WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Today, the all-you-can-eat style of dining will fall under harsh scrutiny, and rightfully so. Many buffets are helping to contribute to the sharp rise in American obesity rates.
The obesity of Americans has reached epidemic proportions throughout the last decade. According to the Food Research and Action Center, 68.8 percent of American adults are considered overweight and 35.7 percent are considered obese.
While some have blamed the cheap costs and high caloric intake of fast food as a key problem of this epidemic, new insight points to all-you-can-eat buffets and geographic location as being key figures in the rise of American obesity.
One often overlooked correlation between the obesity, buffet and location connection, are the dining halls located at every college across the country. Dining halls are typically set up buffet style where students can choose from a wide range of food–from pizza and salad, to ice cream and pasta–and it is all paid for with the swipe of an ID card.
For a majority of college freshman, living on campus is their first time living away from home and away from their parents’ watchful eye. The amount of freedom that these 18 year-olds have may also lead to choices that their parents often disagree with, including over-drinking and over-eating. Thus, this helps create the dreaded “Freshman 15.”
“When kids are presented with an unlimited amount of food that they don’t have to pay for, then they are going to eat it,” said Katie Burke, a senior at Rutgers. “If you have a pizza in front of you, you’re going to eat it.”
Overeating at the dining halls may not only affect your waistline, but also your energy and overall well-being.
Outside of college campuses, buffet style dining is helping Americans all across the country squeeze into one pant size larger than they are used to. According to a recent study at Cornell University, the current obesity epidemic is linked to the presence of a large abundance of food bought at affordable prices. The average cost for a plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet is around $10-15 per person. Considering the amount of food one can get, it is actually more affordable than grocery shopping.
“With buffet style eating, you will naturally start to eat more food and less healthy food because it is all available to you for one price,” said Amanda Messenger, a senior at Monmouth University.
In Cornell’s study of buffet eating, it was noted that obese people were 41.7 percent more likely to sit facing the buffet while they ate, helping them crave more food. They also note that obese people were found to immediately grab food before scanning the rest of the buffet, opposed to the 71% of average sized people who scanned the entire buffet before grabbing any food.
It his highly unlikely that buffets will be going away anytime soon, but Collin Payne and Brian Wansink of Food Psychology at Cornell state there are ways to prevent overeating at buffets and dining halls. Some of these tips include surveying the entire bar before making any choices, sitting away from the buffet, using a smaller plate, chewing thoroughly, sitting at a booth opposed to a table and finally, not forcing yourself to finish your plate.
Further, just try not to be like your crazy Uncle Steve at Thanksgiving dinner, unbuttoning his pants and gorging on everything in sight. It will pay off for you in the long run.