Social Question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Which is the greater cause of fat people, the people themselves, or the food industry?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26866points) June 18th, 2011

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution was on. The phone rang and I only caught part of an exchange Jamie Oliver was having with some mid-level mucky muck in the school district as to why he (Oliver) was getting so much resistance in getting in the school to do his thing. The official alluded to they (the district) didn’t want him to come in with his cameras and start saying the food was crap and that parents were slowly killing their kids feeding it to them. The district didn’t want parents told that chicken nuggets and nachos were making their kids fat that people were fat because they wanted to be fat. Whoa! Was he just letting food manufactures of the hook? That sounds like anyone who is fat cannot blame Häagen-Dazs, McDonalds, or any other fast food place, nor the food industry for loading food up with high fructose corn syrup; it was their own fault they were fat.

Here in the US where 60% of the population is overweigh to some degree, who bears more of the blame, those who make the food, or those who are eating it?

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56 Answers

dialectical1's avatar

Food industry, hands down. Sure, some people can work on their lifestyle or heath- but many of those are people who never get looked down upon for their bodies. Many seemingly ‘fat’ people exercise more and eat better than apparently healthy ones. Some folks healthy weight doesn’t align with popular cultural ‘standards’, and some very unhealthy or just super-unusual body shapes/sizes do. You can do plenty of research on how & why body weight isn’t directly relational with health, if you’re up for it.

The lovely Audrey Hepburn, whose style & personality helped to bring about the current prizing of ‘thin’ over even 50’s curvy in many circles had seriously inadequate nutrition as a child during WWII, apparently. And there’s ads out there from the 50s & even early 60s for products that make you “beautiful” by gaining weight. Anyone can research it themselves; at least one example is on multiple sites. Cultural cosmetic or ‘moral’ standards masquerading as ‘for the good of’ overweight people can actually cause major, observable damage to people wellbeing, mental health wise and in terms of healthy behavior. Because of all the above, I find it to be not at all a virtue to somehow ‘help’ others by treating them poorly, and beyond absurd to equate body size with morality, as some actually do.

There’s much better, more informed writing out there on the subject from those who have way more authority than I to speak about the subject, whether coming from personal, nutritional or public health or other relevant perspectives… they’re worth seeking out if this subject interests you!

Personally, We should question why we’re so quick to question or even hassle individuals but not large industries (eg. lobbying for subsidies for foods proven to be unhealthy &tc. and marketing this to children and hospitals on a regular basis!) Some may even argue that it’s acceptable, if that’s one’s authentic wish, to harm oneself. Few, however, could attempt to reasonably argue that it’s advisable to encourage others to harm themselves, nevermind spend millions of dollars a year towards encouraging others to eat junk and to disregard countless nutritional studies. Who knows, perhaps people would shift their eating habits a bit if unhealthy food were less pervasive and cheap? Sure, affordable food is great, but if you’re in an unsecure economic position, you need the best quality nutrition you can afford!

cazzie's avatar

The people themselves. No one is putting that food in their mouths. They are obviously showing disregard for themselves.

On the other side, the food here in the US is mostly junk parading as food. I dont think they should be allowed to market crap as food. I am visiting here in the US now on holiday and it is a challenge finding the ´food´at the supermarket.

ucme's avatar

I think it depends on a number of factors, “comfort eating” being one of the primary causes.

OpryLeigh's avatar

We need to take responsibility for our own actions. Like @cazzie said, no one is force feeding us and, at least here in the UK, it isn’t difficult to find decent, good tasting food for the same price as a MacDonalds. Of course fast food can be appealing and it doesn’t help that the industry is cashing in on human weakness for shit (but, I can’t lie, enjoyable – at least in my opinion) food but it’s no good crying into your cheeseburger if you are not willing to help yourself by resisting it every so often.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not completely against fast food (like I said, I enjoy it from time to time) but it’s a treat for me rather than a diet. I don’t think we need to deprive ourselves of these guilty pleasures but I think we do need to live by the “everything in moderation” rule.

I watched Jamie’s food revolution and I was disgusted that the schools are encouraging children to eat shit everyday. How are these children going to learn about the dangers of (too much) fast food if they are getting it at school, a place of education. If I was a parent I would be 100% behind Jamie’s mission.

Plucky's avatar

I believe both are responsible. I find it similar to the tobacco industry debate. Both are at fault.

Jamie Oliver is awesome.

