Saturday, June 1, 2013

School Essay #3: Food Politics/Obesity Epidemic Essay


Bryanna Michelle Akins

Teacher: Croft

ERWC, Period 3

29 May 2013
Food Politics Research Paper

          It is amazing, surprising and, worst of all, scary as hell…in 1972, the United States spent 3 billion dollars in fast food-related funds. Now it’s 2013, and we’re spending 110 billion on fast food-related funds (Fast Food Facts, 1). By now, most of us are very aware that fast food is high in calories, but contains little to no nutritional value. What people also don’t realize is how much energy is needed to exercise and burn off all those excess calories you take in every time you eat at a fast food joint, such as McDonald’s, Burger King or Jack in the Box. To burn off all the calories from a Super Coke, Super Fry and a Big Mac (McDonald’s meal), you would need to walk for seven, straight, non-stop hours (Fast Food Facts, 1). People also know to some extent that obesity—like other conditions, such as lung cancer—are preventable deaths. There is a cure for obesity and lung cancer. Don’t smoke. Don’t overeat and gain too much weight. If left alone over the course of several years, obesity will be the #1 leading cause of preventable death (Fast Food Facts, 1). It’ll be at the top, beating lung cancer (smoking, which is, right now, the #1 leading cause of preventable death). With our lousy economy, sluggishly recovering from a recession, fast food joints will always be the place to go for those that are nearly broke and can’t afford to buy food from the supermarket (or don’t know how to make dinner for themselves).
            I have had experiences in my 10th grade English class that involved writing an essay about the topic in question. The question we had to answer, and back up, was this: who is really to blame for the horrible obesity epidemic? I originally said the media and the people. They are both at fault for it. But my recent research claims that the media (magazines, TV, movies, websites, etc.) are the REAL culprit. We have all seen hot, skinny, bony supermodels that star in commercials for fast food, alcohol products and other related items (Freeman 1). Over the course of a few decades, people are truly convinced that “thin is in”. This subjective advertising has been ingrained in people’s brains (mostly younger men and women), so much that today, overweight and obese people are targets for bullies and figures of ridicule. I myself have been bullied since kindergarten, and it made my school years hell on earth for me. But it has completely stopped, and I am very thankful for it. But there is a valid reason for why the media should be the ones to blame for making the United States the fattest country in the world. “…Psychologists say the images promote eating disorders by giving young women a wildly unrealistic view of the female form” (Freeman, 1). Not only does it make young women self-conscious about their physical appearance, but it also gives men a subjective portrayal of what a beautiful woman is supposed to look like. “By showing pictures of fat people stuffing themselves with food, they exacerbate the problem by making already fat people fatter” (Freeman, 1). For the people that are already big and obese, the images of obese individuals cause them to feel guilty and look to unhealthy food for emotional comfort (Freeman, 1). You don’t necessarily get fat from eating fast food. You can eat it and not become overweight; it’s the portion of your fast food meals that really determine if you’re headed down the road of obesity.
            There are several reasons why there are nutritional food labels on almost everything. It gives you nutritional facts, what fats it has and, more importantly, how many calories ONE PORTION of that food item has. Portion sizes were figuratively anorexic if you traveled back in time nearly 20 years. Let’s look at pizza, for example. 20 years ago, 2 slices of pepperoni pizza contained 500 calories; today, they contain 850 calories (Caroline, 2). What about yummy, buttery, sumptuous popcorn? 20 years ago, a small, striped rectangular container of popcorn (5 cups) contained 270 calories. Not too bad, right? Today, a large tub of the stuff contains a whopping 630 calories, nearly triple that of the popcorn portion just two decades prior (Caroline, 2). Lastly, let’s look at that hot, warm beverage you have two or three of every day to kick-start your brain and get through the morning without dozing off on the job. You guessed it; it’s coffee! Technically, an 8 oz. cup of coffee with sugar and creamer has 45 calories. Today, Grande cafĂ© mocha at Starbucks is 16 oz. and contains 330 calories (Caroline, 2). Due to fierce and heavy competition between fast food restaurants, they’ve had to lower the prices and blow the meal portions completely out of proportion! Now that portions are so humongous and the prices are so ridiculously low, I don’t think the fast food joints are going to be closing down anytime soon. But that’s not the worst of it…
