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The Media’s Role in the Epidemic of Child Obesity in the United States May 3, 2010

Filed under: Health,nutrition — jordysullivan @ 1:31 am
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The Media’s Role in the Epidemic of Child Obesity in the United States

By Jordan Sullivan

Childhood obesity is becoming more common every day. “Today, the planet’s 1.6 billion overweight people by far outnumber the 700 million who are undernourished” (Popkin, jacket). With all of the worry over television characters being unrealistically thin and possibly influencing children to develop eating disorders in an effort to look like them, it’s puzzling that exactly the opposite seems to have happened. This may show that children have been confused by the messages given by television; telling them that they should be thin, but to eat fattening foods. Many kids today seem to fail to see the correlation between eating properly and having a healthy body type. In fact, many adults today seem to have this problem. “Today about 25 million kids and teens in the U.S. are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. That’s nearly one in every three young people” (The Alliance for a Healthier Generation).

Childhood obesity increases the risk of a number of health problems, including an increased risk of asthma, bone and joint problems, sleep disorders, liver disease, gall bladder disease as well as depression. Being unhappy with one’s body may also lead to disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Diseases now affect children that formerly largely only affected adults. This is becoming more and more common. According to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, adult-onset diabetes has become so common in children that the name had to be changed to Type II Diabetes. “Some experts believe that if obesity among kids continues to increase at this rate, our current generation could become the FIRST in American history to live shorter lives than their parents” (Alliance). Kids are also not climbing on board with healthy food trends like many adults are. Those parents who do try to set healthy food standards often still unknowingly stock unhealthy foods in the home because advertisers have begun to take advantage of health trends by using labeling that makes food products sound healthier than they may actually be.

One factor in the explosive increase of childhood obesity cases in the United States could very well be the media’s influence on children’s activities and eating habits. Not only does the time spent using various forms of media often replace time that could, and should, be spent participating in physical activities or sleeping, but different forms of media may be loaded with advertisements for unhealthy food products or lifestyles. “In a 1985 article by William Dietz and Stephen Gortmaker in the Journal of Pediatrics,… An analysis of data from a large national study of more than 13,000 children, the National Health Examination Survey (NHES), found significant associations between the amount of time children spent watching television and the prevalence of obesity. The authors concluded that, among 12- to 17-year-olds, the prevalence of obesity increased by 2% for each additional hour of television viewed, even after controlling other variables such as prior obesity, race, and socio-economic status. According to the authors, ‘only prior obesity had a larger independent effect than television on the prevalence of obesity’ ” (Kaiser 2).

Children are strongly affected by what they see on television. For all of the energy that parents put into worrying about the depiction of smoking cigarettes on television, the eating habits of the characters on television are rarely even whispered about; even though obesity is nearly as dangerous, if not just as dangerous, to a person’s health. “Obesity-related illnesses will kill around 400,000 Americans this year-almost the same as smoking” (Spurlock, 13).

Advertisers know how to reach kids through various forms of media, especially since kids are spending more and more time in front of televisions and computers. “Experimental studies have demonstrated that even a brief exposure to food commercials can influence children’s preferences” (Kaiser pg 5). According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2009 kids between 8 and 18 spent an average of six hours and 23 minutes watching television and movies and using computers each day. This screen time provides advertisers with a prime opportunity to utilize different methods to reach kids. “Over the same period of time in which childhood obesity has increased so dramatically, research indicates that the number of ads children view has increased as well. … As the number of cable channels exploded in the 1990s, opportunities to advertise directly to children expanded as well. The most recent estimates are that children now see an average of more than 40,000 TV ads a year.” (Kaiser pg 4)

According to Kaiser, food advertisements make up the majority of the ads targeted at children: the highest number of them for candy (32% of all ads for children), cereal (31%), and fast food (9%). Meanwhile, advertisements for fruits or vegetables are nonexistent.

