Few will deny that Americans are getting heavier. As for any problem of this size (no pun intended), there is of course more than one culprit. Here is a look at the role ever-increasing serving sizes play in America’s obesity epidemic. More than we realize, proportion sizes fuel peoples’ eating habits.
Much of human history was feast or famine. With the difficulties in storing food, killing game, sudden weather changes and all the other problems those who lived in primitive conditions faced, people could never be sure when their next meal was coming. Those who survived and passed on their genes were those who ate as much as they could when food was available.
This era of relative plenty and easy availability of food is very new in human history and not something we are equipped to deal with. There is nothing in our nature that tells us to stop eating when we have had enough to meet our needs. For most people, unless they feel totally stuffed, it is very difficult to say no to another bite when is right in front of them.
However, even in the times when food is easily available, many people can stop eating when food is not right in front of them. For example, while it is not difficult to order more or open another snack, many people will not take that extra step. It is much easier to stop eating when it requires the extra step or ordering again or opening another bag of potato chips. They are willing to stop without gorging themselves.
The changes in food and serving sizes in recent years have taken away even this one last break on out eating. Now, the quantity of food served often goes beyond the point of making someone reasonable full. If the proportions had been smaller, one might not have thought twice about stopping. However, rather than leave that food on the plate or closing that jumbo sized bag of potato chips for next time, it is tempting to keep just eating to the point it becomes physically uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, this extra eating is probably not even giving us any more satisfaction for all the health and other problems that go with it. While the first bites taste the best, every mouthful after them gives us ever diminishing returns. People stuff the food down without any real extra enjoyment. In time, our minds and stomachs expect this extra food, and it takes more food to reach the same level of satisfaction we could once find with far fewer calories. The vicious cycle thus continues.
Seriously addressing this problem, if Americans ever do, is not going to be easy. What and how much someone eats is a very personal and people do not want the government or others telling them what they can or cannot eat. This problem with serving sizes and the obesity epidemic in America are closely intertwined though. Without business, government and consumers working together to find solutions, it is likely to get worse.
Until people directly face up to the fact growing proportions only condition us to eat and expect more, American, and perhaps the worlds’, appetites and waistlines are almost certainly going to keep growing.