Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Health & Fitness
  3. Nutrition

Who came first: The men, women, or marketers who made us fat?

See also

Do most people believe that because packaged entrees are good-tasting and nutritionally balanced, they provide a good alternative to restaurant fast food when consumers don't have the time or the inclination to prepare a meal?

With so little time given over to preparing meals because people are so rushed to get to the next destination or to work, the question arises: who made people fat? Men? Corporations? Women? Or reduced time situations and the desire for quick convenience?

Do most people think that processed foods that are ready-to-eat or ready to pop in the microwave, heat up in the oven, or on the stove in a few minutes, are baking us thinner or fatter? And is what's on the label the same as what's in the container?

Did in-your-face advertising on every corner make you more apt to gain excess weight?

Or loss of energy due to air pollution, urban crime that prevents you from walking, or images of processed, fast food almost everywhere you look? Do most people believe these processed packaged foods are nutritionally balanced or loaded with fat, salt, and sweeteners?

Did the fast food diets make people heavier, or did the huge producers of processed and convenience foods? Or do people make choices based on what they were fed in early childhood and what's familiar?

A noteworthy documentary airs tomorrow in Sacramento, "The Men Who Made Us Fat." And it totally avoids the notion that it might be the women who made us fat by not introducing daily vegetables and some fruits as the most familiar food the family eats. Kids imitate what they see other family members eating at the table when the kids are observing what's being put on the plates or in the serving bowls.

By the men who made us fat, it's meant the giant corporations, most of which are headed by males in the highest offices of food manufacturing and distribution, not the females running the health and fitness shows or touting vegan diets for bodybuilding and cross-fit training.

What most people may or may not think of when they gobble fast food may be portion size. And on TV, the portions get bigger when men are featured in eating contests of fattening foods such as cheese melted over burgers, bacon, and fries or pizza topped with fattening appetizers. Why is it masculine to eat huge portions, to eat meat instead of vegetables, and except for the vegan body-builders, for men to eat foods that they can hunt if they want to.

Hey, guys, they're not girlie-man portions, they're healthy portions

-- Remember when advertisers asked, "How do you handle a hungry man?" and offered bigger, man-sized versions of the ever-popular TV dinner? University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers recently used "frozen entrees" to control portion size successfully in a weight-loss diet for men.

The portions weren't "man"-sized; this was the same plan the dietitians used with women last year--with caloric intake adjusted upward just a tad (1,700 calories) for the male metabolism.

"We wanted to do the men's study separately because men and women do respond differently to diets, and we thought the men might have a different attitude toward the entrees," says dietitian LeaAnn Carson, according to the March 14, 2005 news release, "Hey, guys, they're not girlie-man portions, they're healthy portions." Carson managed the study with dietitian Sandra Hannum for food science and human nutrition professor John Erdman.

It turns out hungry men don't need outsized portions

"The men in this study didn't feel deprived, they liked the feeling of being able to cinch their belts a notch tighter, and in eight weeks they had a better idea of what a healthy portion size should be," Carson says, according to the news release.

In the study, published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 60 healthy overweight men were divided into two like groups for eight weeks, both eating diets based on the USDA food-guide pyramid. The dietitians knew the exact composition of the entrees, and both diets contained the same number of calories and the same percentage of protein, fat, and carbohydrate.

The only difference was that one group used prepared frozen entrees that simply had to be popped into a microwave. The other group had to weigh, measure, and estimate serving size during food preparation. So do men hate to take the time to weigh, measure, and estimate when it comes to preparing food, but not on the job regarding non-food related duties done during working hours (unless they work in restaurants)?

Frozen entrees were used with one group

The men who ate frozen entrees lost 16 pounds in eight weeks; the men who estimated serving size lost 12 pounds. Both groups had a significant decrease in the diastolic (or lower number) of their blood pressures, and all dieters' blood lipids profiles came down as well.

"The men who prepared their meals were given the pyramid and told what sort of servings the pyramid called for. We also told them to choose lean meats and low-fat foods. But making choices and estimating serving sizes is just harder to do, and it obviously allows more room for error," Carson says, according to the news release.

Both groups added certain easy-to-measure items to the diets for needed nutrients, such as an 8-ounce glass of milk, a piece of fruit, or a cup of salad, she says in the news release

Hannum says that the study is important because it shows that portion control is likely a key factor for many people who want to lose weight. "Some diets have been popular lately because they promise you can eat all you want of certain foods, and people like to hear that. This study shows how important portion control is in any weight-loss diet."

