[FOUNTAIN]The bigger burger and the ideal figure

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[FOUNTAIN]The bigger burger and the ideal figure

Anyone who saw “Super Size Me” probably remembers the damage that Morgan Spurlock, the film’s director, did to his body by eating nothing but hamburgers and other McDonald’s food three times a day for a month. This hilarious but scary documentary could have roused anti-hamburger sentiment among Americans, but the result was the opposite.
Fast-food companies recently adopted the “high-calorie menu” as a marketing strategy. In the past, they had offered low-calorie items, in response to criticism that their burgers were a major cause of obesity, but sales were slow.
Last year, the fast-food chain Hardee’s rolled out its Monster Thickburger, which has two one-third-pound (150-gram) slabs of beef, four strips of bacon and three slices of cheese. This “super-sized” burger has 1,420 calories, twice as many as McDonald’s Big Mac. It became a unexpected hit, and companies like Burger King and McDonald’s followed suit. Customers welcomed the idea, saying, “The bigger the burger, the better the taste.” Is “anti-dieting” now the fad, or have Americans just given up watching their weight?
There are two standards for ideal weight ― the medical one and the cultural one. Since the 20th century, the cultural ideal has been going down, as people accept slimness as beautiful. According to the sociologist Sharlene Hesse-Biber, the culturally ideal weight for American women has gradually decreased by 10 kilograms (22 pounds); men’s has fallen by only one kilogram. Obviously, women find their cultural ideal much harder to meet. Ms. Beiber says many women, bombarded by unrealistic standards, make themselves diet excessively. For some, she says, the drive for an ideal figure is almost like a religious passion.
It is interesting that obesity and anorexia, which are at opposite ends of the eating disorder spectrum, share the same roots. Both are diet disorders caused by the obsession to meet cultural standards. Can this be the reason for the popularity of the super-sized burger?
In Korea, many women suffer from obsessions with dieting. What is the ideal weight that could be embraced as a cultural standard without encouraging such behavior?

by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is the head of the family affairs team at the JoongAng Ilbo.

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