LuckyGuy's avatar

We are in control of what goes into our mouths. We are the ones who see ourselves in the mirror every day. If we notice that something is happening it is up to us to respond accordingly. It is up to us to draw the line. 150, 200, 250, 300, pounds.
Even if you do not know about nutrition and can only eat junk food, when you feel the clothes getting tighter you cut down on the portions you eat. You get up and move. You get the meds you need. Change something! Don’t blame the food.

poisonedantidote's avatar

The people them selves. When I used to do body building and martial arts (4 hours a day) I could eat anything. I could fashion a spoon out of a mars bar and use it to eat 10 chocolat sundays in a row, and I would keep gaining muscle and losing fat.

Now I dont train, and I don’t move about as much. I eat 1 meal a day and maybe 1 or 2 snaks, and I can’t lose weight. Exercise is the key.

Cruiser's avatar

Those serving it. Food choices begin at home and if kids are served and shown what is good and healthy to eat they will make healthier choices at home. And like Jamie points out, schools are huge offenders at serving crap.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

People are responsible for their own actions and that includes what they put into their mouths.
For an adult to blame anything or anyone else for their weight is….....hmmmmm…..childlike?

rebbel's avatar

I’ld say people in the first place, and more specific (some) parents.
If i recall correctly, and @ucme or other Britons can back me up (or prove me wrong), Oliver did a project in the UK to bring more healthy food to school canteens.
Some (maybe most?) children didn’t like it and refused to eat it and of course their parents heard their complaints, which resulted in parents coming to the school yard during breaks to feed their their kids junk food through the fence….

stardust's avatar

The food industry isn’t responsible for a person’s weight. We choose what we put into our bodies, whether that be healthy or unhealthy.
I do believe it’s easier to blame the food industry as it gives people an excuse to prolong addressing that the issue of weight lies with themselves.

ucme's avatar

@rebbel Yeah he did & those parents were basically excusing their kids terrible diets.
Honourable though his intentions were, I have to say Oliver is a complete dick.

incendiary_dan's avatar

I’m leaning more towards blaming the food industry on this one. I mean sure, people should educate themselves a bit more about proper diet, but even that is made extremely hard by the food industry when they advertise unhealthy foods as healthy and fund tons of dishonest studies to get more profits. Hell, look at how many people think soy beans are healthy.

rebbel's avatar

@ucme Thank you for your back up.
And i agree on the dick label :-)

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@incendiary_dan -Regarding soy beans-exactly! It still boils down to personal responsibility and knowing just what one puts in one’s mouth.Sure,the media would have people believe all sorts of garbage to make a buck,but you still have to take responsibility for your actions.As PT Barnum said-There’s a sucker born every minute.

mazingerz88's avatar

If more demand for healthy food rises, the industry will have no choice but to respond. It’s the people who must initiate.

obvek's avatar

It’s a combination of food and sprawl. If walking isn’t a built-in part of a population’s routine, they will be fatter.

everephebe's avatar

Well of course they are both to blame but I think really in the end it’s the industry who’s the most to blame. They’ve worked hard, they deserve the credit.

Oh and by the way Häagen-Dazs are some of the good guys. I think they are among the few to actually do 5 ingredient ice creams.

zenvelo's avatar

I also think it is shared responsibility. You are what you eat, but it is also hard to make an informed decision when food companies and grocery store chains promote “healthy products” that are loaded with carbs and high fructose corn syrup.

Safeway and the “Eat Right” campaign have been promoting foods that are terrible for you, and will cause a weight gain if that’s what you eat. They promote “fat free” loaded with fructose to make it palatable.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

People are much more responsible. The processed food industries can create and market all the stuff they want but it’s our responsibility as consumers to check it out before we buy it or ingest it.

As far as I’m concerned, any product not yanked from the dirt and in need of washing is kind of my enemy. I assume by default that there have been additives or whatever in order for me to like the product as much as possible, to crave it as much as possible.

Facade's avatar

The greater cause? Themselves. Sure the food industry lies, but you can’t lie about celery, spinach, beans, etc. Anyone who regularly eats fast food, processed foods, and even restaurant food cannot blame anyone for their body except themselves.

Blondesjon's avatar

My sweet Christ!

This is one of those non-arguments that really gets under my fucking skin. I am a fat person and I am fucking fat because of the choices I made. I am so fucking tired of hearing people cry and whine about how it just has to be somebody else’s fault when the life path they opted for leads them in a direction that was obviously bound to be shitty from the beginning.

Smoking, trans fat, alcohol, it’s all bad for you. If you don’t know that by now, I just fucking told you it is, so now you have no excuse.

Seriously folks, grow the fuck up and take at least a modicum of responsibility in your life. Who knows, maybe the biggest part of your weight/drinking/or any other problem in your life stems from the fact that you can’t even be honest with yourself.

