Obesity and the role of our industry

Joined Oct 28, 1999
Bigger than the impact of Atkins and South Beach, the impact of obesity legislation is huge (no pun intended) and likely to affect our industry in one form or another. Or, more importantly, it will affect the public's perception of our industry. Where do we stand?
The obesity epidemic is a harrowing thought; minions strapped to their own overindulgence and wearing it like a scarlet letter. Or do they? Each of us has physical attributes we would like to change, so when did weight become someone else's responsibility other than their own? Television's "Extreme Makeover" whisks willing participants to seclusion from their family to go under the knife for an amalgam of reasons; lips, hips, eyes, ears, teeth, tush. Botox here, liposuction there, lift this, pull that. These folks are not hapy for one reason or another, with what they have so they elect to chnage it. But, when did weighty issues become public policy? If my nose is crooked or my hairline receds further than I like, well, I have little control over it. I do, however, own each and every morsel that passes across my taste buds making one last leap towards immortality on my waist, if I am not careful.
The pointing finger, smoking gun, evil eye if you will, has historically opted to aim away from the accuser for lack of self-examination. McDonald's eliminating their Super-Size fries should not (and incidentally wasn't) and act of social conscienceness. Rather, by their own admonition, they pulled the product line because it was only marginally profitable. Who is responsible for my bulging wasteline? Why should McDonald's start to limit customers' consumption?
When are we responsible? Poor McDonald's, really. Everybody remembers Stella Liebeck who pocketed some $600,000 after successfully suing the Golden Arches for injuries sustained after dowsing herself with their too-hot coffee. And there is the Illinois lawsuit brought on by a pitcher that was beamed by a baseball after the batter he was attempting to strike out made contact. Rather than chalk off the knot on his head to poor pitching, he sued the bat manufacturer to requie a label be placed on each bat to state, in short, that pitchers might get hit by balls being struck at a high rate of speed. Um, isn't that the point? Maybe he should sue his pitching coach, the grounds crew for not making the mound higher, his parents for encouraging his hobby or perhaps the uniform manufacturer for providing adequate padding in his baseball cap. And now we can sue McDonald's for allowing us to feed our children Happy Meals 5 or six time per week.
What is most perverse about not being held accountable for what we eat, is that it is really the last vestige of self-control. You are told where to smoke (or not at all) and even when to wear a seatbelt, for your own protection, of course. Do businesses have a responsibility not to grow their profits because our waistlines are growing, as well? Perhaps McDonald's best defense would be to ask patrons to strip naked upon entering their restaurants and place mirrors across the table from diners as the gluttony commences. Or perhaps they can follow up to Microsoft's "Where do you want to go today?" with their own motto of "Do you really need that, fatty?"
Joined Mar 2, 2002
Correct me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that the legislation regarding the food industry was based on the precedent provided by the Tobacco trials. I guess that falls into the "be careful what you wish for" category.

I was always taught that freedom and responsibilty go hand in hand. If we give up responsibility, we also give up freedom. As I see it, that's what is happening - we are losing freedom.

I'm glad you posted this, Jim, because I think it is a really important subject. It seems to me that trends like Adkins are just another enabler for people to use in order to deny eating too much.

American society looks down on alcoholics, smokers, and folks who use drugs. But we accomodate a culture of over eating and obesity. We even market ways to get away with it!!!

My boyfriend just got a job at a hospital. Smoking on any hospital property is NOT allowed. Vending machines and being fat are. 98 percent of the healthcare providers he works with are OBESE.

What kind of example does that set???

Business is not doing this to people. Culture is enabling people to do this to themselves.

Joined Mar 23, 2004
I read last week that over 60% of the US population is obese.
And when you stroll around the malls on the weekend, and see the vast amount of people munching, chomping and chewing, you can understand it.
It's about time the draconian measures applied to smokers were applied to the tubbies. Ever sat on a 5 hr flight with an elephant next to you?
Joined Nov 20, 2000
Over the years I have heard comments and questions about the usage of items such as cream, butter, etc. When asked about the "unhealthiness" of such items my reply has always and will always be "It is my job to cook to the best of my ability using the ingredients I wish to reach my desired results, it is your job to watch what you eat! :chef:
Joined May 1, 2001
Back when my wife was selling to hospitals, it was a standing joke that you could always identify the chief dietician -- he/she was the fattst person in the place!
Joined Mar 2, 2002
Darn!! Since my restaurant closed, I have been thinking about what to do next, and I was considering taken the necessary courses to become a dietician. It sounds like I might not fit the height/weight profile :D :bounce:


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
Welcome to America, where nothing is your fault. It is the fault of the corporations, society, our culture: in others words, everyone else is to blame!! It is about time people start to own up to their own decisions. But, hey, it is too easy to blame someone else, and the glorious byproduct of blaming someone else is you can get rich by suing them, because they forced you to take those actions. It has become the "New American Dream"-sue some corporation because they are the ones really at fault for your stupidity, and get rich so you don't ever have to work again.

As for obesity specifically, I belong to that catagory. I am not slightly overweight. I am not plump. I am not even rotund. I am fat!! At 5'6" and 270lbs. I am fat. Do I blame McD. No!! Do I blame our culture? No!!! Do I blame anyone else? No (well, maybe the pizza joint down the street :p just kidding)!!! I blame no one but myself. But first of all, I am very comfortable with who I am and how I look, but if I ever become unhappy with myself I will take it upon myself to remedy the situation. I got myself this way, and when and if I want to change I will do it myself also. So to everyone else out there, I say grow up!!! The government is not your parents or your babysitter!!! Learn to think for yourselves and take responsibility for your own actions.
Joined Aug 29, 2000
This is a very interesting discussion. Thanks, Jim!

A few weeks ago in my local paper there was a great article on how children and young adults have been coddled to the point that they have no sense of personal responsibility for their actions and choices. Everyone wants everything to be perfect and expects others to make it so for them. Being a teacher, I see this in parents who call me up and flame into the phone that their child couldn't possibly get a bad grade because they never did before you were their teacher. Never mind I caught the kid cheating and know their kid had been cheating and copying for years to get those perfect grades.

Okay, I sense smoke coming out of my ears so I'll get back on the subject. :eek:

Translate this to food and you can easily see the common thread. Customers believe they are the most important beings on the planet so they make unreasonable requests (low fat Hollandaise anyone?) and send plates back multiple times. Many people have come to believe they are the center of the universe and treat others with that idea as the cornerstones of their belief systems.

I have no clue why this has actually happened. I have heard a couple of possible explanations. One is that people blame the "self esteem movement". (I think that was a well-intentioned idea that got out of control.) Others say it is the current generation of parents who rode the wave of personal freedom from the '60s so that when they became parents, they let their kids have immediate total freedom too; they declined to parent them and avoided the conflicts that come from responsible parenting. I sure don't know the answer, but whatever caused this, I pray it will run its course without further damage to our children and our society. :(
Joined Mar 21, 2004
I guess I'll show my age with this response. The United States has become home to lawsuit after lawsuit, with people blaming everyone but themselves for their stupidity and or lack of discipline. We wonder why we see both adults and kids carrying guns, smoking dope, etc., and the responsibility for their actions is blamed on everyone but themselves. My responsibility is to my customers and my employer. I give both menus that I feel are creative, have plenty of options and are enjoyable. It is up to them to select what they eat and take responsibility if they choose to consume vast amounts of cream and butter in addition to the healthier items I offer. If they are not given what they want, I guess I won't stay employed very long.
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