The Situationist

Archive for the ‘Food and Drug Law’ Category

The Policy Situation of Obesity

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 12, 2010

In 2004, Peter Jennings hosted an outstanding report, titled “How To Get Fat Without even Trying,” in which he explored some of the situational factors, including federal government agricultural policies and food industry practices, that  are contributing to Americas  obesity epidemic.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Snacking,” The Benefit of Knowing Your Eating Sins,” “The Situation of Body Image,” “Big Calories Come in Small Packages,”The Situation of Eating – Part II,” The Situation of Eating,” “The Situation of the Dreaded ‘Freshman 15′,” “Our Situation Is What We Eat,” “Social Networks,” Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “The Situation of Fatness = Our ‘Obesogenic’ Society,” Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

The American obesity paradox is explored at some length by Situationist Contributors, Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosifon, who devoted a sizeable article to the mistaken but dominant dispositionist attributions made regarding obesity and the actual situational sources of the epidemic. To access their article, entitled “Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America,” click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Education, Food and Drug Law, Life, Marketing, Public Relations, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Sound Situation of Beer Drinkers

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 3, 2010

Guéguen, Jacob, Le Guellec, Morineau, and Lourel recently published an interesting article, titled “Sound level of environmental music and drinking behavior: a field experiment with beer drinkers.”  Here’s the abstract.

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OBJECTIVE: It had been found that environmental music was associated with an increase in alcohol consumption. The presence versus absence of music, high versus slow tempo and the different styles of environmental music is associated with different level of alcohol consumption. However, the effect of the level of the environmental music played in a bar still remained in question.

METHODS: Forty male beer drinkers were observed in a bar. According to a random distribution, patrons were exposed to the usual level of environmental music played in 2 bars where the experiment was carried out or were exposed to a high level.

RESULTS: The results show that high level volume led to increase alcohol consumption and reduced the average amount of time spent by the patrons to drink their glass.

CONCLUSIONS: The impact of environmental music on consumption was discussed and the “arousal” hypothesis and the negative effect of loud music on social interaction were used to explain our results.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Just Me and My Friend, Sony,” “Alcohol, Hotdogs, Sexism, and Racism,” “What Our Exterior Situation Reveals About Our Interior Situation,” “Susan Boyle and the Situation of Sound,” “The Situation of Music,” “The Situation of the Dreaded ‘Freshman 15′,” The Science of Songs Stuck in Your Head,” and “Investing in Vice,”

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Food and Drug Law, Life, Marketing | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Dan Kahan on the Situation of Risk Perceptions

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 27, 2010

Situationist Contributor Dan Kahan was recently interviewed for the National Science Foundation website.  In the interview, which you can watch the on the video below, Kahan discusses how people’s values shape perceptions of the HPV vaccine.  Here’s the abstract.

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The “cultural cognition thesis” argues that individuals form risk perceptions based on often-contested personal views about what makes a good society. Now, Yale University Law professor Dr. Dan Kahan and his colleagues reveals how people’s values shape their perceptions of one of the most hotly debated health care proposals in recent years: vaccinating elementary-school girls, ages 11-12, against human papillomavirus (HPV), a widespread sexually transmitted disease.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see  “Cultural Cognition as a Conception of the Cultural Theory of Risk,” Construing ‘Acquaintance Rape’,” The Cultural Situation of the HPV Vaccine – Abstract,” “Culture and Identity-Protective Cognition – Abstract,” “The Second National Risk and Culture Study – Abstract,” and “Whose Eyes are You Going to Believe?.”

Posted in Abstracts, Cultural Cognition, Food and Drug Law, Video | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Situation of Our Food – Part V

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 6, 2010

Michael Pollan (a professor of science and environmental journalism at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California) has a new, short book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. Pollan’s writing has been frequently featured on this blog because it is superb and because of his fascinating situationist perspective regarding our food “choices.”  Here is a blurb about the book from Pollan’s website.

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Eating doesn’t have to be so complicated. In this age of ever-more elaborate diets and conflicting health advice, Food Rules brings a welcome simplicity to our daily decisions about food. Written with the clarity, concision and wit that has become bestselling author Michael Pollan’s trademark, this indispensable handbook lays out a set of straightforward, memorable rules for eating wisely, one per page accompanied by a concise explanation. It’s an easy-to-use guide that draws from a variety of traditions, suggesting how different cultures through the ages have arrived at the same enduring wisdom about food. Whether at the supermarket or an all-you-can-eat buffet, this is the perfect guide for anyone who ever wondered, “What should I eat?”

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Here are a few excerprts from Jennifer Bain’s  telephone interview (for TheStar.com) of Michael Pollan about his new book.

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Q: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” is a powerful, memorable statement that was in In Defense of Food and now Food Rules and sums up your food philosophy. What effect has it had?

A: It has kind of entered the culture as a meme. I hear it all the time and see it on T-shirts. The idea was to make some very easy rules people would remember. The “mostly” (mostly plants) is controversial. It seems to annoy both carnivores and vegetarians.

Q: Now you’ve given us Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual with 64 digestible points/rules/personal policies. Why?

A: I did this because I was hearing from lots of medical professionals, doctors and parents that they would love to have something – a pamphlet, really – that pared things down to the essentials. I wanted to reduce the message and get it out to a lot of people who might not be ready or willing to read a whole book. I wanted to preach to beyond the choir. I spend a lot of time talking to upper-middle-class, affluent people, but talking to them about obesity and diabetes. I’m trying to reach a very broad audience. It’s meant to be user friendly, something where you can dive in anywhere and come back.

Q: You’ve nailed one of the biggest food problems with the term “edible foodlike substances.” Did you coin this phrase?

A: I think I did coin this phrase. I felt a big part of our problem is that we should eat “food” and a whole lot of things don’t deserve that designation. I felt I needed a counterpart to food to draw that distinction. I tried to be as value-neutral as I could.

Q: Rule 17: Eat food cooked by humans, not corporations. Does anybody want to cook anymore?

A: Yes and no. Many people feel they don’t have enough time to cook. Many people feel intimidated by cooking. Many do want to cook but are stymied by a lack or knowledge or equipment. I see inklings of a shift back to cooking, somewhat due to the economy. I think there are people rediscovering the kitchen right now. The more I look at this question, the collapse of cooking is a very big part of our problem all the way down to the farm.

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Q: Rule 46: Stop eating before you’re full and try to eat only to 67 to 80 per cent capacity. Easier said than done?

