Everyone Wants You to be Fat!

by Annie on August 28, 2008 · 19 comments

in Eating Healthy,Weight Loss & Body Image

A Sea of Choices

Photo by Simon Shek.


It is very hard not to overeat in America.  Just about everything is set up to encourage us to overeat.  What industry or professional organization might benefit if you are healthy and eat nutritiously?  None.

After exports we still have too much food available in this country.  There is 3,900 calories available each day for us to consume.  For the average adult, we do not even need half this amount of calories and even less for a child!

Options available to food companies for this overabundance of food?

1.  They can make fewer products or smaller portions and raise prices (too risky for most business).

2.  They can encourage us to buy their products instead of their competitors (advertising – but could be costly).

3.  They can get us to eat more of their products (simplest option without too much ongoing cost once they “train” us to overeat).

How do food companies get us to eat more?

1.  Convenience – if it is easier to take with us, we will eat more food.

2.  Ubiquity – if there are more places food is available, we will eat more food.

3.  Proximity – if a food is close by, we will eat more food.

4. Frequency – if we eat more times a day, we will eat more food.

5.  Variety – if there is more food selection available, we will eat more food.

6.  Large portions – if there is more food in front of us, we will eat more food.

7.  Low prices – if the food is cheap, we will eat more food.

The food industry’s normal mode of practice is to encourage us to eat more, not less.  Certainly the food industry is not sitting around talking about “how do we make our customers fat?”  More likely than not, they are talking about “how do we sell more of our food in this competitive environment?”  Publicly traded food companies have quarterly reports to file and investors demand not only profits, but growth.  And the only way food companies can do that is if we consume more.

Why do supermarkets want us to eat more?

Supermarkets have one purpose and one purpose only: to sell food and make a profit (and as large a profit as possible).  Our purpose in a supermarket is little bit more complicated.   We want healthy food, but we also want them to taste good, be affordable, and convenient.  Supermarkets sell a lot of tasty, affordable, and convenient food.  So in theory there should be no conflict of interest.  But in practice, “healthy food” and “profit margins” do not always overlap.  The food that sell best and bring in the most profits are not necessarily the ones that are best for our health.

For example, the food industry does not advertise fruits and vegetables because its profit margins are low.  This industry cannot “add value” to their products to command higher price.  But they can “add value” by increasing the prices of inexpensive ingredients in junk food with additives, shapes, and packaging.  Also government subsidizes junk food ingredients such as corn, sugarcane, sugar beets, and soybeans, hence making fresh produce seem “expensive” in comparison.

Why do the health industry want us to be unhealthy?

Health insurance companies do not want us to be healthy.  They want us to be mildly overweight, but not enough to have serious conditions that cannot be control with medication.  It cost more to provide preventive services for an entire population than to pay for the treatment of the smaller number of people who are seriously ill.  It is all about profits.  If we are mildly overweight, we will keep our insurance to seek treatment. But we are not so sick that we cannot continue working and pay our premiums.  This in turns drives the entire healthcare industry from the doctors to pharmaceutical companies, etc.

Why does everyone else want us to be unhealthy?

If we are at our optimal health, will we be using gyms, trainers, or weight loss programs?  Or even visiting this website for that matter?  What about the best selling diet book or the celebrity workouts?  I am not saying that all these industries conspire to keep us overweight, but everyone have at least a finger in the cookie jar.  They like the fact that we are confuse about food choices.

We cannot even count on government agencies to help us sort through the confusion because they are afraid of offending powerful industries.  Instead they give us guidelines such as “consume a variety of nutrient dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups.”  Yeah, that should help us make smarter food choices.

Until next time and thanks for visiting Small Steps to Health.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Parker August 28, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Good post Asithi. I think supermarkets are getting a little better (over here in the UK at least). Yes the junk foods are still the cheaper options (and I think they always will be) but fruit and veg are making the Tesco (a popular UK supermarket) TV adverts a lot more frequently. Ultimately, if you want to eat healthily you just have to do your research, decide what you are going to eat and then stick with your decision – not allowing any third parties to influence you. I agree a lot of food companies are glad when we over eat but we have to learn to be strong minded and resist their temptation.

