The Men Who Made Us Fat ~ Episode 2: Portion Sizes
A bit behind the curve on this one, here's the first part (of 4)
So in this episode, obesity is blamed on the man who invented the large sized popcorn at the movie theater. I'm not inclined to blame that guy, per se, but I'm much more in agreement with those who blame portion sizes at least in part for why we're eating too dang much.
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I do think they were off the mark when they used bulk packaging to equate with larger sized containers. I mean that a 12pk of 12oz cans of soda is cheaper per can than buying one can, or that a big bag of snack-sized bags of chips (or crisps) is cheaper per snack bag doesn't move me. Indeed the big bag of snack-sized chips is rather more expensive than the same amount of chips in one family-sized bag.
Anecdote alert! Yep ... did you think they never sold potato chips in large packages? Bzzzzzzzzzzz. One of occasional treats my Dad would bring home was that tin on the right of Charles Chips. Nobody -- not him or my Mom or gawd forbid any of us kidlets -- would even think about eating the whole thing, let alone do it. Such a tin would last at least a week, probably more like two ... and we were given (note given, not told to go get and portion out ourselves) a hand full. Note: the Family Sized bag of Ruffles is only 14 oz, while this tin held 16oz. Further down memory lane you'll find dieting Evelyn in her 20's. If I was going through an "everything in moderation" phase, I might eat a snack sized Fritos -- in which case I would buy the big bag of snack sized baggies, or lots of little bags (they were cheap at those bakery outlet stores). It did make for some expensive binges from time to time (and a whole lot more empty wrappers when it was all over!), but as a single person, bulk buying of individually portioned foods is a huge draw. To this day, if we're going to get cookies or such, I'd rather my hubs buy a box of Little Debbies b/c they will last a long time in their individual wrappers vs. a box of cookies that will go stale.
There's no denying portion sizes have gotten ridiculous. I do note that Peretti didn't go to chain restaurants for his more absurd examples. That 9 lb breakfast thing was a novelty, nobody eats that! Same for the giant donut thing -- it's not intended to be a single serving. I'm drawing a blank trying to recall what it was in college that you could go into town to get, and if you ate the whole thing it was free. It was good for business -- brought the college kids in, and sold a lot of it (gosh the brain fart, maybe if Princess pokes in she can ask her hubs if he remembers any such thing) that us kids shared, and every once in a while someone took on the challenge to try to eat the whole thing. I guess this was the 80's version of competitive eating. Oh wait ... I want to say it was ice cream now ... but not getting my mental image!
But tis true that the typical bagel with cream cheese at a deli is really 2X bagel with 3X the cream cheese you would get in the 70's. And the can of soda has been replaced by the 20 oz bottle. Still, nobody (I hope) ever thought a 2L bottle was intended as a single serving ... right? I do think this Big Gulp thing is a bit overstated. There is no 64oz size on McD's menu ... yeah 32oz is probably too much, but are you only going to allow 16oz sizes? Is that really going to do anything?? In the piece they talk about how folks used to tilt back and try to get every last bit from the fry container, but wouldn't go back and get another fries. Enter the larger size -- oh, and it didn't cost much more.
Us just post baby-boomers were raised by parents who grew up in the depression or with parents who knew it well. Thrift and value were instilled in them and they instilled it in us. Having one's family never go hungry and even enjoy excess or the occasional luxury food was a source of pride. Can we blame McD's for making bigger burgers, fries, drinks competing with BK? Where are you going to eat if you've got a choice if you get more for the buck at BK vs. McD? And what when Wendy's comes along ...
When I was growing up, the Hungry Man Dinner was a TV dinner that was just a wee bit bigger than a regular one, and none of those dinners were particularly appealing. Now there are "family size" frozen entrees -- umm and some eat them all by themselves -- and the food scientists have had at them to make them quite tasty, gourmet even. This is the fault of whom? I'm as guilty as the next person that give me a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese in my 20's, I ate the whole thing. Certainly one box was a one shot deal for me and hubs when I married. It's intended to serve 4. I mean I suppose I should get mad at Birdseye b/c my steam-in-bag veggies usually say they serve 2.5 or 3.5 -- what's that all about? There are no half people in my house!
Which brings me to my thoughts on why we eat more when foods are pre-portioned for us. It's usually an inherent thrift/value thing, even if not conscious. Full after 3/4 of that personal pizza? What do you do? Leave the last slice? Wrap it up and take it back to work, put it in the community fridge and hopefully remember to take it home at the end of the day? Or eat it? I'm betting many do the latter out of some kind of guilt or whatever over wasting because that 1/4 pizza isn't really enough for a second meal ...
One more anecdote and I'm out. We were at the new Korean market the other evening -- they have a three-restaurant "food court" in there, and it was packed. I think we were the only caucasians in the place that day. On the tables were huge bowls of food with families gathered around eating right from the community bowl or portioning some out onto their small plates. We were back there a couple of days ago at lunch time, and one American family -- including a kid of maybe 10 y.o.a. -- was eating lunch. EACH had a giant bowl in front of them. Did they think the portions are intended for one? Do they not have the thought capacity to think to share? If it's a value for the big bowl, how much more value it will be if that one big bowl feeds the whole family!!
I know one of the things that has really re-established a more normal relationship with food has been cooking in bulk with the intent of left-overs. Left overs make easy meals. Take what you need from the "big vat", save some in the fridge for later in the week and freeze the rest.
I dunno, I still just find this whole series to be an (a) blame America for the UK's problems, and (b) blame some faceless greedy capitalist pig who manipulated you into eating more for profit whinefest. We're all just effen spoiled brats about this at this point. You can buy an easy to maneuver chest freezer for under $200 that uses like almost no electricity. Anything precooked you freeze in that can be on the table in under 10 min thanks to the invention of the microwave. It doesn't get much easier than that. I am happy that my grocery stores offer bulk packs of meats at considerably reduced price (often the price per pound is half what it would be) ... or is that just Perdue trying to get me to eat more chicken for their profit? I'm happy when the 5 lb bags of potatoes go on sale -- or should I revile Denise Austin for advertising for the state of Idaho?
Beth @ Weight Maven and I are on different sides on this one. I appreciate her arguments even if I obviously disagree. Check her out!