Restaurants Aren’t Making Us Fat

      72 Comments on Restaurants Aren’t Making Us Fat

A friend of mine sent me a PDF of an academic paper that will soon be published in the American Economic Journal. The paper, titled Restaurants, Regulation and the Super-sizing of America asks the question:  Are restaurants to blame for the rise in obesity? The answer, not surprisingly, is No.  Or as the authors wrote in their conclusions:

Our findings indicate that the causal link between the consumption of restaurant foods and obesity is minimal at best.

Restaurants have become a convenient whipping-boy for government busybodies who are driven by the urge to do something! whenever they see a problem. San Francisco banned Happy Meals. Los Angeles banned the opening of new fast-food restaurants on the city’s south side. The health-care “reform” bill will require all restaurants with more than 20 outlets to put calorie counts on menus … never mind the fact that we got fatter after nutrition information was mandated on all packaged foods. Some government goofs in Mississippi even proposed barring people with a BMI of over 30 from eating in restaurants. (I sure wish they’d try that right around the time some big fellas from All-Star Wrestling come to town. The violence would be real for a change.)

The trouble with all of these attempts at leanness-through-legislation (besides the shredding of individual freedom in a supposedly free country) is that there’s no evidence they’ll actually work. If restaurants aren’t the problem, then we’re shooting at the wrong target. If restaurants are the problem, then someone should be able to prove that restaurants induce overeating long-term, as opposed to during a single meal.

To examine the effects of restaurants on over-eating and obesity, the authors of this study compared food-intake and BMI data among rural communities with either a relatively high or relatively low availability of restaurants. The BMI curve for both kinds of communities was virtually identical. Apparently having a bit of fun with math, the authors calculated that for each extra mile to the nearest restaurant, the average BMI decreased by a whopping 0.0013 points.

Well, there you have it. If the government do-gooders could simply require that all restaurants be located at least 3,846 miles from the nearest town, our average BMI would drop by five points and the obesity crisis would be solved … although those “Let’s go to White Castle and get some sliders!” inspirations at three in the morning would require a passport in some states.

Of course, you could argue that distance doesn’t have much to do with how often people eat in restaurants. (In which case, the old adage about “Location, location, location!” doesn’t hold water … or soda.) However, using a series of surveys, the authors calculated that people who live near restaurants do, in fact, eat out more often. In towns located within five miles of a restaurant, residents average 128 daily restaurant visits per 1000 people. In towns located between five and 10 miles from the nearest restaurant, the rate drops by half.

Having a restaurant located within the same town makes an even bigger difference: In towns with at least one fast-food restaurant, residents average 127 daily fast-food meals per 1000 people. In towns without a fast-food restaurant, residents average just 39 daily fast-food meals per 1000 people.

If restaurants are making people obese, then the populations who live near restaurants and therefore eat in restaurants more frequently should be fatter. But they’re not. As I pointed out when the Los Angeles city council banned new fast-food restaurants on the south side — a poor area with a high rate of obesity — it apparently didn’t occur to the do-gooders to check out other areas of the city. If they had, they would’ve found that there are more fast-food restaurants per square mile on the oh-so-stylish west side. Since the rate of obesity is also much lower there, nobody dared suggest all those burger and taco joints might be making people fat.

The do-gooders blame restaurants for obesity because of a simple observation: restaurant meals are usually bigger than the meals we eat at home. Duh … that’s one of the reasons I eat in restaurants. I’m not going to dress up, stand by the door tapping my foot while my wife finishes dressing and applying makeup, pay a baby-sitter $30, drive several miles, park, give the hostess my name, take a little buzzy-blinking-light thing from her, stand outside and wait for it to blink and buzz, then finally take a seat at a table … all for the sheer joy of eating a small piece of steamed fish and a salad with lemon juice. When I go out, I eat a big meal.

But then I do the same thing that most people do, according to the study’s authors: I eat less later. I don’t eat less later because I’m disciplined; I eat less because my body tells me it really doesn’t care for another big meal right now, thank you very much. Now, that may be partly because when I eat in a restaurant, I don’t stuff myself with sugar and starch. But I don’t stuff myself with sugar and starch at home, either. By the same token, people who go carb-crazy in restaurants probably go carb-crazy at home too.

The point is, our appetites are controlled by our metabolisms, not by McDonald’s. The authors found that within individual communities, people who eat frequently in restaurants do, in fact, consume more daily calories on average and are fatter on average. But they don’t have big appetites because they eat at restaurants more often; they eat at restaurants more often because they have big appetites.

When the authors looked at data on how many calories individuals consume day-to-day, they found almost no difference between the days that included a restaurant meal and the days that didn’t — just 35 extra calories on days that included a restaurant meal, whether we’re talking about fat people or thin people. In other words, yes, when there are restaurants nearby, the obese are more likely to eat in those restaurants and stuff themselves — but take away the restaurants, and they just stuff themselves at home:

When eating at home, obese individuals consume almost 30 percent of their calories in the form of “junk food” (ice cream, processed cheese, bacon, baked sweets, crackers, potato chips and fries, candies, soft drinks, and beer). Because obese individuals consume so many calories from nutritionally deficient sources at home, it may not be surprising that replacing restaurant consumption with home consumption does not improve health, as measured by BMI.

