Is Being Fat the REAL Economic Stimulus Package?

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I read online (and therefore it must be true) that the economic downturn is causing us, as a society, to get fat.

Stress-eating, lower food budgets (which means people spend their money on non-perishables, like Rice-A-Roni and Spaghettios instead of fresh fruits and vegetables), and more time sulking in the recession (versus exercising) are all factors that have led to our expanding waistlines.

*Note: we’re so gluttonous and sloth-like that we’ve broken the otherwise steadfast tradition of LOSING weight during periods of socioeconomic turmoil.  I can only imagine that in 200 years, students will learn about America’s Colonialism, Imperialism, the Industrial Revolution, the Information Age, and the Rotund Era.

So how can we work our fattitude into something positive for the economy?

(Hint: we probably can’t.)

Considering how quickly McDonald’s is currently expanding, we’re clearly beginning to capitalize on the fact that we’re hungry for cheap and easy food.  Starbucks is rolling out a dollar menu of its own (now you can get your burnt coffee in from an instant package instead of fresh!).  Denny’s offered free Grand Slams to anyone willing to suffer through the meal (the breakfast is almost 800 calories!  That’s more than 1/3 the average person’s daily-recommended intake!  In one sitting!  At Denny’s!).  IHOP countered with an “All You Can Eat” Pancake special.

We seem to be heading towards a cycle of fat breeding… more fat (which is ironic since we should be heading towards a exer-cycle instead): advertising and marketing campaigns are targeting our monetary insecurities in favor watching out for our health.

And we’re eating every spoonful of over-processed, high-fat, low quality advertising that’s being fed to us.

Flashback to Denny’s:  The cost of advertising their free Grand Slam campaign during the Super Bowl, paired with the cost of food and other related fees, totaled roughly $5 million dollars.

All that money, rather than pouring it back into the company, paying employees, researching healthier menu options… $5 million went into luring you into Denny’s in hopes that you’d continue to get fat there.  And it worked.  According to Denny’s, they gave away approximately 2 million meals.  Over the course of 8 hours (the time frame that the special ran), each restaurant averaged 130 Grand Slams per hour.  And with the campaign drawing in old and new customers alike, the free meal is likely to draw continued traffic, helping Denny’s make the difference of the $5 million tab, and then some…

I’m not sure if the answer is for more outlets (hopefully healthier outlets, too) to hold similar campaigns to that as Denny’s.  Previously considered to be tanking, the advertising and PR effort paid off, but rejuvenating a brand’s identity with freebies can only take you so far (and that’s only if the brand is already established).  What about burgeoning businesses, though?

It’s great and wonderful that fast food and convenient eating is growing and hiring.  But we’re also facilitating the failure of smaller (and healthier) businesses.   We may want to eat healthy, but we know that our $5 can get us, quantitatively, more crap than than quality, and we’re all about numbers.

(Clearly we’re incapable of managing our spending, as that’s what landed us in this sorry position anyways…  Makes sense that we wouldn’t start being smart about spending on something as frivolous as, you know, food.)

Now, I love a Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich (no tomatoes, and sometimes with bacon and cheese added, but only under very special circumstances), and I don’t mean to come off as one of those who blindly rally against all things delicious (I’m not); however, the contradictory message being sent to us as consumers is that we should strive for a healthy lifestyle, but it’s an unattainable one in this market, so go stuff yourself with partial meat-byproduct and cheese instead.

And it’s great that fast food chains are offering healthier options, but when a 12.5 ounce salad is over 600 calories (with dressing), how is that a better option?

Note: I went to to locate nutrition information and got some web run-around solely aimed at helping me find the McDonald’s closest to me.  If you want the actual nutrition information, go here. You’re not fooling anyone, McDonald’s; we know what you’re up to!

I want to see smart advertising for affordable healthy food (thanks, Progresso, for making your diet friendly soups, but at $3 and change for a single can—that doesn’t even fill you completely—it can hardly be considered a worthwhile OR cost-effective meal).  I want us to stop allowing campaigns like Denny’s to be successful (seriously, who waits HOURS to eat at a Denny’s?  I don’t care if it is for free; have some dignity, people….).   Budgetary constraints, effective marketing, and free stuff shouldn’t be the recipe actively choosing to clog your arteries.

Jackie for


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