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Bet You Can't Eat Just One: Michael Moss On The Fast Food Wager You'll Lose
Health | May 30, 2013

Bet You Can't Eat Just One: Michael Moss On The Fast Food Wager You'll Lose

Bet you can't eat just one. This tagline is one of the most well-known in the junk food industry—and, perhaps, the most commonly-lost wager to potato chip lovers. "In the '60s, the sentiment might have seemed cute and innocent," health speaker Michael Moss writes in The Atlantic, "it's hard not to pig out on potato chips, they're tasty, they're fun. But today the familiar phrase has a sinister connotation because of our growing vulnerability to convenience foods, and our growing dependence on them." The ad agency responsible for the slogan initially crafted it as more of a lighthearted dare, Moss explains. However, it seems less playful when the processed food companies are betting on our inability to resist overeating. Unfortunately, it's a bet that the house almost always wins, and leaves us stuck with the $300 billion dollar tab associated with treating obesity and other rising health costs in the process.

The potato chip epitomizes what Moss describes as the "holy trinity" of junk food ingredients. These crunchy snacks are soaked in salt, sugar, and fat—and food manufacturers have engineered them to contain the perfect ratio of these three substances in order to maximize crave-ability. Our urge to shovel an entire bag of chips into our mouths in a single sitting goes beyond the ingredients list, too. As Moss says, the shape, crunch-factor, and ease of which we move the food from hand to mouth all contribute to over-consumption. Scarier still, products that dissolve in your mouth send a trigger to your brain that the caloric intake of that product has dissolved as well. Food scientists call these "vanishing caloric density" products. And, sadly, they do still contribute to your caloric intake for the day—despite your brain being tricked into thinking otherwise.

Even admist findings like these, Moss is not explicitly anti-corporation. "I tend not to see the processed food industry as an 'evil empire' that sets out to make us intentionally obese or otherwise ill," Moss tells The Atlantic. "They can rightfully say that no single one of their products is responsible for the obesity [problem]—not even soda, not even potato chips." The problem, however, is that these companies are simply doing what companies are developed to do—turn a profit. Moss' intent with his book Salt Sugar Fat, his investigative reporting for The New York Times, and his eye-opening talks, is to educate the consumer on the foods they are eating. He provides an objective—and often startling—narrative about the food industry, explaining that knowledge is an empowering part of making healthier choices about the food that we eat every day.
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