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Fat Fight

Junk food advertisers populate our visualscape and target young, uninformed consumers. Ads boast of convenience, economic value, and pleasure to stimulate our purchase and consumption of candies, sodas, fried snacks, or fast foods. Our nation is eating it all up through our eyes and mouths, getting fatter by the day.

The most heavily advertised foods are consumed the most. Children watch television commercials during after-school programming or Saturday cartoons, and over 90% of the ads are for junk foods. They’re sensitized to sugary cereals and high calorie meals that become substitutes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or worse yet, snacks in addition to their daily meals. The messages promoting junk foods populate children’s minds and identities, tempting them to consume more and more of the wrong things. Brand loyalty (or addiction) defines who they are: “Coke is cooler than Pepsi. McDonald’s tastes way better than Burger King. I love Krispy Kreme.” Fruits and vegetables deliver far less media presence than those companies, and cannot compete with the brand imprinting they accomplish. Our nation’s intake of fats, sugars, and oils is 3 times what it should be, with fruits and vegetables far below the suggested intake. We’re seeing and eating too much of the wrong thing. It’s all adding up.

The public must be in denial or ill informed about personal nutrition and health because our nation is witnessing an explosion. With 64% of the population diagnosed as overweight/obese, the number of deaths related to diet or physical activity now closes in on those related to smoking. Children ages 8-13 face health problems such as type 2 diabetes, that were previously experienced by only adults. Is it what we’re eating? Is it how much we’re eating? Do we exercise enough? Many questions surround the problem, but we need to talk about solutions.

Graphic designers have great power, capable of crafting influential messages. With the problem facing our nation, we have a responsibility to not merely talk about the problem. Let’s educate the public about solutions and ways they can help themselves. Communicating the benefits of an active lifestyle with sound nutritional choices will help shape our future.

Of Related Issue
Small Step
Supersize Me, the movie
McHealthy, McDonald’s Changes Menu
Kaiser Family Foundation Report on Media & Obesity

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 1914 FILED UNDER Critique
PUBLISHED ON Apr.19.2004 BY Jason A. Tselentis
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Mike’s comment is:

The issue of an overweight nation would most likely require changing peoples lifestyle. Around the world, people take time to eat, mostly good nutritious food. Siesta, for example, gives all a "lunch break". The problem here is the pace of life. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner seem to become more routine than a time to enjoy; sit back, relax, and socialize.

Graphic designers have great power, capable of crafting influential messages.

Let's change the world! Improbable. It's not just advertising that is crafting people's eating habits. It's all about lifestyle.

On Apr.19.2004 at 06:56 AM
justin m’s comment is:

I agree with Mike, it's lifestyle that cause these eating habits more than the advertising. I used to eat healthy until I started school last fall. I now subsist on coffee, microwave burritos, and donuts. They are cheap and quick.

The biggest problem aside from lifestyle is income and the cost of food. Walk around the grocery store and price healthy foods. Sugary and high-carb foods are much less expensive when compared to fresh meats and vegetables. This causes a lot families to serve things like pasta and pancakes. Much cheaper.

On Apr.19.2004 at 07:19 AM
mitch’s comment is:

marginally related: McDonald's CEO dies of heart attack. I wonder if he fell for his own marketing?

On Apr.19.2004 at 07:59 AM
priya’s comment is:

i'm not really comfortable blaming the media for the obesity epedemic. we all have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and our families. we have a knowledge of what we're supposed to eat and what is good for us whether we choose to follow it or not. higher instances of obesity in children? teach them to eat right. (do they still teach nutrition in elementary school? i remember learning about the pyramid in third grade.) don't blame the media... they've been showing cereal commercials during cartoons forever. it's not a new thing. maybe we should ask: how are they eating junk now more than ever? do they buy it themselves? do they not exercise? why are parents buying junk food? lack of time? is a candy bar really that much quicker to serve than a granola bar? lack of money? although i understand food costs are rising, good nutrition should still be a priority. i can see the difference in food prices between junk and fresh food but don't think it's such a huge difference that it should bar families from getting proper nutrition.

growing up, my parents never allowed anything with artificial flavors or colors in the house, no sugar laden cereal (unless Kix counts.), no high-fructose juices or sodas. if they did buy anything of the sort, it was for special occasions such as birthdays. as a result my eating habits now echo the same habits i grew up with.

the best thing to do is reeducate and affirm the ideals of proper nutrition. (and i'm not talking about Atkins either...) perhaps even education about food preparation a la Martha might be useful so that people can see how easy it is to cook with fresh food.

On Apr.19.2004 at 08:17 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> don't blame the media... they've been showing cereal commercials during cartoons forever.

And it is now paying off.