The allure of advertising to children is made obvious by the amount of money that children spend. According to Kaiser, in 2004 marketing executives anticipated that children who were under 12-years-old would “spend $35 billion of their own money and influence $200 billion in household spending.” The brand loyalty that develops as a result of advertising to children creates life-long customers. “ ‘We have living proof of the long-lasting quality of early brand loyalties in the cradle-to-grave marketing at McDonald’s, and how well it works,’ James McNeal, a well-known kids’ marketing guru and the author of Kids As Customers has said. ‘We start taking children in for their first and second birthdays, and on and on, and eventually they have a great deal of preference for that brand. Children can carry that with them through a lifetime’ ” (Spurlock 149). “When buying their own food and drink, half of kids ages seven to twelve choose candy, more than one-third will also buy soda and ice cream and about one-fourth might go for fast food as well” (Spurlock 151).

A popular tactic for reaching child customers involves using popular television and movie characters in advertisements or using toys from the show or movie as prizes that comes along with the food. Food companies often get involved in promotional deals with movie studios or television networks. “Today, corporations spend over $15 billion every year on marketing, advertising and promotions meant to program kids to consume, consume and consume some more” (Spurlock 151) This can be beneficial to both companies because they will promote each other by combining the characters and the product. The movie or television studio may allow the food company to use images from their productions in advertisements and packaging and often toys that are included as prizes in the package to lure kids in to buy the food. This is great for the television or movie studio because their production is being promoted on the food company’s packaging, in their advertisements and even being taken home to be played with by the kids. “In the summer of 2004 alone, Burger King cross-promoted with Shrek 2, Spider-Man 2 and Yu-Gi-Oh! Wendy’s sucked up to Garfield. Ironically, McDonald’s, stuck in an exclusive ten-year promotional deal with Disney, was having a lousy summer – The studio was producing nothing but crap. The summer before, McDonald’s had had a field day with Finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean, but Disney’s big movies of 2004 were flops like The Alamo and Home on the Range- a film McDonald’s couldn’t exactly promote, since the lead characters were all cows. Couldn’t you just see the ads? ‘You’ve seen them on the screen, now come eat them in person!’ ” (Spurlock 150).

Children cannot escape advertisements on the internet either. Game websites that are popular among children are often sponsored by fast food or snack companies. In 2004 McDonald’s cross-promoted with Neopets, an online virtual pet game. The Neopets website featured advertisements for McDonald’s as part of the fast food company’s “25 years of Happiness Happy Birthday Happy Meal Celebration,” while McDonald’s included one of 109 different Neopets toy designs in every Happy Meal. (Spurlock 160)

“Most children under age 6 cannot distinguish between program content and commercials, and most children under 8 do not understand that the purpose of advertising is to sell a product” (Kaiser 8). Many food commercials directed at children are formatted as cartoons that have simple plots, with characters that children come to recognize and, of course, a memorable catch phrase. There are tons of recognizable characters in the marketplace that kids will remember for a lifetime. Lucky the Leprechaun instructs kids to “Catch me Lucky Charms!” Chip the wolf, the Cookie Crisp bandit, howls for “CooOOOookie Crisp!” This recognition leads to kids screaming for boxes of cereal featuring those same characters when mom or dad takes them to the grocery store.
The Nag Factor

Many parents don’t have any choice but to bring their kids along to the grocery store with them, this is where many parents fall victim to the “Nag Factor.”

The Nag Factor is a study on nagging that was conducted by Western Media International (now Initiative Media Worldwide) in 1998 to help retailers take advantage of nagging to increase sales. A press release was issued from Western Media International headlined “The Fine Art of Whining: Why Nagging is a Kid’s Best Friend.”  It contained a study that identified which kinds of parents are most likely to give in to nagging (Linn 33).

“When Lucy Hughes, director of initiative and strategy for Innovative Media, was interviewed for a film called The Corporation, she justified the Nag Factor study this way: ‘If we understand what motivates a parent to buy a product … if we could develop a creative commercial- you know, a thirty-second commercial that encourages the child to whine… that child understands and is able to reiterate to the parents, then we’re successful’ ” (Linn 39) Companies using such tactics inhibit the parents’ ability to say no, in spite of all good intentions and pledges to only provide healthy foods.

Most parents try to make good food choices, but they are often confused about proper nutrition by advertising. Kids whine for the box of cereal that they saw on TV and the advertisers tell parents that it’s okay because the cereal is “enriched” with vitamins and minerals and is part of a balanced breakfast, even though the cereal may still be loaded with sugar.

