It was the year 1967 in down town Chicago. A revolution in how we eat and the obesity crisis was being born. A cinema owner discovered that he could boost his profits through a simple intervention; popcorn cost him very little but he could charge a lot more by increasing the size of servings. The concept he was selling was that the larger size was better value, which led customers to want it more.
This same cinema owner was head hunted by the largest fast food chain giant, and the beginning of the ‘supersize me’ epidemic began.
Today 500 million adults are obese globally, with 1 in 10 children being obese in the US.
With fast food chains still using this marketing tool of bigger sizes being better value, and then adding what’s termed as ‘bundling’ on top of this, weight gain skyrocketed.
Bundling is when whole meals of fries, burgers and drinks are offered cheaper than buying them singly. This creates the belief of: ‘I paid for this entire meal; I am going to eat it all even if I only wanted fries’. The way to justify it was the thought that if a huge meal was eaten now, less food would be wanted later. But the exact opposite is in fact true.
Prof. Barbara Rolls from Penn State University discovered that consuming larger meals triggered over-eating to continue from that point on.
Medical professionals approached the governing food and drink industry to ask them to act more responsibly in not allowing supersizing and other marketing tools to continue, as it was pivotal in the obesity crisis.
But the industry would not change, and instead invented an alternate reason as to why we were increasingly overweight. Their response: that we are less active these days, thus, causing obesity.
Endocrinologist, Prof. T Wilken from Peninsula medical school discovered this was a lie. Adults and children today are no less active than 30 years ago.
So we are left with some simple truths: global weight gain could be stemming from our obsession with high calorie foods and larger portions of them, which triggers us to basically overeat continuously without knowing how or when to stop.
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This article was based on the BBC series- ‘The men who made us fat’.