Dimmitt Rayna Dimmitt

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Rayna Dimmitt

Professer C. Howe

English 1010-031

March 2, 2015

Response to “Don’t Blame the Eater”
In the article “Don’t Blame the Eater,” author David Zinczenko jokingly talks about kids suing McDonald’s for making them fat as if it’s a ridiculous thing to do and that it is all the children’s fault for not having self-control. He then switches his tone, sympathizing with them saying, “I used to be one of them” (Zinczenko). Zinczenko talks about his childhood struggles of a split up family and no places to eat other than fast food restaurants while his mom was out working long hours. He believes this might have contributed to his massive weight gain. Though he was very lucky to change his life style and lose weight, he doesn’t think many other kids will turn their lives around or even get the chance like he did. Zinczenko doesn’t deny parents having a part in child obesity. He also doesn’t deny children having the choice to change their ways like he eventually did, but he does acknowledge the fact that there may not be many other options when trying to find something healthy to eat at a cheap price.

He also argues that we lack information about what we are eating so we continue to eat fast food, which has correlated with an increase in child diabetes. Zinczenko states, “Before 1994, diabetes in children was generally caused by a genetic disorder—only about 5 percent of childhood cases were obesity-related, or type 2, diabetes. Today, type 2 diabetes accounts for at least 30 percent of all new childhood cases of diabetes.” Health costs have also “skyrocketed” from $2.6 billion in 1969 to $100 billion in 2002. He provides readers with this information to show how much of a problem this really has become. Zinczenko empathizes that we as consumers must educated ourselves and that we may need to change the way we advertise fast food as we have with the tobacco industries. Fast food companies need to provide more nutritional information and they also need to include warning labels on their products like the tobacco industries does. He insists the calorie information must be accurate and easy to understand. He provides us with an example about a chicken salad from an unnamed restaurant and how the calories aren’t what they really seem. He says, “You’ve got a healthy lunch alternative that comes in at 620 calories, but that’s not all. Read the small print on the back of the dressing packet and you’ll realize it actually contains 2.5 servings. If you pour what you’ve be served, your suddenly up around 1,040 calories.” Zinczenko uses this example to explain how much we really don’t know about what we are eating. Consumers either aren’t supplied the right information or we don’t care enough to read it correctly. Without changes to the fast food industry, Zinczenko claims Americans will become sicker, see even more of an increase in obesity, and a continuation of angry, “litigious” parents.

I agree with David Zinczenko when he says there are a “lack of alternatives” for what and where teenagers can eat other than Mcdonald’s and other fast food restaurants. However, I cannot accept his overriding assumption that fast food companies are all to blame because people have the freedom to make their own choices. If we are going to blame anyone, we should blame the parents. It is parents’ responsibility to teach children at a young age how to make good meal choices and how to eat healthy. If they learn young then they won’t know anything different when they are older. One of the problems though is that many adults don’t even know how to be healthy themselves. So how are they supposed to help and teach their children? Until teenagers can get a car of their own or their own job, parents need to be providing efficient money for food or at least some home food options.

Another reason I disagree with Zinczenko is because when he published this article back in 2002 he asked that we push fast food companies to give us easier access to nutritional information and offer healthier choices in hopes that it will help us make better choices. Using that information, consumers would know what they are putting into their bodies and they would have a better selection to pick something healthier. With it now being 2015, things have changed as Zinczenko had hoped. Many of Mcdonald’s sandwiches have the nutritional information right on the box and if it’s not on the box, the menu will tell you how many calories it contains. Almost every restaurant has its nutrition facts online or has them posted somewhere in the restaurant. In a world overrun with technology, just about everyone either has a smart phone or has access to the internet at home, school, or a library. With that being said it is now extremely easy to access nutritional information for just about anything including non-fast food, but having that information hasn’t help the obesity crisis. Obesity is still a problem and the rate is continually rising along with other diseases including diabetes. Zinczenko also suggested fast food companies should put warning labels on their items just as cigarette companies do. I don’t believe that will stop people from eating fast food just as it hasn’t stopped people from smoking cigarettes. Everyone knows fast food is bad, just like we know cigarettes are bad. We hear it all the time and see it everywhere, but that still doesn’t stop people from choosing to consume it.

People always have a choice and I think we as American people need to push that idea further and really take it into account. People are responsible for their own health. The government needs to stop trying to intervene. They have already started to try to prohibit junk food in school vending machines and demand more labels on foods. Radley Balko, an editor of a magazine called Reason, which is an alternative to right-wing and left-wing magazines, writes, “Instead of manipulating or intervening in the array of food options available to American consumers, our government ought to be working to foster a sense of responsibility in and ownership of our own health and well-being” (Balko). This means the government need to step aside and let consumers handle things for themselves. Americans may fall down quite a ways before they are able to pull themselves back up and learn the right and healthy way to live, but they won’t learn anything with other people doing everything for them.

If the government doesn’t wish to step aside then they must change the way they are handling the situation. The government obviously wants to fix the obesity crisis. They care enough to build new bike trails and sidewalks, restrict advertising to young kids, and put out easy to access information and facts about food and health, along with health and nutrition classes. Facts are good to have because they at least give us an idea of what we should be doing and maybe where to start, but without motivation people will never change. Judith Warner, a writer for the New York Times and author of many other books, claims, “You can’t change specific eating behavior without addressing the way of life—without changing our culture of food. We need to present healthful eating as a new, desirable, freely chosen expression of the American way” (Warner). Using psychology we could change the way we think of our food. The government has done it before with other things like smoking cigarettes and the food rationing programs during WWII. Warner notes David Kessler, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner, who says, “It was a shift in cultural attitudes, not laws or regulations, that led Americans to quit smoking. Cigarettes stopped being portrayed as ‘sexy and cool’ and started to be seen as ‘a disgusting, addictive product’” (Kessler). The government needs to put more effort into changing the way we feel and make us believe there is a purpose behind the change like they did with the food ration programs used during WWII. Americans believed that their changing eating habits were helping their “boys overseas” (Warner). It made them feel patriotic and gave them the impression that what they were doing was really worth it.

I believe people need to become more individualized. Fast food companies and the government have tried and tried to change things to help fix the obesity crisis, but nothing has worked yet. Their next step should be to step back and let Americans handle it themselves. If they can’t figure it out, then the government may need to step in again. When they step in the next time though, they should have a new plan to execute. From what Kessler and Warner have said, hopefully it will have something to do with psychology, which has shown to work in the past. Either way we choose to proceed to fix the obesity crisis, it will be a long, hard, challenging road, but I think Americans and consumers can do it.

Cited Work

Balko, Radley. "What You Eat Is Your Business." They Say I Say. 2nd ed. New York: W. W.
Norton, 2012. 395-98. Print.
Warner, Judith. “Junking Junk Food.” They Say I Say. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2012.
400-04. Print
Zinczenko, David. "Don't Blame the Eater." They Say I Say. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton,
2012. 391-93. Print.

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