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Thread: Supersizing
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    Sara S's Avatar
    Sara S
    Auntie Wacco



    In today's excerpt - supersizing and the 'thrifty gene':

    "That distinction [of inventing supersizing] belongs to a man named David Wallerstein.
    Until his death in 1993, Wallerstein served on the board of directors at McDonald's
    but in the fifties and sixties he worked for a chain of movie theaters in Texas
    where he labored to expand sales of soda and popcorn - the high-markup items that
    theaters depend on for their profitability. As the story is told in John Love's
    official history of McDonald's, Wallerstein tried everything he could think of to
    goose up sales - two-for-one deals, matinee specials - but found he simply could
    not induce customers to buy more than one soda and one bag of popcorn. He thought
    he knew why: Going for seconds makes people feel piggish.

    "Wallerstein discovered that people would spring for more popcorn and soda - a lot
    more - as long as it came in a single gigantic serving. Thus was born the two-quart
    bucket of popcorn, the sixty-four-ounce Big Gulp, and in time the Big Mac and the
    jumbo fries, though Ray Kroc himself took some convincing. In 1968, Wallerstein
    went to work for McDonald's, but try as he might he couldn't convince Kroc, the
    company's founder, of supersizing's magic powers.

    " 'If people want more fries' Kroc told him 'they can buy two bags.' Wallerstein
    patiently explained that McDonald's customers did want more but were reluctant
    to buy a second bag. 'They don't want to look like gluttons.'

    "Kroc remained skeptical, so Wallerstein went looking for proof. He began staking
    out McDonald's outlets in and around Chicago observing how people ate. He saw customers
    noisily draining their sodas and digging infinitesimal bits of salt and burnt spud
    out of their little bags of French fries. After Wallerstein presented his findings,
    Kroc relented and approved supersized portions and the dramatic spike in sales confirmed
    the marketer's hunch. Deep cultural taboos against gluttony - one of the seven deadly
    sins, after all - had been holding us back. Wallerstein's dubious achievement was
    to devise the dietary equivalent of a papal dispensation: Supersize it! He had discovered
    the secret to expanding the (supposedly) fixed human stomach.

    "One might think that people would stop eating and drinking these gargantuan portions
    as soon as they felt full, but it turns out hunger doesn't work that way. Researchers
    have found that people (and animals) presented with large portions will eat up to
    30 percent more than they would otherwise. Human appetite it turns out is surprisingly
    elastic which makes excellent evolutionary sense: It behooved our hunter-gatherer
    ancestors to feast whenever the opportunity presented itself allowing them to build
    up reserves of fat against future famine. Obesity researchers call this trait the
    'thrifty gene.' And while the gene represents a useful adaptation in an environment
    of food scarcity and unpredictability, it's a disaster in an environment of fast-food
    abundance when the opportunity to feast presents itself 24/7. Our bodies are storing
    reserves of fat against a famine that never comes."

    Author: Michael Pollan
    Title: The Omnivore's Dimemma
    Publisher: Penguin
    Date: Copyright 2006 by Michael Pollan
    Pages: 105-106

    The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
    by Michael Pollan by Penguin Press
    Last edited by Alex; 04-01-2011 at 05:29 PM.
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