The media makes use of buzzwords such as whole grain, fiber, organic, natural and a number of other words in order to make foods appear healthier. The use of these words greatly increases parents’ confusion about nutrition. In some cases these words can be useful guides when shopping for healthier options. In other cases they are used to trick parents into buying junk that has a healthy ingredient.

Another advertisement that uses the confusion of parents to sell junk food to kids is a commercial for Kellogg’s cereal that flaunts the fact that the product contains three grams of fiber. Yet upon inspection of the nutrition label for Fruit Loops, sugar is still listed as the first ingredient, 12 grams, in fact (Kellogg’s). ‘Fiber’ is among the words that the media have turned into a buzzword to make people feel like smart, healthy shoppers. Fiber is a healthy and important nutrient in any diet, but the presence of one healthy ingredient doesn’t make up for the amount of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients found in the food.

The Corn Council has released a barrage of commercials trying to convince people that corn syrup is not unhealthy. The plot of the commercials always involves someone pointing out that a product contains corn syrup, to which the other person replies, “So?” The accuser is left speechless as if to suggest that their initial reaction to corn syrup was merely a result of baseless hype. The other person responds to their companion’s silence by stating that high corn syrup is natural, made from corn, low in calories and, like sugar, is fine in moderation. Some people fall for this, not noticing that the ad was paid for by the Corn Council. In actuality, among the reasons that corn syrup is bad for you, corn syrup is processed differently than sugar. According to Morgan Spurlock’s book, ‘Don’t Eat This Book,’ high fructose corn syrup is a major contributor to overeating and weight gain because it alters the way that your body functions. Your body processes it differently than it does regular sugar. It causes your liver to throw more fat out into your bloodstream, which causes your body to store more fat, as well as tricks your body into wanting to eat more by suppressing the production of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain that you’re full and speeds up the metabolism. A lot of manufacturers like to make use of high fructose corn syrup because it’s cheap and it extends shelf life, not to mention that they are aware of the obvious connection between eating more and buying more (Spurlock 97). Because manufacturers make use of corn syrup for so many purposes and in so many products it is nearly impossible to consume in moderation. But with all of this information available as easily as typing in some key words on an Internet search engine, many people still have no idea what’s wrong with consuming corn syrup. The advertisers tell people that it’s okay to be ignorant, just listen to what the commercials are telling you because they couldn’t possibly have an agenda of their own and they wouldn’t want you to miss out on any of that delicious corn syrupy goodness.


The media’s ability to manipulate children could be used for good instead of evil. “…Some have pointed to media use as one of the most easily modifiable influences on overweight and obesity among children” (Kaiser 8). Television shows could depict characters making healthy food choices rather than shunning broccoli in favor of ice cream.

Many countries have already put policies in place to protect children. “Several industrialized democracies have adopted policies designed to protect children from excessive marketing practices. Sweden, Norway, and Finland, for instance, do not permit commercial sponsorship of children’s programs. Sweden also does not permit any television advertising directed to children under age 12. Belgium imposes restrictions on commercials five minutes before and after as well as during children’s programming. The BBC decided to prohibit use of its cartoon characters in fast food ads, and England is pushing for stricter guidelines for advertising aimed at children” (Kaiser 8).

According to the Los Angeles Times, “A county supervisor has created a stir with his proposal to bar the inclusion of toys in restaurant meals that contain high amounts of sugar, salt or certain fats” (Bernstein) in Santa Clara County, California. “Believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, the proposal would forbid the inclusion of a toy in any restaurant meal that has more than 485 calories, more than 600 mg of salt or high amounts of sugar or fat. In the case of McDonald’s, the limits would include all of the chain’s Happy Meals — even those that include apple sticks instead of French fries” (Bernstein). It may be a small start, but this proposal certainly heading in the right direction of preventing restaurants and movies from cross-promoting at the expense of children’s health.

Some of the most basic ways to pull kids out of the grasp of advertisers are to limit time spent in front of televisions and computers and educate kids about the goals of advertisers as well as how the food being advertised will affect them. Cooking healthy meals and keeping the family active will set a good example and hopefully create healthy habits that will remain with the child for life.