Priya, I wouldn't dismiss the media so quickly. Most of it is indeed lifestyle and education but the amount of advertising can not be ignored. Your parents, my parents, that entire generation — not to mention the previous one — did not grow up with so much advertising engrained in their lives. Now, kids live with it every single moment and expect to eat that type of food, because it is what everybody (from their friends to the diversity-casted kids on TV commercials) are eating. Yes, parents should encourage healthy eating, but the 'media' is not doing anything to correct the problem either.

> The biggest problem aside from lifestyle is income and the cost of food

An apple costs the same as a candy bar.

...

I'm not sure though, what we can do as designers — other than launching a pretty campaign. It starts with the effort and initiative not with the typeface selection… although Helevetica Neue Thin Condensed would work great.

Should designers and consultancies for big brand candies design ugly so that kids don't find the packaging appealing? Maybe they photograph the product without the help of those food decorators so that the burgers look like the actual crap that they look like? Right… I don't see that happening. Unless they went the cigarette route, where they place huge labels: This product will make you fat. Maybe that would work.

On Apr.19.2004 at 09:03 AM
Jason’s comment is:

Mike, it is about a change of lifestyle, a change of life. But your reply to "Graphic designers have great power, capable of crafting influential messages" strikes me as depressing:

Let's change the world! Improbable.

Why is it probable and acceptable when we get somebody to buy Coke over Pepsi, an IBM over an Apple, Eye instead of Emigre, or an Audi before of a Kia? When it comes to matters of humanitarian concern, where visual communication can play a persuasive or informative role, things shouldn't seem improbable. As Priya points out, education is the best place to start. But how do we start, and where?

Designers I know are so fond of pro bono work. Usually it's for arts organizations, AIDS research, or Cancer fundraising. Doesn't something like the fat of our nation deserve equal attention?

On Apr.19.2004 at 09:17 AM
priya’s comment is:

But how do we start, and where?

Some food companies are beginning to offer right on thier packaging free healthy recipes that can be made using thier product. While Kraft brands have been doing it for a long time, Im beginning to see more and more use of low fat and calorie free ingredients in the recipes.

The best supermarket in the world, Wegmans offers a free Menu magazine with every purchase over $25. in it are season specific recipes using Wegmans brand products and fresh produce. I love the whole concept (although i wish there was a Wegmans in NYC and that the magazine was available by subscription because the recipes are that good.) because not only are you eating right but you are also saving money by buying the generic products. (which, by the way taste really good.)

On Apr.19.2004 at 09:37 AM
marian’s comment is:

Unless they went the cigarette route, where they place huge labels: This product will make you fat

Y'all may not be familiar with Canada's fairly extreme apporach to the cigarette thing:

This one's pretty tame, but there are some with rotting gums and black lungs, tumors ... and yes, they take up half the package on both sides.

I was pretty excited a few months back when I walked into Kaldor's office and discovered they had done these warning labels.

Anyway, I'm not advocating this for the food industry (I've always found the practice--especially of these warning labels bizarrely funny), but it's not inconceivable that it could happen.

What I do find interesting is that there is often a disconnect between the things that are good for you and hip marketing. In the case of fruits and vegetables, without a single corporate entity behind them, concerted marketing becomes a problem. But if you think about the marketing style of the junk foods, it seems reasonable to expect that V8 juice for example could take the same approach to win market share.

Most often, however, there is a divide between junk and health, where junk looks like fun or is hip, and health is boring, "grown up," or a chore. I'm certain apples and bananas could be marketed to kids without ever appealing to the "health" nature of the product.

Of course the problem is complicated, and economics plays a large part. Being middle class it's difficult to really understand the mindset of someone who is poor. I used to wonder at people who spend their welfare checks in McDonald's rather than make e.g. a vegetable soup. But someone once explained to me that in some situations people don't have the resources (working stoves, pots, pans) or the knowledge to make their own meals. Furthermore, our assumption of family structure might be completely broken down. Therefor, fast food.

These are areas where education needs to help, and of course we know that graphic design is an integral part of that, too. This is what governments are for--educating and providing information and support in areas that it's not in corporations' best interests to supply.

On Apr.19.2004 at 09:46 AM
JT Helms’s comment is:

Brand loyalty (or addiction) defines who they are: "Coke is cooler than Pepsi. McDonald’s tastes way better than Burger King. I love Krispy Kreme."

Not to stray the conversation, but Krispy Kreme doesn't advertise. Though their food isn't the healthiest, they actually utilize a pretty honorable marketing campaign. Through fund raisers, word of mouth, and perhaps the very fact that they don't advertise, they've gained a respectful following. They've even been welcomed and praised internationally. I wish more fast food took Krispy Kreme's approach.

I recently saw their Marketing Director give a speech in Charlotte NC about the company. One thing that he made clear was that when the company was in the slumps, they went to re-evaluating the taste of their food before they looked for a new identity or ad campaign. Who would have though?

Hey McDonalds, tired of people riding your ass about obesity problems and heart attacks? How about considering your food recipe for a change. There are some things your graphic design team just can't do.

