but I'm going to guess it was someone on the other side of the argument.

99% of my overweight friends can and have lost significant amounts of weight. They don't keep it off because they inevitably start eating too much again. And not too much kale either.
posted by fshgrl at 7:39 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I never said anything TO or ABOUT you

So you were just assuming those things about somebody else, then? That's OK?

I know what the ads are about, I was responding to a specific thing someone else said about how they felt that junk food tasted gross.

Which was, in turn, a response to people saying how everybody loves junk food.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:41 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


So you were just assuming those things about somebody else, then? That's OK?

Jesus Fucking Christ, I never said ANYONE in specific had been thin their whole lives; I said that the solutions that keep thin people thin will not make most fat people thin. If you have any reason to disagree with that, let me know; if you'd like to huff and puff and beat your chest about made up bullshit, I'll be somewhere else.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:47 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jesus Fucking Christ, I never said ANYONE in specific had been thin their whole lives;

and all the lifelong thin people in the world coming in to brag about their delicious meals won't change that.

Right.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


That meal sounds good, but as an overweight person, I cannot eat that and lose weight. The rules are different for people that already overweight, and all the lifelong thin people in the world coming in to brag about their delicious meals won't change that.

I sure wasn't trying to brag, and I explicitly said that I wasn't presenting myself or my meal as a model.

I don't see how it is an automatically fattening meal, though. There are people who can't eat the rice (and I only have just enough to soak up the sauce), but a small piece of cube steak with a big pile of vegetables? But as always, one's relationship with food in general probably matters as much or more than the specific foods themselves.
posted by Forktine at 8:22 AM on January 11, 2012


I used to be a pack a day smoker. I LOVED cigarettes, they were like delicious candy, perfect companion to coffee and alcohol, perfect social prop and ice-breaker, and as a dude of gravity myself, a great way to keep me from overeating. I stopped because I figured out that the nicotine was fucking with my moods, so I stopped, as in, just gave my pack to my roommate and stopped. To me, it's that easy; I don't even say I "quit" smoking, because "quitting" something always seemed to be accompanied by huge amounts of effort and suffering and withdrawal. Frankly, I had more trouble reducing my daily coffee intake to just one mug (and then eventually none) than I ever did "quitting" smoking.

When I see my friends trying to quit smoking, like really REALLY trying, and failing, it seems so alien to me: "I've done good today, I've only had 5 cigarettes" "I tried the gum, but I ended up having a cig at the bar, I'm so ashamed" "I still have cigs left in my pack, and I worked a double today, go me!" beating themselves up, buying patches or pills that give them nightmares; I feel so sad, because all I had to do was give my pack away. Hell, I didn't even have to do that, I straight up didn't want to smoke anymore.

I would be at best a dick, and at worst clueless if I told those friends of mine, struggling against their own physiology trying to save themselves, that quitting smoking is "easy" or they are "ignorant" or "weak" for their inability to do so, but that's so much of what I see in this thread.

I'd love to believe that the liberal moral panic I see in here is really "concern" for the fat kids, (because if it takes fat kids getting picked on EVEN MORE to get their parents to learn to cook a meal, so be it, gotta break some eggs... but not too many, amirite there tubby? I'm just kidding, look how much I care about you, I made these posters!) and overweight people in general, but I remember that awful Chris Christie thread too well.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:25 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't see how it is an automatically fattening meal, though. There are people who can't eat the rice (and I only have just enough to soak up the sauce), but a small piece of cube steak with a big pile of vegetables? But as always, one's relationship with food in general probably matters as much or more than the specific foods themselves.

Well, part of it is the number of calories is possibly higher than I could do on a diet designed to get me to a healthy weight in a reasonable period of time. For me that comes to about 1300 calories or so a day, which might well accomodate the meal described, but it might not depending on specifics of serving size.

The other issue is that people who are lifelong overeaters, like myself, have a lot of trouble eating smaller amounts without feeling famished. When I've been most successful at losing weight (and I've been close to a healthy weight, but never quite there), it's because I've temporarily summoned up the willpower to deal with being hungry all the time, but it's never been because I feel satisfied with small meals. That "just enough to soak up the sauce" is very, very difficult for a person who has been overweight for a long period of time to limit themselves to because their brain.