The health of children in the United States is declining and taking their life expectancy down with it. The media plays a large role in the growing number of overweight and obese children in the United States because, with the increased amount of time that children spend in front of televisions and computers, kids are being exposed to more advertisements than ever. Children are confused by television shows that give them the unrealistic impression that they can maintain an unhealthy diet and a slim figure simultaneously. Television and movie characters are used to advertise unhealthy foods and toys based off of the characters are used to lure kids into picking out boxes of cereal or going to a restaurant to eat. Regulations may be necessary to make it more difficult for advertisers to prey on children. Until the advertisers are under control, parents should learn about the ways that their children are targeted so that they may better protect them. The epidemic of obesity is reaching crisis level and serious attention needs to be given to find ways to turn it around.

Works Cited:

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation “Childhood Obesity–An American Epidemic.”HealthierGeneration.org. Web. 2 May 2010.

Bernstein, Sharon. “Happy Meal toys could be banned in Santa Clara County.” Los Angeles Times April 27, 2010:Web. 2 May 2010.

The Kaiser Family Foundation “The Role of Media in Childhood Obesity.” The Kaiser Family Foundation. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Feb 2004. Web. 2 May 2010.

Linn, Susan. Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood. New York: The New Press, 2004. Print.

Popkin, Barry. The World is Fat: The Fads, Trends, Policies, and Products that are fattening the Human Race. New York: The Penguin Group, 2009. Print.

Spurlock, Morgan. Don’t Eat This Book. New York: The Penguin Group, 2005.     Print.


High Fructose Corn Syrup- I can tell you why it’s bad! September 25, 2008

I love these high fructose corn syrup ads that the Corn Council has been putting out recently. Its their way of saying “you’re stupid, so you will eat this.”

You’ve seen them, right?
There are a few, in one there’s a man and a woman sitting on a picnic blanket in the park. The woman offers the man a bite of her popsicle “want a bite?” and he says “I thought you loved me?” to which she replies “okay, two bites” and the man says “that has high fructose corn syrup in it” and the wife asks “So?…” The man just stares at her with a blank look on his face because he doesn’t know the answer.

Do you know why it’s bad for you? Do you honestly believe that because you don’t know the answer then that makes it okay to eat? It’s like people who eat a few extra slices of cake because they don’t know how many calories are in it, so that makes it zero, right? We all know there are still calories in it and it’s not doing them any good to keep on eating. It’s the same with High Fructose Corn Syrup, just because you don’t know why it’s bad for you doesn’t mean that it’s not hurting you to eat it.

I may make a YouTube response to those commercials, where just the ending is changed, so that rather than staring at the other person with a blank expression when they ask, I can reply “I’m so glad you asked! Let me tell you!”

In fact, I’m so glad you asked! Let me Tell you!
HFCS messes with the way that your body functions because your body processes it differently than it does regular sugar. It causes your liver to throw more fat out into your bloodstream, which causes your body to store more fat, as well as tricking your body into wanting to eat more by suppressing the chemical leptin, which tells your brain when your stomach is full.


And why do I care so much? Because this stuff is in everything! The NCC claims that it’s safe in “moderation,” but since it’s used in everything, it’s impossible to consume in moderate amounts. Companies love to make use of it because it’s cheap and it acts as a preservative. I can try as hard as I want to avoid it, but it always sneaks into something. The fact that the FDA allows so many things to slip through for the sake of profit makes me furious. The FDA seems to know more about money than it does about health. This is why we all need to pay attention. Get angry. Don’t let them get away with it.

As for what you can do specifically; write letters and emails to companies that use this product. Tell them that you will not continue to buy their products at the expense of your health. For corporations, especially big ones, each email the recieve counts for several thousand opinions. This is because for each email they recieve, there are several thousand other people who agree with the person, but didn’t write emails of their own. This actually matters to companies! You may not believe me, but try writing to a company with any sort of constructive criticism or complaint, make sure you are polite, and ask for a response. Usually a company will say on it’s feedback forms how many business days you can expect to wait for a response. If they do not respond, then they don’t care about their customers and don’t deserve your business. Don’t buy from companies that don’t care about their customers. Their products will be consumed by you and your loved ones. Don’t risk it.


The Epidemic of Obesity September 11, 2008

Filed under: Health,nutrition — jordysullivan @ 6:47 pm
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The schools play a large role in the health of our nation’s children. With children spending a large proportion of their time during the school year at school, the time that they spend there should be spent promoting mental and physical health as much as possible. Obesity has become an epidemic and the schools can accept a large part of the blame. Recess has been cut at many schools. The cafeterias serve high fat, high calorie menus. Home economics classes reinforce unhealthy habits. And gym classes teach kids to loath the very idea of exercise. This responsibility cannot be left solely to the parents.

