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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