Sunny2's avatar

People seek comfort from food rather than just nutrition. The food industry takes advantage of people’s weaknesses. The advertising industry tries to make food so tempting that you can’t resist it. I think it starts with people seeking to reward or indulge themselves with food, particularly food heavy with sugar, salt, and fat, which is probably addictive in some way. The industries know this and use it to sell product. It’s a vicious circle, but the burden has to be put on the individual who is the only one who can say, “NO!”

woodcutter's avatar

It’s people who are the greater cause but not by much. It’s the work till you drop culture in the US. They make devises so you can be on the job while at home or at the beach. You can’t expect to get quality time away from “the mill” without being labelled a slacker so we Yanks work till we drop and who the fuck has the time to get out the salad master set and use it and prepare meals properly. It’s the go go go theme. How dare you stop and think about how this is going to shorten your life.

YARNLADY's avatar

To all above who believe people are responsible for what goes into their mouth – I would like to point out that we cannot be responsible for the trickery that is perpetrated upon us by the food industry. They make food taste good almost to the point of addiction by the use of chemicals, with little or no truth in labeling.

The “flavoring” listed in ingredients can be anything they want it to be, and the consumer is left with no idea what they are eating.

Stick to fresh you say? Well, fresh is anything but safe, with the dozens of pesticides and chemicals used.

I put the blame on mass food production with profit as the motive, rather than feeding the people. There is another little recognized reason, and that is the neccessity for both parents to work outside the home, just to meet the expenses of maintaining a household. This means the food must be easy to prepare, or already prepared, and ready to eat.

Facade's avatar

@YARNLADY If some of us are able to understand that the food industry isn’t always truthful with their labeling and such, then the rest of able-minded adults should be able to as well. I see what you’re saying, but I just don’t buy it, not one damned bit.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Facade When I was a child, we (the entire family) could eat all the bread, butter, fried chicken, bacon, cake, and other so-called fattening foods we wanted without any danger of getting overweight. Why is that different now? What changed?

Facade's avatar

@YARNLADY Not to be rude, but I don’t have the energy to continue going back and forth. Maybe someone else will answer your loaded questions.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Blondesjon Most people are on their way to obesity by the age of 10. Are 10-year-olds really expected to be fully informed individuals? Is it irresponsible of them to trust their parents or to think that the food sold to them at school is safe to eat? Look at the OP: it is about exactly this issue (school food). And it’s not all fast food and trans fat doing this to people. There are many unhealthy options that look like perfectly safe supermarket items (e.g., white bread). This is why WIC is in many ways superior to SNAP as far as supplementary nutrition programs go. WIC vouchers require participants to purchase healthy food, whereas SNAP often makes healthier options unaffordable. Of course, I suppose you don’t like those programs anyway. Maybe those 10-year-olds should go out and get themselves some jobs?

woodcutter's avatar

@Facade what loaded questions?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@YARNLADY: I think the effect of hormone laden feed for animals and their by products we ingest are a big piece of why people grow so much now.

My grandfather used to say we could all eat whatever we liked as long as we half of what we thought we wanted to put on a plate. He was one of the few “fat” people in our families and when I look at pictures of him now, he seems average by today’s standards.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@YARNLADY It was harder to avoid exercise back then, whereas it can be difficult to find time for it today. Look how jobs have changed: most people spend their day sitting behind a computer instead of standing at an assembly line. This is why the Amish can still eat anything they want. When one is required to spend at least one-third of almost every day in suboptimal conditions just to keep living, there are going to be consequences.

This is why I recommend standing desks or—even better—desks that can be quickly converted from standing to sitting modes. They help your back and keep your metabolism higher. Plus, you’re more alert when standing and less likely to drift off from your work. The computer age is upon us, and I am no Luddite. But we must adjust to the current circumstances.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

It’s a combination of both. There IS a thing called self-control when you are faced with a plate of food that would cover three meals. But, too many of our foods are unhealthy and riddled with garbage that does nothing except increase fat and cholesterol.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@YARNLADY I can answer your question by asking a few of my own.

How many TV stations did we have back then? 3.
How many TV’s per household did we have? Probably 1. And Dad got dibs on what to watch.
How many DVD and VCR players did we have? 0
How many video games? 0
How many cell phones that we could sit around and text on for hours did we have? 0

So what were we doing instead?

That’s the difference.

YARNLADY's avatar

@SavoirFaire and @Dutchess_III That is a very good point. Maybe it was all in the exercise.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It was….and we didn’t consider it “exercise.” We called it Playing Tag, or base ball, or mountain climbing. Building huts down by the creek.