Over the last decade or so, obesity has become a growing epidemic among children. They carry their weight and unhealthy habits on to adulthood, when they pass these traits on to their own children. In 1982 only 4% of children were overweight. This increased to 16% in 1994. In 2001 the percentage of obese American children had reached a whopping 25%! (pmmedia.com) The health problems resulting from these negative lifestyles will ultimately shorten their lives. “[A] new study suggests one in four overweight children is already showing early signs of type II diabetes.” (www.pmmedia.com) These habits and addictions are formed primarily in two places, at home and in the schools. It is not a matter of vanity; even skinny people can harbor toxic fat.

Children aren’t allowed to run on playgrounds at school anymore because the teachers are afraid that they will fall and hurt themselves. The risk of obesity is much higher and the exercise that kids get on the playground is very important in order to prevent it. 78% of Americans do not meet basic activity level recommendations. (www.pmmedia.com) A skinned knee is preferable to a bad heart. According to Joe Frost, emeritus professor of early childhood education at the University of Texas-Austin, “Having time for play is essential for children to keep their weight under control.” (Bazar, Emily)

Cafeterias tend to serve high fat, high calorie meals. Most of the time when you look at a school cafeteria’s lunch menu, it’s like looking at a menu for a bad country buffet. Everything is creamed, fried, or doused in gravy. Many schools even provide French fries, which are usually the main course for most of the student’s lunches. I remember going into the cafeteria in high school; it was like the school had completely given up on the idea of serving anything with any real nutritional value. Everything was high fat, high calorie, low in fiber and would ultimately make the consumer crash within an hour of eating it. Still, the allure of French fries is irresistible to most people, especially when it’s offered so readily. Looking at Providence, my old high school’s lunch menu, it’s easy to see why the health of our nation’s children is in such peril. Providence High School has a Dominos pizza cart set up right in the middle of the cafeteria each day. The cafeteria workers know that it is almost worthless to attempt to compete with it. The “healthy” options are pitiful and unattractive, the salads consisting of a soggy tomato slice on top of a couple of wilted leaves of ice burg lettuce. The schools are unintentionally training kids to avoid healthy foods. The schools need to switch to an organic menu packed with nutrients, low in fat and free of red meats as well as provide vegetarian and vegan options. Most of all, they need to get rid of food options that will negatively affect a person’s health. Providing unhealthy options like French fries, cakes, and cookies creates temptation that most students will not resist.

Serving high quality foods in the cafeteria will ultimately result in better performance in the classrooms. Rather than crashing right after lunch, the lasting energy provided from a nutritious meal will fuel the students through their classes and help them to concentrate on their school work without becoming exhausted or distracted by hunger pains. Lotta Granholm is a neuroscientist at the Medical University of South Carolina who was interested in the effects of fats on the brain. After conducting memory tests on mice involving hydrogenated coconut oil and soybean oil in order to test the effects of trans fats on the brain, “Granholm suspects trans fat increases inflammation in the brain, which damages the proteins.” (spurlock 132)

Of course there is no hiding the fact that organic, healthy foods will be more expensive than the fried garbage that we are currently feeding to our kids. But there is also no denying the fact that the results would make the extra cash worth spending. We would be lazy and irresponsible not to put forth a little bit of effort to find proper funding in order to care for our children’s health. Most people would be happy to know that their tax dollars were being spent in a positive way for a change. Farm to School programs are one option that will benefit the students as well as the local community. “These programs connect schools with local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing health and nutrition education opportunities that will last a lifetime, and supporting local small farmers.” (FarmtoSchool.org) Programs like this would help to curb the cost of healthy, organic school lunches. The school lunch problem could be solved easily if the right people took the initiative to do so.