A: Once you start paying attention to it, it’s just about being mindful. Yeah, for most North Americans it is hard. We’ve been sort of taught by the culture to eat until you’re stuffed. The French say: “Je n’ai plus faim” – I have no more hunger. Ask yourself, before you take that bite, is my hunger gone?

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Q: Are you done with writing about food?

A: Um, no. I’m not. I have more to say. I want to write about cooking, and I want to learn how to cook better. I also have not written very much on the international food question – how you feed the world.

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Click on the following video to watch John Stewart’s (Daily Show, Monday 12/04/10) interview of Michael Pollan.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, go to “The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

Posted in Book, Food and Drug Law, Life, Video | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Spicy Situation of Food, Flavor, and Taste

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 27, 2009

With holiday feasts now behind us, we thought this might be a good time to post some portions of Linda Bartoshuk’s article, “Spicing Up Psychological Science,” from the September issue of The Observer.  Here are some excerpts.

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The anatomy of spice perception involves illusion. We seem to perceive spices both with the senses of taste and smell, but in reality, smell does most of the work. Consider cinnamon . . . . Even with our eyes closed, the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls grabs our attention. Sniffing draws the cinnamon volatiles (chemicals that evaporate at low temperatures and make their way into our nostrils as vapors) up into our noses; the volatiles pass through a tiny opening at the top of the nasal cavity called the olfactory cleft. When odorants pass through the cleft, they gain access to the olfactory mucosa, the tissue that contains olfactory receptors. This process is technically called “orthonasal olfaction,” but we commonly call it “smell.”

But there is a second kind of olfaction. When we bite into a cinnamon roll and chew and swallow, the cinnamon volatiles are forced up behind the palate into the nose; because of the backward route by which the volatiles enter the nose, this process is called “retronasal olfaction.” The combination of taste (sweet, salty, sour, bitter) and retronasal olfaction is called “flavor.” Note that we do not use “flavor” as a verb to describe our perceptions of flavor in the same way we use “taste” as a verb to describe our perceptions of taste. To flavor food means to add flavor to food rather than to perceive the flavor of food. But this does not bother us because we use “taste” in everyday conversation to refer to our perceptions of flavor. One of the reasons that we do not notice this linguistic slip is because flavor is perceptually localized to the mouth. This trap caught even Aristotle. He listed olfactory sensations perceived from food in the mouth as tastes.

Why do we experience this illusion of localization? We are not sure, but we know that touch and taste both play roles. The brain knows the route by which an odorant gets to the olfactory receptors. Sniffing may provide the cue that says “orthonasal olfaction.” Oral touch and taste sensations may provide the cues that say “retronasal olfaction.”

In any case, olfactory information goes to different brain areas and is processed in different ways depending on which route was detected. For example, retronasal olfaction can be intensified by taste. Food companies make good use of this intensification. If you market a beverage like grape juice and you would like to intensify the grape flavor of the juice, just add sugar (another reason why we are bombarded with sweetened drinks). Incidentally, supertasters, those individuals with the most taste buds, perceive the most intense tastes, and because of the connection between taste and retronasal olfaction, supertasters also experience the most intense flavors . . . .

Current thinking is that the pleasure we experience from spices is learned. Cinnamon produces pleasure because it was previously paired with experiences our brains are programmed to view favorably (e.g., calories, sweetness of sugar). On the other hand, pair cinnamon with nausea and it will become unpleasant. One of the volatiles in cinnamon, eugenol, is also found in cloves. Cloves and cinnamon do not smell exactly the same, but their odors are similar. Oil of cloves is a natural analgesic and was used by dentists in an earlier era. I associate the odor of cloves with sickness associated with visits to my dentist; I do not share the enthusiasm of those lined up at Cinnabon for the overpowering scents of those calorie-rich rolls. Incidentally, the degree to which learning with one kind of olfaction generalizes to another is not yet clear. Love of cinnamon is learned through retronasal experience but clearly generalizes to cinnamon sniffed. On the other hand, some odors are pleasant with one kind of smell (e.g., cut grass is pleasant when sniffed) but not with the other (I can’t imagine a cut-grass flavor).

The person most responsible for explaining how we learn to love or hate flavors is Paul Rozin . . . .

. . . . Rozin described the “omnivore’s dilemma.” Somehow species like humans (and rats) that consume a large variety of different foods must take in important nutrients and avoid poisons. Rozin and his students have revealed how we do it (Rozin & Hormes, 2009). Our brains note the effects a given food has on us and make us like or dislike the sensory properties of those foods according to its notion of what is good or bad for us. For example, suppose we want to create a food item that will have great appeal. Begin with sources of calories (fat, carbohydrates), add sugar (for its hard-wired effect), and label the mixture with a salient odorant that will endow the item with a retronasal olfactory punch: I give you a brownie. On the other hand, let’s watch an undergraduate on his first alcohol binge get violently ill on screwdrivers. He will likely find screwdrivers distasteful the next day (and possibly for life). Further, the aversion may generalize to orange juice, orange candy, and a lot of other substances flavored with orange. The power of such conditioned aversions has even been used clinically to treat alcoholism . . . .

. . . [Consider one study designed] to explore the affective reactions to odorants in one and two-year olds . . . . The children, seated on their mother’s laps, were allowed to play with toys on a table in front of a picture with holes in it. While the child was engaged with a toy, an odorant was sprayed through one of the holes, and the child’s reaction was rated as pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant by observers in another room viewing the experiment through a one-way mirror. Two odorants were tested that are pleasant to most adults: amyl acetate (pears) and lavender. (To be honest, I don’t know how to describe lavender odor. It’s sold as a spice so there are samples in supermarkets. I suggest you try it.) Two odorants were tested that are unpleasant to most adults: dimethyl disulfide (garlic-like) and butyric acid (vomit-like). There were no significant differences in the reactions of the children to the four odorants. However, by age three, children begin to show preference reactions like those of adults (Engen, 1982; Schmidt & Beauchamp, 1988).  The lack of affect at two years along with the appearance of affect over time supports the learning of olfactory affect.

But another issue has yet to be considered: biological benefits of spices. Flavor volatiles in many of the plants we consume are derived from important nutrients; thus, those volatiles could serve as cues to the presence of those nutrients . . . . Further, the subset of plant volatiles that we call spices have been explicitly associated with health benefits. . . .

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The health benefits of spices suggest that we reconsider the possibility of hard-wired liking of at least some spices. For example, is it possible that during evolution some of our ancestors began using turmeric? If turmeric prolonged their lives could this have ultimately contributed to the proliferation of turmeric-likers?

