Food culture refers to “a constellation of socially produced values, attitudes, relationships, tastes, cuisines and practices exhibited through food” (Lang and Heasman 185). The American food culture is characterized by a fast food culture. Fast foods are easily available and a barrage of food advertisements. The Americans seem to have redefined the meaning of food.
The normal definition for food is nourishing substances taken to provide energy and help in growth as well as sustain life but in America, the word seems to mean tasty, fatty refined substances containing no nutrients taken to create disease and bring death (Obesity in America 1). The powerful rich American nation is full of obese people than any other nation in the world. The food culture and lifestyles has lead to an obesity epidemic in levels not experienced earlier.
American food culture
The lifestyle in America and the food culture has led to an increase in obesity. The food choices made by some Americans have earned them ridicule from people in Europe who call them the balloon people (Sealing 1022). The food culture in America has placed them second to some small pacific islands as the fattest people in the world. The lifestyle involves eating too much fast foods or junk foods with little or no exercise hence putting on excessive weight.
The issue of obesity is a major problem in the healthcare sector as people suffer from weight related issue thus raising the healthcare cost. In the documentary Supersize Me, the main character experienced health problems such that his doctor warned him against eating more MacDonald diet as he was exposing himself to major health problem (Supersize Me). It is estimated that close to twenty-one percent of the obese people in America have short life spans.
Another five percent of Americans are morbidly obese and require medical operations such as gastric bypass and stomach stapling (Sealing 1022). Young people have not been left out and about twenty-five percent of children below nineteen years of age are obese or overweight.
Acceptability of fast foods restaurants
Fast foods that contribute to obesity are cheap hence affordable. The bad foods are everywhere as fast food joints are scattered everywhere including the gas stations, schools and hospitals. The fast foods joints are now mainstream restaurants and many Americans buy the food because it is tasty, cheap and for the quick service (Obesity in America 1; Murray 33).
Due to the integration of fast foods into the society, some people do not even know the dangers that the fast foods cause to their health. Schlosser the author of book Fast Food Nation says, “On any given day in the united states about one quarter of the adult population visits a fast food restaurant” (3).
Sadly, Americans have embraced the culture of fast foods and every single day they eat at the fast food restaurants, which have been integrated in the America culture. Furthermore, they are not concerned about the repercussions of eating the unhealthy foods. The American food has become synonymous with cola and burgers (Lang and Heasman 190).
The documentary Supersize Me by Morgan Spurlock shows the effects of fast foods when he fed on a MacDonald diet for thirty days. Just after five days, since he began feeding exclusively on the MacDonald’s diet he had gained 9.5 pounds. Later on he started experiencing feelings of depression such symptoms show that fast foods are not healthy and should not be consumed regularly (Supersize Me).
Appeal of fast foods
The fast foods served by companies such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Dunking Donuts continue to appeal to a large portion of the society and they do not oppose the advertisements such companies place in the media to lure more people into fast foods. The fast foods ads talk about how good the food tastes and those who see such ads including the children who the fast foods companies target aggressively refuses to take any other food except the fast foods.
The ingredients used in making the fast food tasty are manufactured using chemicals in factories and the chemicals are harmful to health. The marketers pass a message to the consumers that they need to eat the fast foods to experience the goodness and the refreshing memory that cannot be found in any other food (Nowatzki and Vorhauer 29). An average American child watches over 10, 000 fast foods ads on television annually.
For example, children recognize Ronald MacDonald the character used by MacDonald in its ads and the children prefer to eat the products Ronald advertises. The marketers of fast foods invest billions of shillings in marketing fast foods and some have even signed contracts with some schools hence children are bombarded with fast foods everywhere they look. Children become obese and develop into obese adults (Obesity in America 1).
Addiction of fast foods
Children and the other people become addicted to the fast foods and do not eat other foods as Spurlock observed the headaches and lethargy he felt while on a MacDonald diet would disappear once he ate the MacDonald food.
It therefore means people who eat fast foods are addicted for the rest of their lives as the as the fast food companies continue to racking billions of profits at the expense of people’s health. The high fat and sugar content in the fast foods stimulate the brain and gives the consumers’ a high like the one experienced by drug users hence they cannot resist the foods.
Furthermore, the fast foods together with sugary snacks give consumers an instant satiation that is followed immediately by a fall in blood sugar hence the need for more fast foods or snacks (Laurance 1). The fast foods are served in large quantity, consumers pay less cash, and McDonalds is well known for its super size meals. The larger portions served contains more calories than are required in a day hence the extra fat is stored in the adipose tissues leading to the problem of obesity.
Spurlock ate nine supersize meals during his experiment and the results were detrimental to his health as he put on 24-5 pounds at the end of the experiment. The supersize meals mean that consumers eat more calories than they require and because they get the supersize meals at no extra cost, they appreciate them not realizing the risk they are taking with their health.
Convenience of fast foods
The lifestyle of the American people is people on the go. The people accept the fast foods as part of their daily diets because they are convenient as they require or no time in preparation. The food culture in American is characterized by convenience and as Shapin puts it “we’ve become an eat-on-the-run, absent-mindedly feeding, cup-holder culture” (1). It is common to see people eating everywhere even inside their cars.
People eat not because they are hungry but because food is available at every corner. They also eat packaged refined foods. The refined foods are unhealthy because they lose important nutrients as they go through the refining process. The foods are also filled with sugar, hydrogenated oils and fats during processing.