In my own experience, that meal would end with me eating a small bit of steak, some veggies, all the rice I made, and then...everything else that wasn't nailed down in the house. I would eat the original meal and still be ravenously hungry because my body and brain are used to things I'm not giving them.

Honestly, it's a lot like alcoholism; I can have a drink and be fine, but my uncle can't. He can eat a little bit of rice and be fine, but my reaction to eating a little bit of rice is going to resemble his reaction to having one drink.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:35 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


that quitting smoking is "easy" or they are "ignorant" or "weak" for their inability to do so, but that's so much of what I see in this thread.

Did you read this same thread as me? Zero people said that losing weight is easy.

And even with quotes in the article like,

"When the doctor said she had type 2 diabetes, I didn’t realize what we ate would make her sick… I just always thought she was thick like her mama."

which can pretty much be charitably described as being "ignorant," only a single person said the word ignorant before you did, and that was in a sentence saying that they were not, in fact "ignorant."

Only a single person said "weak" as well, which was in a paragraph about these supposed other people calling others weak, which isn't in this thread either.

Did I accidentally stumble onto an "ignore" button and hide a bunch of posts?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:37 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]




they don't know how to properly feed their kids

Much more likely, they do know how but don't, the same way I know how to eat very healthy but certainly don't always.

I'm with those who suggest incentiving healthy food through subsidies. Why on earth should we subsidize sugar or corn syrup?

I've been waiting 30+ years for a president who would say "stop drinking Coke and drink more water" ... I'll take the First Lady too.

If you can't prepare a simple, healthy meal for your children without feeding them processed, fast-food garbage that will endanger their long-term health, I'd submit that you should not be having children.

My guess is you don't have children, or are relatively wealthy. Dinner is not easy for any parents.

[lots of good ideas]

I know it all sounds up to the individual but if people push towards having these things in bulk, perhaps we can change our overall mindset and as a whole, everyone can get healthier.


Well it is 2012. Or the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. One of those, I think.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:44 AM on January 11, 2012


There's food that's delicious and satisfying out there, that's also low calorie. But that stuff is way more expensive then snickers bars and the McD's dollar menu. Yes, it's possible that they could live off beans and rice in appropriate amounts and never eat anything tasty but who the fuck is actually going to do that?

It isn't expensive to buy delicious and satisfying (and healthy) food. Someone way up there mentioned the $5/person/day received for SNAP. We eat out very rarely (too expensive) and both schoolkids and husband take lunches from home almost every day and we spend $3-4/person/day on ALL of our groceries - not just food. Even ignoring the toddler that doesn't eat much (although she spills lots), we spend less than $5/person/day on groceries. And that includes cat food and diapers and whatnot - not just food. We can't afford organic, and we stick to cheap meat only - no steaks for us, but we eat well. Whole grains, plenty of vegetables, lots of variety. We haven't had beans and rice for weeks.

It doesn't take a lot of money, but it does take a huge amount of time, effort, knowledge, and determination. I spend a couple of hours a week planning a menu, checking my grocery store ad for sales, and making a shopping list, and 2-3 hours (including travel time) every Sunday afternoon shopping. I struggle with trying to cook while making my older kids do their homework and the younger kids not destroy anything in the meantime. My husband and I know how to do enough basic cooking and how to find more recipes and instructions that we don't have trouble making a variety of meals. And we push each other to stick to the menu, because either of us on our own would be a whole lot more likely at the end of a long day to blow it off and just order a damn pizza.

We struck the jackpot on having the resources (except money) that allow us to feed our children well and it's important to us to do it. But it takes so damn much work. And the kids are constantly begging for crap food and it takes even more work to convince them that they might actually like the food we're giving them if they try it, and that they'll survive their childhood without Froot Loops for breakfast and the cupcakes and other crap "everybody else" has in their lunches at school. If we only knew how to fix one or two healthy meals, if we didn't get home early enough to spend an hour in the kitchen every night, if we hadn't both grown up learning to enjoy a variety of healthy foods, if there weren't two of us to share the load, it would be even harder and the motivation would have to be even stronger to do it. I'm not sure that we could.