(Take the word “bacon” out of that paragraph, and it would be perfect.)

So as usual, the government do-gooders (not to mention Morgan Spurlock) have the cause and effect backwards. We didn’t develop perverted appetites because of super-sized restaurant meals. Our appetites were perverted first, and then super-sized meals came along to match them. Order the restaurants to serve lower-calorie meals — as some government goofs in the U.K. proposed — and the fat people will just go home afterwards and open the pint of Chunky Monkey.

Picking on the restaurants is a waste of time and effort. The do-gooders can pass every law their little fascist hearts desire, and it won’t solve the obesity problem. There’s just no evidence that restaurants are the cause — not that I’d expect the do-gooders to care one way or another.  As the study authors noted:

Many policymakers and public-health advocates design policies intended to reduce the impact of restaurants on obesity, even while they acknowledge that convincing evidence of such a link has proven to be elusive. For example, the Food and Drug Administration recently organized a forum in which participants proposed solutions to the challenge of obesity in the context of away-from-home foods, even while the organizers cautioned that “there does not exist a conclusive body of evidence establishing a causal link between the availability or consumption of away-from-home foods and obesity.”

Anyone want to bet me that the lack of a “conclusive body of evidence” will convince those public-health advocates to stop proposing stupid laws to save us from ourselves?


If you enjoy my posts, please consider a small donation to the Fat Head Kids GoFundMe campaign.
Share

72 thoughts on “Restaurants Aren’t Making Us Fat

  1. Grok

    The real problem is… what to do with all the lawyers?

    I would say feed them to sharks, but I’m told sharks don’t attack their kin.

  2. Amy Alkon

    As a low-carb eater, I love those big restaurant portions people complain about. My boyfriend started a tradition that when he leaves town for work every few weeks he takes me to a certain nice restaurant near my house. I usually get the $36 steak — which perhaps sounds pricey, except that for me, it’s usually three $12 steaks, because it takes me three meals to finish it.

    You must be like my wife. Take her to a nice restaurant, and I know she’ll get at least two meals out of it.

  3. Ginger

    There’s another point that needs to be understood here, as well. Not all fat people are lazy gluttons stuffing themselves with ice cream all day. I know a lot of extremely large people because of my 25+ years as a size rights activist. This is one of the greatest myths we’ve had to battle and it won’t go away. While there are many people who are very fat and who do eat a lot, there are also many more extremely large people who have yo-yo dieted their whole lives, who have messed up metabolisms, who do not eat like stuffed hogs and who restrict calories and follow a “healthy” low-fat diet. These people are doing what they’re told by so-called experts is right, yet they can’t seem to get thin. I think it goes back to what you explained in Big Fat Fiasco, and let’s face it, what the body does with 100-calorie snack pack of cookies offered by Big Food, is NOT what the body is going to do with 100 calories of steak (thank you Mr. Taubes).

    I’ve lived with very large people who’s house you could starve in because they only kept vegetables, chicken breasts and low-fat, low-cal snacks (loaded with carbs and chemicals) and were (and I assume still are) PETRIFIED to have things like half-n-half or red meat or ice cream in their house. They had a stationary bike, walking machine and free weights that they used regularly. They’ve been the same size year, after year, after year. They’re large, but not growing larger and they’re also not getting thin, but they’re doing “everything right”.

    Now, I hate eating in restaurants and rarely do, but when I do, I notice how very often people order low-fat meals, avoid meat and fish dishes that are expensive and order sugar free sodas and ice tea regardless of whether or not they’re fat or thin. Usually, at big family gatherings, my husband and I are the only ones who eat high fat/low carbohydrate meals (and are looked at with both envy and disgust, by the way).

    Also, I’d love to know what kind of “obese” people this study is talking about. By “obese” are we talking about people who pass for “normal” on the street but are labeled “obese” by the anti-fat, skinny white women committee (example, George Clooney is “obese” and Tom Cruise is “overweight”) or are we actually talking about 400, 500, 600lbs people, (who tend to be fairly rare and rarely seen in restaurants)?

    Metabolism of course has a lot to do with it. The point the study’s authors wanted to make is that both fat people and thin people tend to keep their caloric intake pretty level over time, whether or not they eat meals in restaurants.

  4. Sarah

    I hate how when people look at “unhealthy high fat” restaurant food, they always point at something starchy 9/10 times. “These mashed potatoes and corn have BUTTER! These fries are fried in OIL! This mac and cheese has CHEESE!” It’s really frustrating…

    Quick personal question, when you look at the carb content of food, do you count total carbs, or net carbs (meaning subtracting the fiber grams I believe?)

    Because I was getting all excited to eat sweet potatoes with their glycemic load of 17, until I saw they average at about 40g of carbs a piece. What do you think? Do they count as a food that doesn’t spike insulin even with the high carbs?