            The worst and most sickening part of this horrifying reality is that the fast food joints and their advertisements target young and innocent children, so that they, too, can become a part of the growing problem of obesity. Why do they intend on targeting children for their subjective ads? Well, part of it is because children are little balls of wet clay. The reason why I give this analogy is that nothing will cause a ball of clay to take shape without outside influences. In this case, the ads are the foreign, outside influences that are molding the little, innocent kiddies into becoming little eating machines that want nothing, but McDonald’s (or Burger King or whatever restaurant they prefer). It’s no surprise, then, that “one-third of all children in the United States are overweight” (Gottesdiener 1). That’s not all. When I watch TV channels, such as Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network or Disney Channel, almost every commercial I see is about a fast food restaurant. “Kids experience at least $1.6 billion worth of food advertising a year” Gottesdiener 1). These influential, subjective commercials cause children to want fast food more and more when they get hungry.
            If you don’t believe me, I have done more research on what happens when there are none of these subjective commercials at all. In Quebec, Canada, all child-targeting ads have been banned and have been banned for 32 years now. Not just on the web and TV, but in print, too. Now, the end result is shocking and stunning: they have the least child obesity of anywhere in Canada (Gottesdiener 3). Also, the fast food places know that if you cater to the children, the parents will follow, bringing more customers along with them. It just goes to show you that if the media would be less subjective and not target our kids at all, the United States would be a much healthier place for children everywhere.
            I have tried to find just one fast-food place (or something close to it) that had nothing, but healthy food. All my searches have been in vain…almost all of them. I only found and know of two places that are close to being fast-food restaurants and contain healthy food. Subway is a good example. There’s no fried chicken or French fries here. Subway’s restaurant style means that you can choose what your sandwich will have, from the bread used to the condiments to the meat and veggies on your sub. Unlike other places like McDonald’s, you have the pleasure of watching your own sub being made on the spot. Personally, this is my favorite restaurant that serves both affordable and delicious food. Flame Broiler is another healthy restaurant that I love to dine at. They specialize in bowls, filled to the rim with white/brown rice, beef/chicken and vegetables. The plates have the same contents, along with an orange and a small salad. Not only are they healthy and affordable, they promote healthy eating choices by putting up posters, advertising their products. They use no MSG, no added preservatives, nothing extra and unnecessary. It’s all fresh and organic food. It’s hot, it’s delicious, it’s cheap and it’s healthier than any McDonald’s or Burger King could ever be. You can’t beat that, right?
            On the other hand, McDonald’s is not only unhealthy, but it also lures in unsuspecting and innocent children to eat their food by including free toys in their so-called Happy Meals. “McDonald’s distributes more toys in its meals than Toys-R-Us” (Fast Food Facts, 1). But there is a miniscule diamond in the unhealthy and disgusting rubble that is the fast-food industry. “Only 7 items on McDonald’s menu have no sugar” (Fast Food Facts, 1). And now, McDonald’s is stepping up to its own plate of critics and adding milk and apple slices to their Happy Meals. Just goes to show you that even the restaurant chains are trying to make a difference in the world when no one else will step up and do anything to stop the epidemic of obesity.
            In conclusion, the fast food industry uses uses three tactics to lure in customers young and old and big and small. They use child-targeting ads to lure them and their family to the restaurants to make more money. They blow their portions up and lower the prices, so that they get more for their money. As long as our recovery from our recession drags on, the  fast food joints will always be the easy option when it comes to spending less.
Works Cited
  1. Caroline, Divine. "Portion Size, Then vs. Now." Divine Caroline. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr.             2013. <>.
  2. "Fast Food Facts from the Super Size Me Web Site." Fast Food Facts from the Super        Size Me Web Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.             <>.
  3. Freeman. "Are Media to Blame for Obesity Epidemic?" CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <      10391704.html>.
  4. Gottesdiener. "7 Highly Disturbing Trends in Junk Food Advertising to Children."            Alternet. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <           disturbing-trends-junk-food-advertising-children>.
Word Count: 1,711 words

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