Childhood obesity is not the same problem as adult obesity. Adults are fat for a whole lot of reasons and it's really really difficult for most fat adults to get thin. But very few kids are obese for reasons other than eating poorly and exercising too little. Parents can control that, but it's not easy. They have to see the need and be highly motivated to do the work. If this ad campaign encourages parents that it's worth the sacrifices, that's a good thing. Ending unhealthy food subsidies, making school lunches healthier, and other changes could make the job easier for parents, but it's never going to be as easy to cook healthy food as it is to buy a Happy Meal. Even if all vegetables were free and chefs and nutritionists were available for free in-home cooking lessons, it would take a lot of time and effort that parents have to be willing to give up to keeping their kids healthy.
posted by Dojie at 9:53 AM on January 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


There's a lot of contradictory stuff being thrown about in this thread about value of time, availability of time, and time spent (or wasted) cooking. But it's not just the time cooking - I spend quite a bit of time planning food for the week in addition to cooking it. It's a lot of effort and decision-making, and if your kids are picky, it's mentally taxing as well as time consuming.

I happen to enjoy the cooking process itself and find it relaxing, but along with the rest, it's a solid chunk of my available household management effort. I can't predict how I'd handle it as a single parent or half of a poor couple, but I'm pretty sure it would be less healthy and include more processed food. You need (at least) time and good executive-level functioning to feed a family healthy home-cooked meals, and money doesn't hurt either.

So put up all the posters you want, if you want people to eat better, step one is better working conditions (e.g more home time) for more people. Good luck with that in the current political environment.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 10:02 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


The time I spend watching TV makes me less tired

I don't think this belief has been proven out by research.

See "Sensory Confusion." Quote:

"What is more surprising is that the sense of relaxation ends when the set is turned off, but the feelings of passivity and lowered alertness continue. Survey participants commonly reflect that television has somehow absorbed or sucked out their energy, leaving them depleted. They say they have more difficulty concentrating after viewing than before. In contrast, they rarely indicate such difficulty after reading. After playing sports or engaging in hobbies, people report improvements in mood. After watching TV, people's moods are about the same or worse than before.

"Thus, the irony of TV: people watch a great deal longer than they plan to, even though prolonged viewing is less rewarding. In our ESM studies the longer people sat in front of the set, the less satisfaction they said they derived from it. When signaled, heavy viewers (those who consistently watch more than four hours a day) tended to report on their ESM sheets that they enjoy TV less than light viewers did (less than two hours a day)."


/derail
posted by mrgrimm at 10:03 AM on January 11, 2012


Remember that the ad campaign is aimed at educating parents (in a shocking way) about raising their children in a way that will keep them from being obese.

I think the bigger issue is child obesity, and not being fat or overweight in general. You can be overweight and not fat, you can be fat but not obese. In fact, if you are overweight or fat, you can still be very healthy or athletic (not to mention you can be overweight or fat and still be super attractive).

If a child is obese, unfortunately, then the child may have health problems for the rest of their life. I'm working with the definition that obesity means being overweight to the point of being unhealthy, by some standard established by the CDC.

Nobody is telling anybody to ignore the problem, or that the solution is easy. People are saying that the child obesity problem is deep and systemic, and others are saying that the solution is ultimately based on common sense. Are stances these controversial? Perhaps.

The common solutions by all people here are (1) to make wholesome, fresh, tasty, healthy food accessible, perhaps even fast, and cheap; (2) to ensure that people understand that child obesity is unhealthy; and (3) to change the perceptions on fast vs. healthy food.

I think its great that people are promoting the lifestyle of cooking wholesome meals at home, but I don't think that's the practical solution. I've come to learn, based on a lot of empirical data, that a lot of people fucking hate cooking. There's nothing wrong with that.

I am also not comfortable with the fat = poor correlation made in this thread. The problem of child obesity is not exclusive to poor families, and not all poor families have obese children.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:17 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, part of it is the number of calories is possibly higher than I could do on a diet designed to get me to a healthy weight in a reasonable period of time. For me that comes to about 1300 calories or so a day, which might well accomodate the meal described, but it might not depending on specifics of serving size. The other issue is that people who are lifelong overeaters, like myself, have a lot of trouble eating smaller amounts without feeling famished.