    I go with net carbs. The idea is to keep the carb count low, but that doesn’t mean zero. If you eat low-carb meals and toss one sweet potato in there, it’s still a low-carb day. I’d recommend testing your reaction to various foods with a glucose meter, then making your dietary decisions based on the results. Pasta is supposed to be a relatively low-glyemic food, but a little bit of if sends my blood sugar through the roof.

  5. Dave Fish

    I’m in Japan this week and eating all of my meals in restaurants. Here are some observations on restaurants here, and Japanese health and dietary habits in general:

    The portion sizes are no smaller here than in the US. They are however much more nicely presented.

    The ingredients are mainly fresh vegetables, meat, and ubiquitous sticky rice. Not a processed food item to be found.

    Americans don’t eat faster than people in other countries. I’m usually the last one to finish my meal. Some of that is probably because I’m not as adept at using chop sticks as my Japanese colleagues, but they do seem to be ravenously devouring their food. I bring up this point because you often hear that Americans are fat because they eat too fast and the stomach doesn’t have time to send a signal to the brain that it is full.

    Many Japanese suffer from cold and flu. OK, this isn’t scientific, but because most of them wear a mask when they have a cold, it is easy to see how many are sick. Sitting here in the office I hear people all around me coughing and sneezing. They are fastidious about hygiene but I suspect the illness is due in part to diet (too much rice and possibly soy suppressing the immune system) and to the fact that 11 million people are packed into Tokyo making it easy for viruses to spread. Cold and flu incidence is probably not any higher than in the US, but it is more obvious here.

    Most Japanese are not overweight. Interestingly enough, of the overweight people I see, most are young people, as in teenagers. I wonder if they have adopted a more processed food, western type diet?

    Unsweetened tea seems to be the non-alcoholic beverage of choice. Soft drinks are available everywhere but I see few people drinking them. Almost every restaurant I’ve been in serves hot tea with the meal. They don’t ask if you want a beverage (unless they sell alcohol).

    Much of the conventional wisdom explaining our obesity problem in the US doesn’t hold up under real world observations. But that never stopped the experts from spouting their theories.

    Their anti-obesity plans aren’t about evidence and results; they’re about control.

  6. Grok

    The real problem is… what to do with all the lawyers?

    I would say feed them to sharks, but I’m told sharks don’t attack their kin.

  7. Amy Alkon

    As a low-carb eater, I love those big restaurant portions people complain about. My boyfriend started a tradition that when he leaves town for work every few weeks he takes me to a certain nice restaurant near my house. I usually get the $36 steak — which perhaps sounds pricey, except that for me, it’s usually three $12 steaks, because it takes me three meals to finish it.

    You must be like my wife. Take her to a nice restaurant, and I know she’ll get at least two meals out of it.

  8. Ginger

    There’s another point that needs to be understood here, as well. Not all fat people are lazy gluttons stuffing themselves with ice cream all day. I know a lot of extremely large people because of my 25+ years as a size rights activist. This is one of the greatest myths we’ve had to battle and it won’t go away. While there are many people who are very fat and who do eat a lot, there are also many more extremely large people who have yo-yo dieted their whole lives, who have messed up metabolisms, who do not eat like stuffed hogs and who restrict calories and follow a “healthy” low-fat diet. These people are doing what they’re told by so-called experts is right, yet they can’t seem to get thin. I think it goes back to what you explained in Big Fat Fiasco, and let’s face it, what the body does with 100-calorie snack pack of cookies offered by Big Food, is NOT what the body is going to do with 100 calories of steak (thank you Mr. Taubes).

    I’ve lived with very large people who’s house you could starve in because they only kept vegetables, chicken breasts and low-fat, low-cal snacks (loaded with carbs and chemicals) and were (and I assume still are) PETRIFIED to have things like half-n-half or red meat or ice cream in their house. They had a stationary bike, walking machine and free weights that they used regularly. They’ve been the same size year, after year, after year. They’re large, but not growing larger and they’re also not getting thin, but they’re doing “everything right”.

    Now, I hate eating in restaurants and rarely do, but when I do, I notice how very often people order low-fat meals, avoid meat and fish dishes that are expensive and order sugar free sodas and ice tea regardless of whether or not they’re fat or thin. Usually, at big family gatherings, my husband and I are the only ones who eat high fat/low carbohydrate meals (and are looked at with both envy and disgust, by the way).

    Also, I’d love to know what kind of “obese” people this study is talking about. By “obese” are we talking about people who pass for “normal” on the street but are labeled “obese” by the anti-fat, skinny white women committee (example, George Clooney is “obese” and Tom Cruise is “overweight”) or are we actually talking about 400, 500, 600lbs people, (who tend to be fairly rare and rarely seen in restaurants)?

    Metabolism of course has a lot to do with it. The point the study’s authors wanted to make is that both fat people and thin people tend to keep their caloric intake pretty level over time, whether or not they eat meals in restaurants.

