It’s a shameful, globally-known fact that America is increasingly obese.
Like most of us, I’m inundated with reasons and warnings spewed by the media via newscasts, public service announcements, and the odd government-sponsored commercial. The finger is pointed at all manner of modern conveniences that render tasks less physically demanding, or seduce us into hours of effortless, sluggish relaxation.
Leaf blowers, cell phones, video games, computers…all are given their share of blame.
The problem didn’t take up much of my concern until a friend told me he was trying to lose 30 pounds. The guy is over six feet tall. He carries weight well, but I applauded his goal and told him if he needed a pep talk or a walking partner or a good salad recipe, I’d be happy to help.
What did he ask for? Someone to talk to in the evenings so he wouldn’t watch TV.
I misunderstood. “You mean something to do besides sitting around? Some activity? We could go do something instead?”
“No, Cat. Someone to keep me from turning the damn thing on. It’s nothing but food all night long. All the stuff that’s death for dieters.”
I wasn’t sure I believed him.
I’m a terrible person to watch TV with. I irritate the hell out of everyone because I have a hard time staying still for a full hour. I’m up and down all the time. And I’m definitely bouncing around doing a hundred other things during commercial breaks.
So I switched it up. I let myself abandon the show and made sure I was there for the ads.
My friend wasn’t kidding.
Wall to wall visual and audio enticements to eat.
And the food! The worst garbage you could stuff into yourself! I watched pizza parlors vie for who could present the most fattening, decadent, caloric version of the dish. The winner of Worst Thing You Could Eat was a deep dish, over-cheesed creation the perimeter of which was wrapped in bacon. Bacon measured in feet. And they were proud of this. It was a selling point.
Then came the burgers. Double, triple, quadruple patties of fatty meat laden with cheese and mayonnaise.
Then came the restaurant chains getting a jump on the breakfast business. Layers of waffles and pancakes mounded with butter and thick, cloying syrup. Plates piled high with eggs and towers of sausage and bacon.
Then were the buffets that set out their offerings like slop in troughs…touting ‘all you can eat’ as though the more you shovel in, the better.
And the people pictured enjoying these orgies of food are all slim, trim, toned specimens who I doubt ever set foot in the advertisers’ establishments in real life.
It went on and on.
All these images and lures shot into the viewing public’s brains where they will ferment until the compulsion to satisfy the urge placed by advertisers must be obeyed. The burger must be eaten. The pizza must be ordered.
If obesity is such a serious problem that the first lady is devoting a considerable amount of her time to fighting it, why doesn’t someone make the connection to the advertisers who seem to be in competition over who can supply the worst and the most of what your body doesn’t need?
It isn’t the inactivity of watching TV that’s the enemy. It’s the advertisers who’ve researched just when and how to hit their viewers where it’ll reap the most return.
It’s hitting below the belt. And unfortunately, for a lot of people, that belt is getting bigger and bigger and bigger…