1300 calories a day is only slightly more than you'd eat to maintain your current weight as a 5'6", 130 pound middle-aged woman. Assuming that's not you, a diet of just 1300 calories a day is not "a diet designed to get you to a healthy weight in a reasonable period of time", it's a diet which (as you point out) is destined to fail over and over and over again, because it generates insane amounts of hunger.

Calculating your Basal Metabolic Rate (preferably with the help of a nutritionist, not a guess or an online calculator), subtracting 500 calories per day (preferably empty carbs), and eating that for the foreseeable future is a much more reasonable way to try to lose weight. It involves letting go of the "in a reasonable period of time" idea, but IMHO there's no way to do that, anyway. Short of fantastic amounts of willpower, the best way to lose weight and keep it off over the long term is to forget "dieting" and make small, long-term lifestyle changes instead -- lifestyle changes which allow for eating slightly less of stuff like steak and veggies and rice, rather than forcing yourself to try to eat a tiny, disappointing portion of each.

(fyi, just to forestall more of the "lifelong thin people" stuff: I dropped around 20% of my bodyweight this way, and have kept it off since. I know a couple of people who've dropped more like 40% of their bodyweight via the same method -- basically the Hacker's Diet adopted as a lifestyle.)
posted by vorfeed at 10:34 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Of course, now that I'm vegan--a truly First World dietary choice if there ever was one ...

There are tons of vegans by choice in the "second" and "third" worlds (if those words even mean anything anymore). Think of the Jains.

Indian Vegan Welcomes You!

If MD sells happy meals why can't they sell a healthy meal or a veggie meal. No need to add a question mark, because everyone knows the answer already.

Is the answer that they do offer healthier options but not many people choose them?

Many people eat mindlessly...

To be completely honest, here is my #1 tool for reducing the amount of junk I eat, and it came from MetaFilter: To Eat Less, Imagine Eating More

Any time I'm in front of a cake, or a big batch of cookies, or nachos, or fondue, or something that's not a very nutritious part of my diet, I visualize eating a lot of it, like a LOT of it. I don't know if it's the forced simulation of what overeating feels like, or the imagined good tasting of eating treats, or just the forced mindfulness, but something about it totally works for me. I am able to eat one small cookie or half a brownie and stop, or just pass on dessert completely.

On the flip side, I've often found that my weight fluctuates significantly up (5+ pounds) after extended periods of mindless chip/pretzel eating while watching TV.

Sugar is really my bete noir, and I think it's addictive for a lot of people (Big Gulps, drugstore-counter impulse-buy Snickers, etc.). Once I start eating candy, it's really hard for me not to finish the bag. I have to stop and think and really visualize what eating it all would feel like (and then also hide the bag).

I love fatty and carb-loaded foods like ghee, eggs, cheese, avocado, pasta, and bread, but I have no problem managing my intake of anything but sugar.

(fyi, just to forestall more of the "lifelong thin people" stuff: I dropped around 20% of my bodyweight this way, and have kept it off since. I know a couple of people who've dropped more like 40% of their bodyweight via the same method -- basically the Hacker's Diet adopted as a lifestyle.

Anecdatally, I know several people who've lost significant weight (like 220 to 170) by eliminating sweets after their doctors told them their blood sugar was dangerously high. Give up the orange juice ... it's nutritiously near worthless and loaded with sugar!

The other good advice I can offer is if you work in a cubicle job, press your employer hard for a sit/stand desk. Sitting really is a killer. People exercise more and eat less now compared to the 1970s, but we are still more overweight. Most employers are not very cooperative, but times are changing...
posted by mrgrimm at 10:44 AM on January 11, 2012


Agreed on the sit/stand desk -- mine's been out of commission because my office is being repainted, and I've felt noticeably blah the last couple of days.
posted by vorfeed at 10:53 AM on January 11, 2012


When kids depend on their parents to feed them right, a public campaign to shock a parent out of denial or mindless feeding is justified IMO. If advertising had nothing to do with obesity why would food companies waste their money on trying to get more people to eat their food if advertising does not work?
posted by RuvaBlue at 12:15 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Do we really think these ads are trying to create change by shaming fat kids or isn't it more likely these ads are trying to shame the parents of overweight boys and girls, intimating they are letting their kids down?

