It’s never been a better time to be overweight in America. There’s the popular weight-loss show The Biggest Loser where viewers can cheer on obese contestants as they compete to lose the most weight. Overweight actress Gabourey Sidibe won an Oscar. Plus-sized models are being accepted onto fashion runways normally inhabited by rail-thin models. Over two-thirds of American adults and 17 percent of children are overweight and obese according the Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s over 200 million people in this country that are overweight; which means having a body mass index of over 25 and obesity a BMI over 30. And a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report claims that the obesity rate is growing. So if more people in this country are fat than thin – which makes the average American overweight – why aren’t any of these large folks featured in fast food commercials?
Fast food is blamed for our country’s obesity epidemic. In 1960 when fast food was just beginning to grow, only 13 percent of the nation was obese according to the CDC. Now there are fast food chains everywhere, most people drive places and sit in front of the television for entertainment. So we’re consuming more calories than we burn off and that then turns into fat. Other countries that have become richer and have western influences are also seeing their obesity rates go up. Japan for instance had some of the highest life expectancy rates but the introduction of American fast food has increased the number of fat people.
Fast food companies wouldn’t be the first to embrace large models or actors in their commercials. There’s Dove who featured real women of all sizes and races instead of thin models. Lane Bryant is a successful plus-size retailer and their ads reflect this. But there haven’t been any overweight people featured in any fast food ads.
Some studies have shown that plus-sized models in ads actually deter people from buying the product rather than giving consumers a similar-sized role model. In early 2010 ABC Television refused to air a Lane Bryant lingerie ad during a broadcast of Dancing with the Stars because the network claimed it showed too much cleavage, but the clothier claimed it was really size discrimination. Probably the rationale that fast food companies give about their advertising is that they want to sell their product to people who don’t normally eat their food therefore they have to target thin people by featuring them in their ads. That makes sense. Why target people who already eat your food and who are most likely overweight? You’ve already sold yourself to two-thirds of the U.S. so now the ultimate goal is to target the thin people and make them fat.
Rich nations are just getting fatter according to a recent report from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. American obesity rates will be 75 percent by 2020, so three out of four people will be overweight then. Emerging nations like India, China, Brazil and Russia are also getting fatter. With obesity increases continuing to grow, it’s estimated that by 2048 every American will be overweight. So if that’s the case then fast food ads will have to feature fat people because those will be the only ones available.
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