Fast Food Marketing; A Fat Disastrous Victory

Maybe it was the overweight 2 year old kid the in the grocery store with the half eaten cream filled donut hanging out of his mouth while his parents munched on an open container of Pringles. Or better yet, maybe it was the McDonald’s commercials during the Summer Olympics that reminded me how ass backwards this country is when it comes to fast food, nutrition, obesity and healthy choices. For years, people blamed the smoking community for weighing down the healthcare system, but in recent times, it has become abhorrently clear that the obesity epidemic in this country is tipping the scales of how we are mass marketed towards as a society.

The US has always been the cultural trendsetter of the world. Our fashions, our, sayings, our music, or labels, our look, our capitalism, our ability to be so successful as a nation in everything, made us the cutting edge country that everyone admired and wanted to mirror. That is until we started to get fat and we allowed the FDA to make decisions about our food supply, and allowed companies like McDonald’s to mass market their addictive, low priced, high saturated fats, high sugar food to Americans everywhere. And we the people took a big fat juicy bite into this illusory toxicity and haven’t let go. Americans are sordidly overweight. And let’s face it, it’s a choice, we choose to put this crap in our mouths and our children’s mouths. We teach our kids to not steal, fight, or lie, yet we are telling them it is ok to put that heart stopping, artery clogging cheeseburger and french fries in their innocent, uneducated mouths and we do it so much, we have created an epidemic. But hey if Olympians are doing it, why can’t we right? This kind of marketing is ludicrous to me and is alarmingly too parallel to what the tobacco industry was getting away with before they were told they couldn’t promote their life-threatening products anymore.  See the similarity yet?  Think back to the days of the Marlboro Man and Camel Jo advertisements, I’m 36 and I remember these advertisements as a kid.  They made cigarettes appear so curiously cool, fun, interesting, sexy and chic. Little did we know the abhorrent substances that these little cancer sticks were pumped with and in the end, making them some of the most addictive substances on the planet now alongside fast food and heroine.

So, here’s the problem, we can’t blame marketing wholly for efficaciously making our society morbidly obese, there is some accountability that needs to be taken by the individual. Yes marketing was effective, but it is only effective to an extent. Even with the addictiveness of fast food, it is still a choice, and we know that it is wrong to do this to our bodies right? So when did we become so complacent as a society?  The US has become a “now” nation, we want it now, we want it fast and we want it as contemptible as possible and this philosophy is applied to everything. Just as swiftly can we ascertain that the things we put in our bodies have a unconstructive or affirmative response to our entire being we are just as quickly to disregard.

As a nation we have become fat, and in spirit of this obesity, this has become adequate. If someone told you to not put something in your mouth because it will blow up and you will die, do you think most people would stop, think and continue to do it?  Almost certainly! It’s beyond me to think that as a society who was once the trendsetters for all things in global culture, we have now embraced this unacceptable overweight epidemic. And so do the shopping industry, television programs, and movie industry. Plus sized clothing can now be found everywhere. Before it was complicated to find stylish clothes for the overweight person, now it is everywhere. We are inundated as a society that big is beautiful, but what does that tell our kids and the rest of the world? Being overweight is suitable and you are beautiful no matter what condition your heart is in! The diabetic statistics are staggering! If you look at our society from 30 years ago to today the amount of individual that are stricken with Type II diabetes is profound. In 1982, 5.7 million Americans were diagnosed with Diabetes, in 2011, 37.7 million people are affected by Diabetes, that’s 10.1% of the 481 million population! However, when you look at Europe for instance for the exact same reasons, their numbers are vastly different. With a population of 900 million, 52.6 million Europeans, are affected by diabetes. Double the population yet the numbers are only about 13 million under ours. Staggering difference.

If you look at this from a purely effectual marketing angle, the US wins, unfortunately. We win the gold medal for de-education, misleading advertising, and a deceptive FDA that has allowed GMO, fast food and processed foods into our homes, diets, bodies and didn’t inform us about the reality behind the barrage of chemicals we have now become so addicted to. And even though cigarette commercials have been forbidden in the US since 1971, fast food and alcohol ads are still permitted, rather contradictory if you ask me. However, in Europe countries such as France disallow such commercials for tobacco, alcohol, fast food and pharmaceutical products. In Denmark, one of the world’s healthiest countries, advertising on television is non-existent for everything, they enforce a ban on all food products containing trans-fat and in 2009 Denmark implemented a “fat” tax on any food products containing saturated fat. Because of the muscle of larger food companies such as Nestle, after a year, Denmark skated away from their “fat tax” even after a 250 million dollar gain. Denmark is now focusing on taxing products with high sugar count, which is a more constructive approach in the scheme of things.