Because I'm overweight. And looking at these ads didn't make me any more ashamed of how I look, but they made me uneasy about the possibility of letting my son down.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:08 PM on January 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am an average weight, but my four siblings (and both parents) are overweight. At least two have been classified as "morbidly obese". As a child, my parents did NOT have a problem with our weight. On the contrary, there was sometimes an element of PRIDE that we all ate so well. I completely think these billboards serve a positive purpose. I wish my family saw these when I was growing up. At the very least it would have started a conversation that desperately needed to happen.
posted by dhdrum at 2:00 PM on January 11, 2012


I think its great that people are promoting the lifestyle of cooking wholesome meals at home, but I don't think that's the practical solution. I've come to learn, based on a lot of empirical data, that a lot of people fucking hate cooking. There's nothing wrong with that.

This is a great point, and I think it gets at why this is a systemic or cultural issue, not an individual one. Not cooking is no big deal, but if the only things I can buy are Cheesecake Factory-sized portions, and I have to drive to get there, after a totally sedentary but incredibly stressful day at the office, then we have a problem. But there's nothing intrinsically wrong with eating out or buying prepared food; there's everything wrong with many of the restaurant and prepared foods that are actually available to buy.

I am counting on my fingers right now, and I think in an average week I probably eat out about eight times, maybe a bit more. Four or five work lunches, plus two or three date nights or evenings out with friends, and sometimes a weekend breakfast. I make it work in my overall life, because I really value those social experiences and I like eating at tasty places, but it definitely requires thinking and compromises. I have to think about what to order and not order, and eating more at one meal might mean eating less at other meals in the day, or making things balance out during the week. I really wish every restaurant I go to served tapas-style food, or the small portions I see at most sushi places, because then there's no tension between wanting the flavors and the socializing, and being an adult who has to keep an eye on how much I eat.

When I've lived in places where everyone's basic lifestyle was less sedentary, and restaurant portions smaller, those compromises become a lot less involved. The structural issues here are huge, and there's no way to suggest that dealing with them individually makes any sense.
posted by Forktine at 5:23 PM on January 11, 2012


Smoking curbs your appetite. Cigarettes used to be cheap. And kids used to smoke. Now the latter two statements are false (mostly) so of course weight will increase.
posted by Kloryne at 6:33 PM on January 11, 2012


Re: Second hand fat, if you cook a fast food place, even if you eat NOTHING at work, and follow a low fat diet at home, the fat in the air can still raise your cholesterol. You breathe it in.

o_O

Uh.
posted by elizardbits at 10:00 AM on January 12, 2012


RESULTS: All parents of children with a BMI greater than or equal to the 95th percentile classified their child in a category other than "extremely overweight," and 75% of children with a BMI from the 85th to less than the 95th percentile were misclassified as "about right" or "underweight."

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of parents of obese and overweight children underestimate their child's weight status.

MY CONCLUSIONS: The majority of parents have too much kindness and tact to describe their children as "extremely overweight" to strangers.

Do you, dear MeFites, leaving aside all questions of what kind of effect, think the starkness of the design and the message will actually have an impact? I don't know but I would be interested in finding out.

Unfortunately, asking the opinions of random strangers on the internet is about as good as you can do when trying to measure the effectiveness of something this broad. Everyone has an opinion, but there's no possible way to measure whether something like this his helping, hurting, or completely ineffectual in changing childhood obesity.
posted by straight at 10:26 AM on January 12, 2012


Honestly, junk food disgusts me. It is too fatty, too salty just blowing out all the senses. In your sex analogy, its like the guy who spends all his money on cheap prostitutes every night
Well, so what? What difference does it make if it disgusts you? It doesn't disgust most people. That's the point. Your personal tastes are not a moral issue. The fact that you don't enjoy snickers bars does not mean someone is morally corrupt if they do. And the whole point is that a person who goes to hookers every night would also probably be happy having sex with women who also wanted him.

