So why don’t we? Where food is concerned, we’re complicated. We aspire to extreme thinness as advocated by fashion and reinforced by the cult of celebrity, but in reality we nearly all struggle with the pounds. We see people who are grossly fat, their wobbling, sad bodies being winched out of windows, and class that as “obesity”, distancing ourselves from the term. As a recovering alcoholic it’s a syndrome I’m familiar with – I might be getting drunk but I still have a roof over my head, unlike a “real” alcoholic, who sleeps on a park bench. Are we seriously so weak-willed that we can’t say “no” to that extra cake? Go back just 30 years and very few people were obese. Go back 50 years and virtually no one was. For women, size 10 and 12 was the norm, rather than 14 and 16 today – and we ate three meals a day, with tea thrown in for special occasions. Most of us didn’t eat unless we were sat at a table at a regular time of day.
That simple fact represented a problem for the food industry, which its army of chemists solved by designing products that override the “full” button, working like any other addictive drug to convince you that you really, really want – even need – that extra slice. Combine sugars, salts and fats, substances once so scarce we never evolved any need to limit their consumption, and you create a sensation as powerful as many banned substances. Then destroy the concept that eating takes place just at mealtimes. Enter any large supermarket today and you’ll find whole aisles stocked with snacks.
Sigh. Calorie intake has fallen over this time period. People simply aren’t getting fat because they’re eating more.
Thus any plan that attempts to reduce obesity by thinking that we are eating more than we used to is simply wrong. At odds with the universe we actually inhabit.