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Go Big or Go Home

March 22nd, 2011 by Jessika

(Photo by wonggawei via Flickr)

Adam Richman loves a good challenge. He travels the United States looking for ones he can sink his teeth into. But he isn’t searching for feats of strength to tackle or moral obstacles to climb. Adam wants to defeat America’s most outrageous food.

In the Travel Channel show Man v. Food, Adam attempts to conquer some of the country’s biggest culinary challenges. Whether it’s a gargantuan hamburger or a mountain of milkshakes, no menu item is too great for Adam.

While Adam is by no means skinny, he certainly doesn’t come across as someone who could down a week’s worth of calories in one sitting. But he does, beating the vast majority of delicacies that come across his path.

The first time I watched Man v. Food, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the television. It was hypnotic. I wanted to know if Adam would win. I wanted to know if gobbling down insane amounts of hamburger patties, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese would be worth it for him.

Now in its second season, Man v. Food puts America’s love for indulgent, fatty food on display. Viewers can watch a man stuff himself to the brink of sickness and then watch him do it again.

American food portions have grown to unhealthy sizes. One meal in many U.S. restaurants could easily serve two people with food leftover.

During spring break, I shoveled way too much decadent food into my mouth one day. (Come on. How could I not eat that entire quiche Lorraine, the bowl of chestnut soup, bread, John Dory and two-thirds of a profiterole? The occasion demanded it. I was in Paris after all and it was my birthday.) Boy did I pay for it, though.

I love food. But the American attitude toward serving size has stilted my view. If I go into a restaurant and my plate of food is smaller than my husband’s, I feel gypped. Why isn’t mine that big? Okay. The chances of me eating all of that food are pretty slim. Still, I should get as much as him.

While traveling abroad last week, I couldn’t help but notice the portions in general were a lot smaller than what I was used to. What do you mean my croque monsieur and tartine don’t come with fries? How could just this sandwich or this piece of bread with salmon on it satiate my hunger? Much to my surprise, it did.

Adam and his show Man v. Food perpetuate the American obsession with big portions. This obsession has done far more harm than good. The U.S. has one of the highest rates of obesity in the developed world. And while big portions aren’t the only reason for the obesity epidemic, they certainly play a large part.

Man v. Food reveals another more sinister characteristic of America’s attitude toward food. Food is no longer something merely needed for survival. It has become something to conquer. Instead of eating just enough to satisfy hunger, a person eats until he or she is so full that stretchy pants are necessary. This can’t be healthy. But trying to change this view of food is next to impossible because it has become ingrained in so many American psyches.

Until Americans get rid of supersizing and high-calorie restaurant plates, eating big will continue to be all too common. And shows like Man v. Food will continue to appeal to a public that can’t get enough.




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