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Food Overload

Ads blare everywhere. How can you resist eating more?
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WebMD Feature

May 29, 2000 -- I'm hungry but on a deadline, so to save time I head for the McDonald's drive-through where I plan to order the grilled chicken sandwich, hold the mayo -- just 300 calories and 5 grams of fat. Making my way to the pick-up window, I drive past large illustrated menus of burgers, fries, milk shakes, and that yummy new yogurt parfait.

But I'd expect these temptations from Mickey D's. The truth is, temptations like that yogurt-with-granola goody aren't the only foods calling my name these days. It seems that once I set foot outside my door (or turn on the television), everyone is telling me to "Eat! Eat! Eat!"

At the mall with my son, I stop at the food-court bakery for a cup of coffee, and he points out the "Buy three cookies, get one free" sign. At dinner with my brother, the waitress hears he is "starving" and offers up potato-skin appetizers dripping in cheese. She waves dessert menus in our faces twice. My grocery store always has someone handing out food samples.

It's frustrating. After overcoming a chubby childhood, I've managed to hold down my weight through a dull but successful strategy of watching my food intake and exercising. But lately I feel like I am losing the tug-of-war between what I know is the right stuff to eat and what some nutritionists call the "pressure to eat."

Yes, It Really Is a Plot

It's not my imagination. The world is trying to make us all fat. It's not as if we're being encouraged to eat our peas and carrots, says Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Unfortunately, we are constantly being pressured to eat unhealthy foods."

Every year, the food industry forks over about $11 billion for advertising and another $22 billion on trade shows and other promotions, according to a report on obesity in the January-February 2000 issue of Public Health Reports. In 1998, promotion costs for popular candy bars ranged from $10 to $50 million, says Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, professor and chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at New York University, who co-authored the article. That same year, McDonald's spent more than a billion dollars for promotion.

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