In the end though, we have to take some responsibility and be mindful for our own situations.  We are what we eat! We can fault advertising for assisting us in constructing these exceedingly noxious lifestyles we live.  Regardless, advertisers are just doing their job, it is our choice to consume and put these things in our mouths and devastate our bodies. It is our decision to not educate ourselves/children about suitable nutrition and appropriate diet, no matter how common sense this seem, it is still something that has to be learned or taught. It is our choice to not exercise, and not take care our physical beings as well as our mental health. These are all choices, unforgiveable choices we make everyday. So what is it going to take? A fat tax?  Abolishment of advertisement? Taxes always seem to get a person motivated that is for sure. The government taxes the hell out of cigarettes, as they should, but what about food, why is this left out of the larger scheme of all things regarding our health as a nation and individual. It makes me sad to think that now Americans have continued the legacy of the trendsetting, but now it is on a level of total pretense. We are setting the fashion for lowered standards and showing the world how to become the unhealthiest country on the planet. But it doesn’t have to be like this, we can end this vicious cycle by taking charge of our lives, our country and demand food companies to reveal their stripes, just like the tobacco industry had to. We can make a choice to eat healthy, make healthy choices and teach our future generations how to do the same thing.  Be happy that you have a choice to make that decision and take pride in showing your children the success in our health is the greatest gift we can ever give ourselves!

Oh Austin Where Art Though?

I moved to Austin, TX in 1998 during one of the hottest summers on record, and of course to melt the ice cream even further I moved in August, the hottest time of the year. When I moved here, Ricky Williams, Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey were “the” celebrities most associated with Austin. UT football was at it’s pinnacle with a Heisman Contender (Williams), Texas A&M/UT Football game was still the prime game of the season, A&M still built their time-honored bizarre bonfire the night before the rivalry game, Ruta Maya was still situated where Halcyon resides today (Lavaca/4th), Liberty Lunch was in full affect still attracting some of the biggest music acts at its historical site, the tallest structure downtown – One Capital Plaza towering at 32 stories did not obscure the view of  Texas’ favorite historical landmark the state’s capital, George W. Bush was Governor, UT campus particularly the stadium was still a true horseshoe,  there was sufficient parking accessible on campus, and UT was 6 buildings less than they have now, the UT Tower where one of the most infamous earliest school shooting rampages took place in 1966 still had its observation deck closed, only to be re-opened in 2000 after a 23 year stint because a series of suicides. Austin for the most part was way under 700,000 people, if you crossed the river you either lived in North or South Austin, traffic was minimal, the music scene was growing and intact, there was no ACL yet and SXSW was a small music/film conference. The best part of Austin for many people that live here is the fact that it is the least Texas City in Texas, it’s Southern California weather, and it’s unassuming cultural nature. It is a liberal oasis upon itself and one thing is parallel, Austinites wouldn’t have it any other way that is until the hipsters showed up.

Slowly we’ve seen the California/Austin merge as this has been occurring for almost 20 years now. Austin has become the mini silicon valley for Californians where housing was insanely cheap, land was accessible and opportunity to build a tech business was promising and tax compensated. I’ve observed the Austin urban evolution with my own two eyes, and it has been abysmal and stirring in so many dissimilar ways.

