When did eating become negative in America?

When did eating become negative in America?  Eating is essential for survival.  Food is the common bond which defines a culture.  Did the USA’s melting pot concept ruin our cultural bonds?  Did we not experience enough hardship to define a national cuisine which embodies our American spirit?  Have we always been, the “Land of Plentiful”? Is food too easy for us to gather and then consume?  Well, it seems that our national cuisine may just be fast foods, starting with the T.V. Dinner.  “During the 18th and 19th centuries, Americans developed many new foods. During the Progressive Era (1890s–1920s) food production and presentation became more industrialized.”  (Cuisine of the United States)

We do not exercise.  As a culture we do not walk.  What an odd way to start this subject, right?  Well, we do not walk… anywhere.  We drive from one store to the next, despite it only being two or three doors down.  Why is that? Why is walking, manual labor, physically working for our food seen as lowly? As Americans, we are confounded by other cultures that consume large amounts of fat and smoke, yet live very long lives.  We call it the “French Paradox”!  Why are we confounded by this so much so that we have deemed it a paradox?

We are diet obsessed, body image obsessed… Fad this, fad that… “Dieting is a national pastime. While the number of Americans who diet varies, depending on the source, the Boston Medical Center indicates that approximately 45 million Americans diet each year and spend $33 billion on weight-loss products in their pursuit of a trimmer, fitter body.” (Percentage of Americans Who Diet Every Year, Kay Uzoma)  Nutrition, diets, ideal body image seemingly changes every year, if not each season. When did eating become a bad thing?  In our culture’s mind, when did it become about whether someone has self control?  Why is the blame placed on the person rather than our culture and it’s choices as to what to value?  When did we become so…. fake?    Why is it so difficult for us to admit this is a cultural problem?  Why do we not take the steps to correct this problem?  This topic has me asking more questions, purely out of frustration, than providing me with logical answers; as there is no logic to this phenomenon.  Several members of my family have battled with eating disorders of various types throughout their lives.  From starving themselves to look skinny to over-eating to compensate for emotional instability; it is staggering to me how many Americans are plagued by these issues.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), “At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.” and these eating disorders range from: anorexia nervosa (1%-4.2% of American women, Eating Disorders 101 Guide), bulimia nervosa (1.5% of American women, ANAD), binge eating disorder (2.8% of American adults, ANAD), avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (still being studied, but may be 3-5% of children, ANAD), diabulimia (deliberate insulin underuse to control weight which about 38% of females and 16% of males with type 1 diabetes, ANAD) , and other specified feeding or eating disorders.  This is a huge issue for our culture.

An interesting discovery to me was to identify genetic links to eating disorders, “Over the past decade, considerable advances have been made in understanding genetic influences on eating pathology. Eating disorders aggregate in families, and twin studies reveal that additive genetic factors account for approximately 40% to 60% of liability to anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED). Molecular genetics studies have been undertaken to identify alterations in deoxyribonucleic acid sequence and/or gene expression that may be involved in the pathogenesis of disordered eating behaviors, symptoms, and related disorders and to uncover potential genetic variants that may contribute to variability of treatment response. This article provides an in-depth review of the scientific literature on the genetics of AN, BN, and BED including extant studies, emerging hypotheses, future directions, and clinical implications.” (The Genetics of Eating Disorders, Trace, S. E., Baker, J. H., Peñas-Lledó, E., & Bulik, C. M.) These issues which seems to plague so many is hitting us on multiple fronts.

As a culture, we have a national food which represents everything wrong with food.  Why do we see golden arches on every street corner?  Okay, well maybe it is a little more diverse than that… A girl with pig-tails, a big hat, a bell, a hamburger bun with ballooned words in the middle, a guy with glasses and a goatee, yada… yada… yada…  “Nearly 70% of Food Ads on Nickelodeon are for junk” food.  (Jeff Cronin, Ariana Stone)  Hmm, what?  Yes, that’s right.  “CSPI researchers catalogued the food advertising on 28 hours of Nickelodeon programming in October 2012 and found 88 ads for foods. Of those, 69 percent were for foods of poor nutritional quality. The most common products marketed to kids were sugary cereals, candy, yogurt with added sugars, fast food and other restaurants, and snacks.”  As a culture, how are we contributing to our children’s future?  How do they have a choice?  What efforts must kids make to overcome these odds?  When are we going to admit that food being “Bigger, Faster, Cheaper, More” (Joel Salatin) is wrong, on every level!?!  According to Merry N. Miller (a Professor and Interm Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the James A. Quilen College of Medicine)  “Cultural beliefs and attitudes have been identified as significant contributing factors in the development of eating disorders. Rates of these disorders appear to vary among different racial/ethnic and national groups, and they also change across time as cultures evolve. Eating disorders are, in fact, more prevalent within various cultural groups than previously recognized, both within American ethnic minorities and those in other countries.” (Culture and Eating Disorders) 

Now on to the subject of body image; there are numerous studies on body image in the United States.  When we look at it from a scientific perspective, these comments tend to summarize how we in the U.S.A. feel about our body image, “Role of Western Ideals. The idealization of the thin body type within Western societies has been identified as a possible factor leading to the development of anorexia nervosa (Bruch 1962).  Garner, Garfinkel, Schwartz, and Thompson (1980) demonstrated an increasing gap between the weights of women in the general population verses the weights of women who serve as role models for attractiveness.  The mass media has been blamed by many for a possibly pathogenic role in promoting attitudes about body and self that enhance the risk for developing an eating disorder (Becker and Hamburg 1996; Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw and Stein 1994).  As the image of beauty that is promoted has changed, women in this society show increasing evidence of dissatifaction with their bodies and pressure to conform to this ideal.  Increases in the number of diet articles (Garner et al. 1980) and in dieting behavior (Nylander 1971) even among preadolescent girls…”( Culture and Eating Disorders)

But there is a far easier and more practical approach to this subject; let’s take a look at kid’s cartoons:




(https://az616578.vo.msecnd.net/files/2016/03/07/6359292358794592062078613330_Disney-Princes-disney-37019661-617-333.jpg )

Sometimes a picture (or two) is worth a thousand words.  It starts with what seems so, small, minute and irrelevant.  But it isn’t.