  9. Liz Downunder

    Recently here in Australia: “…the Queensland Health Minister said that it’s time to develop a national plan to cut the amounts of energy, fat, sugar and salt in fast food, which he believes will help tackle Australia’s obesity problem. He also urged the nation’s health ministers to agree on standards for the display of nutritional information on product packaging, and on menu boards. Mr Lucas says the fast food habit is having a devastating effect on the nation’s health…”

    I’ve paraphrased the above from an online news article I read last month, which was accompanied by a photo of the clearly overweight Queensland Health Minister.

    Wonder if anyone else saw the irony…

    Same here. We have an obese surgeon general planning anti-obesity programs, and a First Lady promoting fitness programs while her husband (the president) continues to smoke.

  10. Sarah

    I hate how when people look at “unhealthy high fat” restaurant food, they always point at something starchy 9/10 times. “These mashed potatoes and corn have BUTTER! These fries are fried in OIL! This mac and cheese has CHEESE!” It’s really frustrating…

    Quick personal question, when you look at the carb content of food, do you count total carbs, or net carbs (meaning subtracting the fiber grams I believe?)

    Because I was getting all excited to eat sweet potatoes with their glycemic load of 17, until I saw they average at about 40g of carbs a piece. What do you think? Do they count as a food that doesn’t spike insulin even with the high carbs?

    I go with net carbs. The idea is to keep the carb count low, but that doesn’t mean zero. If you eat low-carb meals and toss one sweet potato in there, it’s still a low-carb day. I’d recommend testing your reaction to various foods with a glucose meter, then making your dietary decisions based on the results. Pasta is supposed to be a relatively low-glyemic food, but a little bit of if sends my blood sugar through the roof.

  11. Dave Fish

    I’m in Japan this week and eating all of my meals in restaurants. Here are some observations on restaurants here, and Japanese health and dietary habits in general:

    The portion sizes are no smaller here than in the US. They are however much more nicely presented.

    The ingredients are mainly fresh vegetables, meat, and ubiquitous sticky rice. Not a processed food item to be found.

    Americans don’t eat faster than people in other countries. I’m usually the last one to finish my meal. Some of that is probably because I’m not as adept at using chop sticks as my Japanese colleagues, but they do seem to be ravenously devouring their food. I bring up this point because you often hear that Americans are fat because they eat too fast and the stomach doesn’t have time to send a signal to the brain that it is full.

    Many Japanese suffer from cold and flu. OK, this isn’t scientific, but because most of them wear a mask when they have a cold, it is easy to see how many are sick. Sitting here in the office I hear people all around me coughing and sneezing. They are fastidious about hygiene but I suspect the illness is due in part to diet (too much rice and possibly soy suppressing the immune system) and to the fact that 11 million people are packed into Tokyo making it easy for viruses to spread. Cold and flu incidence is probably not any higher than in the US, but it is more obvious here.

    Most Japanese are not overweight. Interestingly enough, of the overweight people I see, most are young people, as in teenagers. I wonder if they have adopted a more processed food, western type diet?

    Unsweetened tea seems to be the non-alcoholic beverage of choice. Soft drinks are available everywhere but I see few people drinking them. Almost every restaurant I’ve been in serves hot tea with the meal. They don’t ask if you want a beverage (unless they sell alcohol).

    Much of the conventional wisdom explaining our obesity problem in the US doesn’t hold up under real world observations. But that never stopped the experts from spouting their theories.

    Their anti-obesity plans aren’t about evidence and results; they’re about control.

  12. Gracie

    The fast food ban in LA and the proposed barring of 30+ bmi people from restaurants puts me in mind of a paper from the Hoover Institute that I read last year.

    It’s a discussion of our culture’s reversal of sex and food in our moral calculations. This link is to a precis of the piece in a George Will column, he links to the paper itself. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/25/AR2009022503123.html

    I can’t commend this paper to people enough.

    Very good essay, thanks.

  13. Ailu

    I dunno, I don’t know how I could possibly stay healthy if I ate out all the time. Up here in the mountains all we have to choose from is diners, drive-ins and dives. All the food is loaded with rancid seed oils, trans fats and MSG. Bleh. Can’t say that many people in the city could afford to eat at the higher-end restaurants all the time, either. True, many people don’t make the best choices on their at-home food. But eating at home, I’d say a person has a much better control over what goes inside of them, and as a result, staying far healthier than their daily dine-out counterparts.

    It’s definitely easier to control your diet at home. The point the study’s authors were making is that restaurants have little effect on how much junk people eat. The junk addicts eat junk at home too.

  14. Ned Kock

    One thing that is problematic about restaurants in the USA in general is that they often use copious amounts of industrial seed oils and/or hydrogenated oils for cooking. I sometimes watch TV food channels that show footage of chefs preparing dishes, and it is appalling. The other day I saw a chef pouring a large amount of margarine into a mix, because it was “much healthier than butter”. And this is becoming a trend in Europe, including France, as well.

    Oh, no … tell me the French aren’t switching to margarine!

  15. Paul Eilers

    Restaurants only supply what consumers demand. Otherwise, the eateries would go out of business.

    Why is that so hard for some people to comprehend?

    P.S. My mother owns a family restaurant that serves southern country cooking with cafeteria style service. No low-fat fare available there. And she can hardly keep up with all business.

