3 Things Wrong with Food Today

We live in a world where these days, it’s easy to be overweight or even obese. It has to be, right?... considering that so many people in the western world already are {1} and that trend shows no real sign of changing any time soon. Bellies are big and getting bigger.


EA while back I wrote an article on the real cause of the obesity epidemic. The basic gist of it was that people are eating too much and moving too little (ridiculously simplistic I know but true none the less), but why are people eating so much more these days?


The truth of the matter is that we’ve fostered the development of a society that makes overeating all too easy!


Here, I’ve laid out some of those specific reasons here and I give some suggestions to help overcome them in your own day to day life.


1. Portion Size

This is a No-Brainer. Portion sizes have been getting bigger and bigger for years {2-3} thanks to the fact that we (a lucky few at least) live in a modern world of abundance.


To give a very typical example, McDonald’s servings of French fries went from a standard 69g (212 calories) in 1955, to the shocking 168g (510 calories) of the large fries of today {4,5} (which is still smaller than the Super Size portion that was phased out in the mid-2000s). The introduction of larger portion sizes has caused people to become very accustomed to eating bigger meals, which in turns encourages restaurants to make their servings even bigger in order to attract and satiate their customers, which has led to a vicious cycle of “demand & supply”.


However, it’s not just restaurant portions; king-sized candy bars, popcorn buckets you could feed a horse with, “Big Gulp” drinks sizes, stuffed-crust pizza, even the thickness of sliced bread… all have fallen prey to the mentality that Bigger is Better!


When you compound larger portion sizes with the easy availability of food and the fact that many people are raised to finish everything on their plate, it’s pretty easy to see where mankind’s growing waistline is coming from.



This is by no means easy but exercising self-control with the amount of food you order/buy/prepare/eat is absolutely essential, especially in a world where people have come to expect larger portions. Becoming aware of your actual calorie and macronutrient needs and being more conscious of the calorie content of foods through the use of calorie tracking apps can actually make a huge impact on the amount of food you consume. Remember, if you eat big, expect to get big.


2. Liquid Calories

Don’t Drink Your Calories… unless your goal is to gain weight. Funnily enough the only time I recommend drinking calories to my clients is when working with people trying to put on muscle and who have difficulty eating enough food. Drinking calories makes it much easier to get a lot of calories into your body in very little time and with very little effort. It’s no surprise then, that the consumption of sweetened beverages has been, in part, blamed for the rise in obesity and associated conditions like diabetes {6}.


It’s not the fact that most sweetened drinks (and this applies to supposedly “healthy” juices too) are little more than sugar water, it’s the fact people consume them in such large amounts by drinking multiple sweetened beverages every day that they end up having taking in a huge excess of calories. These drinks provide virtually no satiety value {7} and this can lead to their further over-consumption, further compounding the problem.


Modern coffee-drinks are possibly even worse than regular soft drinks as they couple their high sugar content with a good whack of fat too. Worst of all, people don’t realize how many excess calories they take in, even with small portions, of these soft drinks and sweetened teas and coffees. A medium Starbucks (or as they call it, “grande”) “Caffe Mocha”, for example, contains a shocking 290 calories {8}, all for a drink that you could finish in a few minutes while walking to work.



If you’re trying to lose weight, do yourself a favor and stay away from sweetened drinks. Just drink water, tea or coffee and if you must have something sweet, stick to zero-calorie versions using calorie-free sweeteners {9,10}. If you're a regular consumer of sweetened drinks, then it can actually make a big impact on your weight loss efforts.    


3. No Satiety Value

Satiety (the feeling of fullness that stops us from eating more until our next meal) is known to be of major significance for people trying to lose weight. Basically, the less hungry you feel, the less likely you are to overeat and gain weight {11,12}. The problem is that many of the foods we eat today do not promote satiety as they are low in many satiating factors such as protein and fiber and we tend to eat less low-calorie/high-volume foods such as fruit and vegetables {7}.


In fact, foods regularly associated with obesity such as refined cakes and pastries and sweetened drinks are very energy dense as they are high in refined carbohydrates and fats and low in satiating protein and fiber {13,14}. They’re the perfect recipe for getting a lot of food into you without filling you up… so you feel perfectly fine eating more and more and more.



The simple solution is to eat more satiety-inducing foods that prevent you from eating too much food in total. I’ve written a very useful guide on satiety and how to eat more satiating foods so you can keep yourself feeling fuller for longer, which you can find here.


Modern food trends make obesity easy

The simple fact of the matter is that in today’s developed world, eating more food has become ridiculously easy and this has led to the obesity epidemic that we’re experiencing today. You might look at the 3 points I’ve outlined above and say “but what about the excess sugar, or dairy products, or gluten, or hydrogenated oils, or high-fructose corn syrup or whatever? The truth is that none of those are to blame for the rise in obesity today.


Obesity is caused by excess... of anything... and over-consumption is how excess happens. Of course, long-term health is another (incredibly important) story but if your goal is to lose weight, start in the most obvious place; reducing the amount of calories that you put into your body. The three tips above should get you off to a great start.


Eat well folks.



  1. Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Fryar CD, Flegal KM. Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2011-2014. NCHS Data Brief
  2. Piernas C, Popkin BM. Food Portion Patterns and Trends among U.S. Children and the Relationship to Total Eating Occasion Size, 1977-2006. J Nutr. 2011;141(6):1159–64.
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  4. www.nutrition.mcdonalds.com
  5. Young LR, Nestle M. Portion sizes and obesity: responses of fast-food companies. J Public Health Policy. 2007;28(2):238–48.
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  7. Rebello CJ, Liu AG, Greenway FL, Dhurandhar N V. Dietary Strategies to Increase Satiety. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2013;69:105–82.  
  8. www.starbucks.com
  9. Phelan S, Lang W, Jordan D, Wing RR. Use of artificial sweeteners and fat-modified foods in weight loss maintainers and always-normal weight individuals. Int J Obes (Lond). 2009;33:1183–90
  10. Peters JC, Beck J, Cardel M, Wyatt HR, Foster GD, Pan Z, et al. The effects of water and non-nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss and weight maintenance: A randomized clinical trial. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015.
  11. Hetherington MM, Cunningham K, Dye L, Gibson EL, Gregersen NT, Halford JCG, et al. Potential benefits of satiety to the consumer: scientific considerations. Nutr Res Rev. 2013;26(1):22–38.
  12. Drapeau V, King N, Hetherington M, Doucet E, Blundell J, Tremblay A. Appetite sensations and satiety quotient: Predictors of energy intake and weight loss. Appetite. 2007;48(2):159–66.
  13. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Communications. “Profiling Food Consumption in America,” Chapter 2, Agriculture Fact Book, 2001-2002, 2003
  14. Wright J, Kennedy-Stephenson J, Wang C, McDowell M, Johnson C, National Center for Health Statistics. Trends in intake of energy and macronutrients--United States, 1971-2000. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2004;53(4):80–2.

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