Sex is a bad analogy because the issues are different. Sex involves another person, while food doesn't (not to the same extent, anyway). A better analogy might be watching TV. I don't watch much TV because almost all the content seems like total garbage, and I don't enjoy passively consuming video. My mom was actually pretty strict about letting us watch TV when we were young, and that might play into it (my sister doesn't watch much TV either).

But on the other hand, there are lots of threads on metafilter where people talk about their TV viewing habits. I don't go in there and chastise people for it, because if I did I would be a dick. (Although apparently it's OK to complain about poor people watching TV instead of spending all their time cooking and cleaning up afterwards)

Watching a lot of TV probably doesn't have as big of a health impact as eating too much fast food, but in terms of consequences eating junkfood is probably somewhere in between too much TV and having unprotected sex (There's also the issue of consequences for other people. Lots of people don't like second hand smoke, so smoking around them negatively affects others. Unprotected or reckless sex can cause all kinds of problems for others. But eating too much food doesn't really cause too many problems for other people.

And by the way, While Junk Food vs. 'healthy' food obviously has an impact, there are I'm sure there are plenty of fat people who eat healthy foods by the bucketload. The difference is that junk food probably allows you to consume more calories more easily.
Wow. Implying that I have been thin for my entire life? Do you know how hard I have worked? How hard anybody has worked? Do you sit at the end of marathons and disparage the runners being born able to complete the race?
I lost a ton of weight in my mid 20s by working out every day and counting calories. I still ate junk food, just not much of it. One thing that did change was that after switching to diet pop I no longer like the 'regular' stuff. It's way to syrupy and sweet, etc.

I'm certainly not saying that it's just as easy to lose weight with junk food as it is with healthy food, I'm sure low-cal food makes it easier to hit your calorie levels. But it's not necessary.
With all due respect, I think this is bullshit. All of the obese people I know are middle class and have access to the same or better resources I do. I don't know who first equated obese people with poor people in this thread but I'm going to guess it was someone on the other side of the argument.
I never meant to imply that no one raged on middle class fat people. Just that in particular, most people were talking about the poor in this thread, since obviously poor people are more likely to be fat. Which seems to come down to an argument over whether or not they're fat because they can't afford food that's healthy and delicious, or if it's because they won't get their fat lazy asses off the couch to cook instead of watching TV all day.
I know what the ads are about, I was responding to a specific thing someone else said about how they felt that junk food tasted gross.
Which was, in turn, a response to people saying how everybody loves junk food.
A: Again, what's with the rage? It's so bizarre that people could flip out so hard about the fact other people prefer different foods then them and B: it was a response to me and I did not say everyone loved junk food. In fact, the central premise of the post was that people had different tastes, and that therefore pointing out how an whether an individual, personally, does not like junkfood is completely irrelevant to whether or not other people like it.
posted by delmoi at 5:11 PM on January 12, 2012


You're the one who was claiming that suggesting meals like beans and rice and celery soup is equivalent to "wanting poor people to suffer" and "feeding poor people gruel out of big vats again". That's not exactly "people have different tastes" -- it's just more of the same overheated moral rhetoric you're complaining about, only from the other direction.

Also, this: But eating too much food doesn't really cause too many problems for other people.

This is nonsense. Eating too much food is one of the primary causes of both the number-one (heart disease) and number-six (diabetes) causes of death in this country, and lots of unnecessary death and suffering sure as fuck causes problems for others. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that overeating has caused utter tragedy in the lives of many of my family and friends, and I'm by no means alone in that.
posted by vorfeed at 8:07 PM on January 12, 2012


You're the one who was claiming that suggesting meals like beans and rice and celery soup is equivalent to "wanting poor people to suffer" and "feeding poor people gruel out of big vats again".
Right...
That's not exactly "people have different tastes"
Yeah, it is. If everyone had the same tastes, then making poor people eat bland food wouldn't be a problem. However, because people have different tastes, some of the people would be deprived of eating the food they enjoy eating.

And that's the thing: People seem to be arguing that poor people ought to just voluntarily give up junk food and, since they can't afford expensive, tasty, healthy food they should instead eat bland stuff that doesn't appeal to them. And that their failure to do so is something people should get angry about, even though upper middle class people don't have to do that: there's a wide variety of delicious, healthy, yet expensive food they can buy.