Hannum also says, according to the news release, that more and more people are choosing not to invest large amounts of time in meal preparation, and, when people eat in restaurants regularly, they're vulnerable to weight gain from the large portions that are usually served. "People tend to consume the amount of food that's placed before them," she explains in the news release.

People generally eat the portion size that's in front of them

Because packaged entrees are good-tasting and nutritionally balanced, they provide a good alternative to restaurant fast food when consumers don't have the time or the inclination to prepare a meal, she adds, according to the news release. Four other Illinois researchers -- Ellen Evans, Lauren Petr, Chris Wharton and Linh Bui -- contributed to the study. Masterfoods USA funded the research.

If you're in the Sacramento area and other areas under Pacific Standard Time, you may want to check out the three-partdocumentary: "The Men Who Made Us Fat" at the following times and dates.

The Men Who Made Us Fat: Part 1

Jacques Peretti travels to America to investigate the history of high-fructose corn syrup and how it has made its way into nearly all processed foods and soft drinks.

The Men Who Made Us Fat: Part 2

Jacques Peretti investigates how the concept of 'supersizing' changed our eating habits forever. How did we -- once a nation of moderate eaters -- start to want more?

The Men Who Made Us Fat: Part 3

In the final installment, Jacques Peretti examines how product marketing can seduce consumers into buying supposed 'healthy foods' that are in fact not healthy at all.

Airtimes: Pacific Standard Time.

Timezone: P M C E Tuesday, March 25th 08:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 26th 05:00 p.m., Thursday, March 27th , 01:00 p.m., Friday, March 28th, 09:00 a.m., Saturday, March 29th 04:00 p.m. DISH Network Channel 9410 and DIRECTV Channel 375.|

In the first of this three-part series, Jacques Peretti traces those responsible for revolutionizing our eating habits, to find out how decisions made in America 40 years ago influence the way we eat now, notes the documentary's website, The Men Who Made Us Fat: Part 1.

Peretti travels to America to investigate the story of high-fructose corn syrup. The video explains how the supersize concept changed eating habits.

In part two of The Men Who Made Us Fat, according to the documentary's website, Jacques Peretti investigates how the concept of 'supersizing' changed our eating habits forever. How did we - once a nation of moderate eaters - start to want more? The documentary also shows how by the 1980s, we were eating more - and we were also eating more often.

Part three of the documentary explains what's healthy and what's not

In part three, Jacques Peretti examines assumptions about what is and is not healthy. He also looks at how product marketing can seduce consumers into buying supposed 'healthy foods' that actually contain high amounts of sugar.

The surprise that a lot of people get is how much sugar and sugary syrups get into supposedly healthy foods. Also in foods such as almond milk, although not detailed in the documentary, note how many brands add a high amount of salt to the unsweetened almond milk but not to the sweetened versions of almond milk or other nut and seed milk substitutes. The documentary does detail the rise of the organic food industry.

How did the mainstream food producers compete?

If you watch the documentary, you can learn about some of the marketing strategies used by mainstream food producers to keep people returning to buy more food. One technique to to get people so used to tasting sweet or salty foods that they keep returning for the taste, not realizing how much sugar and salt (or fats) are building's like the you can't eat just one chip phenomenon.

The program also explores the impact of successive government initiatives and health campaigns. What the documentary details is to notice how the Olympic Games may be sponsored by McDonalds and Coca Cola, not by organic vegan farmers. It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same, at least when it comes to marketing food by taste rather than by each ingredient and how each ingredient affects the bodies of most people. Please watch the documentary. Or see the link, "Watch More Epsiodes of The Men Who Made Us Fat."

You may wonder why taste is advertised so much more often over 'health' when 'health' is often mentioned in ads as being something people might avoid in favor of taste. People seem to go for food that's healthy and tastes good, and portion size is an issue, especially when food is advertised as available in eateries in unlimited portions, such as at some but not all buffets.


Related Videos:

  • The trouble with life saving cures
    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//;VQ=HD720&amp;allowfullscreen=true&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>
  • Favorite building blocks of cancer
    <iframe width="420" height="315" src="//;VQ=HD720&amp;allowfullscreen=true&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>
  • CBD oil. Next miracle supplement?
    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//;VQ=HD720&amp;allowfullscreen=true&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>