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Harold McGee . . . is most famous for drawing back the curtain and revealing the chemistry behind what we do in our kitchens. . . . McGee [recently] reviewed efforts to find the origin of the burn of chili. He cited work suggesting that higher altitudes seems to produce chilis with greater burn, possibly because the climate at those altitudes may stress the plants, which might make the chilis more vulnerable to attack . . . . Since the burn appears to act as a deterrent to predators, the increase in burn may better repel those predators. This attention to the burn of chilis is a reminder that burn (produced by capsaicin) is a part of what we think of as spices, but it is not a retronasal olfactory sensation; rather, burn is mediated by the trigeminal nerve (which also mediates temperature and touch sensations).  Note that the oral burn that probably originated to repel predators can be transformed into a positive sensation in humans. Rozin recently commented that, “many innately negative stimuli . . . become highly desired and emerge as really important foods.”

How does this “hedonic reversal” occur? Some have argued that the biological benefits of chilis (e.g., antimicrobial properties, presence of vitamins A and C) somehow lead to our love of them. Whether or not this is so, children in cultures where chilis are an important part of the diet appear to learn the preference socially; that is, chili initially takes on positive value by association with intake by family and friends. Interestingly, it has proved difficult to induce animals to acquire a preference for chili. Rozin noted that some pets can acquire the preference through the social interaction of pet and owner, but attempts to condition preferences for chili in most animals have met with only modest success. However, one of Rozin’s students, Bennett Galef, was able to condition a mild preference for chili in naïve rats socially by exposing them to rats that had eaten the spice  . . . .

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To read the entire article or review its references, click here. To review a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Snacking,”The Situation of Eating – Part II,” The Situation of Eating,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Illusions, Life | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Mental Budget for the Holidays

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 23, 2009

From EurekaAlert:

If you feel like you’re in a losing battle with a triple-chocolate cake, a “mental budget” can help, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“There are some behaviors that consumers try to limit but have trouble doing so,” write authors Parthasarathy Krishnamurthy . . . and Sonja Prokopec . . . . “Even as one aims to curtail consumption of sugars and fat, one ends up consuming the tiramisu or the triple-chocolate cake. Such discrepancies between one’s goals and actual behaviors represent instances of self-control failure.”

Overconsumption is a serious issue in the United States. For example, National Institutes of Health statistics show that two-thirds of American adults are overweight, with associated direct economic medical costs of $78.5 billion each year. About 70 million Americans are attempting to control their food intake.

So, how do consumers rein in overeating? In weight-loss systems like Weight Watchers, each food is assigned a point value and members are encouraged to limit their total daily consumption to a pre-specified amount of points.

The authors conducted several studies where they encouraged some participants to set mental budgets and compared them to people who did not set budgets. They examined their consumption of sweet treats.

They discovered several patterns. First, having a mental budget alone was not sufficient. Participants also needed to have an active goal of not wanting to consume sweets. Second, the information about the products needed to match the units of the mental budgets. Third, mental budgets succeeded when consumers followed specific numerical recommendations, like the Weight Watchers points.

“For those who wish to cut out those desserts, our research suggests some simple tips,” the authors write. “First, it is important to have a mental budget. At the very least, it allows you to keep track of how you are doing with respect to your goal. Second, make sure the budget works as a limit rather than a license for the consumption behavior. To do this, it is important to have an active goal of controlling the consumption.”

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You can find a preprint of the article, “Resisting That Triple-Chocolate Cake: Mental Budgets and Self-Control,” here. For other Situationist posts on food and drug issues, click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Behavioral Economics, Food and Drug Law, Life | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Placebo and the Situation of Healing

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 18, 2009

placeboFrom Youtube:

Featuring members of the the Harvard Placebo Study Group, “Placebo: Cracking the Code” examines the power of belief in alleviating pain, curing disease, and the healing of injuries.

The placebo effect is a pervasive, albeit misunderstood, phenomenon in medicine. In the UK, over 60% of doctors surveyed said they had prescribed placebos in regular clinical practice. In a recent Time Magazine article, 96% of US physicians surveyed stated that they believe that placebo treatments have real therapeutic effects.

Work on the placebo effect received an intellectual boost when the Harvard Placebo Study Group was founded at the beginning of 2001. This group is part of the Mind-Brain-Behavior Initiative at Harvard University, and its main characteristic is the interdisciplinary approach to the placebo phenomenon. The group is made up of 8 members: Anne Harrington (Historian of Science at Harvard), Howard Fields (Neuroscientist at Univ. of California in San Francisco), Dan Moerman (Anthropologist at Univ. of Michigan), Nick Humphrey (Evolutionary Psychologist at London School of Economics), Dan Wegner (Psychologist at Harvard), Jamie Pennebaker (Psychologist at Univ. of Texas in Austin), Ginger Hoffman (Behavioral Geneticist at Harvard) and Fabrizio Benedetti (Neuroscientist at Univ. of Turin). The main objective of the group is two-fold: to devise new experiments that may shed light on the placebo phenomenon and to write papers in which the placebo effect is approached from different perspectives.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Dan Ariely on the Situation of Expectation,”The Situation of Perceptions,” “January Fools’ Day,” “Brainicize: The Situational Malleability of our Brains,” “A (Situationist) Body of Thought,” The Unconscious Situation of our Consciousness – Part IV,” “The Body Has a Mind of its Own,” and “Brainicize: The Situational Malleability of our Brains.”

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Illusions, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Video | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Snacking

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 8, 2009

Big Mac WhopperSituationist Contributor John Bargh, with his co-authors Jennifer Harris and Kelly Brownell, recently published an interesting article, “Priming Effects of Television Food Advertising on Eating Behavior” (28 Health Psychology 404 (2009)) on the subconscious behavioral consequences of food advertising.  Here’s the abstract.

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Objective: Health advocates have focused on the prevalence of advertising for calorie-dense low-nutrient foods as a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic. This research tests the hypothesis that exposure to food advertising during TV viewing may also contribute to obesity by triggering automatic snacking of available food. Design: In Experiments 1a and 1b, elementary-school-age children watched a cartoon that contained either food advertising or advertising for other products and received a snack while watching. In Experiment 2, adults watched a TV program that included food advertising that promoted snacking and/or fun product benefits, food advertising that promoted nutrition benefits, or no food advertising. The adults then tasted and evaluated a range of healthy to unhealthy snack foods in an apparently separate experiment. Main Outcome Measures: Amount of snack foods consumed during and after advertising exposure. Results: Children consumed 45% more when exposed to food advertising. Adults consumed more of both healthy and unhealthy snack foods following exposure to snack food advertising compared to the other conditions. In both experiments, food advertising increased consumption of products not in the presented advertisements, and these effects were not related to reported hunger or other conscious influences. Conclusion: These experiments demonstrate the power of food advertising to prime automatic eating behaviors and thus influence far more than brand preference alone.

