Cartoon broccoli: How to make America slightly less fat

July 22, 2016 Originally published on SFGate

These three things are self-evident, but bear repeating because they are intertwined in an endless dance of uniquely American doom:

America is, still and officially, the fattest nation on the planet. Women and men, on average, are each now 30 pounds heavier than they were in the early ‘60s. As reddit pointed out from the CDC data, the average American woman now weighs the same as the average man did not 50 years ago. America remains the fattest major nation on the planet… and still getting fatter.

You need not hear it from me, or even them. You need but glance around Anytown, USA to notice excessive girth, mass, burden, heft, excess and spare tires galore, all resulting from the most lethal combination of all-American forces we have yet invented: junk food in megaportions, coupled to sedentary lifestyles, coupled to a vast, ruthless conspiracy orchestrated by the world’s most toxic industries (soda, fast food, sweets, ignorance, violence), to keep you addicted to their product as long as humanly possible – which, if you keep eating their goods, will not be very long at all.

Meanwhile! McDonald’s is happy to announce the expansion of its “breakfast all day” campaign, given how sales are up 5% overall, because who doesn’t want to inhale six frozen slabs of chemically flavored hash brown and a half-dozen heavily processed McMuffins and some HFCS-soaked McGriddles at four o’clock in the afternoon on a Tuesday, as you colon recoils and your kidneys wish you ill? The fast-food industry is to healthy, conscious living what the NRA is to peace and human kindness.

But wait! All is not lost. Over here, a fascinating new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, aiming to see if schoolchildren will eat more healthy fruits and vegetables, if said veggies are marketed more or less the same way fast food is – which is to say, directly to them, in the lunchroom, by way of either a big vinyl banner, and/or an animated TV video that plays alongside the table of veggies, extolling nature’s virtues.

Step away from the diabetes

Step away from the diabetes

Can you guess what happened? I bet you can: Kids ate more veggies. A lot more.

The results are actually sort of staggering: Upwards of 90% more kids ate more veggies when there was a big ad banner around the serving table. And a whopping 236% more took more veggies when the banner was combined with a TV ad that featured cartoon-character vegetables talking about how fantastic they were.

Does it seem sort of obvious? That’s because it is. The study, of course, only mimics, in reverse, what McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell et al have been doing for decades, which is making heavily processed, larded-up garbage foods look grossly appealing to adults and kids alike, products that taste delicious for roughly 37 seconds before they turn you fat and sick and diabetic and promote heart disease and bad skin and Donald Trump and low-level, chemical-induced misery, all the time, forever.

Of course, as they study points out, there are already lots of ways to make fruits and vegetables more appealing to kids in school lunches, from offering it in more attractive bowls to simply retrofitting lunch lines to serve healthier food, by default.

The problem, of course, is that no one is championing the vegetables. There is no corporate profit margin, no industry to coddle, no lobbyists to be made rich by pushing more organic broccoli legislation through Congress.

Put another way, the Crudité Producers of America is not raking in billions by promoting portion control and more warm spinach salads, mostly because the Crudité Producers of America doesn’t exist – and even if it did, McDonald’s and its ilk would surely stab it in neck at the first opportunity.

Lest you forget, this is America, where we’ve somehow managed to make all the toxic, heavily processed things the most viciously profitable: oil, Coca Cola, guns, cigarettes, Taco Bell, booze, major pharmaceuticals, HFCS, intolerance, Donald Trump – while all the healthy and decent things – nature, plants, natural foods, basic decency, kindness – are inherently disadvantaged, shouted down, neglected.

Who will be the first to reverse the trend? Will there ever be a time when the CDC releases historic, mind-blowing data that suggests America has slimmed down, is eating less garbage, has lost its triple chin and by the way our supermarkets just can’t keep enough fresh produce on the shelves? When will Taco Bell be officially listed as the neurotoxin it so obviously is? The way we’re trending now, the planet simply cannot survive us much longer.

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Mark Morford

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