Bigger Portions: Americans Want More out of Everything in Life
It’s no secret that food portions are bigger than ever.
In the 1990s, the standard 3-inch bagel was 140 calories, while a typical turkey sandwich on wheat was just 320 calories.
Fast forward to 2013, the standard 6-inch bagel is 350 calories, while a typical 10-inch sub sandwich is 820 calories.
Each of these foods represents a more than 100 percent increase in calories over a span of 20 years.
Food is not the only thing that’s gotten bigger; sodas and coffees have also increased in size, meaning they’ve increased in sugar, fat and calorie content as well. The result has been an influx in obesity rates as people continue to eat more and more. “Finish everything on your plate,” is an age-old command that persists still today.
Portions have increased largely because of restaurant wars. Each wants to be perceived as providing the best customer value, meaning plates are heaped with meat, gravy, mashed potatoes, and other side dishes. Don’t forget the free bread baskets that precede most meals, with refills at the ready if customers only ask.
Ask they do, because most Americans continue to eat even after their bellies are full. The food is available and/or in front of them, so they indulge. This is a sign that appetites have responded to bigger plates, which tells us restaurant owners knew what they were doing when they increased food portions. Perhaps they were answering the call of their own hunger.
Not only do people want more, but they expect it. This is evidenced by the number of “big” drinks and “extra large” side dishes ordered with meals. When their expectations aren’t met, people aren't shy about vocalizing their displeasure. After all, the biggest portion sizes available should be automatically presented.
The dogged pursuit for more isn’t just about food. People everywhere clamor for faster cars, larger homes and more decadent pieces of jewelry. They want better haircuts, newer clothes and ceaseless customer service. Thicker pizzas, shorter workouts and cheaper groceries are further desires, all of which stems from a hunger for more satisfaction out of life.
But satisfaction is rarely obtained from others, and that seems to be the place in which Americans still falter. They seek external stimuli rather than turning their attention inward, often with disastrous results. Consider the women who undergo plastic surgery to enhance their bust sizes or tighten their stomachs. Some of them emerge from surgery with new and life-threatening complications, while others are marred by unattractive scars.
Lust for satisfaction is a gateway to vulnerability. It opens people to a wealth of consequences that once yielded cannot be easily remedied. The bank robber who cannot deny his hunger for money gets sentenced to prison; the woman who longs for success at the casino gambles everything she has; the teenager who labors to fit in crashes his car after partying with friends. These stories sound cliché, but they also ring of truth because they really happen.
Emotional Vs. Physical Hunger
Increased portion sizes probably didn’t fuel the renewed search for ever-increasing contentment, because the response to bigger plates was immediately positive. But as people search for more, aren’t they missing out on what they already have? Perhaps the meaning of life is not to seek more of anything and everything, but to find happiness in things that are not material. This new way of thinking might just lead to satisfaction with life as well.