Apparently some people then chime in saying they like bland food and they actually don't like junk food and are angry about it for some reason. The point of this is not clear.
But eating too much food doesn't really cause too many problems for other people.
This is nonsense. Eating too much food is one of the primary causes of both the number-one (heart disease) and number-six (diabetes) causes of death in this country ... I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that overeating has caused utter tragedy in the lives of many of my family and friends, and I'm by no means alone in that.
So your argument is that fat people are horrible human beings because, through hurting themselves, they are going to make their families feel bad when they die? Yet somehow their families won't feel bad about them being raged and insulted? Somehow it's hard to buy that concern for people's families is what's driving this, especially since it's likely people in their families have a similar relationship with food.

There's also the issue of personal autonomy. People should be allowed to take some personal risks in the pursuit of enjoyment -- claiming that it's morally wrong to do so because their families would be sad is kind of ridiculous.

The other problem is that they are going to die eventually anyway. People are going to have to deal with their loss at some point, unless they die first, in which case the other person has to deal with it. There is no way to reduce the total amount of grieving for people's deaths. I suppose a death at a young age is sad, but heart disease and stuff like that affect people when they're much older, although perhaps not elderly.
posted by delmoi at 9:34 PM on January 12, 2012


Yeah, it is. If everyone had the same tastes, then making poor people eat bland food wouldn't be a problem.

If people have different tastes then there's no one definition of "bland food".

So your argument is that fat people are horrible human beings because, through hurting themselves, they are going to make their families feel bad when they die?

I never said anything about anyone being a "horrible human being". I simply pointed out that overeating can and does "cause too many problems for other people". And this is not just about hurt feelings; it's mainly about unnecessary suffering (which you yourself pointed out is a bad thing), as well as personal, familial, and societal costs.

The other problem is that they are going to die eventually anyway. People are going to have to deal with their loss at some point, unless they die first, in which case the other person has to deal with it. There is no way to reduce the total amount of grieving for people's deaths.

People don't necessarily drop dead instantly. All deaths are not necessarily equal generators of grief, either. The complications of obesity can cause years and even decades of sickness and pain. Unlike death, protracted and unnecessary illness is not inevitable for each of us, and (in this case, at least) it really can be reduced.

As for personal autonomy/we're all going to die anyway, I agree with you there, but I'm not suggesting that we take anyone's autonomy away.

I suppose a death at a young age is sad, but heart disease and stuff like that affect people when they're much older, although perhaps not elderly.

Wrong. When I mentioned tragedy among my friends and family, I was partly thinking of a friend in his early 30s who had a major weight-related heart attack this year. "Heart disease and stuff like that" used to affect people when they were much older... not so much anymore.
posted by vorfeed at 10:06 PM on January 12, 2012


Oh I was thinking about this earlier. I think one important distinction I forgot to point out between the consequences of unsafe sex, and the consequences of junk food is that the consequences of unsafe sex can cause biological consequences for people, STDs and pregnancy. You can also cause relationship drama in other people's lives. Now maybe the drama is somewhat similar to the bad feelings caused in people who care about you, but the biological consequences are different. They are a physical, measurable harm.

The other problem is that I do think there is a moral difference between emotional pain caused to someone because they care about themselves (or a third party), and emotional pain caused because they care about you. I don't personally think contingent emotional pain is very important, compared to emotional pain you inflict on others.

And beyond that, you have to multiply the potential pain by the probability that the event will occur. This has a number of effects. One important one is that, while eating too many bars over your entire life might increase your chases of heart disease each individual act does not increase your chases. In fact, if you don't eat too many you can don't increase your chances at all.

On the other hand, if, for example you wanted to do something extremely risky, like BASE jumping without a lot of training and experience, the one act has a much higher chance of causing pain.
If people have different tastes then there's no one definition of "bland food".
yes, that's exactly what I'm saying I'm not sure what's so complicated about this. If you restrict a broad class of people to a certain small subset of cheap food, then it's very likely that it will be bland to some of them.

When you cut out "junk food" you're left with healthy food, some of which is cheap, and most of which is expensive. If you further cut things down by cost, you're not left with a lot, and that subset is pretty restricted.

The smaller the subset, the more people are likely to find that subset bland.