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You can download a pdf of the article here.

For a collection of related Situationist posts, see “The Benefit of Knowing Your Eating Sins,” “The Situation of Body Image,” “Big Calories Come in Small Packages,”The Situation of Eating – Part II,” The Situation of Eating,” “The Situation of the Dreaded ‘Freshman 15′,” “Our Situation Is What We Eat,” “Social Networks,” Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “The Situation of Fatness = Our ‘Obesogenic’ Society,” Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

The situation of obesity is explored at length by Situationist Contributors, Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosifon, who devoted a sizeable article to the mistaken but dominant dispositionist attributions made regarding obesity and the actual situational sources of the epidemic. To access their article, entitled “Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America,” click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Food and Drug Law, Life, Marketing, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Dr. David Kessler Waxes Situationist

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 11, 2009

End of Overeating CoverTara Parker-Pope recently had a terrific article, titled “How the Food Makers Captured Our Brains,” in The New York Times.  Thanks to the many readers who forwarded us the link to this article, recognizing it’s situationist message.  Here are some excerpts.

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As head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. David A. Kessler served two presidents and battled Congress and Big Tobacco. But the Harvard-educated pediatrician discovered he was helpless against the forces of a chocolate chip cookie.

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“Why does that chocolate chip cookie have such power over me?” Dr. Kessler asked in an interview. “Is it the cookie, the representation of the cookie in my brain? I spent seven years trying to figure out the answer.”

The result of Dr. Kessler’s quest is a fascinating new book, “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite” (Rodale).

During his time at the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Kessler . . . [was] perhaps best known for his efforts to investigate and regulate the tobacco industry, and his accusation that cigarette makers intentionally manipulated nicotine content to make their products more addictive.

In “The End of Overeating,” Dr. Kessler finds some similarities in the food industry, which has combined and created foods in a way that taps into our brain circuitry and stimulates our desire for more.

When it comes to stimulating our brains, Dr. Kessler noted, individual ingredients aren’t particularly potent. But by combining fats, sugar and salt in innumerable ways, food makers have essentially tapped into the brain’s reward system, creating a feedback loop that stimulates our desire to eat and leaves us wanting more and more even when we’re full.

Dr. Kessler isn’t convinced that food makers fully understand the neuroscience of the forces they have unleashed, but food companies certainly understand human behavior, taste preferences and desire. In fact, he offers descriptions of how restaurants and food makers manipulate ingredients to reach the aptly named “bliss point.” Foods that contain too little or too much sugar, fat or salt are either bland or overwhelming. But food scientists work hard to reach the precise point at which we derive the greatest pleasure from fat, sugar and salt.

The result is that chain restaurants like Chili’s cook up “hyper-palatable food that requires little chewing and goes down easily,” he notes. And Dr. Kessler reports that the Snickers bar, for instance, is “extraordinarily well engineered.” As we chew it, the sugar dissolves, the fat melts and the caramel traps the peanuts so the entire combination of flavors is blissfully experienced in the mouth at the same time.

Foods rich in sugar and fat are relatively recent arrivals on the food landscape, Dr. Kessler noted. But today, foods are more than just a combination of ingredients. They are highly complex creations, loaded up with layer upon layer of stimulating tastes that result in a multisensory experience for the brain. Food companies “design food for irresistibility,” Dr. Kessler noted. “It’s been part of their business plans.”

But this book is less an exposé about the food industry and more an exploration of us. “My real goal is, How do you explain to people what’s going on with them?” Dr. Kessler said. “Nobody has ever explained to people how their brains have been captured.”

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One of his main messages is that overeating is not due to an absence of willpower, but a biological challenge made more difficult by the overstimulating food environment that surrounds us. “Conditioned hypereating” is a chronic problem that is made worse by dieting and needs to be managed rather than cured, he said. And while lapses are inevitable, Dr. Kessler outlines several strategies that address the behavioral, cognitive and nutritional factors that fuel overeating.

Planned and structured eating and understanding your personal food triggers are essential. In addition, educating yourself about food can help alter your perceptions about what types of food are desirable. Just as many of us now find cigarettes repulsive, Dr. Kessler argues that we can also undergo similar “perceptual shifts” about large portion sizes and processed foods. For instance, he notes that when people who once loved to eat steak become vegetarians, they typically begin to view animal protein as disgusting.

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You can watch David Kessler’s Google presentation in the video below.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Food: The Movie,”Our Situation Is What We Eat,” Big Calories Come in Small Packages,” “Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “The Situation of Fatness = Our ‘Obesogenic’ Society,” Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,”The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,” The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

Posted in Book, Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Education, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Food: The Movie

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 3, 2009

Food Inc

From Michael Phillips’ Chicago Tribune review: Several things — too many, probably — are going on in “Food, Inc.,” all connected. Kenner begins by tracing the impact of 20th Century American fast food on industrialized food production, and notes that when McDonald’s brought factory assembly-line strategies into practice, everything changed. McDonald’s became a universe of beef-purchasing power unto itself. Their cows, like so many millions of other feedlot residents, consume corn instead of grass; the humans in our increasingly obese nation eat a ton of corn as well, courtesy of high-fructose, heavily subsidized corn syrup found in everything from ketchup to Twinkies to Coke. As a Brooklyn, N.Y., doctor in another food doc, “King Corn,” put it: American food policy ensures that “we subsidize the Happy Meals — but we don’t subsidize the healthy ones.”

Are the federal regulatory and protection agencies doing enough to keep us safe from E. coli outbreaks and the like? The film answers that one with a firm “no.” Does eating organic food lead to a healthier diet and a healthier environment? What do you think?

The film got virtually no cooperation from representatives of the dominant players in industrial food production, including Tyson (we see a chicken processing factory in full swing), Monsanto (whose strong-arm business practices come off very, very badly) and others. As a result, “Food, Inc.” is a rangy, well-articulated essay rather than a compelling point-counterpoint.

Official Web Site.  Here is the trailer.