On Apr.19.2004 at 09:57 AM
JT Helms’s comment is:

Before one of you point it out...yes McDonald's has made a few steps in this direction recently. I hope they find it a better route.

On Apr.19.2004 at 10:00 AM
Jason’s comment is:

Yes, JT. Others will be following suit very very soon. Wendy's, Burger King, and so forth will do away with big in favor of "healthy."

On Apr.19.2004 at 10:16 AM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

Fast Food Nation.

On Apr.19.2004 at 10:16 AM
len’s comment is:

it's funny how quickly "the media" is so quick to blame "mass advertising" for all oth the nation's ills. smoking, violence, and now obesity. here's the problem: if people were as vulnerable to advertising messages as people would think, in the cases of camel cigarettes and mcdonalds, we advertising practicioners would be rich.

people have to want to receive your message, or all the beautiful typography in the world won't save it. it has to start deeper: what has caused our society to favor the super-sized value meal over a healthful alternative?

On Apr.19.2004 at 10:17 AM
ps’s comment is:

its always easy to blame mcDonalds or burgerKing. in the end its each individuals own doing. and that advertising and marketing should take the blame... well sure, part of it. but if its really all advertising and marketing... wow, all these ad agencies sure must know what they are doing. and the population must be super stupid to buy only their message. i think a portion of the population has become "fat" in their brains. there is no more will-power. its easier to blame the other side. if they get lucky, they can sue someone while sitting on the sofa and geting even fatter. i argue that most of the population is well aware of their unhealthy lifestyle -- advertising and markting will be able to do only very little to change their mind-sets. its just easier to keep on eating. i think this "fat- lifestyle" applies to many other aspects of american life as well. since it actually increases one's appearance its just the one part that is mostly noticable. well, actually, our foreign policy is pretty visible too...

On Apr.19.2004 at 11:16 AM
Jason’s comment is:

There are enough questions out there, and answers to boot. Let's stop talking about the problem and its causes. Enough books and research document how we got here and where we're headed: Fast Food Nation, Food Politics, Food Fight, and Fatland to name a few.

Let's look at solutions. Moreover, are those out there like the government's Small Steps campaign worthwhile?

And would we give the same level of apathy to a friend or family member who is smoking themselves to death? Or worse yet, somebody who's an alcoholic, drinking themself into the grave? Whether it's the media, addictions, lack of exercise, or poor diet, why shouldn't we get in front of the public, the same way anti-smoking campaigns did?

P.S. Marian, I love that ad you posted.

On Apr.19.2004 at 11:20 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> P.S. Marian, I love that ad you posted.

Jason, I think that is the actual package, not an ad. I can't remember where I saw something similar recently (perhaps last month's I.D. magazine) — but they had cigarette packs from all around the world and how the warning labels are displayed, it's amazing to see how big a percentage of the package they cover.

On Apr.19.2004 at 11:33 AM
Jason’s comment is:

Whoa. The package? That's maddening. Do you know what issue of ID that was? What month?

On Apr.19.2004 at 11:36 AM
marian’s comment is:

Yep, it's the actual package.

Armin, I think it might have been Eye ... we got a call from John Walters asking about them. He'd seen them when he was here for the AIGA conference.

On Apr.19.2004 at 11:39 AM
marian’s comment is:

And yep, it's on all cigarettes. If you follow the link to Kaldor, and go to the next image you'll see what a display of cigarettes looks like here. Impressive, in a freaky sort of way.

On Apr.19.2004 at 11:43 AM
marian’s comment is:

Oh sorry, that Kaldor link refreshes to their home page. Go to >our work > social marketing > health canada

On Apr.19.2004 at 11:46 AM
Yitz Woolf’s comment is:

I've read that the eating habits of the first three years of your child's life determines the path his or her body will take.

I think that Health Canada is taking a social responsibility as their role of parents of society. I would like to see the statistics of the effect of their message in correlation to their budget on this initiative.

I think that bioligical and societal parents have to take a responsibility.

Is this discussion about corporate responsibility or parental responsibility? Is it about promoting healthy activity or making fun of McDonalds ala AdBuster Ad Styles?

On Apr.19.2004 at 01:04 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Yes. Yes. Yes. And YES.

On Apr.19.2004 at 01:19 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

As of very recently, several of the big food companies started an initiative of only putting photographs of the "recommended serving suggestion" on the front face panel of a package. This will make a huge difference in the amount of romancing that can occur in these "beauty" shots. For example, in most cold cuts packaging, the actual serving suggestion is like one or two slices. Most of the current photographs show a sandwich with half the package between the bread. Same with bacon, frozen food, ice cream, chips, and so forth. If you look at the "real" recommended serving suggestion, it is about the amount of food you are served in an average airline meal. In other words, feels like samples of food, rather than an actual serving.

It will be interesting to see if this new type of photography changes anything in terms of how much people actually consume...