Dutchess_III's avatar

This morning is a really good example of people making their own choices. Rick and I went to breakfast. Sat at a table that was next to a gal I know who is obese. She was just scarfing down some gravy covered something that was mounded up and covered her whole plate.

I ordered two scrambled eggs with cheese, a half order of french toast (which is one piece of Texas toast,) and a medium glass of milk. When our orders came I stole a piece of Ricks’ bacon to put in the eggs too. That’s all I needed.

After my order came, two small plates, the heavy gal kept glancing over at me and my food.

Nobody forces these people to eat what they eat. Most adult women would do fine with a child’s order, but they wouldn’t consider it.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I would have to say overall @cazzie @worriedguy @Blondesjon, and some others have said, the buck has to stop with the person; in the case if children with the parents. No one is putting that food in their mouths., Even if you do not know about nutrition and can only eat junk food, when you feel the clothes getting tighter you cut down on the portions you eat., and I am a fat person and I am fucking fat because of the choices I made. are all valid saying.

There was a time, and many don’t believe it because I don’t yo yo, I was heading towards being over weight. My clothes were getting tighter as @worriedguy say but rather keep getting larger sizes and making elastic my friend I decided to fight back. I didn’t know diet from shinola and knew I could not stay on one, I was not about to give up my mashed potatoes with butter, chocolate chip cookies, pizza, cheese burgers and the like; I could cut back and eat less though. I knew that alone was not going to do it so I got my lardy butt up and started to move. All I knew to do was walk, so I started, quarter mile the 1st week, then up to a half of a mile, then a mile. After I felt good walking 2 miles I started weights. I ate what I loved but just not as much, I did not go back to my beginning weight because 20lb if the weight I didn’t drop was muscle.

The food industry is not totally off the hook though, I would agree that ”creative” labeling and ingredient tagging can make something that is crap seem so great. They say when going to the food store ship only on the outer ring, where the produce, dairy, and meats are. The interior and on the isle ends is where all the crap is as @cazzie say. They make it very hard to find any of the good stuff that is not in the Buck Rodger’s range in price. Even if you can’t find cheap healthy foods you don’t have to pig out on the worse of it.

@Neizvestnaya You reminded me of a fact that when I was in school all the way from K to 6th grade there was only two or three kids in the WHOLE school that was considered fat, and they would not even be fat standing next to many kids today. When my mother would get our school clothes, we always dreaded having to take any pants from the husky section because to use kids that meant fat and no one wanted to be in school wearing husky jeans. That almost meant you were going to be picked last for everything if you didn’t get your butt kicked everyday on the way home.

@SavoirFaire Look at the OP: it is about exactly this issue (school food). And it’s not all fast food and trans fat doing this to people. Many people today have no ideal what school lunches were like back in the day, I would guess many assumed pizza, chicken nuggets, corndogs, etc were the regular items on the menu. I don’t remember having those things, we did not even have chicken nuggets, any chicken we had was mostly baked by the look of it, a lot of stuff might have not been ”kid tasty” but what one kid didn’t eat another would ask “are you going to eat that?” and it got eaten. We also, from what I remember didn’t have a mentality that food was a commodity to just waste, not that the teachers monitoring the lunch room would let you blatantly waste anything. Soda, flavored milk? Are you kidding? The only way you’d seen that was if your family sent you to school with a sack lunch, and it was more expensive to do compared to the school lunch so not many did that. If we had gotten meals like they served today we might have thought ‘A’ we were at some fast food place, ‘B’ it was so close to fast food that fast food had to be healthy.

I think school districts nation wide has capitulated, and said we will dish out this near junk food to get the kids to eat, because if they don’t eat it that is money lost or money not gained from the government because they are not feeding enough heads. So it all comes down to how many mouths are fed not so much the quality going in there. The food as to just be good enough but not as good as it could be.

@YARNLADY @Facade When I was a child, we (the entire family) could eat all the bread, butter, fried chicken, bacon, cake, and other so-called fattening foods we wanted without any danger of getting overweight. Why is that different now? What changed? Because people started treating their body like charge accounts instead of checking accounts. We all know what happens if you write more checks than you are depositing in your account, the checks start to bounce. However, if you have another account to draw from you have overdraft protection. If people seen calories as currency then they know if they use X amount but only take in Y amount an amount lower than X, they will not have enough, then they will have to overdraft from their fat cells and they will lose weight. Those who can in a sense balance their spending with their deposits will be able to eat anything they love and never gain weight. Those who deposit way more than they spend get fat, good for money but poor for calories.