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For related Situationist posts, go to Our Situation Is What We Eat,” Big Calories Come in Small Packages,” “Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “The Situation of Fatness = Our ‘Obesogenic’ Society,” Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,”The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,” The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Entertainment, Food and Drug Law, Politics, Public Policy, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A “Healthy” Alternative or the Latest Trick?

Posted by Adam Benforado on June 3, 2009

Smoke 6 colorsEven after all of these years, after millions of deaths, after countless damning scientific reports, and billions in settlements, cigarette companies are still going after children.

According to a report, “Deadly in Pink,” published last February,

The nation’s two largest tobacco companies—Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds—have launched new marketing campaigns that depict cigarette smoking as feminine and fashionable to counter the growing public consensus that smoking is socially unacceptable and unhealthy.

* * *

These new marketing campaigns represent the most aggressive efforts by the tobacco industry to target women and girls in at least a decade. These campaigns are jeopardizing the progress the United States has made in reducing smoking and once again putting the health of women and girls at risk.

The strategy has involved revised product design, new advertising, and promotional offers.

In January 2007, R.J. Reynolds launched a new version of its Camel cigarette, called Camel No. 9, packaged in shiny black boxes with hot pink and teal borders. The name evoked famous Chanel perfumes, and the marketing campaign associated the brand with romance and glamour through magazine ads that featured flowery imagery and vintage fashion. “Light and luscious” promised the first ads in the campaign. “Now available in stiletto” and “dressed to the 9s,” read a later magazine ad that pitched a thin version of the cigarette to “the most fashion forward woman.”

* * *

Ads for Camel No. 9 ran in magazines popular with both women and girls, including Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and InStyle. Promotional giveaways have included flavored lip balm, cell phone jewelry, tiny purses and wristbands, all in hot pink. The marketing campaign prompted the Oregonian newspaper to editorialize that R.J. Reynolds, which once marketed to kids with the now-banned Joe Camel cartoon character, was doing it again with “Barbie Camel.”

Camel No 9

Although this marketing appears to have been effective, the greatest coup for the cigarette industry in hooking children and undermining “the growing public consensus that smoking is socially unacceptable and unhealthy” may come from without.

According to an article in the New York Times, the savior for the industry may be the electronic cigarette.

The battery-powered device . . . [sold] online deliver[s] an odorless dose of nicotine and flavoring without cigarette tar or additives, and produce[s] a vapor mist nearly identical in appearance to tobacco smoke.

. . . .

That electronic cigarettes are unapproved by the government and virtually unstudied has not deterred thousands of smokers from flocking to mall kiosks and the Internet to buy them.  And because they produce no smoke, they can be used in workplaces, restaurants and airports.  One distributor is aptly named Smoking Everywhere.

* * *

The reaction of medical authorities and antismoking groups has ranged from calls for testing to skepticism to outright hostility. Opponents say the safety claims are more rumor than anything else, since the components of e-cigarettes have never been tested for safety.

* * *

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has already refused entry to dozens of shipments of e-cigarettes coming into the country, mostly from China, the chief maker of them, where manufacture began about five years ago.

. . . .

For $100 to $150 or so, a user can buy a starter kit including a battery-powered cigarette and replaceable cartridges that typically contain nicotine (though cartridges can be bought without it), flavoring and propylene glycol, a liquid whose vaporizing produces the smokelike mist.  When a user inhales, a sensor heats the cartridge.  The flavorings include tobacco, menthol and cherry, and the levels of nicotine vary by cartridge.

Even leaving aside whether the e-cigarettes are safe (it is worth noting that sales and use of them are illegal in Australia and Hong Kong on just such grounds), there is a significant danger that, with their ease of use, fruity flavors, and “coolness,” they may be especially appealing to children.

“It looks like a cigarette and is marketed as a cigarette,” said Jonathan P. Winickoff, an associate professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium. “There’s nothing that prevents youth from getting addicted to nicotine.”

With big bucks on the line, there are countless interests urging the government to wait to act on e-cigarettes until the smoke clears.  The funny thing is that this time there’s no smoke.

* * *

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Changing Face of Marketing?,” Market Manipulation – Assuaging Cognitive Dissonance,” and “Without the Filter,” “Deep Capture – Part VII,” and “Promoting Smoking through Situation.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Food and Drug Law, Marketing | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Perfectionism as Situation for Binge Eating

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 17, 2009

BingeLast month, ScienceDaily had a helpful review of recent research revealing how perfectionism can contribute to eating disorders. Here are some excerpts.

* * *

In everyday life, someone who takes a perfectionist’s approach to activities might be admired or even rewarded with a pat on the back.

These attitudes are tied to a commonly held, but mistaken, belief that perfectionism will ultimately produce achievement and social success. But a psychologist warns that perfectionism is not a healthy, or even effective, approach to life’s challenges.

“Perfectionism is a double-edged personality trait,” says Simon Sherry, assistant professor of psychology.

A newly-published study shows why individuals with a high degree of perfectionism are often setting themselves up for a host of physical, emotional and mental problems – particularly related to binge eating. Although less well recognized than anorexia or bulimia, binge eating is a serious disorder. Binge eating occurs when a person feels out of control and rapidly consumes a large amount of food in a short period of time. Binge eating elevates the risk of developing depression, obesity, diabetes and other problems.

Dr. Sherry, of Dalhousie University in Halifax Nova Scotia, has published “The Perfectionism Model of Binge Eating” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, along with co-author Peter Hall of the University of Waterloo. By closely following the daily activities of a large group of undergraduates, the researchers believe that they’re the first to identify why perfectionism results in binge eating.

They have also honed in on the type of perfectionist who is most at risk–someone who believes that others are evaluating their performance critically (as opposed to someone who is self-critical). This kind of perfectionist concludes that a parent, a friend or a boss is being harshly judgmental of their performance and pressuring them to be perfect.

“It seems that as perfectionists go about their day-to-day lives, they generate a lot of friction,” says Dr. Sherry. “Because of their inflexibility and unrealistic expectations they also create problems in their relationships.”

* * *

The entire review is here.  For related Situationist posts, see

Binge eating becomes an effort to escape from being overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness, failure and sadness. To temporarily escape from a discouraging reality, it’s necessary to do away with higher order thought. The experience of eating–smelling, chewing, tasting–is immediate and visceral.

“Think about it–when was the last time that you were rapidly eating a pizza and pondering a major life decision at exactly the same time?” asks Dr. Sherry.

While binge eating banishes troubles and difficulties in the short term, it also generates powerful negative emotions of guilt and shame that are longer lasting.

“We want to improve the lives of perfectionists with patterns of disordered eating,” he says.

