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Are Food Companies and Restaurants to Blame for Obesity? Thoughts Inspired by Moderation Nation Coalition

Have you heard about the coalition between the American Dietetic Association and Hersheys Center for Health and Nutrition, Moderation Nation?  If you haven’t, Hersheys is giving people free $250-certificates to consult with a Nutritionist, a registered dietitian.

There are some people bashing such a coalition, angry that the dietitians’ association is making good friends with an “evil” food company. While I’m not going to write about this specifically in my post, all the discussions I had about this new friendship have inspired me to address this question:

Are food companies and restaurants to blame for our obesity epidemic and the associated chronic diseases?

It’s true that we live in a toxic environment. Food companies and restaurants (not all, but most) are not using the healthiest ingredients. They are stuffing our food with added fats, sugars, dyes, and preservatives. They are over-sizing our meals and selling larger portions for cheaper. They are using misleading marketing and advertising for our kids. I don’t deny that. But we have to stop the blame game.

Let’s not take ourselves, adult consumers, completely out of the picture. We have a choice and we are responsible for our actions. Red Robin give you a choice between bottomless fries or bottomless salad with a burger for the same price. How many of us go for the fries? Many kids menus offer apple slices or melon wedges for a side dish for the same price of fries. How many of us just get the fries for the kids?

If we continue to completely blame our weight and health issues on external factors–bad restaurant food and evil food companies, we will never take responsibility, and we will never change.

Locus of control is a social psychology concept developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954. It’s become an important aspect of personality and refers to how much you believe you can control events that happen to you. People who have internal locus of control tend to feel they are in control of their actions, while those who have external locus of control tend to believe that powerful others, situations, fate, or chance determines what happens to them.

Apply that to our weight problem. If we continue to believe that external factors (food companies, restaurants, genetics, food marketing, etc) prevent us from maintaining a healthy diet and a healthy weight, we are not going to be in a position to take action to control our eating or lifestyle habits.

Try this online test to see what type of control you tend to have. I haven’t completed it and I don’t know its validity, but it might be fun.

Next time you go out, order the salad. When the cashier at Starbucks offers the Venti drink for only 50 cents more, say “no, thanks.” Get the fruit for your kids. Buy a bag of baby carrots in the grocery store instead of the potato chips (trust me, it’s not much more expensive and you’ll get full from the water and fiber in carrots that you won’t eat it all!) When you go to Panera Bread, get the apple not the chips. Don’t reserve a spot for candy, pastries, and high-calorie snacks in your pantry, get them occasionally and do not replenish. There are tons of ways to take control of your food actions, you just have to believe you can.

We have to step up and take charge.

I’m going to leave you with a anonymous quote I saw on a poster in my son’s school today. It says

Telling  yourself you can is good. Showing yourself you can is better.

Have a great Monday!

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