On Apr.19.2004 at 01:31 PM
Krystal Hosmer’s comment is:

My husband and I have this arguement a lot. He says "She doesn't have to eat veggies at EVERY meal" (referring to my 6 year old). "Why do you always make her eat them?"

Here's the answer: I do believe that the "taste" for healthy eating is formed in early childhood. My dad always fed us kids a huge variety of fresh veggies and fruits in dishes full of flavor and now as adults all of us still eat and ENJOY broccolli and other such things.

My husband, on the other hand, was fed a LOT of meat and potatoes that were always very bland in flavor.

One of us weighs 350 pounds. Guess which one?

As parents, we need to take a very active role in what our kids eat. It does matter.

On Apr.19.2004 at 03:10 PM
Rob Bennett’s comment is:

The media is always up there when it comes to blaming them for propogating social ills, but as a parent of two, I know that it's really up to myself and my wife to regulate what our kids eat.

My daughter can ask for over-sugared cereals all she wants but that doesn't mean she's going to get them. On the contrary. First and foremost it is the parents' responsibility to make sure their kids eat well and balanced. Extremes in either direction are just plain bad.

As for solutions, well I think that there needs to be a combined effort between government and private food businesses to bettter educate parents about the effects of poor nutrition. But I think first you have to get the parents to recognize their own nutritional difficiencies before they will be able to see it as a real problem. As for the design aspect, well, they like the Canadian packaging, need to make a strong visual statement that brings home the point.

On Apr.19.2004 at 04:54 PM
pk’s comment is:

incidentally, mcdonald's ceo jim cantalupo died this morning of a heart attack at the relatively young age of 60. wonder if he ate his own company's food.

in a letter to investors, his successor, charlie bell, wrote:

"While we are saddened by Jim Cantalupo's death, we do not believe it changes to the long-term fundamentals of the business."

i bet.

On Apr.19.2004 at 06:10 PM
David B’s comment is:

i am not sure we can put so much of the blame on the media. I think that lifestyle has a lot to do with how children act and react to their surroundings. True they are very impressionable, but if they are outside playing or exercising then there is a great chance that they are not watching a mcdonalds commercial. If parents limit the amount of time that their kids can be exposed to the media at home then it might have an impact.

On Apr.19.2004 at 06:25 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Finding somebody to blame just focuses on the problem. Setting blame does nothing at this point. Let's move beyond that in the following comments and talk more about ways we can provide solutions. For instance, give us your take on these PSAs: Small Steps Ads. Are they direct enough? Is humor a good approach? Do we need to be as "graphic" as the Canadians with their smoking ads?

On Apr.19.2004 at 08:03 PM
mattf’s comment is:

It's true that McDonald's etc. have a ubiquitous media presence, but also they present their products being consumed in very active situations. A recent one featured guys playing basketball on rollerblades, or something like that. What if the cigarette "truth in advertising" labels were applied to fast food adverts?

On a slightly different vein, an article somewhere - NY Times mag? - explored in some depth the government agricultural subsidies that have made "supersizing" so profitable. The ads with which we're so familiar are really the result of larger economic forces, and it might be more effective to push for change in the arena of political economy.

On Apr.19.2004 at 08:47 PM
marian’s comment is:

Are they direct enough? Is humor a good approach?

Personally Jason, if I were hired by the gov't to do some kind of campaign to address these health issues, my kids' ads would play on their insecurities as potential outsiders, be fun and hip, and basically promote healthy foods as just what the cool, beautiful kids happen to be eating without making any direct link to health, slimness or whatever.

For adults I'd go directly into a major education campaign. I distribute billions of recipes and how-tos for low budgets, and I'd appeal to their dreams for their kids by citing statistics re health and job success based on weight (and yeah, I bet there's stats to say that obese people earn less money).

Obese adults by and large (ahem) know they're fat, know it's not healthy but have given up worrying about it for themselves. Those trimline health ads would totally not work on the people they're aimed at.

It is like smoking. Many people who have no intention of giving up smoking, despite the health and despite the cost, will stop smoking around their kids--they go outside, or whatever. So the idea is to appeal to that protectiveness and desire for success for their kids.

On Apr.19.2004 at 10:39 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

>Finding somebody to blame just focuses on the problem. Setting blame does nothing at this point. Let's move beyond that in the following comments and talk more about ways we can provide solutions.

Defining the problem defines the solution. This complex issue goes beyond the 'success' of fast food advertisements. As Mattf suggested, there are numerous governmental subsidies given to such evil corporations as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland -- the ones responsible for food additives, high-fructose corn syrup, and the ethanol scam, among other scandals.

I have no easy solution beyond the obvious Adbuster samizdat methodologies. But let's at least consider designing for companies like McDonalds, Cargill and ADM as additional steps in Milton Glaser's http://www.metropolismag.com/html/content_0802/gla/" target="_blank">Road to Hell.