When I moved here in 1998 I lived in east campus on Dean Keaton (26th st.) and Medical Arts – I split the rent with my roommate, $800/month all bills paid, cable included and that was at the loftiness of Austin’s real estate boom. A year later I moved to the “original” South Austin (78704 zip code) which was still affordable back then and paid about the same rent minus all bills paid. Today that same apartment rents for $1500 a month and Caroline the property manger still lives and works on the premises. Back then that section of South Austin was a little dodgy but we didn’t care, we just wanted to listen to music, live close to the action, drink cold beer, hang out at the G&S Lounge at Oltorf and S.1st and drink $2 imports, cash only of course. I became good friends with a South Austin icon, Jimmy who owned the G&S Lounge, known as the Beer Nazi, if he didn’t like the way you looked he’d kick you out of his joint, you never saw a fight and you played by Jimmy’s rules.  I remember one time in particular he kicked out one of my good friends just because he said he didn’t like the way he talked, that’s just Jimmy. After moving to South Austin, I finally discovered my niche in the city. From there I lived in several location in South Austin, off of Brodie before it had it’s boom, S. 1st. before it was cool to live on S. 1st., Mopac West before it became Westlake luxurious and then after all was said and done I moved back to east campus. In 2001 it was still economical to live on campus, (Duval and 32nd) my apartment was $500 month all bills paid. I could ride my bike to Spiderhouse Coffee House Cafe when they just served coffee and beer and had a small funky patio with old lawn furniture and mis-matched tables and chairs. There was no table service you had to walk up and get your own drinks inside by the tattooed and very unfriendly wait staff. And when I was hungry or hungover I could walk down to Crown & Anchor and get a cheap and damn good burger/fries and a Live Oak Heffe for under $5. And it is still damn good and it is the only establishment that hasn’t completely sold themselves out to the hipster movement, nothing has changed about that place, nothing at all. For breakfast or late night eats I could roll over to 32nd and IH-35 and get some Eggs Rancheros or Black Bean Tacos at Star Seeds Café, a grungy, dingy eatery where the Sex Pistols would be blaring at 9 am on a Sunday morning, wait staff could very well have spit in your food and the bathrooms had a warning sign above the toilets “sit on the toilet seat, crabs jump 8 ft” brilliant – but the patrons didn’t care and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Star Seeds still has a mild seedy charm, but the walls are painted, the bathrooms are clean and the wait staff is still horrible but the food has remained just as good as the first time. If I was wanting to have a nice meal I could cruise on over to the East Side Cafe, which during that time was in a very shady part of town, unlike its gentrified state now but had great food, fresh ingredients and awesome service.  Mi Madre’s, still my favorite Tex-Mex Restaurant is still across the street lapping up all the hipster/yuppie dollars that roll in on those over packed Saturday mornings.

On those searing summer days, I would frequent and still frequent the “caught in a time warp” Barton Springs Pool, which hasn’t changed much neither nor has its prices. Back in the day I used to pay $2 admittance, now it’s $3, well worth every penny. You can catch sight of the city skyline and still enjoy the way Austin was/is and always will be in this little piece of organic spring fed heaven in the middle of the city.

It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago for a couple of years that made me realize, how much Austin lacked that deep cultural experience, museums, fine dining, shopping, professional sports, large music events…lesson learned, be careful what you ask for, culture we wanted, culture we got, along with overpriced high rise condos that re-invented the Austin skyline and blocked the state’s favorite monument, flamboyant restaurants, gaudy yogurt shops, fashionable clothing stores, lavish shopping malls, fancy cupcake bakeries, copious contemptible food trailers, excessive population, excessive traffic, a pathetic and vile effort at public transportation, despotic high end music venues, overpriced-overcrowded music festivals, an over-priced-over the top F1 event and an enormous nest of trust fund hipsters donning overly skinny designer jeans, fake Ray Bans sipping on $6 extra dry cappuccino’s while taking over the city I once knew and turning it into Williamsturd.

I sound bitter, it’s the cynic in me but I can’t help remembering back in the day listening to the old school Austinites natter about the yuppies moving into town and taking over their little slice of hippy heaven, I guess I’m the same way. I love my city and remember it a certain way, change is inevitable but that doesn’t mean I have to like all of it.

I had been living in South Austin for 12 years before I decided to fall in love with a North Austinite and moved North of the river in 2010 while the Austin I once knew began it’s dramatic urban transformation. Quite honestly I now realize living North, there is something to be said for having a place in the city where there are actual trees in your backyard, down to earth middle class neighbors, access to a greenbelt park right next to my house where we know every person and dog by name and a place in the city that has already experienced its boom. It’s quiet up here and when we do get the urge to drive downtown, we do it and without hesitation because we are Austin and there is nothing wrong with change and culture shifts, you just have to embrace it and enjoy the voyage even if it isn’t the variation you had hoped for. I will always have my memoirs of the way Austin used to be, and I will always feel like that modest 22-year-old wide-eye punk rock girl from the Midwest that took on the Live Music Capital city in Texas and won. Heck, It’s where I began to subsist and experience my life passage and quite frankly I can’t reasonably fathom being anywhere else, hipster haven or not, this is my home, this is my island, this is MY oasis….