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Why We’re Fat: It’s the Government and Wall Street’s Fault, Marion Nestle Says
Old 06-18-2012, 02:28 PM   #1
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Why We’re Fat: It’s the Government and Wall Street’s Fault, Marion Nestle Says

Though I'm not a big fan of articles on yahoo!finance, this blurb made me think and I haven't yet decided what to make of it. I know obesity/overweight is a health care cost if not a quality of life issue, and I'm concerned for the selfish reason that I know it can only increase the cost of health care for all of us, healthy or obese. I also know there are incentives in place that distort the relative costs of various foods, but I just don't want to believe people are that sheeplike...

Lessons from the evolution of smoking over the past 60 years may apply.

Whether or not culture has had an influence I don't know.
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One of the arguments she makes focuses on the impact Wall Street has made on food companies and ultimately what people consume. Obesity rates started to rise in the 1980s, largely because of demands Wall Street placed on food makers.

Wall Street "forced food companies to try and sell food in an extremely competitive environment," she says. Food manufacturers "had to look for ways to get people to buy more food. And they were really good at it. I blame Wall Street for insisting that corporations have to grow their profits every 90 days."

Traders and analysts may have shifted food companies' focus to producing profits over health, but changes to government policy also contributed to people's relationship with food, she notes. Large government subsidizes given to the corn, wheat, soybean and sugar industries allowed farmers to reap high returns on their crops. Farmers could grow these commodities cheaply and were encouraged by the food industry "to plant as much as they could. Food production increased, and so did calories in the food supply."

Inexpensive food encouraged more eating, and more eating led to bigger waistlines. "Today, in contrast to the early 1980s, it is socially acceptable to eat in more places, more frequently and in larger amounts, and for children to regularly consume fast foods, snacks and sodas."
Why We
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Old 06-18-2012, 02:51 PM   #2
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I am obese and it isn't the government or restaurant's faults. I like to eat and can eat huge quantities. Food taste good and is easy to get. Dieting is harder when you have to take the time to cook healthier foods. Right now I am on a diet limiting sodium, carbs and calories and the hardest part is not being able to just grab a package of something and eat when I am hungry. Making soup for example means boiling meat to make stock, cooling, skimming fat, reheating, cooling, skimming fat then removing most of the meat and adding things like dry beans, brown rice, onions, assorted veggies and cooking it. Since I work full time this can take me two or three days so requires planning ahead. I can't eat processed meat now so no hotdogs or ham or other quick and easy things. It was so much easier to whip up a box of mac and cheese or eat some cheese and crackers. Now I measure out one ounce of cheese and 4oz of apple for a snack or a slice of whole wheat bread and tablespoon of peanut butter. I think people working more hours is a big part of the obesity problem. Children are sent to school and fed high carb lunches with high fat while not allowed to run around climbing trees and other things without parents watching them every minute. When the got to daycare the providers will feed them cheap foods. Parents getting them after a long day of work are likely to feed them what they want or is easy rather than make them a lean dinner. One mother I worked with would let her boys order pizza for dinner not as a special treat.
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Old 06-18-2012, 03:04 PM   #3
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Generally speaking, wealthier people eat healthier as good food costs more money. Subsidized high carb, high fat low nutritional foods for the mass population. Highly processed foods are subsidized by government. Adictive chemical additives keep the masses going back for more. There is a reason people keep eating McDonalds and it isn't the way it tastes. It is chemically engineered to be that way. Heart attacks on the scale of medical bills is cheaper than a long drawn out death. Got to wonder if it hasn't been set up this way for maximum profit. Food for thought.
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Old 06-18-2012, 03:09 PM   #4
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Dieting is harder when you have to take the time to cook healthier foods. Right now I am on a diet limiting sodium, carbs and calories and the hardest part is not being able to just grab a package of something and eat when I am hungry. .
Fruit is the ultimate fast food. It will take you longer to get into your pop tart than peel a banana. Stop the excuses. Notice the additives in your foods and you will start to understand they are why you reach for the ready to eat high shelf life foods.
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Old 06-18-2012, 03:13 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
Though I'm not a big fan of articles on yahoo!finance, this blurb made me think and I haven't yet decided what to make of it. I know obesity/overweight is a health care cost if not a quality of life issue, and I'm concerned for the selfish reason that I know it can only increase the cost of health care for all of us, healthy or obese. I also know there are incentives in place that distort the relative costs of various foods, but I just don't want to believe people are that sheeplike...

