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Why are Americans overweight?

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Many Americans were relieved to read recently that not getting enough sleep and too much air conditioning could contribute to obesity. But what if you get enough sleep and keep the a.c low? Here are some other cultural institutions to blame.

The Television "TelePrompTer"

The TV doesn't make you fat because when you're watching it you're not exercising; it make you fat because when it tells you to eat, you do. The average refrigerator is opened 50 times a day--mostly during TV commercials. In other words, a TV in the forest with no refrigerator near it would not make you fat.

The Demise of the Family Meal

The family meal which most Americans grew up with kept you thin in two ways. You had to eat what you didn't like and couldn't have more of what you did. And dads (who remembers dads?) would ask you questions about school which really ruined your appetite.

The Birth of the Me Meal

The me meal is defined as eating whatever you want, as much as you want at whatever time you want, with the companion you want. (TV) It began as consolation for being a latchkey kid but became a preferred eating format. Fact: Ninety percent of all medium pizzas ordered--and 35% of large ones--are consumed by one person.

Size Inflation

Think you're a size 9? At your local Gap, you're probably a size 7 or even 5! What a diet! You go! But try on the 20-year-old vintage clothes at the thrift shop and you're actually a size 11 or larger. Aunt Mabel might not have worked out but she was thinner than you! Like grade inflation, no one wants to admit size fixing--perpetrators or beneficiaries so it's covered up.

Enabling Clothes

Have you ever thought "this Spandex fits like a glove"? You're at risk for obesity from enabling clothes. There's a reason our ancestors referred to the elastic waistband as the Devil's Playground. And while low risers solve the "rubber tire" problem at the waist, they create the new problem of the "muffin roll" below the hip (and a new kind of cleavage problem or should that be "crack" epidemic?)

New and Improved Food Occasions

Why are snacks available at the hardware store, office supply store, car wash and bank? Because we've gone a whole 20 minutes without food and are in danger of acidosis? Why is a hotel room without a mini-bar Doing Without? Some Europeans visiting a US mall saw people eating cheese fries at 10:30 in the morning and asked, "What meal is that?" Good question.

The Demise of the Gluttony Stigma

Thanks to super sizing, free refills and all-you-can-eat buffets, there is no stigma to public gluttony anymore. If everyone's doing it, who's a glutton? And besides, you have to get your money's worth. (Though that doesn't explain the popularity of troughs of buttery popcorn at movies--which are fattening and expensive!)

Quitting Smoking

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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