Fast Food Nation: the Nature of This Phenomenon and Its Conscequences

An essay on fast food nation in which the topic is discussed from different viewpoints. The fast-food industry is luring kids to the dark side by conditioning them to become lifelong customers. In Fast Food Nation, Schlosser, an American investigative journalist, discusses the local and global influences of America’s fast-food industry. He delves deep into the intricate workings of fast food chains and their interests in child consumers. The fast-food industry spends an immense sum of money in attempts to advertise and interest children every year. Many restaurant chains, especially McDonald’s, attempts to influence youths into desiring their fast food by creating play areas, having mascots, and emphasizing that their meals will make them whoever eats them happier. Throughout his book, Schlosser outlines the many different tactics that the fast-food industry uses to lure children into their businesses, such as advertising with free toys with meals and creating alliances with sports leagues and Hollywood studios; however, Schlosser fails to discuss the psychological influences and impacts of fast food consumption on children. An important component that affects children’s eating habits is their parents’ habits.

Some companies are even willing to go a step further and hire psychologists to help them come up with multiple advertisements that will work on children at various stages of development. It will not only affect children at a young age, but will affect them continuously as they grow. “Marketers now use different terms to explain the intended response to their ads — such as ‘leverage,’ ‘the nudge factor,’ ‘pester power’. The aim of most children’s advertising is straightforward: get kids to nag their parents and nag them well”. The main goal of their advertising is for children to want to try out the business’s products and beg their parents to take them. Ultimately, children are affected psychologically and will continue to be the restaurants’ patrons as they grow older, causing damage to their physical health as well. “[Businesses hope] that nostalgic childhood memories of a brand will lead to a lifetime of purchases, companies now plan “cradle-to-grave” advertising strategies. They have come to believe what Ray Kroc and Walt Disney realized long ago — a person’s ‘brand loyalty’ may begin as early as the age of two”. Children can’t help but fall for advertising schemes of the fast-food industry. Fast food restaurants do exceptionally well in their attempts of manipulating children to support their businesses with their diabolical plots. Often, children cannot think for themselves; they do not understand how fast food can be bad for them. The American Psychological Association states that most children under the age of six cannot distinguish between programming and advertising, and children under the age of eight do not comprehend the persuasive intent of advertising. Nonetheless, Schlosser does an extraordinary job in educating his readers about the effectiveness of the fast-food industry’s advertising methods. Advertising, however, is not the only method that gets children into unhealthy eating habits.

A component that influences children’s diet choices that Schlosser fails to address includes the psychological impacts that parents have on their children’s eating habits. Parents serve as role models, and their decisions directly affect the way their kids think and act; from an early age, parents set examples for their children to follow. As parents consume fast food, children tend to mimic the behavior they observe from other people, mainly their parents. “The first five years of life… are the years when eating behaviors that can serve as a foundation for future eating patterns develop. During these early years, children are learning what, when, and how much to eat based on the transmission of cultural and familial beliefs, attitudes, and practices surrounding food and eating”. Parents can reinforce unhealthy behavior without being aware. When parents are busy and stressed with other factors in their life, they tend to make unhealthy food choices that affect their children. “The higher their psychological distress [in parents], the less healthy food is available in the home and the more unhealthy the feeding practices are for their children”. While Schlosser makes valid points about how the fast food industry uses drastic methods to lure children into their businesses, unhealthy eating habits do not only originate from fast-food restaurants’ advertising. Food decisions made by parents can psychologically affect their kids for a lifetime, both positively and negatively.

Schlosser emphasizes the many health disadvantages to fast-food throughout Fast Food Nation. “Heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer, the principal ‘diseases of affluence,’ have been linked to diets low in fiber and high in animal fats.” He also states that one-quarter of American children are obese. Schlosser is correct in that fast food has taken a heavy toll on the physical health of Americans today; However, he does not emphasize what effects this type of food has on mental health, which is equally as important. Schlosser does not pay enough attention to the damage that that fast food inflicts on mental health. Studies have shown a growing evidence base for the link between fast food and negative mental health. Harvard Health Publishing states that the diet during early years of life is directly linked to children’s mental health. Fast food items are known to contain high levels of fat, sodium, and calories, but lack nutrients. Children who ingest foods low in nutrients for a prolonged period of time are at greater risk for mental illnesses, such as depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. According to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.9 million children ages 3-17 are already diagnosed with depression. As individuals become older, the depression statistics worsen. Consumers of fast food, compared to those who eat little or none, are 51% more likely to develop depression. A new, recent study of 120 children and adolescents showed that “[consumption of] fast food, sugar and soft drinks was associated with a higher prevalence of diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder”. Additionally, it has been found that those who ate more prepared fast food meals have a shrunken hippocampus, an area in the brain that controls cognition and memory (Burdo). Schlosser fails to see the importance of the link of mental health and fast food, as he does not mention to his readers these many negative psychological impacts anywhere in Fast Food Nation. More light needs to be shed upon the mental detriments of fast food consumption during adolescence. Mental and physical health have a connected relationship; mental illnesses affect individual’s abilities to maintain good physical health.

In conclusion to essays on fast food nation, the roots of bad eating habits and fast food consumption go back to one’s adolescence. Throughout Fast Food Nation, Schlosser addresses the many methods that the industry uses to tap into children’s desires; it is very true that children give into these tempting schemes. Although fast food companies are responsible for unhealthy eating habits, parents are equally responsible for the damage inflicted among kids. Schlosser also neglects the importance of mental health related to fast food. Many links between fast food consumption and mental illness are prevalent today. These relationships need to be emphasized in order for people to to make better parenting choices for their children’s health.

08 December 2022
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