Lessons from the evolution of smoking over the past 60 years may apply.

Whether or not culture has had an influence I don't know.
Why We
Smoking in USA has been re-framed as a low class loser activity rather than as something cool-except among hipsters, who almost all smoke and are in other ways the coolest of the cool. This re-framing has coincided with a strongly falling smoking rate, and may be some part of the reason for that fall

Being fat is also mostly framed as being uncool, but it has not seemed to work yet to cut down on obesity. I don't really know but from what I read it is very hard to take off a large amount of weight permanently. The society has accepted the demonization of smoking, but as I see it the opposite is happening wrt obesity, with the backlash shown among other ways by glamorous plus-sized models. Fat is now sometimes called curvy, which in fact it can be among young women. Tight, very elastic young skin makes a pretty good girdle.

There is a conflict between cheap, readily available food and fitness. As Ms Nestle says, if it is there, people tend to eat it. On an individual level, resisting poor eating choices takes some obnoxious personality trait like stubborness or perhaps aloofness. Either that or a very non-PC, non-feminist, classist social message or meme that fat is ugly and low class, to make the shunning of food a default state among a large number of people. For some months during the 60s I worked for a health psychologist, whose interest was ways to get people to voluntarily practice sometimes difficult but usually healthier ways of living. In his research, the most effective seemed to be an appeal to class or vanity or both. The people who already feel this way, do whatever it takes, and pay whatever it costs. I know quite a few women who essentially live by the grace of Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. The trick is getting people who do not feel this way to change their attitudes. We have a social myth that people are free agents, and cannot or should not be manipulated. Of course in reality, we are probably the most manipulated "free people" in the history of the world.

This attitude change may eventually happen on a society wide scale, but I doubt it, not here in America.

Of course extreme economic stress might make food not so cheap. Poor people are not fat in truly undeveloped regions. Decades ago I spent months in 3rd world countries and saw no fat people-poor, middle class, or wealthy. Of course at that time, not many fat people were here in the US either.

Stay tuned.

Ha
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Old 06-18-2012, 03:38 PM   #6
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I am more of a personal responsibility guy which the article never once really alluded to so maybe Im a dinasour. You make choices and you live with them. Im sure even below average intelligent people know Big Macs and a 44 oz Pepsi are not a nutritious meal. Is it hard to change habits and live a healthy lifestyle? Sure, but I never wanted to get out of bed once to go to work, but I did it daily.
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Old 06-18-2012, 03:46 PM   #7
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Fruit is the ultimate fast food. It will take you longer to get into your pop tart than peel a banana. Stop the excuses. Notice the additives in your foods and you will start to understand they are why you reach for the ready to eat high shelf life foods.
I am only allowed 4oz of fruit at a meal or snack. Now I don't eat any processed foods except bread then one slice at a meal. I only get 15-45 carbs and bread is easy to count the carbs. I know fruits are fast food but I am watching my blood sugar, blood pressure and weight so can't fill up on them. I keep a mandolin on my kitchen counter so I can quickly slice fruits, veggies and cheese. An Engish cucumber is a better snack than fruit for me. I don't feel I am making excuses. I have lost 47lbs in the last 4 months but it takes me a lot of time and planning. I go to the doctor tomorrow and am hoping she takes me off the medicines she started, she said she might in July. I have lost 30-80lbs on many diets, I know how but it is still harder than just eating whatever is handy. I gave up all ice cream more than two years ago and will never eat it again and have never eaten poptarts or fast food more than a couple of times a year they just aren't my thing.
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Old 06-18-2012, 03:55 PM   #8
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Of course food companies do all they can to encourage people to eat more, including making foods sweeter, saltier, fattier, and cheaper, and also conveying (through advertising) the notion that the "fun" people are those who are eating and drinking all the time, everywhere.