On Apr.20.2004 at 12:21 AM
graham’s comment is:

i remember having sushi for the first time in the u.s.. now, sushi is a particular thing-of a particular size. that is what sushi is. a portion is 2 or 3 pieces (can't exactly remember), each about the length of a thumb (bite sized). that is what you should get when you order a portion of sushi-like if you order a 14oz steak you get a 14oz steak. not in the u.s.. 6, 8, 10 pieces, huge burgers of raw fish on half a pound of compressed rice. why do you think this is? i just googled 'portion size' (actually, also 'sushi portion size', which was entertaining). hmmm . . .

in my experience, food portions in u.s. restaurants are roughly double anwhere else i've been on this lovely green earth. where does it all come from? where does it all go?

also, it is hard to shop well for food there (i'm talking about n.y. pariticularly)-actually finding decent, unprocessed food is not entirely easy and it's cost relative to less healthy stuff can be eye-opening.

part of it must surely be to do with the huge amount of processing food goes through in the u.s. vis a vis people being afraid of getting a poorly tummy and sueing the arse off the nearest lettuce company. that can't help.

it seems to me you can't have it both ways-expecting to get what you want (choice, and piles and piles of it) all the time doesn't equate with restraint and reason.

On Apr.20.2004 at 03:32 AM
sheryl’s comment is:

Why is it probable and acceptable when we get somebody to buy Coke over Pepsi, an IBM over an Apple,

Are you trying to tell me that if you drink Coke and Pepsi launches a fantastic ad campaign that you would switch to Pepsi? I don't think so. Advertising can make us aware of a product and its features and benefits, but in the end it is the product that will cause us to buy it again and again or not.

You would probably drink a Pepsi if you were not able to order a Coke, but the Pepsi campaign wouldn't have caused you to "switch".

Apple and IBM? There are certain features unique to each platform that would warrant your using one over the other, or both.

So is this making our kids fat? Probably not. If we refrain from "biggie sizing" our schedules we can put value back in to eating together as a family--at the dinner table, without the television on. Put value in the product of being a family.

On Apr.20.2004 at 08:10 AM
rebecca’s comment is:

Debbie, can you name some of the companies that are using the new food photography? I'm totally fascinated and want to keep an eye out for it.

On Apr.20.2004 at 11:20 AM
Jason’s comment is:

That makes two of us. I want to check out the new food images we'll be experiencing.

On Apr.20.2004 at 11:35 AM
palazzo’s comment is:

In the great pie chart of contributing factors, I think media only has so much responsibility. Other factor include environment, and education (by parents), influences by peers. I think this discussion would really be enhanced by the opinion of a dietician, or sociologsit. We designers are only so much to blame...

On Apr.20.2004 at 12:49 PM
Jason’s comment is:

graham brings up some interesting points. The media statesise has focused on this issue of fatness, media, fast food, and advertising for almost a year now. How do things look in the UK? (Or elsewhwere in Europe.) Has McDonald's been sued yet? Are people slamming fast food restaurants with propaganda a la AdBusters? Are food advertisements changing their appearance to promote health conscious portions, selections?

On Apr.20.2004 at 01:34 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Are food advertisements changing their appearance to promote health conscious portions, selections?

yes, absolutely. that is the main reason.

Debbie, can you name some of the companies that are using the new food photography?

Rebecca and Jason--because the packages are not on the market yet, I can't, as I have signed confidentiality agreements with said companies (standard practice in package design). The moment they are on the shelves I will let you know and submit all the work for prestigious design awards. (wink wink)

On Apr.20.2004 at 01:59 PM
Zoelle’s comment is:

This topic hits very close to home for me. My wife works as a Usana Health Sciences Associate. Through her work I am exposed to loads of information related to nutrition and health.

Did you know that one slice of white bread has a higher Glycemic Index than a tablespoon of sugar? And, that processed wheat breads often have a higher index than white bread?

There are things that people can do; such as asking schools to use fruit instead of candy bars for fund raisers. How many of you stocked up on Girl Scout cookies this year? It's hard not to.

The influence of drug company ads plays a large role in the unhealthy state of Americans. Most drug commercials ask you if have a set of symptoms (i.e. IBS with constipation), then urge you to ask your doctor about a (FREE) prescription for their drug. Forget actually looking into the root of the problem, which may be diet related. Doctors are too quick to prescribe strong prescription medications and too slow to give out information related to proper nutrition.

A good amount of people know that fast food and cigarettes are not healthy. If you're aware of the risks and you take them, who is to blame?

On Apr.20.2004 at 02:13 PM
mazzei’s comment is:

Once again thanks Graham for being awake. Great, let’s blame the advertising community for the fact that we are the fattest country in the world. Anyone every herd of exercise? It doesn’t cost anything to take a jog, do push ups or jumping jacks in your own home I’m sure everyone on this site has shelter. Better yet, tape your books together about better eating and use them as weights. Take your life and your health in your own hands everyone knows what's good for them and what's not if you don’t want your kids eating stuff that makes them unhealthy do this: Educate them, another thing that at this level is free. When we wanted junk food as kids my mom would say one thing “that food makes you fat.” I beg you all subscribe to Adbusters, they are consistent on this subject. For them it's not just a random 'blog" to fill binders.