The intent is that this research will translate directly into better care, through improved assessment and treatment opportunities. Society does demand achievement, but perfectionism is often maladaptive–a conscientious and adaptable person who can modify goals and expectations is better able to excel.

Perfectionists are often not self aware and are reluctant to seek help, posing a conundrum: They don’t want to admit they’re imperfect.

“I’m hopeful that students will read about this and realize that there are effective interventions for binge eating, including some help for perfectionism–change is possible.”

* * *

The review is here. “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” “The Situation of Body Image,” “The Situation of Eating – Part II,”The Situation of the Dreaded ‘Freshman 15′,” “Our Situation Is What We Eat,” and “Social Networks.”

Posted in Abstracts, Food and Drug Law | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Market Manipulation – Assuaging Cognitive Dissonance

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 15, 2009

luckies-20679-doctorsFrom Wikipedia:

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The “ideas” or “cognitions” in question may include attitudes and beliefs, and also the awareness of one’s behavior. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Cognitive dissonance theory is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

Dissonance normally occurs when a person perceives a logical inconsistency among his or her cognitions. This happens when one idea implies the opposite of another. For example, a belief in animal rights could be interpreted as inconsistent with eating meat or wearing fur. Noticing the contradiction would lead to dissonance, which could be experienced as anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, embarrassment, stress, and other negative emotional states. When people’s ideas are consistent with each other, they are in a state of harmony, or consonance. If cognitions are unrelated, they are categorized as irrelevant to each other and do not lead to dissonance.

Cookie CrispA powerful cause of dissonance is when an idea conflicts with a fundamental element of the self-concept, such as “I am a good person” or “I made the right decision.” The anxiety that comes with the possibility of having made a bad decision can lead to rationalization, the tendency to create additional reasons or justifications to support one’s choices. A person who just spent too much money on a new car might decide that the new vehicle is much less likely to break down than his or her old car. This belief may or may not be true, but it would likely reduce dissonance and make the person feel better. Dissonance can also lead to confirmation bias, the denial of disconfirming evidence, and other ego defense mechanisms.

Smokers tend to experience cognitive dissonance because it is widely accepted that cigarettes cause lung cancer, yet virtually everyone wants to live a long and healthy life. In terms of the theory, the desire to live a long life is dissonant with the activity of doing something that will most likely shorten one’s life. The tension produced by these contradictory ideas can be reduced by quitting smoking, denying the evidence of lung cancer, or justifying one’s smoking. For example, smokers could rationalize their behavior by concluding that only a few smokers become ill, that it only happens to very heavy smokers, or that if smoking does not kill them, something else will.

* * *

* * *

This case of dissonance could also be interpreted in terms of a threat to the self-concept.  The thought, “I am increasing my risk of lung cancer” is dissonant with the self-related belief, “I am a smart, reasonable person who makes good decisions.” Because it is often easier to make excuses than it is to change behavior, dissonance theory leads to the conclusion that humans are rationalizing and not always rational beings.

* * *

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Stereotype Tax

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 17, 2009

The last issue of The Economist includes an interesting article, titled “The Price of Prejudice,” summarizing IAT research and two other studies employing conjoint analysis to measure the difference between what we would do as compared to what we would say we would do.  Here’s an excerpt.

* * *

Nobody likes to admit an uncomfortable truth about himself, especially when charged issues such as race, sex, age and even supersized waistlines come into play. That makes the task of the behavioural scientist a difficult one. Not only may participants in a study be lying to those running a test, but they may also, fundamentally, be lying to themselves.

Prising the lid off human assumptions and hidden biases thus requires clever tools. One of the most widely deployed, known as the implicit-association test, measures how quickly people associate words describing facial characteristics with different types of faces that display those characteristics. When such characteristics are favourable—“laughter” or “joy”, for example—it often takes someone longer to match them with faces that they may, unconsciously, view unfavourably (old, if the participant is young, or non-white if he is white). This procedure thus picks up biases that the participants say they are not aware of having.

Whether these small differences in what are essentially artificial tasks really reflect day-to-day actions and choices was, until recently, untested. But that has changed. In a paper to be published next month in Social Cognition, a group of researchers led by Eugene Caruso of the University of Chicago report their use of a technique called conjoint analysis, which they have adopted from the field of market research and adapted to study implicit biases in more realistic situations.

Conjoint analysis, they think, lets them quantify what has been dubbed the “stereotype tax”—the price that the person doing the stereotyping pays for his preconceived notions. In two studies, they turn their new tool loose on questions of the perception of weight and sex.

* * *

Conjoint analysis asks participants to evaluate a series of products that vary in several important attributes, such as televisions of various screen sizes, brands and prices. By varying these attributes in a systematic way market researchers can measure with reasonable precision how much each trait is worth. They can then calculate how big a premium people are willing to pay in one attribute (price) to get what they want in another (a larger screen).

In their first study, Dr Caruso and his team recruited 101 students and asked them to imagine they were taking part in a team trivia game with a cash prize. Each student was presented with profiles of potential team-mates and asked to rate them on their desirability.

The putative team-mates varied in several ways. Three of these were meant to correlate with success at trivia: educational level, IQ and previous experience with the game. In addition, each profile had a photo which showed whether the team-mate was slim or fat. After rating the profiles, the participants were asked to say how important they thought each attribute was in their decisions.

Not surprisingly, they reported that weight was the least important factor in their choice. However, their actual decisions revealed that no other attribute counted more heavily. In fact, they were willing to sacrifice quite a bit to have a thin team-mate. They would trade 11 IQ points—about 50% of the range of IQs available—for a colleague who was suitably slender.

In a second study the team asked another group, this time of students who were about to graduate, to consider hypothetical job opportunities at consulting firms. The positions varied in starting salary, location, holiday time and the sex of the potential boss.

When it came to salary, location and holiday, the students’ decisions matched their stated preferences. However, the boss’s sex turned out to be far more important than they said it was (this was true whether a student was male or female). In effect, they were willing to pay a 22% tax on their starting salary to have a male boss.

* * *

To read the entire article, including discussion of another fascinating experiment involving race, click here.

To read a related Situationist posts, see “Mispredicting Our Reactions to Racism,” “The Situation of Body Image,” Prejudice Against the Obese and Some of its Situational Sources,” Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice,” Fitting in and Sizing up,” The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions,” Guilt and Racial Prejudice,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,” and “Banaji & Greenwald on Edge – Part IV.”

