California is Getting Fatter as the Credit Crunch Bites

The Los Angeles Times reports that during these times of economic uncertainty, the tightening of belts is actually leading to the expanding of waistlines.

While to stock market crashes all around us and grocery bills are rocketing you would be excused for losing your appetite. However, the reverse seems to be true. As the economy dives, there are signs that it is affecting how people eat. Gone are the days when the poor would tighten their belts when times got hard. Instead, people are more likely to gain weight. A combination of comfort eating and cheap junk food will actually fatten up California, and the rest of America, while the credit crunch bites harder.

As food gets more expensive, people not only buy less of it, but they also cheaper alternatives. And cheaper foods tend to have more calories than those with a higher price tag. Your dollar goes further when buying junk food. For example, as the price of oranges rises, people buy less oranges. And some may decide to buy cookies instead.

“People are eating cheap, unhealthy food who never thought they would be,” Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Obesity Research at the University of Washington in Seattle.

High-calorie foods (chips, dips, cookies, candy) are generally cheaper than low-calorie foods (fresh fruits, leafy greens, nutritious vegetables). Processed foods are cheap to make, ship and store. This is partly due to government agricultural policy and partly due to the nature of the foods themselves.

“You can see how this situation could fuel both under-nutrition and over-nutrition,” Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

However, healthy eating does not have to be abandoned completely during hard times. There are healthy alternatives to cheap junk food. Obvious options are choosing the staples of Mexico (rice and beans) or China (rice and vegetables) instead of expensive exotic fruits and fine cuts of meat.

People need to remember that the term “to tighten your belt” comes from the day that hard times meant less food, and a thinner population. You cannot eat your way out of the credit crunch.

Californian Health Study to be Revisited After 40 Years

Professor Walter Mischel has announced that he is planning to revisit a study that he started during the 1960’s, which aimed to determine whether strong willed children would grow up to be more successful in later life. The purpose of the study, which was carried out at Stanford University, California, was to test his theory that children’s future academic success could be gauged by whether they could resist a short temptation in exchange for a greater reward promised at a later time. In the study children were offered a marshmallow, and observed to see whether or not the resisted temptation to eat it, knowing that if they did, they would not receive a greater prize later. Professor Mischel now plans to return to his subjects to see if they have become successful adults.

In addition to success, it would be extremely interesting to know if there is a connection between strong willpower concerning sweets at that age with levels of obesity and weight issues as adults. Hopefully Prof. Mischel would be willing to document this also.

The Marshmallow Experiment

Mischel pioneered work illuminating the ability to delay gratification and to exert self-control in the face of strong situational pressures and emotionally “hot” temptations. His studies with preschoolers in the late 1960s, often referred to as “the marshmallow experiment“, examined the processes and mental mechanisms that enable a young child to forego immediate gratification and to wait instead for a larger desired but delayed reward. Continuing research with these original participants has examined how preschool delay of gratification ability links to development over the life course, and may predict a variety of important outcomes, such as social and cognitive competence, educational attainment, and drug use, and can have significant protective effects against a variety of potential vulnerabilities. This work also opened a route to research on temporal discounting in decision-making, and most importantly into the mental mechanisms that enable cognitive and emotional self-control, thereby helping to demystify the concept of “willpower”.

This research may show relationships with long term health patterns and willpower. Many of today’s health problems are related to eating disorders and lack of exercise throughout childhood and into adult life. If there is a connection between the willpower of young children and their ability and desire to stay fit and healthy later in life, then there may be a case to target children from a younger age, to educate them about the importance of healthy eating and regular exercise, especially those that show signs of giving in to tempation easily.


Trim the fat – Rising food prices may lead to weight gain, not loss. Here’s how to fight back by Karen Ravn, – November 03, 2008


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