It Also sounds like a lot of it requires cooking and prep time as well. And maybe people have other things they want to do with their time.

My feeling is: It's good if people are healthy and eat healthy food. I think the best way to do that is to make it easier for people to eat healthy by making sure a wide range of healthy food, suitable for lots of different people. Making it quick and convenient for people.

However, I think it's ridiculous to get outraged about people eating whatever they want. That's the part I don't get. It seems a lot like old-fashion moral panic, which I am not a fan of.
posted by delmoi at 1:14 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think one important distinction I forgot to point out between the consequences of unsafe sex, and the consequences of junk food is that the consequences of unsafe sex can cause biological consequences for people, STDs and pregnancy. You can also cause relationship drama in other people's lives. Now maybe the drama is somewhat similar to the bad feelings caused in people who care about you, but the biological consequences are different. They are a physical, measurable harm.

This article is about overweight children. There's another on the blue about overweight infants. Plenty of physical, measurable harm is being done to children by their parents, both through overfeeding and the epigenetic consequences of obesity.

yes, that's exactly what I'm saying I'm not sure what's so complicated about this. If you restrict a broad class of people to a certain small subset of cheap food, then it's very likely that it will be bland to some of them. [...] The smaller the subset, the more people are likely to find that subset bland.

My point is that food doesn't work this way. Many spices, hot sauces, and even MSG are cheap and can combine with "bland" food to improve the flavor in many different ways. I can think of probably ten things one can do with cheap spices (cumin, cayenne pepper, and turmeric) and "beans and rice" (plus bouillon cubes, some oil, and maybe an onion) which will give them completely different flavors and even textures. You could make a couple different soups, a biryani-style bake, a stir-fry, a curry, Mexican food, Cajun food, blah blah etc. And that's not even getting into all the different kinds of affordable beans and rice.

The set of cheap, healthy foods is also not all that restricted. If you can afford to eat out every meal, even off the value menu at McDonalds, then you can afford to add a small amount of cheap meat, eggs, and/or vegetables to your home-cooked diet. This opens up a ton of healthy non-beans-and-rice possibilities, many of which are not "bland" even according to a McD-trained palate.

My feeling is: It's good if people are healthy and eat healthy food. I think the best way to do that is to make it easier for people to eat healthy by making sure a wide range of healthy food, suitable for lots of different people. Making it quick and convenient for people.

I agree. However, I think you're building up a dichotomy between this and cooking "bland" food which does not actually have to exist. The idea that cooking quick, convenient, cheap, and healthy food inevitably results in blandness is chiefly the result of advertising, not a reflection of reality.

Likewise, I would love to see more cheap, packaged healthy food... but packaged healthy food is more expensive than packaged unhealthy food because it's priced that way, not because it is intrinsically more expensive to produce given the same economy of scale. And it's priced that way because fast food and packaged-food companies have spent decades working to convince people that unhealthy food is the default thing for normal people, and healthy food is the bland thing for hoity-toity people.

I don't understand why suggesting people eat healthy food is a "moral panic" which is intended to make the poor "suffer", whereas spending billions to advertise unhealthy food directly to the poor isn't. Food companies use moral language (including strong themes of familial love and responsibility) to get people to eat millions of fast food bacon cheeseburgers, yet we're not allowed to do that with beans and rice? Give me a break.
posted by vorfeed at 12:58 PM on January 13, 2012


My point is that food doesn't work this way. Many spices, hot sauces, and even MSG are cheap and can combine with "bland" food to improve the flavor in many different ways. I can think of probably ten things one can do with cheap spices (cumin, cayenne pepper, and turmeric) and "beans and rice" (plus bouillon cubes, some oil, and maybe an onion) which will give them completely different flavors and even textures. You could make a couple different soups, a biryani-style bake, a stir-fry, a curry, Mexican food, Cajun food, blah blah etc. And that's not even getting into all the different kinds of affordable beans and rice.
That may be true, but then you have the other problem: Knowlege. Lots of people don't know anything about cooking or flavors. Maybe if the state spent their $25 million teaching poor parents how to cook delicious meals on a tight budget it would be a lot more effective in actually curbing obesity.
posted by delmoi at 1:33 PM on January 13, 2012


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