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asithi August 29, 2008 at 9:47 am

@Tom Parker
Thank you so much Tom for being a regular commenter on my blog. I really appreciate you taking the time to add your comments to my posts.

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Jacqueline September 2, 2008 at 9:11 pm

Hey there! You did a fantastic job of truth-telling! :-) Keep these types of posts coming. Thanks. :-)

Jacquelines last blog post..Atlanta – For Sisters Only

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asithi September 4, 2008 at 8:28 am

@Jacqueline – Thanks for commenting.

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spindiva September 4, 2008 at 8:55 am

Hello Asithi..it’s been a while since I was last here due to vactions–etc.etc. Anyway, great post here. Sometimes we have to be really picky about the store where we buy our food. I try to the local markets that carry mostly natural, organically grown products such as Trader Joe’s. Not everyone has that option but with prices going sky high, it becomes even harder for families to spend less and eat healthy and you are so right, cheap, fast food cost less and keeps people eating unhealthy. All I can say is be choosy and read those labels. Thanks for sharing the truth.

spindivas last blog post..Keeping it together during the school year

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asithi September 4, 2008 at 9:34 am

@spindiva – Welcome back! I love Trader Joe’s, especially their frozen marinated fish. I defrost it the night before and slap it on the grill when I get home. Throw in some greens and I have a fish salad. I am a really big fan of seafood, but it is hard to find fresh seafood here, so Trader Joe’s is the best option available for me. Thanks for commenting.

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Paunchiness October 7, 2008 at 1:52 pm

I agree. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find safe food options at the grocery store. It seems like everything is full of HFCS, sugar, hydrogenated oils and all the other bad stuff.

Paunchinesss last blog post……an experiment in weight loss

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Ray Terrible December 16, 2008 at 12:47 pm

What utter and complete nonsense. The author is obvious an idiot.

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asithi March 12, 2009 at 10:03 am

@Paunchiness – Sometimes it feels like we need a food encyclopedia just walking into a grocery store. That is why I end up eating the same food all the time because I am too lazy to read the ingredient lists of a new product.

@Ray Terrible – There is no need to call me names just because we disagree.

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julie August 20, 2010 at 7:03 am

I know this post is about two years old, but I want to completely agree, and point out that I never really thought this through. Obviously, the food industry wants to sell food, the more processed, the more expensive. Around where I live, there is healthy food available (I like some stuff at TJs, but mostly consider them mediocre quality, and their produce sucks), but if you want the already processed stuff, or the stuff with healthy halo, you pay. I buy a lot of ingredients, process it myself. Ray Terrible doesn’t mean it, probably didn’t read the article, just being a d-bag. If he or she really was anything but a contrarian, it would have explained itself, or offered a counterpoint.

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asithi August 23, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Julie – I love the phase “healthy halo” because it can applied to many processed food! I think even the 100 calorie snack packs have a little of that healthy halo because everyone that I talk to thinks they are ok to eat because it is only 100 calories.

As for Ray Terrible, if he has been back on my site, I do not know it. And neither do I care. Everyone is entitle to their own opinions and some people do not have an open mind to things they do not agree with or understand.

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Dr. Carlos M Gonzalez December 3, 2010 at 8:45 am

Asithi…this is an excellent explanation of our free enterprise capitalistic Big Businesses at work. Although I do not agree with the title of your article it is catchy! I have a group of five I’m working with on their weight loss and will certainly send them your link.

I recently wrote and posted an article on Successful Weight Loss.
Glad I stumbled onto your blog…. I will definitely read more of your posts. Thanks!

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asithi December 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm

@ Dr. Carlos – big businesses are always working in the background in all aspects of our society, just that most people do not spend time thinking about it in their every day life. I thought the title would draw some eyeballs. Thanks for sharing my article and for taking the time to leave a comment.

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Dr. Carlos M Gonzalez December 5, 2010 at 9:13 pm

I just added a link to your article on my article. Thanks again for a great article.

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