Our culture is sick; it has a disease.

It cannot be regulated away…

The change has to come from within, as all cultural problems do.

When we have had enough to make a change, change will occur.

The only thing that makes me wonder, is what is enough for Americans?  Despite massive amounts of research, I do not have the answer for that.


Works Cited:

Percentage of Americans Who Diet Every Year, Author: Kay Uzoma, Livestrong.com, Jun 24, 2015, http://www.livestrong.com/article/308667-percentage-of-americans-who-diet-every-year/

Culture and Eating Disorders: A Historical and Cross-Cultural Review, MERRY N. MILLER AND ANDRE´ S J. PUMARIEGA, Psychiatry 64(2) Summer 2001, Pg: 93, http://www.brown.uk.com/eatingdisorders/miller.pdf

Why Do We Keep Falling for Fad Diets?, Martin Downs, MPH, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/why-do-we-keep-falling-for-fad-diets#1

Joel Salatin, America’s Most Influential Farmer, Talks Big Organic and the Future of Food, Treehugger, Finding a Greener Future, http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/joel-salatin-americas-most-influential-farmer-talks-big-organic-and-the-future-of-food.html

11 Countries with the Highest Rates of Eating Disorders in the World, Author: Soma Dutta, June 12, 2015, http://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/11-countries-with-the-highest-rates-of-eating-disorders-in-the-world-353060/

The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources, 2003., https://www.ndsu.edu/fileadmin/counseling/Eating_Disorder_Statistics.pdf

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/

Prevalence of Eating Disorders: A Comparison of Western and Non-Western Countries, Mariko Makino, MD, PhD; Koji Tsuboi, MD, PhD; Lorraine Dennerstein, AO MBBS, PhD, DPM, FRANZCP, Medscape General Medicine. 2004;6(3):49, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1435625/?tool=pubmed

The genetics of eating disorders., Authors: Trace, S. E., Baker, J. H., Peñas-Lledó, E., & Bulik, C. M. (2013). Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 589-620., http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050212-185546

Nearly 70% of Food Ads on Nickelodeon are for Junk, Modest Improvement Not Sufficient, Given Kids’ Obesity Rates, Says CSPI, Authors: Jeff Cronin, Ariana Stone, March 21, 2013, Center for Science in the Public Interest, https://cspinet.org/new/201303211.html

The impact of food advertising on childhood obesity, American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org/topics/kids-media/food.aspx

7 Highly Distrubing Trends in Junk Food Advertising to Children, Authors: Laura Gottediener, Alternet, http://www.apa.org/topics/kids-media/food.aspx

Cuisine of the United States, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuisine_of_the_United_States

Culture and Eating Disorders: A Historical and Cross-Cultural Review, MERRY N. MILLER AND ANDRE´ S J. PUMARIEGA, Psychiatry 64(2) Summer 2001, Pg: 93, http://www.brown.uk.com/eatingdisorders/miller.pdf

13 thoughts on “When did eating become negative in America?

  1. Many years ago I met a young Italian guy living in the UK. He was horrified by the number of people who ate in front of tv instead of sitting down to a proper meal with friends and family. Family meals teach a lot about sharing food, listening and learning from others. It also shows kids how to eat well, to try things. This young man said, ‘In Italy, we eat knowledge’. Love that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was in clinical practice people would say: “Why can’t I lose weight.” I would say two things. Rule # 1. If Calories in > Calories out= Obesity. They would say, “Then what can I do.” The answer is Rule number 2. Drop the fork , and hit the highway.
    Junk food is a curse embedded in lazy conveniences. I can make a heart healthy dinner in 30 minutes with a wide variety of food sources and different tastes. So can everyone else.
    The problem is that corporations like McDonalds are no better than drug dealers. They get you hooked on sloth and the flavorful scents of frying beef fat, secret sauces and skinny crunchy French fries.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. peacelovepointers

    I would say, “get a high energy dog, and then you most certainly will walk, (and run and throw balls,)” but then again, I see so many people who have high energy dogs and do absolutely nothing with them. But I did read somewhere that dog owners tend to be fitter. I’m sure the same is true for gardeners as well. Gardening gets me sweating even more than my dog! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thflg

      A yorkie puppy got my 85-year-old dad to turn off the golf and get off the couch. Dad feels great and that animal is so spoiled now he needs the exercise too!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. peacelovepointers

        That is so cool! Almost like a service dog, but instead of helping with anxiety or something, it makes you exercise. XD A personal fitness dog.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. These special critters are important for our existence. In full disclosure…. (coined from bobleckridge) I talk to all of my critters, not to mention the trees, forest, rocks and bodies of water. May or may not be a good thing… Am I disclosing too much? Insanity breaking through? Hooo Hummmm… Well that ship has sailed. Many of you know that I am looney.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. People used to talk to saints for intercession with god for their problems but I think they just got words out of their system. Most of us don’t or can’t unload problems to close friends. Animals r good listeners& dont blab

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Plus, they have the best facial expressions, which you can interpret as you see fit! We do all the time 😉 Our dogs all have running dialogues coming from their expressions, determined by us. It’s a win-win! Hahahahaha!

        Liked by 1 person

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