But those ornery cusses who set their sights on FI and would never fall for the scams of financial advisers, are also wise to the food companies, and refuse to fall for their scams! Right??

All moralizing aside, the one thing people almost universally wish to avoid is death. Until more people somehow come to associate obesity and death, they simply won't worry enough about obesity to resist the lure of cheap, tempting food.

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Old 06-18-2012, 03:56 PM   #9
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Wow, that is great. No, it doesn't sound like you make any excuses at all.
A.

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I I have lost 47lbs in the last 4 months .
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Old 06-18-2012, 04:00 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by old woman

I am only allowed 4oz of fruit at a meal or snack. Now I don't eat any processed foods except bread then one slice at a meal. I only get 15-45 carbs and bread is easy to count the carbs. I know fruits are fast food but I am watching my blood sugar, blood pressure and weight so can't fill up on them. I keep a mandolin on my kitchen counter so I can quickly slice fruits, veggies and cheese. An Engish cucumber is a better snack than fruit for me. I don't feel I am making excuses. I have lost 47lbs in the last 4 months but it takes me a lot of time and planning. I go to the doctor tomorrow and am hoping she takes me off the medicines she started, she said she might in July. I have lost 30-80lbs on many diets, I know how but it is still harder than just eating whatever is handy. I gave up all ice cream more than two years ago and will never eat it again and have never eaten poptarts or fast food more than a couple of times a year they just aren't my thing.
Good for you old woman, that is great! We all wont be skinny models, but we can reach levels we are happy and content with. I am at a fairly fit level, but to stay at this weight, I have had to give up A LOT of the bread myself. And believe me, I could live on that stuff and its various sisters of pizza, donuts, and pasta!
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Old 06-18-2012, 04:49 PM   #11
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We probably need to look at our portfolios and sell off all stocks and funds that are part of the nutritional industrial complex.
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Old 06-18-2012, 08:20 PM   #12
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Yes, of course, personal responsibility is a factor and an important one. People who really haven't experienced failure to keep off weight loss may find it difficult to understand.

Keep weight off once it is lost seems to be a particularly difficult task and one that willpower and personal responsibility alone aren't enough for the vast majority of appeal to keep weight loss sustained. Are there people who are exceptions? Yes. But they are indeed exceptions.

one factor that I have found particularly important is the research indicating that someone who becomes obese and then loses weight permanently burns fewer calories. That is a person who weighs 150 pounds and was never obese can eat more food than the person who was once obese and now weighs 150 pounds.

Most people can stay on a diet for a short period of time. But, to maintain permanent substantial weight loss you must reduce calories forever.

There is a lot of research on this but here is a link to one recent article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/27/he...udy-finds.html

This also brings up the issue that the reduced obese (people who used to be fat but lost weight) have hormonal changes that make them hungrier than people who were never overweight.

Another factor is how quickly one can regain lost weight.

For a year and a half I faithfully recorded everything I ate and followed WW and exercised regularly. I did not miss recording a single meal. And, I was successful. I lost 43 pounds moving from obese to merely overweight.

Then...I got involved in moving and lost focus. I quit recording so carefully. To be clear, I didn't go hog wild. I never drink caloric drinks. I didn't eat candy or cakes. If I went out, I didn't go nuts. No appetizers or desserts, etc. It took me 18 months to lose 43 pounds (I have always been a slow loser). It took me one week to gain 5.8 pounds. It took me one month to gain 12 pounds. In the blink of an eye I lost months worth of losses.

Yes, I got back on plan and am recording what I eat, etc. But, here's the thing. When I was gaining that 12 pounds I wasn't eating a hugely excessive amount of food. But, I've lost weight before and my metabolism is very, very slow. I find that anything over 1200 calories a day and I gain.

I know it is hard for many people to understand. But, really this isn't just a matter of lack of personal responsibility.
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Old 06-18-2012, 08:50 PM   #13
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Yes, of course, personal responsibility is a factor and an important one. People who really haven't experienced failure to keep off weight loss may find it difficult to understand.