On Apr.20.2004 at 02:25 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> For them it's not just a random 'blog" to fill binders.

Huh? Unless that has some other philosophical meaning to the obesity discussion, I take it as a personal cheap shot. But no harm done — I've dished my own in the past.

...

And it is as easy to blame obesity on the media as it is to say that parents should take responsibility. How about a healthy dose of each — informed parents through "mass media"?

On Apr.20.2004 at 03:10 PM
mattf’s comment is:

Graham's observation about U.S. restaurant portion sizes bears investigation. Nobody's giving food away. Why is the "supersize" profitable now when it wasn't even 30 years ago? There's a complex arrangement of gov't subsidies and incentives that lead to processed flour and sugar being remarkably cheap. It's a lot less sexy than food photography or ad campaigns, but the latter are only symptoms.

One thing this (& other) blogs are doing is establishing loose organizations that could potentially mobilize in an attempt to influence public policy. Food & obesity are extremely sensitive issues, and in general, I favor the the "self-responsibility" espoused throughout this discussion as opposed to the "parental mandate" by gov't. However, a thorough study of ag policy could indicate areas that could use both creative policy redirection and a means to sell these ideas to a larger public.

On Apr.21.2004 at 07:59 AM
eric’s comment is:

yes, we certainly are one fat fucking country. I did the whole South Beach thing last winter and was truly amazed at how sweet cucumbers and cottage cheese could taste.

I forget where i read it, but a few years ago via some junk news channel they reported that coroners and morgue workers were having to come up with new ways of treating the deceased as there were so many food additives in our systems that our bodies weren't decaying correctly.

"herd of exercise?"

Nancy, that's a really funny and appropriate typo.

The problem with "weight" is whether it's a social or personal issue. Luckily we seem to have dodged the bullet of obesity charges levied against fast food companies. Many of the current nutrionists are blaming that stupid 1970s carb heavy food pyramid that the government invented on our present woes.

How do you package health against all these conflicting messages?

...

the girl and I are going to the New York opening of Super Size Me next week. It had gotten great press from all the Sundance folks.

Thanks for the topic Jason.

On Apr.21.2004 at 01:15 PM
Jason’s comment is:

I saw Supersize Me as part of the Seattle International Documentary Film Festival. Morgan was on hand before the show, and afterwards for Q & A. He's a well spoken and energetic fellow. Rather educated too. His film documents a lot of the cultural problems, and poses some challenges to those making healthy choices difficult. In all, the movie was high concept. Some of the information graphics and animation was sophmoric, so I reminded myself that this was his first feature film. Overall, it's a film of epic portions. Still, I'm looking for ways design can play a similar role, not merely talking about the trouble out there, but instead highlighting meaningful issues, making informative commentary, or directing the public to help themselves to health and well being instead of a buy one burger get one free offer.

On Apr.21.2004 at 01:24 PM
graham’s comment is:

jason: "How do things look in the UK? (Or elsewhwere in Europe.) Has McDonald's been sued yet?"

yet? check this.

the rest

of the site might be mildly interesting.

On Apr.21.2004 at 02:46 PM
Steven’s comment is:

I think this is appropriate to this fast-food topic:

Slow Food

Graham-

One of the reasons that it is hard to find healthy food in NYC is that there are very different attitudes between the East Coast and the West Coast. Out here in California, fresh fruits and vegitables are fairly abundant, due to all of the agriculture. Additionally, there is the whole nouveux cuisine phenomenon, with it's emphasis on fresh, organic, seasonal produce, that was started by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, here in Berkeley.

And with respect to food portions, yes, there is this perception of "the bigger the portion, the better value" even if it's waaay more than one can reasonably eat.

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And I really have to disagree with those who think that eating healthy is too expensive. Fresh fruits and veggies are really fairly cheap. And chicken, pork, and some types of fish are affordable meats. It's all the processed, pre-prepared stuff that is actually expensive, as well as often being unhealthy. Being on a tight budget these days, I've kind of mastered the art of eating cheap but healthy.

On Apr.22.2004 at 12:13 AM
Steven’s comment is:

Oh, I too wasn't allowed to have sugar-loaded or super-fatty foods when I was growing up: no junk food. Now, as an adult, I have very good eating habits and don't miss the bad stuff at all. In fact, I'm kind of repulsed by most junk food. And fast food, which I've only had twice in the last 20 years, both times has made me feel sick to my stomach. It feels (and smells) like that nasty oil they use is coming out of my pores. Yuck!

And, besides food additives, Archer Daniels Midland also makes genetically modified food, as well. So they're just all round evile.

