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What's the Deal with Our Unhealthy Food Fascination?


Last year, Twitter started a tradition of publishing a "Year in Review," a look at the hottest tweets, topics, retweets, and stories of the year, including a category on food.

And of the top seven "hot food topics" this year, none were healthy. In the number one spot was McDonald's McLobster, a menu item not currently available nationwide. The second: fried Kool-Aid, enough said. Coming in third: Starbuck's Trenta, the chain's new mega-sized 31-ounce option. The fourth and fifth spots both belong to beer (Devassa and Guinness); at number six, three simple letters: BBQ; and rounding out the bunch: good old mac and cheese
So why is it that unhealthy food gets so much buzz? Why aren't the hot topics things like exotic fruits, ancient grains and ethnic spices? Here's my take on why we're so taken with unhealthy fare:

It represents reckless abandon
In my private practice work, some of my clients are able to make the connection that the draw toward super unhealthy foods is really about the desire to throw caution to the wind and feel completely carefree. Most of us deal with so much responsibility in our day-to-day lives, including circumstances we can't change. It's human nature to look for an outlet, and let's face it, fantasizing about (or actually eating) decadent foods has become a prime way to escape reality.

It's part of pop culture
Every era has its trends in fashion, music, and food. If you're not old enough to remember Crystal Pepsi (a.k.a clear Pepsi), check out this commercial on YouTube and the Saturday Night Live parody. Keeping up with what's new is amusing, and as much as I cringe at things like fried Kool-Aid, it's fun to be "in the know."

It makes us feel good by comparison
Finding out that a drink size is larger in volume than the capacity of an adult's bladder can make you think, "I am not the worst eater in the world." Unfortunately, the more egregious the trend, the healthier you may feel, even if you're not! On that note, here's a link to one more of my favorite skits that pokes fun at our over the top tendencies: SNL's Taco Town.

What do you think? Why are we so interested in what's unhealthy? Please share your thoughts or tweet them to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine!


Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.



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