    Does she serve chicken-fried steaks cooked in lard? With all the nasty vegetable oils restaurants use these days, I can’t remember my last good chicken-fried steak.

  16. Holly J.

    “But then I do the same thing that most people do, according to the study’s authors: I eat less later.”

    That whole paragraph sums it up. Saturday mornings my boyfriend and I go to IHOP. I can get my steak and eggs with broccoli and a water and he can get whatever he wants – usually 3 or 4 eggs, sausage, bacon and ham, and toast maybe some hashbrowns or pancakes – with water and a coffee. (He’s less disciplined about the carbs. He’s also the same size he was in high school.) We usually do this around noon, so it’s more of a brunch, and aren’t hungry again until 6 or 7pm. We only eat about 2 meals that day. Then again, like your paragraph suggested, we don’t normally stuff ourselves on carbs. If there was no restaurant in our town, I would end up making more dishes and miss out on our relaxing morning to sit and talk. I doubt we would change what we eat or the portion sizes if IHOP wasn’t there. I always remember Gary Taubes saying that EVERYONE eats until they’re full; deranged metabolisms or not.

    Exactly. Metabolism determines appetite. When I eat a big restaurant meal at night, I usually skip breakfast the next day because I’m just not hungry yet.

  17. Godzilla

    A brief statement from Godzilla:

    “I agree that restaurants aren’t making us fat. The restaurants in Tokyo I have eaten were fairly light fair. There was one sushi bar I wish I would I would’ve spared.

    New York City has some restaurants to die for, but I managed to survive it without putting on nary a kilogram.

    I have yet to eat a Parisien restaurant.

    I would do London just for kicks.

    A few places in Italy, too.

    I was hoping someday Amazon would put together a “restaurants of the world ” sampler pack.

    I just don’t have time to travel like I used to.

    And that wasn’t really me in Mexico City.”

    As reported by R Dunn

  18. Liz Downunder

    Recently here in Australia: “…the Queensland Health Minister said that it’s time to develop a national plan to cut the amounts of energy, fat, sugar and salt in fast food, which he believes will help tackle Australia’s obesity problem. He also urged the nation’s health ministers to agree on standards for the display of nutritional information on product packaging, and on menu boards. Mr Lucas says the fast food habit is having a devastating effect on the nation’s health…”

    I’ve paraphrased the above from an online news article I read last month, which was accompanied by a photo of the clearly overweight Queensland Health Minister.

    Wonder if anyone else saw the irony…

    Same here. We have an obese surgeon general planning anti-obesity programs, and a First Lady promoting fitness programs while her husband (the president) continues to smoke.

  19. Lori

    You know who sells a lot more junk than fast food joints and panders to kids even more? Grocery stores. But then, people depend on grocery stores, and you can get nutritious, non-fattening food there.

    Oh wait–that applies to fast food joints, too.

    When unskilled people in South Central LA have an even harder time finding a job because there’s fewer fast food restaurants for them to get a start in the job market, I suppose government will come up with a great solution for that, too, like, encourage people to open a family restaurant! I’ve actually seen that suggested, as if people with little work experience can snap their fingers and make it happen.

    The job-killing aspect of it really p$$$ed me off, too. I’m usually horrified when I stand in grocery-store lines and see what people buy. Take away the restaurants, they’ll still indulge their carb cravings.

  20. Gracie

    The fast food ban in LA and the proposed barring of 30+ bmi people from restaurants puts me in mind of a paper from the Hoover Institute that I read last year.

    It’s a discussion of our culture’s reversal of sex and food in our moral calculations. This link is to a precis of the piece in a George Will column, he links to the paper itself. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/25/AR2009022503123.html

    I can’t commend this paper to people enough.

    Very good essay, thanks.

  21. Ailu

    I dunno, I don’t know how I could possibly stay healthy if I ate out all the time. Up here in the mountains all we have to choose from is diners, drive-ins and dives. All the food is loaded with rancid seed oils, trans fats and MSG. Bleh. Can’t say that many people in the city could afford to eat at the higher-end restaurants all the time, either. True, many people don’t make the best choices on their at-home food. But eating at home, I’d say a person has a much better control over what goes inside of them, and as a result, staying far healthier than their daily dine-out counterparts.

    It’s definitely easier to control your diet at home. The point the study’s authors were making is that restaurants have little effect on how much junk people eat. The junk addicts eat junk at home too.

  22. Mallory

    **Some government goofs in Mississippi even proposed barring people with a BMI of over 30 from eating in restaurants**

    haha my state is representing well! but on a serious note that’s the most ridiculous thing i have ever heard…restaurants make us fat??? i think i eat more at home lol but i rarely eat out.

    there’s like 2 groups of fatties down here…one group is living on food stamps and my paycheck and buy 20oz sodas, hoho’s and doritos with their food stamps…the other set of fatties are good-ol-folk. these people pass on the family traditions and food legends, and some do it well(cooking food in lard etc) but some morph a not so bad meal of gumbo into a starch laden, veggie oil induced carb fest with biscuits, cornbread, and deep fried everything.

