Why Americans are fatter

…Americans are not consuming more carbohydrates and trans fats because McDonald’s is super sizing our dinners.  Nor is our diet changing because Uncle Sam is subsidizing corn.  Rather, Americans are eating poorly because of a much more fundamental change in how we eat, specifically, the rise of snacking.  In fact, the amount we eat and drink between meals accounts for nearly all the growth in our consumption of carbohydrates and fats over the past thirty years.  Perhaps the biggest source of America’s recent weight gain and sugary diet is not so much the value "meal" but the simple snack.

…the free market has caught up with American food culture…With snacking, food is no longer about sustenance or even sociability: it is about amusement and self-medication.  We now eat to relieve our stress, to alleviate our boredom, or simply make ourselves feel better.  Food, in short, has become our drug of choice.  And the types of foods that are best suited for these psychological tasks are the very ones that cause us so many health problems, that is, sweets, fats, and refined carbohydrates.  In other words, the ultimate source of the changing American diet goes beyond McDonald’s, corn syrup, or the food pyramid; the ultimate source is the American way of life.

That is from J. Eric Oliver’s excellent Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic.  Here is Steve Levitt’s positive review.  Here is an LA Times review.

What about me? I am not going to exercise beyond my current levels of tennis, basketball, and walking are enough.  So I could become thinner in three ways.  First, I have recently switched from Raisin Bran to Spelts cereal in the morning.  Second, I prefer mineral water to Coke, but Szechuan restaurants do not serve the former.  I am waiting for Markets in Everything, and in the meantime I am not willing to give up Dan Dan Noodles or eat them with plain ice water or tea.  Third, in the last year I have started snacking on high-quality dark chocolate.  I have yet to decide whether I wish to fight this new source of additional calories…

Addendum: Comments are now open…


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