The lifestyle of Americans is always very busy as people work round the clock to meet the high cost of living. Due to the tight schedules, people eat processed foods that are convenient but rich calorie foods. They choose to eat fast foods or processed foods because they do not have time to prepare healthy meals, as they need to work. People who eat this way end up consuming more food than they require as they focus on work rather on the food they are eating as the work.
The processed foods combined with lack of exercise people put on weight leading up to obesity. Moreover, many people lead a sedentary lifestyle and have no time for preparing a proper family meal instead choose to snack all day long. Cooking in America is taken as a leisure activity hence people are comfortable eating out of cans which in turn increases their waistlines.
Furthermore, technological advancement has made it easy for manufacturers to pack more calories in the refined foods and make then tasteful, cheap and easy to eat. Thus, people who have tight schedules of work or have children to rear turn to the fast foods that are time consuming hence never have time to sit down and eat proper family meals prepares straight from the land instead of cans (Shapin 1).
Due to the hectic lifestyle in America, people result to unhealthy diets. The unbalanced diets people take lack vital nutrients as people do not even have the time to ensure their food is balanced. Some of the methods that people use in cooking their foods make the foods unhealthy such as frying as it adds fats to the food. People will use cooking methods such as frying because the food is tastier instead of boiling or steaming foods, which are healthier cooking methods.
American people also have an access to a motor vehicle that means that less people walk to work or school, which is a good form of exercise, yet they consume foods high in calories than their bodies require. Children will prefer to sit in front of a screen and play games instead of playing outdoors in games that require more energy consumption.
Adults also spend most of their time in front of computers and they not use a lot of energy. The mode of e-commerce also contributes to obesity because people do not require walking around looking for property to buy as they can shop online for any kind of property they require.
In addition, companies have dial delivery services and customers can have goods delivered to their doorsteps and many fast foods outlets offer the delivery services. Consumers can order all the pizzas or hamburgers they require without getting out of the couch hence the increased weight due to lack of inactivity. The sedentary lifestyle contributes to obesity.
The modern Americans have no time for communal meals due to modern day living pressures. Earlier on people would sit down and share a meal. Even the books on manners warned about eating alone because one would be thought to be fulfilling their gluttony desires. That notwithstanding eating in a social setting was important because it set limits on how much a person could eat.
Eating together meant there was a time to begin and stop meals thus there was no chance of snacking all day long as it happens today because people eat individually. There is no one to watch a person’s eating hence one can eat very little as much as one desire as there are no people around the table watching. The individualistic American culture means that many people eat standing or on the run hence, there are no dietary limits and people balloon with fats (Shapin 1).
Poverty and obesity
Another cause of obesity in America is the issue of poverty. People with low incomes cannot afford to buy organic foods such as vegetables and fruits that are healthy because they are expensive. Such people result to fast foods that are cheap and less nutritious containing high fats and sugars hence affordable resulting in illnesses and other related food problems (Finkelstein and Zuckerman 21).
Moreover, people with income problems will prefer to buy larger portions of food regardless of the nutrient composition as their concern is the fill that the bigger perform gives them (Kittler and Sucher 23).
People need to make a choice to practice healthy eating habits. They have to do so in spite of the fast foods ads that are found everywhere and buy healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and unrefined foods among others, which are more expensive than the fast foods but have more nutrients that are essential to the body.
Such healthy foods will help to shed off excess weight and improve health. It is also important to change lifestyles and become active in place of sedentary lifestyles. More exercises and walking, swimming or cycling will do the bodies more good and keep diseases at bay. Eating healthy and changing one’s lifestyle is an individual decision and if each person took a step towards eating healthy, the number of obese people in America will reduce and the negative tags such as the balloon people will be forgotten.
Parents should also be role models for their children in healthy eating and exercises. Children follow their parents’ practices and if parents eat healthy diets, their children are likely to eat healthy diets too even after leaving home.
Parents who engage in physical exercises set a good example for their children and they become active and prevent putting on extra weight as they burn up excess calories through the physical activities. Parents should also teach their children about the benefits of eating healthy foods and prevent them from being lured into regular consumption of fast foods by the alluring ads on television.
Once children learn a healthy eating culture then the American population will be healthier and adopt a food culture that helps their body instead of the current destructive one. In addition, the nation will save on the cost associated with diseases that arise from unhealthy eating habits. With healthy diets, the people will have extra energy to accomplish their activities. A change of lifestyle is important and benefits show that committing to lifestyle change is worthwhile.
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Kittler, Pamela Goyan and Kathryn Sucher. Food and culture. Ed 5. New York: Cengage Learning, 2007.
Lang, Tim and Michael Heasman. Food Wars: The Global Battle for Mouths, Minds and Markets. London: Earthscan, 2004.
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Murray, Bridget. “Fast-food culture serves up super-size Americans.” Monitor Staff, 32. 11(2001)33.
Nowatzki, Markus and Matthias Vorhauer. Eating in America. A cultural survey. Germany:GRIN Verlag, 2007.
Obesity in America. 2010. Web. 23 May. 2011.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
Sealing, Keith E. attack of the Balloon people. “How America’s food culture and agricultural policies threaten the food security of the poor, farmers, and indigenous peoples of the world.” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 40. 1015- 1036.
Shapin, Steven. “Eat and Run.” The New Yorker 26 Jan. 2006. Web. 23 May. 2011.
Supersize Me. Dir, Morgan Spurlock. Kathbur Pictures, 2004. Film.