    Yup, people eat according to their tastes, whether at home or in restaurant.

  23. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener

    It is frustrating when I do go out and look for something with reasonable number of calories. With even a typical salad coming in at 1000+ calories though as I am sure you know take any meat and skip the fries, pasta, bread, etc and they magically become “reasonable” Guess I should get used to taking apart my burger or skipping the potato with my steak…

  24. Ned Kock

    One thing that is problematic about restaurants in the USA in general is that they often use copious amounts of industrial seed oils and/or hydrogenated oils for cooking. I sometimes watch TV food channels that show footage of chefs preparing dishes, and it is appalling. The other day I saw a chef pouring a large amount of margarine into a mix, because it was “much healthier than butter”. And this is becoming a trend in Europe, including France, as well.

    Oh, no … tell me the French aren’t switching to margarine!

  25. mezzo

    Order the restaurants to serve REAL FOOD. That appears to be the most difficult commodity – in Europe too. Very many restaurants are not what they purport to be – a place where you can restore your strength. That is what the name implies – restoration of the weary traveller. Many do not even bother to cook – they just dish up microwaved stuff. That is not my idea of a place where to take a rest and receive proper refreshment and rest-au-ration.

    I presume you’re kidding about ordering the restaurants to serve real food. We shouldn’t order them to serve anything.

  26. Paul Eilers

    Restaurants only supply what consumers demand. Otherwise, the eateries would go out of business.

    Why is that so hard for some people to comprehend?

    P.S. My mother owns a family restaurant that serves southern country cooking with cafeteria style service. No low-fat fare available there. And she can hardly keep up with all business.

    Does she serve chicken-fried steaks cooked in lard? With all the nasty vegetable oils restaurants use these days, I can’t remember my last good chicken-fried steak.

  27. Holly J.

    “But then I do the same thing that most people do, according to the study’s authors: I eat less later.”

    That whole paragraph sums it up. Saturday mornings my boyfriend and I go to IHOP. I can get my steak and eggs with broccoli and a water and he can get whatever he wants – usually 3 or 4 eggs, sausage, bacon and ham, and toast maybe some hashbrowns or pancakes – with water and a coffee. (He’s less disciplined about the carbs. He’s also the same size he was in high school.) We usually do this around noon, so it’s more of a brunch, and aren’t hungry again until 6 or 7pm. We only eat about 2 meals that day. Then again, like your paragraph suggested, we don’t normally stuff ourselves on carbs. If there was no restaurant in our town, I would end up making more dishes and miss out on our relaxing morning to sit and talk. I doubt we would change what we eat or the portion sizes if IHOP wasn’t there. I always remember Gary Taubes saying that EVERYONE eats until they’re full; deranged metabolisms or not.

    Exactly. Metabolism determines appetite. When I eat a big restaurant meal at night, I usually skip breakfast the next day because I’m just not hungry yet.

  28. Godzilla

    A brief statement from Godzilla:

    “I agree that restaurants aren’t making us fat. The restaurants in Tokyo I have eaten were fairly light fair. There was one sushi bar I wish I would I would’ve spared.

    New York City has some restaurants to die for, but I managed to survive it without putting on nary a kilogram.

    I have yet to eat a Parisien restaurant.

    I would do London just for kicks.

    A few places in Italy, too.

    I was hoping someday Amazon would put together a “restaurants of the world ” sampler pack.

    I just don’t have time to travel like I used to.

    And that wasn’t really me in Mexico City.”

    As reported by R Dunn

  29. Lori

    You know who sells a lot more junk than fast food joints and panders to kids even more? Grocery stores. But then, people depend on grocery stores, and you can get nutritious, non-fattening food there.

    Oh wait–that applies to fast food joints, too.

    When unskilled people in South Central LA have an even harder time finding a job because there’s fewer fast food restaurants for them to get a start in the job market, I suppose government will come up with a great solution for that, too, like, encourage people to open a family restaurant! I’ve actually seen that suggested, as if people with little work experience can snap their fingers and make it happen.

    The job-killing aspect of it really p$$$ed me off, too. I’m usually horrified when I stand in grocery-store lines and see what people buy. Take away the restaurants, they’ll still indulge their carb cravings.

  30. Richard Tamesis, M.D.

    These regulations affecting restaurants are all about self-promotion on the part of these government officials, who want to give the appearance that they are actually doing something while in office to their constituents.

    Bingo.

  31. Mallory

    **Some government goofs in Mississippi even proposed barring people with a BMI of over 30 from eating in restaurants**

    haha my state is representing well! but on a serious note that’s the most ridiculous thing i have ever heard…restaurants make us fat??? i think i eat more at home lol but i rarely eat out.

    there’s like 2 groups of fatties down here…one group is living on food stamps and my paycheck and buy 20oz sodas, hoho’s and doritos with their food stamps…the other set of fatties are good-ol-folk. these people pass on the family traditions and food legends, and some do it well(cooking food in lard etc) but some morph a not so bad meal of gumbo into a starch laden, veggie oil induced carb fest with biscuits, cornbread, and deep fried everything.

