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Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Friday, June 09, 2006

I'm overweight because you gave me too much food

I heard this rather interesting blurb on the radio yesterday. the DJ was talking about eating out at restaurants, and she was complaining about large portion sizes, for example, the 18-inch platter at Denny's or the five course turkey dinner at Claim Jumper. certainly, that's more food than anyone needs to eat in one sitting, possibly more than a single person needs to eat in a day.

now I'm not saying that the 18-inch breakfast platter or five course turkey dinner are good for a single person to eat in a single sitting. however, I want to step back a moment and question whether it's the restaurant's fault for giving you too much food, or if it's your fault for eating it all. there are a number reasons why the term "fault" isn't quite right in this context. for one, our instincts with respect to food evolved during a time when it wasn't necessarily certain when we'd be getting our next meal (some, such as Daniel Quinn, might disagree on this point). thus, when food is available to us, we try to get as much of it as we can. another thing is that these instincts developed for grazing, not for just sitting and eating single meal. another interesting thing here is to tie this into trends in how dieting literature has changed for the past few centuries. up through the 20th century, being overweight was a moral problem linked to glutony, a sin. if you wanted to lose weight, you were going to have to give things up, you were going to have to make profound sacrifices. as you get into more recent time periods, you get literature like the South Beach Diet or the Atkins diet, which say you can eat as much as you want, even as much as you can, just so long as you eat this certain subset of foods. the reason you're overweight isn't a problem with you, it's a problem with the food. the fault of the foods you eat, not you. similarly, it's not your fault that you can't stop eating and just take the rest home (or that you ordered such a large amount of food), it's the restaurant's fault for serving you so much food.

truly, I don't know where to point the fingers. in all honesty, I'm not sure if pointing fingers is the right way to go about it. it's a personal problem, it's a social problem, it's a cultural problem, and due to the complex nature of the problem, dealing with being overweight on a large scale will likely require a commensurately complex solution.


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