Keep weight off once it is lost seems to be a particularly difficult task and one that willpower and personal responsibility alone aren't enough for the vast majority of appeal to keep weight loss sustained. Are there people who are exceptions? Yes. But they are indeed exceptions.

one factor that I have found particularly important is the research indicating that someone who becomes obese and then loses weight permanently burns fewer calories. That is a person who weighs 150 pounds and was never obese can eat more food than the person who was once obese and now weighs 150 pounds.

Most people can stay on a diet for a short period of time. But, to maintain permanent substantial weight loss you must reduce calories forever.

There is a lot of research on this but here is a link to one recent article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/27/he...udy-finds.html

This also brings up the issue that the reduced obese (people who used to be fat but lost weight) have hormonal changes that make them hungrier than people who were never overweight.

Another factor is how quickly one can regain lost weight.

For a year and a half I faithfully recorded everything I ate and followed WW and exercised regularly. I did not miss recording a single meal. And, I was successful. I lost 43 pounds moving from obese to merely overweight.

Then...I got involved in moving and lost focus. I quit recording so carefully. To be clear, I didn't go hog wild. I never drink caloric drinks. I didn't eat candy or cakes. If I went out, I didn't go nuts. No appetizers or desserts, etc. It took my 18 months to lose 43 pounds (I have always been a slow loser). It took me one week to gain 5.8 pounds. It took me one month to gain 12 pounds. In the blink of an eye I lost months worth of losses.

Yes, I got back on plan and am recording what I eat, etc. But, here's the thing. When I was gaining that 12 pounds I wasn't eating a hugely excessive amount of food. But, I've lost weight before and my metabolism is very, very slow. I find that anything over 1200 calories a day and I gain.

I know it is hard for many people to understand. But, really this isn't just a matter of lack of personal responsibility.
I believe you 100%, as I see the same difficulty in one of my sons. He was never overweight as a child, but at 16 he went away to a music camp and must have gained 25 # in one month. I think he has lost and regained that same 25 # at least 10 times in the intervening 20 years.

I have a similar struggle, not with weight but with trying to maintain an acceptable blood sugar. I never eat anything more carby than a non-starchy vegetable- but those green veget carbs mount up, just like the quarters that you spend out of pocket.

Reducing weight on a population wide basis will likely consist mainly of better education to spare people gaining extra fat in the 1st place. Some will gain it anyway, because of their metabolism more than their intake of food or lack of exercise.

Ha
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Old 06-18-2012, 09:57 PM   #14
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Reducing weight on a population wide basis will likely consist mainly of better education to spare people gaining extra fat in the 1st place. Some will gain it anyway, because of their metabolism more than their intake of food or lack of exercise.
I am absolutely persuaded that the real solution to the obesity crisis (and it is one) is to prevent it in the first place. That is very hard to know how to do. I don't think it is a simple solution. But, really, the stats on long term weight loss are so abysmal that only prevention really makes a difference.
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Old 06-19-2012, 06:49 AM   #15
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This also brings up the issue that the reduced obese (people who used to be fat but lost weight) have hormonal changes that make them hungrier than people who were never overweight.
From observation this seems true. And the low carb literature I have been reading blames carbs for triggering hunger -- again, anecdotally, that seems to be the case for me. Another thing the carb folks says is that carbs cause you to retain more water (thus you can jump up and down a few pounds very quickly depending on carbs). Again, that seems to be true for me. I had a crew in visiting from Chicago this weekend an I splurged a bit on carbs (hashed browns out to breakfast and a chocolate malt at another place I took them, etc). On Monday morning I weighed 168. This morning, after one full day back on a "normal" diet I dropped back to 165. I have seen the same thing after similar weekends recently. There is no way I actually converted three pounds of food to fat cells and back that quickly with a malt and some hash browns -- had to be water retention.
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Old 06-19-2012, 08:46 AM   #16
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good food costs more money.
As I understand it, that's a myth. Beans, whole grain rice and pasta bought in bulk, and locally-grown, in-season produce are actually very cheap and healthy. The difference is time. It takes more time to make your own meal than to hit the drive-thru (see? They're in such a hurry, they don't even have time to waste on 3 more letters to spell "through" correctly).
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Old 06-19-2012, 09:00 AM   #17
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Keep weight off once it is lost seems to be a particularly difficult task
But it shouldn't be. Just keep doing what you're doing.

