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Fast Food and Obesity Essay

In today’s society, fast food has become a large part of many American’s lives. With the rising numbers of obese people, it is hard not to draw a correlation between the increase in fast food and obesity. Most obese people don’t want to be obese and wish they could lose weight, yet they continue to struggle with their fast food intake and obesity. This is due to the advertising done on the consumers, the highly addictive food itself, and most importantly, how advertising and addiction combine with children to form habits that are kept once they become adults. These factors are the reasons that fast food restaurants are to blame for the rising obesity and health risks across America. The government needs to step in and place restrictions on these fast food restaurants so they will stop taking advantage of people’s weaknesses.

So with that said, I actually disagree with Weintraub’s point. And that is why I believe that the fast food industry is at blame for this issue. Before we go into detail about how fast food companies are to blame for people over eating their food, it first must be proven that fast food is indeed the main problem causing today’s obesity in America. It is known to many people how the number of fast food restaurants in America has increased tremendously over the past several decades, but it is difficult to calculate by how much due to the lack of certain data. Also, it is difficult whether or not to categorize certain restaurants as fast food. Although, a good way to get a feel on the growth of the fast food industry is to take a look at McDonald’s, which has been America’s most popular fast food chain for decades.

In 1968 McDonald’s open its 1,000th American restaurant. This number has increased to 13,800 restaurants in 2011, which really shows how much more fast food people are consuming compared to the past. Consider the increase of almost fourteen times in the number of McDonald’s restaurants, with the number of obese adults between the ages of 20 and 74 over a similar time period. From 1960-62 to 2005-06 the number of obese Americans almost tripled from 13.4% to 35.1%. These two extreme upward trends might make a convincing case that the extra fast food intake has caused the rise in obesity rates, and it may very well be a good indication, but it is far from proof. Too many things have changed over the years, from the way the average American exercises, to the types of other food that people are consuming.

Now that it has been established that fast food is the main cause behind the rising obesity numbers in America, it is time to dig deeper and show how exactly these fast food chains are at fault for this issue. A common topic when talking about people overeating fast food is addiction. When numbers are brought up about obesity and how often people visit fast food restaurants, people tend to ignore it and are categorized as fat people who are too lazy to cook their own food or break the habit of visiting fast food restaurants. However, people don’t realize the true addictive power that food can have on someone, especially fast food.

While people try to use their willpower to stay away from fast food restaurants, they often fail due to the countless TV, radio, billboard, and online advertisements that draw them back in. Fast food advertising has been increasing over the years. In 2009, the American fast food industry spent over $4.2 billion on advertising. That might seem like an illogical amount of money to spend on advertising, but it lead to over $140 billion in sales, so these fast food restaurants must know what they’re doing. It is obvious that this tremendous advertising is leading to greater sales, otherwise these restaurant’s marketing teams would not be spending so much. As profit-seeking corporations, fast food restaurants cannot be blamed for wanting to advertise as much as they do, but that doesn’t mean that their advertising isn’t a huge problem in our society.

Advertising clearly leads to greater consumption of fast food which leads to obesity and other health risks. Although fast food advertising as a whole is a huge issue, the far greater concern is the way children are targeted in today’s advertisements. In a 2007 report done by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, they found that the average child in America views 15 television commercials per day. This isn’t necessarily a problem as long as these commercial are composed of mostly healthy foods. This is such a huge problem due to children being more easily manipulated by food advertising. Their experiment discovered that children who viewed food advertisements ate 45% more food than children who viewed non-food advertisements. Add all this up, and it comes to no surprise that in the last 30 years, the number of overweight and at risk children has more than tripled to 34%.

It is clear that changes need to be made regarding fast food advertising, particularly involving children. Change needs to come soon as children will soon develop habits of high fast food consumption, which has our society pointed towards an unhealthy future. Efforts have been made in order to cause change, but it clearly hasn’t been enough. This is why the government needs to step in and regulate how much these restaurants are allowed to advertise. Not only does the government need to regulate the volume of advertisements, but more importantly they need to stop the fast food restaurants from targeting certain demographics. For example, not allowing advertisements on children’s television shows will decrease the wanting of food as often. As for what they are allowed to advertise, there definitely needs to be an emphasis placed on healthy food choices.

Over the past decade, fast food restaurants have been offering more and healthier food choices or alternatives on their menus. These alternatives are most often salads, but also include grilled chicken sandwiches amongst other items. These so called “healthy alternatives” appear to be healthy, which is what the fast food restaurants are most concerned about. However, these alternatives are not always as healthy as they seem. With every passing moment, the over-popularity of fast food becomes more of a difficulty as it causes obesity numbers to skyrocket across the nation.

Normally, the choices should ultimately lie in the hands of the people to choose healthier lifestyles, and decreases their reliance on fast food. However, in this instance, due to the validity of fast food addiction, along with too much advertising, and the cheap menu alternatives offered, people have been unable to make a change, and continue to head in the wrong direction. But until Americans take measures to mend the problems fast food has created, it’ll take some time for us to become a healthier nation.


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