    Yup, people eat according to their tastes, whether at home or in restaurant.

  32. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener

    It is frustrating when I do go out and look for something with reasonable number of calories. With even a typical salad coming in at 1000+ calories though as I am sure you know take any meat and skip the fries, pasta, bread, etc and they magically become “reasonable” Guess I should get used to taking apart my burger or skipping the potato with my steak…

  33. Nancy

    AS a BBW myself I do think big is beautiful. I am very proud of my size. I also have met many plus size friends on a BBW dating club [seekingbbw dot com]. The blog was updated very often. Lots of guys joined my friend circle. We are very popular here because we know size is only a number.

  34. mezzo

    Order the restaurants to serve REAL FOOD. That appears to be the most difficult commodity – in Europe too. Very many restaurants are not what they purport to be – a place where you can restore your strength. That is what the name implies – restoration of the weary traveller. Many do not even bother to cook – they just dish up microwaved stuff. That is not my idea of a place where to take a rest and receive proper refreshment and rest-au-ration.

    I presume you’re kidding about ordering the restaurants to serve real food. We shouldn’t order them to serve anything.

  35. Richard Tamesis, M.D.

    These regulations affecting restaurants are all about self-promotion on the part of these government officials, who want to give the appearance that they are actually doing something while in office to their constituents.

    Bingo.

  36. Nancy

    AS a BBW myself I do think big is beautiful. I am very proud of my size. I also have met many plus size friends on a BBW dating club [seekingbbw dot com]. The blog was updated very often. Lots of guys joined my friend circle. We are very popular here because we know size is only a number.

  37. Ben_P

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. Working in a restaurant, I can tell you that the packaged wholesale ingredients restaurants get are the exact same packaged food as what you buy in a grocery store. Powdered gravy mixed with trans fat and lots of other junk. Soybean oil in everything, like the deep fryer and salad dressings. HFCS in places it shouldn’t be. One pound sticks of margarine because it’s a third of the cost of butter. In America, you have to go to a really expensive restaurant to get ‘real’ food, and even then it’s a gamble. Soybean oil has pretty much completely replaced animal fats and saturated tropical oils in the American diet. Politically Correct nutrition has almost removed the choice of fat for us. Along with the HFCS in sodas and every packaged food and you have a perfect storm, IMO.

    I really want to open a restaurant just so I can sell sweet potato fries deep fried in coconut oil, or maybe tallow. Screw the Guy from the CSPI!

    He’d be picketing you within a week. My wife makes sweet potato fries in bacon grease. They’re awesome.

  38. Wanda

    Any low carber in my little hick town would probably share my frustration in that there isn’t really any good restaurant to get a decent sized low carb meal. Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario is predominantly italian, which means LOTS of handmade pizza and pasta, and not much else. We don’t even have a seafood restaurant. All meals are pretty much your standard 6-8 oz of meat or fish, with pasta, potato or rice sides and bread on the table.

    The biggest problem is that when we do go out, I usually end up disappointed, knowing that I would have done a much better job of the meal at home, portion AND flavour wise. Maybe i should open a low carb restaurant– if I did you can be sure that it would be a whole lot more than just bunless burgers, and bacon would not be considered junk food!

    That would be frustrating. I’m glad there are plenty of steak and seafood restaurants around here.

  39. Ben_P

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. Working in a restaurant, I can tell you that the packaged wholesale ingredients restaurants get are the exact same packaged food as what you buy in a grocery store. Powdered gravy mixed with trans fat and lots of other junk. Soybean oil in everything, like the deep fryer and salad dressings. HFCS in places it shouldn’t be. One pound sticks of margarine because it’s a third of the cost of butter. In America, you have to go to a really expensive restaurant to get ‘real’ food, and even then it’s a gamble. Soybean oil has pretty much completely replaced animal fats and saturated tropical oils in the American diet. Politically Correct nutrition has almost removed the choice of fat for us. Along with the HFCS in sodas and every packaged food and you have a perfect storm, IMO.

    I really want to open a restaurant just so I can sell sweet potato fries deep fried in coconut oil, or maybe tallow. Screw the Guy from the CSPI!

    He’d be picketing you within a week. My wife makes sweet potato fries in bacon grease. They’re awesome.

  40. Jason Sandeman

    Well, by golly-gee… we need MORE laws to make them stupid people stop eating out, and buying more of our crap that is “good for them.” Once we have driven those evil chefs out of business, then we will look at attacking the farming people. By golly, them vittles shouldn’t be so fat at slaughter, right? All that saturated fat! It’s making us obese!
    Better still, those lazy diabetics need to get their act together! They are disgrace to the health care system, and they are even more scary than…. terrorism!

    Those words SHOULD read like they are out of a nuthouse, but sadly, they are the norm thought about people.
    My favorite part is when people assume that I “got diabetes” from my diet. See, if I just stayed away from all those saturated fats, I would have been okay.

    Problem is, I am a TYPE 1 diabetic. Meaning, DIET HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT! It is genetic.