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Implicit Associations | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Food – Part VI

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 17, 2008

From FORA.tv: Author Michael Ruhlman and Chef Dan Barber talk about modern industrial farming and agriculture in the United States as part of Chautauqua Institutions week long program called “What’s for Dinner: Food and Politics in the 21st Century.”

* * *

For related Situationist posts, go to “The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Life, Video | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Benefit of Knowing Your Eating Sins

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 7, 2008

Tierney Lab ImageEarlier this week, John Tierney had a nice article, “Health Halo Can Hide the Calories,” in the New York Times about the situation of eating.  Here are some excerpts.

* * *

If you’re a well-informed, health-conscious New Yorker who has put on some unwanted pounds in the past year, it might not be entirely your fault. Here’s a possible alibi: The health halo made you do it.

I offer this alibi after an experiment on New Yorkers that I conducted with Pierre Chandon, a Frenchman who has been studying what researchers call the American obesity paradox. Why, as Americans have paid more and more attention to eating healthily, have we kept getting fatter and fatter?

Dr. Chandon’s answer, derived from laboratory experiments as well as field work at Subway and McDonald’s restaurants, is that Americans have been seduced into overeating by the so-called health halo associated with certain foods and restaurants. His research made me wonder if New Yorkers were particularly vulnerable to this problem, and I asked him to help me investigate.

Our collaboration began in a nutritionally correct neighborhood, Brooklyn’s Park Slope, whose celebrated food co-op has a mission statement to sell “organic, minimally processed and healthful foods.” I hit the streets with two questionnaires designed by Dr. Chandon, a professor of marketing at the Insead business school in Fontainebleau, France, and Alexander Chernev, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University. Half of the 40 people surveyed were shown pictures of a meal consisting of an Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad and a 20-ounce cup of regular Pepsi. . . . On average, they estimated that the meal contained 1,011 calories, which was a little high. The meal actually contained 934 calories — 714 from the salad and 220 from the drink.

The other half of the Park Slopers were shown the same salad and drink plus two Fortt’s crackers prominently labeled “Trans Fat Free.” The crackers added 100 calories to the meal, bringing it to 1,034 calories, but their presence skewed people’s estimates in the opposite direction. The average estimate for the whole meal was only 835 calories — 199 calories less than the actual calorie count, and 176 calories less than the average estimate by the other group for the same meal without crackers.

Just as Dr. Chandon had predicted, the trans-fat-free label on the crackers seemed to imbue them with a health halo that magically subtracted calories from the rest of the meal.

* * *

To read the entire article, which includes further discussion of this experiment and also summarizes some additional, related research, click here.  For additional related work by John Tierney, visit the TierneyLab.

For other Situationist posts on the situation of eating and obesity, click here. The American obesity paradox is explored at some length by Situationist Contributors, Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosifon, who devoted a sizeable article to the mistaken but dominant dispositionist attributions made regarding obesity and the actual situational sources of the epidemic. To access their article, entitled “Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America,” click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Food and Drug Law, Illusions, Marketing | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

The Situation of Weight and Fitness on the Campaign Trail

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 28, 2008

Daniel Libit of Politico has an interesting piece on how the rigors and demands of the 2008 campaign trail led many McCain and Obama staffers, as well as the journalists who reported on them, down a road of poor diet and lack of exercise.  We excerpt the article below.

* * *

This is life after the protracted adrenaline high that is the presidential campaign: no more bag calls at 6:30 a.m. (or earlier). No more sniffling for weeks straight before a check-up at the doctor. For reporters, no more eating at “the file center,” catching cat naps on the plane and working into the early morning hours.

A few days before the election, Time’s Karen Tumulty blogged about counting calories during a day on the Obama campaign plane:

“So what are we talking about?” Tumulty wrote. “Seven full meals plus multiple snacks? 50,000 calories? And the only real exercise I got all day was unloading my bag from the plane, our weird little ritual at the end of the day.”

Restoring one’s pre-election physique and/or triglyceride levels takes time.

“You have to remind yourself that a campaign is followed by a transition,” Tumulty says, “which is essentially the same amount of work with none of the travel.”

* * *

“The problem with presidential campaigns is, win or lose, you’re a wreck afterward,” says Mark McKinnon, a former media consultant for McCain and, earlier, for President George W. Bush. “When your system hits the brakes after being on the campaign rocket sled going full tilt for a couple years, most people are a mess. I know I was. [It] just takes a couple months for your brain and body to readjust without the constant adrenaline rush.”

McKinnon says he’s taken diametric approaches to it: Once he biked around the South Island of New Zealand. The other time, he spent two weeks “passed out” on an island off the coast of Zanzibar.

* * *

For the rest of the article, click here.  For other Situationist posts on food and drug issues, click here.

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Situationist Critique of Legal Theory – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 2, 2008

Situationist contributor David Yosifon has recently posted his excellent article, “Legal Theoretic Inadequacy and Obesity Epidemic Analysis” (forthcoming 15 George Mason Law Review (2008)) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

* * *

This Article explores crucial analytic and normative limitations in presently dominant and ascendant approaches to legal theory. The approaches’ failure to provide a satisfying framework for analyzing the obesity epidemic presently raging undeterred in American society reveals these limitations. Conventional law and economics scholars writing on the subject have deployed familiar frameworks to reach predictable conclusions that are neither intellectually nor morally justifiable. This Article argues that recent theoretical innovations promulgated within the burgeoning law and behavioralism movement have thus far provided no more reliable a framework for legal analysis of the obesity epidemic than has conventional law and economics. This Article critiques in particular the behavioral law and economics concepts of “libertarian paternalism” and “asymmetric paternalism,” as well as the concept of “expressive overdeterminism,” recently developed by proponents of “cultural cognition theory.” This project is undertaken as part of a broader effort to develop an alternative approach to legal theory that previous co-authors and I call “critical realism.” The theoretical arguments herein are broad, but this Article aims to also advance obesity epidemic analysis in particular. Part V briefly discusses specific public policy implications of my assessment, with special reference to a policy innovation based in the reform of corporate law.

* * *

To download a copy of Professor Yosifon’s paper for free, click here.

For those interested, here is a list of related Situationist posts to date: “Big Calories Come in Small Packages,” The Situation of Eating – Part II,” The Situation of Eating,” “The Situation of the Dreaded ‘Freshman 15′,” “Our Situation Is What We Eat,” “Social Networks,” Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “The Situation of Fatness = Our ‘Obesogenic’ Society,” Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

Posted in Abstracts, Behavioral Economics, Choice Myth, Cultural Cognition, Food and Drug Law, Law, Legal Theory, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Body Image

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 2, 2008

Lara Croft Tom RaiderUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison professor Madeline Fisher, an expert on the psychology of nutrition, recently wrote an interesting piece that connects the media’s portrayal of women’s body image with eating disorders. We excerpt the piece below.

