Are Our Words Contributing to Our Obesity? How Our Language and Social Status Influence What we Eat Ever hear of statements like "fit for a king" or "breakfast of champions"? For a long time in our history we have equated portion size with social status, and we have promoted an image that "more is better."...
Ever hear of statements like "fit for a king" or "breakfast of champions"? For a long time in our history we have equated portion size with social status, and we have promoted an image that "more is better." But where has this gotten us? Today, nearly a third of American adults are obese (with the expectation that will rise to 41 percent by 2015) and 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children between ages 2-19 are obese.
A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research took a closer look at this "bigger is better" mentality and asked if it could be related to our current obesity epidemic. In the last 20 years, researchers have found that portion sizes have increased by 52 percent for soft drinks, 27 percent for Mexican food and 23 percent for hamburgers. The notion of "super sizing" every food order is running rampant in our country, being fed by the idea that if we "eat like a king" then we must be one.
The researchers at Northwestern University experimented by manipulating the status of meals to find out if consumers' portion choices would be influenced by the perceived need for social status as it is attributed to food size. What they found is that people did choose larger portions if they felt they had a more prominent social status, and, on the other hand, they chose smaller portions if they felt they had a more negative social status. In short, choosing bigger portions was an expression of how they felt about their social status (i.e. bigger = better).
So what can we do about this? First, we can remind ourselves that we have the freedom to choose our portions. If a restaurant or fast food chain offers a "Super Gargantuan Mega King Kong" option for a burger or side of fries, it's likely they also have sizes small through large. We can exercise our power of choice and order according to our calorie goals and level of hunger.
Second, we can consider the nutrient density of the foods we choose. Yes, we may be tempted to go all "XL" on a bucket wings, but why not go "XXL" on a plate of veggies too (or better yet, instead of!)? We don't have to make our "one big thing" the most unhealthy thing on our plate. We can double up on the good stuff and choose smaller portions of the not-so-good stuff.
And lastly, we can "go big" in other areas of our lives. We can literally become the "queen of our workouts," or the "king of the running club," or even the "pauper of Pilates." We can "give big" too, volunteering to coach a kid's activity or sport once a week. There are many other ways we can satiate our egos in relation to "bigger is better" instead of just choosing the biggest burger on the menu. Weight Loss->BehaviorWeight Loss->Emotional & Mindful Eating