On Apr.22.2004 at 01:32 AM
km’s comment is:

I can't help but wonder what the comments would be like in some other discussion forum that isn't populated by people whose work is in some way related to advertising.

You would probably drink a Pepsi if you were not able to order a Coke, but the Pepsi campaign wouldn't have caused you to "switch".

I remember being an adolescent, thinking that pepsi was "cooler" than coke. Coke was what my Dad and the entire south drank, no way I was gonna be caught dead drinking that stuff.

When you're a kid you desperately want the cool cereal even though no one in school is going to see what cereal you eat. I totally shopped for my cereal by what toy came in the box.

On Apr.23.2004 at 03:36 AM
Elizabeth’s comment is:

True enough American’s are clearly the winners in the obesity race but its not only because of advertising. I agree with many of the comments its all about lifestyle and the way people go about doing things day to day. There’s a reason we are called the FAST food nation, mostly because we move too fast. There is no time to prepare three nutritious meals a day not in the American working society, not even as a student is there time for good homemade meals. We want everything fast and easy, which makes us become lazy. Making each generation more and more reliant on the “easy fix”.

I know as a student it’s unreasonable or rather unpractical to think that I can eat the way I should everyday for one reason nutritious foods are more expensive than the junk we fellow students usually eat, and everyone knows college kids are all about cheap. Another reason being there just isn’t enough time in the day and the third reason being its just too much work most of the time. For me I have to be feeling very ambitious to make a nice healthy meal. So usually I just opt for the alternative, junk.

Yes, we are exposed to so many advertisements for junk food it isn’t even any wonder why American’s have such a high obesity rate. Designers can make a difference choosing not to exploit toxic things. This would be a step in the right direction. And choosing to promote the healthy alternative will always make a difference, but when it comes down to it, it is our own responsibility to be able to distinguish the right decisions in the way we eat and live, being healthy is a choice that hopefully more people will decide to make.

On Oct.09.2007 at 01:58 AM
Elizabeth’s comment is:

True enough American’s are clearly the winners in the obesity race but its not only because of advertising. I agree with many of the comments its all about lifestyle and the way people go about doing things day to day. There’s a reason we are called the FAST food nation, mostly because we move too fast. There is no time to prepare three nutritious meals a day not in the American working society, not even as a student is there time for good homemade meals. We want everything fast and easy, which makes us become lazy. Making each generation more and more reliant on the “easy fix”.

I know as a student it’s unreasonable or rather unpractical to think that I can eat the way I should everyday for one reason nutritious foods are more expensive than the junk we fellow students usually eat, and everyone knows college kids are all about cheap. Another reason being there just isn’t enough time in the day and the third reason being its just too much work most of the time. For me I have to be feeling very ambitious to make a nice healthy meal. So usually I just opt for the alternative, junk.

Yes, we are exposed to so many advertisements for junk food it isn’t even any wonder why American’s have such a high obesity rate. Designers can make a difference choosing not to exploit toxic things. This would be a step in the right direction. And choosing to promote the healthy alternative will always make a difference, but when it comes down to it, it is our own responsibility to be able to distinguish the right decisions in the way we eat and live, being healthy is a choice that hopefully more people will decide to make.

On Oct.09.2007 at 01:59 AM
Elizabeth’s comment is:

True enough American’s are clearly the winners in the obesity race but its not only because of advertising. I agree with many of the comments its all about lifestyle and the way people go about doing things day to day. There’s a reason we are called the FAST food nation, mostly because we move too fast. There is no time to prepare three nutritious meals a day not in the American working society, not even as a student is there time for good homemade meals. We want everything fast and easy, which makes us become lazy. Making each generation more and more reliant on the “easy fix”.

I know as a student it’s unreasonable or rather unpractical to think that I can eat the way I should everyday for one reason nutritious foods are more expensive than the junk we fellow students usually eat, and everyone knows college kids are all about cheap. Another reason being there just isn’t enough time in the day and the third reason being its just too much work most of the time. For me I have to be feeling very ambitious to make a nice healthy meal. So usually I just opt for the alternative, junk.

Yes, we are exposed to so many advertisements for junk food it isn’t even any wonder why American’s have such a high obesity rate. Designers can make a difference choosing not to exploit toxic things. This would be a step in the right direction. And choosing to promote the healthy alternative will always make a difference, but when it comes down to it, it is our own responsibility to be able to distinguish the right decisions in the way we eat and live, being healthy is a choice that hopefully more people will decide to make.

On Oct.09.2007 at 02:05 AM
Elizabeth’s comment is:

True enough American’s are clearly the winners in the obesity race but its not only because of advertising. I agree with many of the comments its all about lifestyle and the way people go about doing things day to day. There’s a reason we are called the FAST food nation, mostly because we move too fast. There is no time to prepare three nutritious meals a day not in the American working society, not even as a student is there time for good homemade meals. We want everything fast and easy, which makes us become lazy. Making each generation more and more reliant on the “easy fix”.