* * *

As France’s parliament considers a landmark bill that would outlaw media images glamorizing the extremely thin, psychology researchers are reporting some of the most definitive findings yet on how these images affect women.

In the May issue of Psychological Bulletin, University of Wisconsin-Madison postdoctoral researcher Shelly Grabe and psychology professor Janet Hyde describe a sweeping analysis of 77 previous studies involving more than 15,000 subjects. In it, they found that exposure to media depicting ultra-thin actresses and models significantly increased women’s concerns about their bodies, including how dissatisfied they felt and their likelihood of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors, such as excessive dieting.

Although on one level the results seem obvious, Grabe believes many people still resist the idea that a societal influence, like the media, can have a real impact on how women view themselves. When individual experiments have found this relationship in the past, she explains, critics have often dismissed them for focusing on groups of particularly body-conscious women, such as college students, or exposing test subjects to unusually racy photos.

Grabe and Hyde, in contrast, analyzed data from every well-designed study on the topic they could find, thus avoiding much of this criticism.

“We’ve demonstrated that it doesn’t matter what the exposure is, whether it’s general TV watching in the evening, or magazines, or ads showing on a computer,” says Grabe. “If the image is appearance-focused and sends a clear message about a woman’s body as an object, then it’s going to affect women.”

The effect also appears to be growing. The researchers’ analysis reveals that, on average, studies conducted in the 2000s show a larger influence of the media on women’s body image than do those from the 1990s, says Grabe.

“This suggests that despite all our efforts to teach women and girls to be savvy about the media and have healthy body practices, the media’s effect on how much they internalize the thin ideal is getting stronger,” she says.

Vogue Cover August 2005

The results are troubling because recent research has established body dissatisfaction as a major risk factor for low self-esteem, depression, obesity, and eating disorders, such as bulimia. At the same time, women’s displeasure with their bodies has become so common that it’s now considered normal, says Grabe. She hopes that wider recognition of the media’s role will encourage people to see the issue as a societal one, rather than as a problem of individual women as it’s viewed now.

* * *

So, what’s the answer? The French government may try to control the media, but don’t women also need to learn to be a little less concerned with their looks?

Grabe replies that the issue lies not with our attraction to images of beauty or with women’s desire to emulate them, but with what we’ve come to define as beautiful: bodies that are unnaturally and unhealthily thin.

“I want to stress that it’s totally normal for women to want to be attractive,” says Grabe. “But what’s happening in our society is that many women are striving toward something that’s not very realistic or obtainable, and that leads to a lot of health consequences.

* * *

To read the rest of the article, click here.

For some related Situationist posts, see Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice,” “Prejudice Against the Obese and Some of its Situational Sources,” “Spas and Girls,” and “Fitting in and Sizing up.”

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Life, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Big Calories Come in Small Packages

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 30, 2008

From Robert Roy Britt‘s article, “Small Packages Trick People to Eat More.”

* * *

If you think buying junk food in small packages will help you eat less, look out — marketers know the truth.

Two new marketing studies found that some people tend to consume more calories when junk food portions and packages are smaller. For some, it’s because they perceive small packages to be . . . get this . . . diet food.

For others, it’s just the temptation of small sins.

* * *

Manufacturers are releasing more and more products in smaller packages. And in recent years, several brand-name products, from chips to cookies to candy, have been released in smaller packages promoted as having just 100 calories. In terms of sales, the tactic has proven successful, past research shows.

The strategy might seem counterintuitive, because in many past studies, people tended to consume more when given more. . . .

But one of the new studies, led by Rita Coelho do Vale at the Technical University of Lisbon, found people believe smaller packages help them “regulate hedonic, tempting consumption,” but in fact their consumption can actually increase. Large packages, on the other hand, trigger concern about overeating.

The participants watched episodes of “Friends” and were told the study was about evaluating ads. Bags of potato chips — of differing sizes, of course — were slipped into the test.

The result: Smaller packages are more likely to fuel temptation. “Because they are considered to be innocent pleasures, [small packages] may turn out to be sneaky small sins,” the researchers conclude.

The finding is detailed [here] in the October 2008 issue the Journal of Consumer Research

* * *

From EurekaAlert:

* * *

Chronic dieters tend to consume more calories when foods and packages are smaller, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research [here]. Authors Maura L. Scott, Stephen M. Nowlis, Naomi Mandel, and Andrea C. Morales (all Arizona State University) examined consumer behavior regarding “mini-packs,” 100-calorie food packages that are marketed to help people control calorie intake.

“Interestingly, one group that over-consumes the mini-packs is chronic dieters—individuals constantly trying to manage their weight and food intake,” write the authors.

The researchers believe their research shows that the ubiquitous small packages may actually undermine dieters’ attempts to limit calories. “On the one hand, consumers perceive the mini-packs to be a generous portion of food (numerous small food morsels in each pack and multiple mini-packs in each box); on the other hand, consumers perceive the mini-packs to be diet food. For chronic dieters, this perceptual dilemma causes a tendency to overeat, due to their emotion-laden relationship with food.”

In a series of studies, the researchers assessed peoples’ perceptions of M&Ms in mini-packs versus regular-sized packages. They found that participants tended to have conflicting thoughts about the mini-packs: They thought of them as “diet food,” yet they overestimated how many calories the packages contained. In subsequent studies, the researchers assessed participants’ relationship with food, dividing them into “restrained” and “unrestrained” eaters. The “restrained” eaters tended to consume more calories from mini-packs than “unrestrained” participants.

The authors conclude that dieters should keep an eye on small packages: “While restrained eaters may be attracted to smaller foods in smaller packages initially, presumably because these products are thought to help consumers with their diets, our research shows that restrained eaters actually tend to consume more of these foods than they would of regular foods.”

* * *

Thanks to Brad Rosen for alerting us to these stories.

For those interested, here is a list of related Situationist posts to date: “The Situation of Eating – Part II,” The Situation of Eating,” “The Situation of the Dreaded ‘Freshman 15′,” “Our Situation Is What We Eat,” “Social Networks,” Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “The Situation of Fatness = Our ‘Obesogenic’ Society,” Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

Posted in Behavioral Economics, Choice Myth, Food and Drug Law, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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