by Marion Nestle
Dec 13 2013

Weekend reading: A Big Fat Crisis

Deborah A. Cohen.  A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Forces Behind the Obesity Epidemic—And How We Can End It.  Nation Books, 2013.

Cover: A Big Fat Crisis

Here’s my blurb:

Deborah Cohen gives us a physician’s  view of how to deal with today’s Big Fat Crisis.  In today’s “eat more” food environment, Individuals can’t avoid overweight on their own.   This extraordinarily well researched book presents a convincing argument for the need to change the food environment to make it easier for every citizen to eat more healthfully.

And from the review on the website of the Rand Corporation, where Deborah Cohen works:

The conventional wisdom is that overeating is the expression of individual weakness and a lack of self-control. But that would mean that people in this country had more willpower thirty years ago, when the rate of obesity was half of what it is today. Our capacity for self-control has not shrunk; instead, the changing conditions of our modern world have pushed our limits to such an extent that more and more of us are simply no longer up to the challenge.

Comments

  • Howie G
  • December 16, 2013
  • 11:13 am

Who’s to say that people’s “lack of self-control” hasn’t weakened over 30 years? Where does she get that evidence from or is it anecdotal? Why not compare credit card debt today vs 30 years ago and tell me people don’t have less self control today. Buying beyond ones means is a sign, at least in my eyes, of a lack of self control…

  • marykparker
  • January 21, 2014
  • 8:23 am

Marketing and advertising are much more sophisticated nowadays (and much more pervasive—checked the handle of your shopping cart lately?). There are journals with scientific approaches to alert companies to the best ways to market and target their foods to consumers (case in point: food commercials aimed at children). http://www.consumerpsychologist.com/food_marketing.html

Food scientists have learned how to tweak flavorings so that artifical flavors are more intense than natural flavors so people develop cravings for these “food” items http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-flavorists-tweaking-tastes-and-creating-cravings-27-11-2011/

People still have will power, but evidence has shown that that willpower can be depleted. Those who have given up tobacco and alcohol are urged to avoid temptation to prevent relapse. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-face-adversity/201204/can-willpower-be-depleted

Although we’d all like to say we’re above this and have loads of willpower, in the face of this constant barrage of targeted ads and lovely mouthfeels [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouthfeel ], we will get tripped up at some point.

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