Gem commented to someone the other day – it might have been my mum – that we’ve watched a lot of documentaries recently. And she’s right – The 70s and The House the 50s Built (both excellent, by the way) are series that instantly spring to mind, but I’m sure there have been others. And after reading about the controversy it’s generated in the US, I’m planning on watching Michael Johnson: Survival of the Fittest tonight. Who said TV was all dumbed down entertainment for the masses these days?
Last night we watched the second part of another excellent show, The Men Who Made Us Fat. If you haven’t guessed from the title, it’s an investigation into rising levels of obesity, and specifically the role big business has had in that. The first episode focused on high fructose corn syrup, how it had been added to everything as a cheap sweetener, and how in turn this expanded everyone’s waistlines, even those who were buying low-fat products (taking out the fat unfortunately also takes out the flavour, to be replaced, in part, by extra sweeteners!). Various researchers did try to point out that this was happening, but they were ignored and, even worse, suppressed by a food lobby who didn’t want to know.
This week was all about super-sizing, a practice that originated with a Chicago cinema chain. From a business perspective it makes perfect sense – customers who wouldn’t buy a second bucket of popcorn WOULD take an extra third or half up front, increasing sales by a similar proportion. It wasn’t long before the practice spread to fast food, which is what most of us think of when the term super-size is used. And once accepted there, increased portion sizes became a feature everywhere we ate, encouraging us to overeat at every turn. We literally don’t know when to stop!
The show also looked at snacking, and how cynical marketing in the 70s convinced us that adding a bar or two of sweet chocolate-y goodness to your daily diet was perfectly acceptable. Who doesn’t remember the Milky Way ads which told us that it was “the sweet you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite”?
But therein lies the problem. We don’t compensate at mealtimes for the snacks we ate earlier, we just go on and eat the same as we would have, and don’t account for the extra calories we took onboard earlier. And then we wonder about our expanding waistlines!
Certainly food for thought! (terrible pun, I know)
As parents, I like to think we’re quite strict with snacks, without eliminating them altogether. And we try to strike a reasonable balance between “good” snacks like fruit and “bad” snacks like biscuits or chocolate – trying to ignore the bad ones entirely is surely just saving up problems for later?
Similarly, while our girls are certainly not strangers to the likes of McDonalds, a visit to the golden arches is always presented as a treat, something special, rather than a run-of-the-mill regular occurrence. I don’t think they’re in danger of completing any Happy Meal toy collections any time soon!
I hope we’re doing the right thing by our kids. Certainly I think our generation is a lot more
cynical aware of how advertisers manipulate our buying habits, and of how much crap goes into processed foods (something don’t eat much at home, largely because Gem enjoys cooking stuff from scratch, and that’s rubbed off on me too) and I hope that enables us to make the right choices, and teach them all the right things. Time will tell, I guess.
I read something recently where a teacher was expressing concern about the size of the kids in her class, and how they were all massively overweight or quite skinny, and there didn’t seem to be much in between.
With us constantly being reminded of the dangers of childhood obesity, I know which side of that divide I want my kids to be on.
ASIDE: Whilst writing this I got a text from Pizza Hut, telling me about their latest offer – any pizza, any size, for the price of a small pizza. Timely!