It might sound like common sense, or at least advertising 101, but there is enough research completed on the subject for the verdict to finally be in. We live in a culture that is surrounded by advertisements, many of which are for what has been dubbed “fast food.” This includes any food items that are quickly prepared and intended to be eaten on the go, taking much of the thought and planning out of the dining experience. Combine these quick-fix advertisements with the many commercials for junk foods and indulgent desserts, and you have sensory overload, with every ad pointing directly towards your stomach.
Spend a day in Scottsdale and you’ll be confronted with bus advertisements, billboards, magazine ads and of course TV commercials—all for different types of food. The food industry is in constant competition for your taste buds, but the one who ends up losing after all of this isn’t the company with the bottom line returns. It’s you.
The Trouble with Advertising
The problem with food advertising is that there is an exceptionally strong relationship between reactivity, food cues, and personal weight and eating habits. Basically, this means that seeing advertisements for food is going to make you want to eat. Even if the commercial for that Big Mac isn’t making you want to eat a Big Mac—or if you combat that urge and opt for something healthier instead, these advertisements are still increasing the urge to eat. Whatever way you shake it, advertisements are encouraging over eating.
There hasn’t been a commercial on TV for smoking since President Nixon was in office. The reason for this is that it was determined that advertising smoking was harming too much of our population simply because the advertisements worked. They made people want to smoke.
Of course, it is different with food—or at least the food industries will want you to believe so. Everyone has to eat, and so advertising different options for food isn’t the same as advertising for something that was recognized as harmful to one’s health. Except the advertisements that dominate the TV and magazines aren’t healthy foods, which means that in short, these advertisements are indeed promoting something that is damaging to the general population—and the general population is continuing to grow unhealthy as a result.
It is hard to say if there is a way that this problem can be fixed, but knowing that there is a problem might be the first step. On the consumer side, knowing that these advertisements are messing with your mind might be helpful. Plan your meals ahead of time and stick to your weight loss diet plan. When cravings happen, acknowledge them and move on. Many of these advertisements rely on people not wanting to think too hard about their food choices. You can combat these ads by being more cognizant in every bite you take.