Aethelwine's avatar

If it is the fault of the food industry, then why are there healthy, thin people? If it’s the food industry’s fault, there would be no thin people.

School doesn’t serve the after-school snacks and late-night snacks of Cheetos and root beer, irresponsible parents do.

the buck has to stop with the person; in the case if children with the parents.

Wise words, my friend.

Blondesjon's avatar

@SavoirFaire . . . wow. you got me pegged dude. uncanny.

perspicacious's avatar

It has nothing to do with the food industry. People are responsible for themselves.

Ladymia69's avatar

Both are to blame. But there are some exceptions, such as certain health issues that cause obesity regardless of food intake.

woodcutter's avatar

We’ve become a pill popper nation. In addition to lack of exorcise and food that is crap there are so many side effects of all the drugs that are pushed on us. One big side effect is weight gain. So many antidepressants make people fat which in of in itself will make people even more depressed, so the doc changes the script to a newer one that masked that problem…we don’t give a shit we get fat. It’s the perfect storm…of shit…a shitstorm.

ucme's avatar

I vote for a morbidly obese olympics, now that would be fucking hilarious. Hmm….I wonder who’d top the medal table.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central: I like you remember when seeing a fat kid or adult in the 70’s was odd and an obese person was a very real sight, something from TV or posters for carnivals and fairs. I’m amazed by what was “husky” (nicer name for fat kid clothes) is now “normal/average”. Even men who are slim everywhere else on their bodies have a round belly- what’s up with that?!

cazzie's avatar

I bought a pair of shorts for my son here in NOLA and they didn´t fit. I got him his age size and they are way too big. Back home in Norway, he wears 8 year old size, here, the 6 year old size was too big in the waist… hmmmm….

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@cazzie: When I was a teen then old vintage dresses my grandmother and great aunts used to let me play with with ladies 8’s and 10’s. In modern clothes then most of my tags are 2’s and 4’s. How did that happen?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Blondesjon Not trying to peg you, sir. Just pointing out that there is a large group of people to whom your argument cannot be applied. Personal accountability is a great thing, but it cannot absolve us from the responsibilities we have towards others.

cazzie's avatar

@Neizvestnaya we are getting taller as a race, generally speaking. We are much better fed. Our kids don´t get rickets or scurvy, but now there are just too many calories consumed. Also, there is what is called ´vanity sizing´. Clothing makers are much more likely to make a woman or man feel good and sell stuff when they can fit into that smaller size on the label, when in reality, that isn´t the same as it used to be. When I shop for vintage clothes, especially online, the sellers always give the waist and bust and length in inches/cm because the size on the label is quite meaningless. I love looking at the vintage clothing on

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@cazzie I have the same problem here. Apparently, all the clothes are made for “fat kids” so I can only buy pants, shorts and skirts for my daughters that either have working drawstrings, or an adjustable waist.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@cazzie & WillWorkForChocolate: I actually prefer shopping online for the very reason I can ask for measurements regardless of tag size. I’ve always wondered what is so difficult or wrong about wanting the garment industry to sell clothes using basic measurements as some do for menswear. Vanity sizing is such a waste of time! I refuse to spend my few days off going from store to store and hauling around piles of clothes to try on because they all differ so much from brand to brand.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I’ve always wondered what is so difficult or wrong about wanting the garment industry to sell clothes using basic measurements as some do for menswear. The moment you start placing actual inches on the clothes people will have to confront how large they actually are. The same reason many don’t want calories listed on the meals they purchase, they don’t want to know themselves really, and they do not want others to figure out how many calories they are scarfing down. I don’t think they weigh kids in school at lease once a year anymore because the kids and the parents don’t want everyone to know that their kid is probably overweight.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central: I wonder if this is mostly an American clothes thing?
Just last night my fiancee was trying to make me feel less irritated with some weight I recently put on by telling me most women would kill to be a size whatever like me and I retorted that no cares about size whatever on a 5ft woman if she looks like a dumpling and the same size whatever on a 5ft 6” woman looks non-dumpling. Stupid clothes.

mattbrowne's avatar

Fat people if they had good parenting as children.

Food industry if fat people had bad parenting as children.

It all depends on maturity. But since bad parenting is a reality and schools can’t fully compensate we also have to put limits on what the food industry can produce and advertise.

Dutchess_III's avatar

We place waaaaaaay to much focus on food in this country. The vast majority of people get PLENTY to eat, more than they need, but that’s not good enough for us. We insist on giving them even MORE food, for free, whenever we can.

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