Gym class is another area where the schools are lacking in terms of promoting the health of their students. Gym teachers tend to force the kids to play games where the kids pick teams or that are simply no fun for the kids. Being picked last in gym class is something that can scar a kid emotionally and steer them away from sports and exercise for life. Instead of forcing kids to attend grueling gym classes where they play sports that usually don’t appeal to the kids; they should be required to join a team from a variety of sports, including non-team sports. Many more children would take interest in physical activity if they could choose from a wide variety and pick something that interests them. Schools could take advantage of their locations by engaging in local sports, like surfing lessons for schools that are near beaches and hiking for schools in the mountains. Classes for disabled children should also be made available. A disability should not hold someone back from being as healthy as they can be. If a child chooses a sport that appeals to him or her, it is more likely to be one that they keep up with throughout their lifetimes.

Not only are current physical education classes alienating to many, they are overall ineffective when it comes to providing an outlet for pent up energy. “…studies have shown that out of a typical gym period; only six minutes are spent being physically active! … the amount of physical education students get is actually very small—It can be measured in minutes per week.” (spurlock 127) Because of legislation like “No Child Left Behind” schools are being pressured to replace “free time” with more academics.

Some may argue that playground time, or time spent exercising while at school wastes time that could otherwise be spent learning and studying. Exercise is beneficial to the mind as well as the body. Exercise can help to improve one’s memory. “…exercise enhances the formation and survival of new nerve cells as well as the connections between nerve cells, which in turn improves long-term memory.” (Sejnowski, Terrence J.) Surely no teacher can argue that this would aide students in their schoolwork.

For the schools that require it as an elective, Home Economics classes should teach children skills that they can take home and use to educate their own families. They should teach kids how to cook healthy meals, instead of cakes and cookies as well as educate them about meal planning and nutritional information. If a child is introduced to the idea of replacing unhealthy ingredients with healthier ones, they will be more open minded about doing it on a regular basis rather than assuming that healthy and bland are synonymous. If the goal of home economics courses is to teach kids how to take care of themselves and their families, they should not exclude looking after the health of those people.

Health courses need to give as much focus, if not more, to teaching kids about nutrition and the dangers of obesity as they do to teaching them about drugs, sex, and alcohol. Parents and teachers tend to focus on more immediate health threats. A slice of pizza can look innocent next to a cigarette, but the negative repercussions of imbibing can cause plenty of life threatening health problems in a relatively short amount of time. Dr Wendy Wills, researcher in child and adolescent health at the University of HertfordshireIf, conducted interviews with teenagers aged 13 and 14, half of whom were overweight, and their parents. She said, “There was a sense that at 13 or 14 the last thing you need is to get hung up about your body and, as they saw it, pushed towards being diagnosed with an eating disorder.” (Duffy, Judith) Of course, the range of eating disorders is not limited to those that make you excessively thin; binge eating is a disorder as well. The results of binge eating can be extremely dangerous. “The major complications of binge eating disorder are the diseases that accompany obesity. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, gallbladder disease, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.” (health.com) Health courses are intended to spread awareness of the things in our lives that can kill or harm us then there is no reason why certain foods should be left off the list. With all of the awful food options we are all faced with in daily life, kids need to be educated about how to make the proper decisions and the reasons why it is important to do so.

Some people say that it is the parent’s responsibility to ensure that their children are healthy. It is, partially. Parents do need to stop allowing their children to get hooked on such unhealthy foods, many of which have addictive qualities. If they are short on time, they need to work with their kids to make healthy meals that the children can prepare on their own. Even a single mother who works two jobs has no excuse for allowing her child to chow down on Twinkies instead of eating a nutritious meal. Parents should not stock the pantry with unhealthy snacks. The foods that are kept in the house are the ones that will be consumed by the parents and the children. Instead of filling up the kitchen with snack foods like snack cakes and other foods that are high in fat and empty calories, parents should provide fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads. There are plenty of healthy meals that a child can prepare on his or her own these days. There are frozen vegetables that you can simply microwave and eat as well as a ton of other choices that will keep kids healthy and happy. The problem is that while these are not difficult changes to make, many parents will not keep up with these habits. If they haven’t already made some positive changes, then chances are that they are not going to start anytime soon. Besides, a parent can only monitor their child during the time that they are both home together, a large portion of the rest of the time is spent in the hands of the school system. I can’t imagine that many parents are thrilled about the fact that they have to leave their kids in the hands of a system that displays such irresponsibility each day. Unlike the individual households, the school systems can be more easily regulated and should be utilized to accomplish the goal of a healthier nation.