This is the problem with fad "diets" and gimmicky programs. They're framed as something you do until you lose the weight, then you stop. But of course, that can't be how it works long term. If you want to lose weight, and keep it off, then you have to undertake a fundamental shift in your mindset. You have to make your new habits a lifestyle. Not just something you're going to "endure" until a particular number shows up on the scale, then you abandon.

You have to change the way you look at food and exercise. Not as deprivation and suffering, but rather as fuel and recreation. I don't run 3 times a week because I'm trying to lose weight (although that was one reason I started) - I do it because I enjoy it. I don't avoid gorging on fatty foods because I'm depriving myself - I do it because I know how sluggish and bloated I'll feel if I don't eat in moderation.

People who have lost weight by shifting their mindset and adopting a new, healthier lifestyle shouldn't have any trouble at all keeping the weight off. It's simply a natural side-effect of the new way they're living.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:30 AM   #18
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Yes, of course, personal responsibility is a factor and an important one. People who really haven't experienced failure to keep off weight loss may find it difficult to understand.

Keep weight off once it is lost seems to be a particularly difficult task and one that willpower and personal responsibility alone aren't enough for the vast majority of appeal to keep weight loss sustained. Are there people who are exceptions? Yes. But they are indeed exceptions.
I don't disagree with your thoughts on weight loss, but that's another topic. Peoples ability to lose weight hasn't changed has it? Other factors are causing the trend...and I think the link in post #1 is (a big) part of the reason.
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:36 AM   #19
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Smoking in USA has been re-framed as a low class loser activity rather than as something cool-except among hipsters, who almost all smoke and are in other ways the coolest of the cool. This re-framing has coincided with a strongly falling smoking rate, and may be some part of the reason for that fall.
What I was thinking (half-baked in hindsight) was that simple sugars/carbs are being subsidized making those foods cheaper than they'd otherwise be and more readily/easily available in the form of fast food and processed foods. OTOH, cigarettes have not been subsidized and in fact are heavily taxed and harder for children to get than generations ago (maybe not hard enough, but nevertheless harder). I quit smoking when cigarettes hit $1/pack - that seemed outrageous to me. Hitting a $1/pack was the trigger that made me reconsider all the other reasons to quit. But as I think about it, cost is probably not what gets most people to quit...so I probably shouldn't have tried to draw a comparison.
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Old 06-19-2012, 11:29 AM   #20
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What I was thinking (half-baked in hindsight) was that simple sugars/carbs are being subsidized making those foods cheaper than they'd otherwise be and more readily/easily available in the form of fast food and processed foods. OTOH, cigarettes have not been subsidized and in fact are heavily taxed and harder for children to get than generations ago (maybe not hard enough, but nevertheless harder). I quit smoking when cigarettes hit $1/pack - that seemed outrageous to me. Hitting a $1/pack was the trigger that made me reconsider all the other reasons to quit. But as I think about it, cost is probably not what gets most people to quit...so I probably shouldn't have tried to draw a comparison.
Hard to say. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Scandinavian countries had a huge drinking problem among men, which they largely solved by taxing liquor very heavily. Today, Scandinavia has lower alcohol consumption rates than other Western European Nations.

Recently in our state we voted to shut down state liquore stores and let private retailers sell liquor. Well, the state outfoxed us, and with various new taxes the retail cost of booze is now higher than before, and the selection is much poorer. This might be enough to turn me into an exclusive wine drinker.

Still, food is different. No one will die if they cannot afford liquor, but we must have food, and the more physical our lives are the more we must have food, pretty much at regular intervals every day.

Ha
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