Study: Food Choice Always an Illusion, Except When it's Not


A recent study by Cornell University researcher David Levitsky claims that modern man's ability to choose to regulate our food intake is a myth*. "Food choice is an illusion," writes Levitsky, a nutrition science professor.

[Levitsky and a graduate student] found that a complex combination of factors influenced our food choices, including portion size, variety of foods offered, fat content of the diet, the number of people eating, location, and exposure to food advertisting…

In combination these factors are so powerful that, unless we are restrained by surgery of structured eating plans, or by a dedication to prevent future weight gain (restrained eating), we become vulnerable to all stimuli presented, mostly by commercial interests who have learned to effectively use these techniques to encourage us to eat a little more," they wrote.

"If we add our personal responsibility to resist food cuse to the collective responsibility of government to control the many food signals in our environment… we may amass the power, and the will, to curb the epidemic of obesity."

I'm willing to buy the conclusions the researchers reach in the first paragraph above. It's almost tautology to claim that what we eat is influenced by the food choices available around us, our environment, etc.

But how Levitsky et al. go from arguing lots of factors influence what we eat to the passive voice of food victimization–unless we are restrained rather than unless I restrain myself–and government control is a mystery. Especially when concepts like restrained choice and dedication are so rooted in… choice.

Note: I attempted to read but have not read the study, so maybe the research is clearer than the linked story implies. (The linked site, in addition to providing a dead link to the Levitsky study, also boasts a super-annoying widget that makes text on the page immune from simple copy-and-paste–which forced me to type out the damn text above, which makes me cranky as all get out.)

*Added "is a myth" after realizing belatedly that I'd forgotten to do so in the first place.

Baylen Linnekin is the director of Keep Food Legal, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and increasing "culinary freedom," the right of all Americans to grow, sell, prepare and eat foods of their own choosing. To join or learn more about the group's activities, go hereTo follow Keep Food Legal on Twitter, go here; to follow Linnekin, go here.