Health

Take some of the fun out of eating to fight the obesity epidemic

People concerned about childhood obesity often point a finger at fast-food restaurants for using fun to make their food more appealing to children, from cartoon characters to toy giveaways and restaurants that look like playgrounds. In one example of this, staffers at the School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center signed a petition asking McDonalds to retire their Ronald McDonald character, and other health experts concurred. But according to McDonalds, the clown isn’t going anywhere.

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People concerned about childhood obesity often point a finger at fast-food restaurants for using fun to make their food more appealing to children, from cartoon characters to toy giveaways and restaurants that look like playgrounds. In one example of this, staffers at the School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center signed a petition asking McDonalds to retire their Ronald McDonald character, and other health experts concurred. But according to McDonalds, the clown isn’t going anywhere.

According to former FDA chair and author of The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler, we’ve switched from eating mostly for reasons of fueling our bodies to where we’re far more focused on eating for pleasure, as is evidenced by the fact that a substantial portion (50 percent in the U.S.) of our food dollars are spent on eating out.

We need to take some of the fun out of eating to fight the obesity epidemic. Food needs to be seen as fuel rather than as a source of pleasure, because pleasure-focused eating leads to being overweight and obese.   One way to reduce the pleasure factor is via counter-conditioning. This means understanding just how badly restaurants manipulate serving ingredients, advertising, and you to get you to consume and over-consume.

Once you start learning just how much the majority of restaurant food leads to weight gain, it starts taking the fun out of it, which I why I recommend reading Dr. Kessler’s book — it will shock you in a good way. If you’ve got a clearer idea of how your emotions and taste buds are being manipulated, the pleasure of eating such food decreases and makes it easier to resist.

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