    More and more, people are getting “obese,” and more and more the government will have to step in and “help.” Sounds like a make-work project to me?

    As Eric Oliver pointed out in the film, a lot of these government initiatives are about keeping government officials employed.

  41. Marilyn

    Ben_P wrote:

    “In America, you have to go to a really expensive restaurant to get ‘real’ food, and even then it’s a gamble.”

    Alas, ’tis true! I’ve enjoyed one of the better restaurants in town for many years, but I noticed a few years ago–since the son took over the business–that the gravy now tastes like they dissolved a bouillon cube in some water and thickened it with something. Ugh.

  42. Jason Sandeman

    Well, by golly-gee… we need MORE laws to make them stupid people stop eating out, and buying more of our crap that is “good for them.” Once we have driven those evil chefs out of business, then we will look at attacking the farming people. By golly, them vittles shouldn’t be so fat at slaughter, right? All that saturated fat! It’s making us obese!
    Better still, those lazy diabetics need to get their act together! They are disgrace to the health care system, and they are even more scary than…. terrorism!

    Those words SHOULD read like they are out of a nuthouse, but sadly, they are the norm thought about people.
    My favorite part is when people assume that I “got diabetes” from my diet. See, if I just stayed away from all those saturated fats, I would have been okay.

    Problem is, I am a TYPE 1 diabetic. Meaning, DIET HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT! It is genetic.

    More and more, people are getting “obese,” and more and more the government will have to step in and “help.” Sounds like a make-work project to me?

    As Eric Oliver pointed out in the film, a lot of these government initiatives are about keeping government officials employed.

  43. Marilyn

    Ben_P wrote:

    “In America, you have to go to a really expensive restaurant to get ‘real’ food, and even then it’s a gamble.”

    Alas, ’tis true! I’ve enjoyed one of the better restaurants in town for many years, but I noticed a few years ago–since the son took over the business–that the gravy now tastes like they dissolved a bouillon cube in some water and thickened it with something. Ugh.

  44. Levi

    I’m still trying to figure out why bacon always makes the junk food list. I’m convinced its because they need a confounding factor so they can implicate fat. So when they do a study to demonize fat they use donuts, cupcakes, cheesecakes, and bacon. Must be the fat that’s killing us!

    That’s why they usually do. You’d think fat and sugar were the same substance.

  45. Levi

    I’m still trying to figure out why bacon always makes the junk food list. I’m convinced its because they need a confounding factor so they can implicate fat. So when they do a study to demonize fat they use donuts, cupcakes, cheesecakes, and bacon. Must be the fat that’s killing us!

    That’s why they usually do. You’d think fat and sugar were the same substance.

  46. TimInUkraine

    I live in Ukraine, where going out to restaurants is for the privileged few. The problem with restaurants here is that the portions, especially of meat, are dreadfully small. So my friends and I went to the old drawing board an came up with a plan. It’s being fine tuned and copyrighted at the moment, so all I can say is that the gist of the plan involves ordering more than one portion.

    I don’t see too many fat people at the restaurants, but I see plenty lumbering home from the market with bags full of bread, sunflower oil, potatoes, and cakes…

    That’s what I see in grocery stores here.

  47. TimInUkraine

    I live in Ukraine, where going out to restaurants is for the privileged few. The problem with restaurants here is that the portions, especially of meat, are dreadfully small. So my friends and I went to the old drawing board an came up with a plan. It’s being fine tuned and copyrighted at the moment, so all I can say is that the gist of the plan involves ordering more than one portion.

    I don’t see too many fat people at the restaurants, but I see plenty lumbering home from the market with bags full of bread, sunflower oil, potatoes, and cakes…

    That’s what I see in grocery stores here.

  48. Marcus

    Some contrary evidence: http://www.ajcn.org/content/91/2/465.short

    “Consumption of restaurant foods and incidence of type 2 diabetes in African American women”

    Worth taking a look at. Turns out eating hamburgers and fried chicken from restaurants is associated with higher diabetes levels.

    It’s not contrary evidence. It’s confirming evidence. People who eat a lot of fast food consume more sugar than the population as a whole. You’ll notice the study says nothing about controlling for sugar consumption independently. Blaming the diabetes on hamburgers and fried chicken was their bias manifesting. Nothing in the data points specifically to burgers and chicken, only to an association between fast food consumption and diabetes.

    Other studies have shown that sugar addicts consume just as much sugar whether fast food restaurants are nearby or not. But if those restaurants are nearby, the sugar addicts will patronize them more than the population as a whole.

    Since you’re a PhD and all, I’m sure you realize correlations are just that: correlations. They don’t prove cause and effect. A and B are often correlated simply because they’re both caused by C. There’s a correlation between baldness and heart disease, but I’m pretty sure baldness doesn’t cause heart disease. If A is correlated with B and we want to blame A for causing B, we need to describe a plausible mechanism by which A causes B. There’s a very plausible mechanism for sugar causing type 2 diabetes. There is no plausible mechanism for hamburger and chicken causing diabetes.

Comments are closed.