nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

High Calorie Foods And The Law


Super Size, Biggie, Double Down, Monster Thickburger.  Should we vilify the people who eat them or the companies who make them?

The underlying principle involved in some anti-obesity campaigns, nutrition regulations, and restaurant food laws is a controversy over who's responsible?  We've spent decades and billions of dollars trying to educate everyone from pre-schoolers to seniors that too much fat, too many calories, and unbalanced meals are not good for them...but it's not working

So, instead of asking why people aren't responsive, we assume that the "message is not getting out, and we need to communicate better" (sound familiar?).  Which will cost more money, of course.

In addition, we can blame somebody else.  If the Colonel is making those Double Down sandwiches, he is evil, and must be stopped, right? 

An article at today makes the case for the First Lady and the Food Police:  the fast food companies are "going too far" with current high-calorie and high-fat menu items.

Maybe if we looked instead at why educating people about nutrition doesn't work, we would find better strategies to influence individual choice.  If people can see a reason to "choose" better, then those companies won't offer the fatty foods.  The fast food companies want to make money; if nobody chooses the Gut Bomb, they won't offer it.

But forcing the industry won't work.  If people can't get their Triple Whopper, they'll find a way to make it happen, as long as what motivates them to eat poorly still exists:  by buying two burgers and smashing them together, or by adding their own ingredients to make it taste better (because the weeds and grass the nutritionists want us to eat just doesn't measure up to Ye Olde Taste Buds).

I'm reminded of two anecdotes.  The first was the observation that with the introduction of plastic, injury-proof playground structures, the kids began crashing their bikes into the slides and rubber platforms in order to create a sense of danger.  The second anecdote is about the newspaper columnist who noticed that since she began substituting margarine for butter, she now uses twice as much margarine, defeating the purpose of making the change.  Motivation will overcome reason.

Let's do a better job of finding the underlying cause of overeating.  It's likely to give us better tools against obesity than shaming businesses into making food that doesn't taste as good--remember when french fries didn't taste like cardboard cooked in glue?

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