The school plays a very important role in the health of the children that attend. They need to spend more of the time that children spend there ensuring the kid’s health, and less of it worrying about skinned knees. Gym classes often do more harm than good when it comes to exposing kids to exercise by making it seem like a grueling activity. Requiring kids to join a team of their choice will make kids more open to the idea of exercise throughout their lifetimes. Health and home economics classes need to focus more on teaching kids how to keep themselves healthy and avoid obesity. Parents cannot always be counted on to do what is best for their child’s health, schools can be regulated, making it easier to control what sort of food options are available as well as ensuring that the children are getting proper exercise. With children spending a large proportion of their time during the school year at school, the time that they spend there should be spent promoting mental and physical health as much as possible.

Works Cited:

Bazar, Emily. “‘Not it!’ More schools ban games at recess” USA Today 6 June 2006. 15 November 2007 http://usatoday.com/news/health/2006-06-26-recess-bans_x.htm?imw=Y

“Binge Eating Disorder” Health.com National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases http://www.athealth.com/Consumer/disorders/Bingeeating.html

Birchum, Jana. Fatty Foods Under Attack in Texas Schools. 11 March 2004. http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://cache.viewimages.com/xc/3076153.jpg%3Fv%3D1%26c%3DViewImages%26k%3D2%26d%3D17A4AD9FDB9CF193B3EA2C03450C9486620E98D22B9322B05A5397277B4DC33E&imgrefurl=http://www.viewimages.com/Search.aspx%3Fmid%3D3076153%26epmid%3D2%26partner%3DGoogle&h=396&w=594&sz=48&hl=en&start=1&tbnid=u6G3J8JPjaVCfM:&tbnh=90&tbnw=135&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dchildhood%2Bobesity%2Bschool%2Blunch%2Bfrench%2Bfries%26gbv%3D2%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den

Duffy, Judith. “Parents Worry More About Drugs Than Obesity” The Sunday Herald 13 August 2006. 15 November 2007. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_20060813/ai_n16648762

“Farm to School” Farm to School.Org 2006 Occidental College

Obesity in America May 02, 2006. November 15, 2007 http://www.pmmedia.com/obesitypage1.htm

Sejnowski, Terrence J. “Exercise Improves Learning and Memory.” Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 9 November 1999. 15 November 2007. http://www.hhmi.org/news/sejnowski.html

Spurlock, Morgan. Don’t Eat This Book Berkley Books: New York, 2005


McDonalds; Attractive or Addictive?

Filed under: Health,nutrition — jordysullivan @ 6:45 pm
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You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t recognize McDonalds’ signature “Golden Arches.” The big yellow “M” that looks suspiciously similar to a couple of limp French fries. When you’re driving down the highway and you see this symbol towering high over the rooftops you are almost immediately reminded that you are utterly famished, and of course you have no choice but to stop in for some French fries, maybe a soda, and it is near dinnertime so let’s throw in a Big Mac. Why not make it two Big Macs, because you can’t Supersize anymore.

Of course most people have fond childhood memories from McDonalds; romping in the play place, opening up the happy meal that Mom and Dad got for you as a reward for being good while they ran errands, and finding the cool toy stashed in the box along with your tasty burger, fries and small soda. As we grow up, we hold on to these fond memories and we return to McDonalds again and again in the hopes of feeling the simple joy that we felt there as a child. We also come to realize that McDonalds is a source of fast, cheap food. Though most of us are well aware of the fact that fast food is unhealthy, we normally ignore this knowledge and keep on eating it. Typically, once the signs that fast food is hurting us start appearing, signs such as a growing waistline or decreased energy, the food has already taken hold of your body and you have developed an addiction. How does the McDonalds Corporation lure customers in and hook them for life in spite of the well known fact that the food served in the restaurant is unhealthy? Are there subliminal messages? Are there special addictive chemical additives? The McDonalds corporation uses several methods, including business practices, that encourage overeating and addictive ingredients, to lure customers in and hook them for life. “Our bodies crave fats, salt, and sweet. For millions of years they were hard to come by. Now everything we eat is bursting with them, dripping with them, caked in them. But our bodies still think it’s the bad old days, and they can’t get enough.” (Spurlock, Pg 84) McDonalds loads up all of it’s foods with an excess of each of these ingredients. Inconclusive data suggests that a meal high in fat may dull the hormonal signals that your body usually sends itself to let you know that you’re full. (Spurlock Pg 84) McDonald’s food tricks our bodies, first into thinking that we need the “nutrients” being supplied, and lots of them, and second into eating far more than our fair share of the food because we can’t tell when our stomachs are full. (Spurlock Pg 84)