I know as a student it’s unreasonable or rather unpractical to think that I can eat the way I should everyday for one reason nutritious foods are more expensive than the junk we fellow students usually eat, and everyone knows college kids are all about cheap. Another reason being there just isn’t enough time in the day and the third reason being its just too much work most of the time. For me I have to be feeling very ambitious to make a nice healthy meal. So usually I just opt for the alternative, junk.

Yes, we are exposed to so many advertisements for junk food it isn’t even any wonder why American’s have such a high obesity rate. Designers can make a difference choosing not to exploit toxic things. This would be a step in the right direction. And choosing to promote the healthy alternative will always make a difference, but when it comes down to it, it is our own responsibility to be able to distinguish the right decisions in the way we eat and live, being healthy is a choice that hopefully more people will decide to make.

On Oct.09.2007 at 02:06 AM
Elizabeth’s comment is:

True enough American’s are clearly the winners in the obesity race but its not only because of advertising. I agree with many of the comments its all about lifestyle and the way people go about doing things day to day. There’s a reason we are called the FAST food nation, mostly because we move too fast. There is no time to prepare three nutritious meals a day not in the American working society, not even as a student is there time for good homemade meals. We want everything fast and easy, which makes us become lazy. Making each generation more and more reliant on the “easy fix”.

I know as a student it’s unreasonable or rather unpractical to think that I can eat the way I should everyday for one reason nutritious foods are more expensive than the junk we fellow students usually eat, and everyone knows college kids are all about cheap. Another reason being there just isn’t enough time in the day and the third reason being its just too much work most of the time. For me I have to be feeling very ambitious to make a nice healthy meal. So usually I just opt for the alternative, junk.

Yes, we are exposed to so many advertisements for junk food it isn’t even any wonder why American’s have such a high obesity rate. Designers can make a difference choosing not to exploit toxic things. This would be a step in the right direction. And choosing to promote the healthy alternative will always make a difference, but when it comes down to it, it is our own responsibility to be able to distinguish the right decisions in the way we eat and live, being healthy is a choice that hopefully more people will decide to make.

On Oct.09.2007 at 02:26 AM
Elizabeth’s comment is:

True enough American’s are clearly the winners in the obesity race but its not only because of advertising. I agree with many of the comments its all about lifestyle and the way people go about doing things day to day. There’s a reason we are called the FAST food nation, mostly because we move too fast. There is no time to prepare three nutritious meals a day not in the American working society, not even as a student is there time for good homemade meals. We want everything fast and easy, which makes us become lazy. Making each generation more and more reliant on the “easy fix”.

I know as a student it’s unreasonable or rather unpractical to think that I can eat the way I should everyday for one reason nutritious foods are more expensive than the junk we fellow students usually eat, and everyone knows college kids are all about cheap. Another reason being there just isn’t enough time in the day and the third reason being its just too much work most of the time. For me I have to be feeling very ambitious to make a nice healthy meal. So usually I just opt for the alternative, junk.

Yes, we are exposed to so many advertisements for junk food it isn’t even any wonder why American’s have such a high obesity rate. Designers can make a difference choosing not to exploit toxic things. This would be a step in the right direction. And choosing to promote the healthy alternative will always make a difference, but when it comes down to it, it is our own responsibility to be able to distinguish the right decisions in the way we eat and live, being healthy is a choice that hopefully more people will decide to make.

On Oct.09.2007 at 08:54 AM
Thomas Guzowski’s comment is:

Of course we are influenced by advertising! Do some of you designers not believe in your own profession of being capable of using design to influence? If so, then whats the point of it? So, if we can influence people to eat, we can influence them to eat healthy.

However, shouldn't it be mandated by law that people know what they are eating? It is about labeling. Just as I believe people should be informed whether the product was tested on animals, contains pesticides, etc. Why do we not get these labels? Because then people would be influenced not to buy the product.

On Oct.09.2007 at 03:16 PM
Meg’s comment is:

It's hard to pin point where exactly poor eating habits come from or how they arise with each individual. Though, I do think its important, not to blame others, but to look at the different possibilities to help solve what changes can be made, whether it’s at home, in the media, both or elsewhere.

I believe that it's a good start to begin educating in the home at a young age. Whether it’s by educating your children, the food you allow them to eat or the amount of television consumed on a daily basis, I think it’s the starting point for their education on nutrition and its’ importance. That followed by nutrition/health classes in schools and changes in the way food is advertised in the media, together will make a larger impact rather than just focusing on one or the other.

From that point on, as adults, I believe, it really is about willpower. We are educated enough to know what is healthy and what is not, whether or not junk food is all that is advertised on television. You can blame it on the media or your fast paced lifestyle, but we choose the way we eat and we have the ability to make the time for it.

On Oct.11.2007 at 03:03 PM