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a major contributor to the overeating and the weight gain that normally result from dining at McDonalds. HFCS messes with the way that your body functions because your body processes it differently than it does regular sugar. It causes your liver to throw more fat out into your bloodstream, which causes your body to store more fat, as well as tricking your body into wanting to eat more. And McDonalds loves to make use of it. A lot of food manufacturers do. It’s cheap and it extends shelf life. And obviously if you want to eat more, then you’ll buy more. HFCS can be found in virtually every item on the McDonalds menu, from the burger buns to the sodas. (Spurlock Pg. 97)

It’s very easy to ignore the nutritional information in a fast food restaurant. This ignorance is encouraged by the restaurants, most of which will place the information in an area where you’d really have to search for it, if you bother to look for it at all. The nutritional information for a restaurant’s food is supposed to be readily available to the customers, but many restaurants don’t have any at all, or their employees are not aware of it. Most of the people eating in fast food restaurants have no idea how much fat, salt, or calories are in the food that they are consuming, much less the ingredients that the “food” is made up of, though one could also assume that most of the people dining on fast food don’t care. The consumers who do try to be health conscious may be stopping in as a last resort on a road trip because there’s not another restaurant for miles, and by ordering chicken or fish instead of beef they may be doing even more damage than if they were to order a hamburger. “…many chicken and fish products contain more fat than a hamburger or roast beef sandwich” (Jacobson and Fritschner 89). Even the salads are bad for you because they contain more sugar than a Big Mac! McDonalds fools people into believing that there are healthy options on the menu. McDonalds was able to regain a large number of their customers after films exposing the restaurant for serving foods that are unbelievably destructive to our bodies scared many customers away. By simply adding salads to the menu and allowing the consumers to believe that they are making a healthy choice and doing something good for their bodies. The sugar in many of the salads simply adds to the addiction and the customer is back to including Big Macs and milk shakes in no time. When the company is slapped with another frivolous lawsuit for someone gaining weight from eating at McDonalds, the corporation can claim that they provide healthy options, but really there’s no easy way to eat a balanced meal in the restaurant.

The cash registers at McDonalds are even programmed to prompt the employees to push more food on the customers. “If a customer orders a meal without a dessert, the cash registers remind the worker to suggest a hot apple pie or an ice cream sundae” (Kincheloe Pg 70). A few years ago McDonald’s workers were trained to encourage each customer to “Supersize” their meal. Since the film “Supersize Me” was released and caused a wave of attention to sweep across the nation, people began to complain about McDonald’s unhealthy menu and the “supersizing” option has been removed. To “Supersize” meant that the customer would receive a gargantuan amount of food for only an additional 30 cents or so, on top of the ridiculous amount of food that they would have received anyway. We think that we’re getting a great deal, and no one likes to pass up a bargain, so we go for it every time. Instead of realizing that we are getting more than enough food already and saving that 30 cents, we take the food and eat every bite of it because we don’t want that great deal to go to waste. “Waste not, want not” is a proverb we have all been raised on.

What it all comes down to is that the fast food company is doing everything in it’s power to turn us into McZombies, by pumping chemicals, fats and sugars that trick our bodies and throw them out of whack; but we have the majority of the control over what we put into our own bodies. We all have at least some iota of knowledge as to what’s bad for us. It’s a battle, but it’s one that we can’t afford to lose. We have options; we don’t have to hand our bodies over to the corporations. Short of growing all of our food in an organic garden at home, the best thing that we can do is to make wise decisions when we dine. Low income families can research ways to make healthy meals on a low budget. Travelers can pack healthy meals and snacks to eat on road trips. It’s not always easy to fight off temptation, and corporations shouldn’t be able to trick their clients by erasing the line between being a loyal customer and an addict.

Works Cited
Kincheloe, Joe L. The Sign of the Burger Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002
Michael F. Jacobson & Sarah Fritschner The Fast-Food Guide New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc., 1986
Spurlock, Morgan Don’t Eat This Book New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2005