Dealing with the Glut of Fast-Food Ads on TV

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Lately, I've had a hankering for a Pizza Hut pizza. Nothing too surprising about that. But my hankering is for “a Pizza Hut any-size pizza for $10” pizza.
I've also been yearning to unlock the box and dive into a Taco Bell $5 “Big Box Remixed” meal deal  and maybe a couple of those adorable little BK burger minis at Burger King.
Mmmm... or maybe I want a Subway $5 foot-long sandwich... or, perhaps a Dunkin' Donuts frozen hot chocolate or a caramel and mocha iced coffee.
Sorry for my meanderings, but I tend to watch a bit of TV when I am not tied to my computer. And, if you recognized all those fast food menu items that I just mentioned, odds are, you too share a bit of your time with the telly.
Ads featuring the fast food items I mentioned have been running on the hour – if not more frequently. But maybe it's because I am a hopeless channel changer who happens to catch them on multiple stations back to back.
Or maybe not.
I surfed the Web for a bit and found these eye-opening and waist-widening stats; it's Chapter 9 of a government report titled “Food Advertising in the United States” by Anthony E. Gallo.
The meat of the chapter notes: Food manufacturers spent $7 billion in advertising in 1997 – and television was the favorite medium with over 75% of that $7 billion spent on TV ads. To add sauce to injury: fast-food restaurants allocated over 95% of their budgets to television ads!
There's a term I learned a long time ago that really fits here. The term is “ad nauseum” which is  defined as “to a disgusting or ridiculous degree; to the point of nausea.” And surer than spit that's what this glut of fast food TV commercials has become.
Let's call it ad nausea... because I get sick to my stomach thinking about all that yummy-looking food that's calling out to me like the sirens did to the ancient mariners. Should I give in to their savory song my healthy eating will find itself on the rocks – and my resolve could end up broken beyond repair.
OK, so maybe that's a tad too dramatic. But why can't I enjoy a baseball game or a silly sitcom without being tempted to hop in my car and speed to the nearest fast food joint for a burger, fried chicken, sub or pizza?
So, what's so bad about watching one fast food ad after another?
A Nov. 8, 2010 TIME magazine feature noted, “Constant exposure to fast-food marketing helps normalize the kind of eating behavior associated with such restaurants. It makes outsized portions look normal and encourages snacking.”
Another stomach-turning stat that I found online: Kids in America are watching more than five fast food commercials per hour – and more than 70% of those ads feature fast food or sugary treats.
Is it any wonder childhood obesity rates are rising? Heck, is it any wonder why my weight stays on the high end of the scale?
So the question begs: What can we do about this glut of fast food commercials? Well, since we live in a nation that honors free speech, not much. So if we can't shut 'em up why don't we shut 'em off?
That works for me... sometimes. Since I am a notorious channel changer as soon as an ad pops up I am off to the next show or sporting event. It may not be the best way to fight back, but it does let me avoid the close-ups of  the fast food that's been doctored to make it look irresistible. Did you ever buy a fast food meal that looks as good as the ones you see on the TV ads? Me neither.
Here's another idea. You've probably heard of “drinking games” which usually involve gulping a shot of booze every time a certain phrase is uttered on a movie or TV show.
Let's create a “shrinking game” and every time a fast food commercial appears we'll drop to the floor for push-ups or sit-ups! Or we can keep a few dumbbells – or a treadmill – near the TV and exercise with them during the commercial breaks.
It's a thought. Too bad it's not as tempting as actually making a run for the border and having it my way at a fast food joint.
What is your best advice for avoiding fast-food ads?

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Now that I am working on loosing weight, all the food commercials on TV really irritate me. During the day I clean house when commercials come on. There is always something that needs to be done. At night, I read books from the library during all commercials.Now my place is clean and I'm zipping through about 20 books a month! Report
Let's create a “shrinking game” and every time a fast food commercial appears we'll drop to the floor for push-ups or sit-ups! Or we can keep a few dumbbells – or a treadmill – near the TV and exercise with them during the commercial breaks." THIS HAS GOT TO BE ONE OF THE BEST IDEAS EVER!
What I was going to suggest is really the same thing a lot of people do. Record the shows you want to watch if possible and fast forward thru these commercials. Now if they come up with "smellovision", I don't know what we'll do!!! Report
TiVo!!! I don't know how I lived without it...I LOVE TiVo! I have been working on training my kids (4 teenagers) to use it to Pause at the commercials, then fast-forward through the commercials after a few minutes. I also quiz my kids when we are watching non-TiVo'd shows during commercials, asking them what the advertiser is actually saying, trying to sell, or what is the gimmick. I'm trying to teach the kids that ads aren't all that they are cracked up to be! Report
With the exception of a few golf games or football games, I haven't watched much TV over the last 3 or 4 years. My husband however watches a cable channel that has his favorite shows. As far as I have seen, there aren't too many fast-food ads on there.

And it so true that the food never looks as good when you get it as it does on TV LOL. Report
The only time I actually watch TV is while I am in the gym on the treadmill/elliptical. For a long time now I find that I do not have time and patience to sit down and watch TV. If I am not doing something active I would rather read a book, do chores or sleep. So, junk food commercials are not much of an issue for me. When I did watch TV, the best antidote for fast-food commercials was... the Food Network. Seeing chefs prepare fast, appetizing meals made me want to get out my own pots and pans instead of running over to the nearest Golden Arches. I do like the "Shrinking Game" though, thank you for that suggestion! Report
I had my first junk food over the weekend since starting my healthy way of eating 3 months ago. I first felt guilty but realized that it was ok. I went cold turkey for 3 months and had a little junk. I didn't gain weight over it, although I did feel like crap from the sugar lol. But I'm back to eating healthy and life goes on. I guess its ok to cheat once in awhile. Check out my weight loss success so far on my blog Report
I usually don't eat fast foods..ok maybe pizza a couple of times a year. But I like the thought of the shrinking game...pushups, jumping rope or jumping jacks. I may give that a try. Thanks for the idea. Report
Hey, I saw that another Steelersgirl commented on this blog :)

I, too, use the DVR to cut out commercials. I LOVE to use my DVR for this not only because the commercials trigger my cravings for unhealthy food, but because I'm generally an impatient person. :) Report
You're so right about fast food ads. We now tape every programme with adverts, and watch later fast forwarding them through the ads...much easier on the cravings! Report
I agree with killing the TV. I don't miss it at all, however, I do record a few shows that we watch when we feel like dedicating the time. Then we fast forward through commercials. So we miss all of the junk and have about 15 min or less of a show. Sad really, but nice too. I also don't crave fast food any longer, but we do go some Saturdays to lunch at a fast food joint. It's very disappointing eating out nearly anywhere these days. Report
My advice? Kill your television.
Ours is rarely on, and once you "make the break", you'll be surprised how little you miss it. Report
Having a DVR has totally solved this issure for me, the only time I see a commercial is during sports.
I am so impressed and jealous of all the people that have successfully gotten rid of their televisions....maybe one day I'll be that productive. Report
I just make sure that I've eaten SOMETHING before I leave the house to run errands. I also take a water bottle with me. Then I'm not hungry! Report
I'm dealing with this right now. I have to not watch commercial TV around dinner time when they air these back to back. I mostly watch streaming Netflix, PBS and some DVDs. But lately I've been on the computer reading at SP :) Report
This is so very true! Constant exposure de-sensitizes you to the dangers of over-consumption of foods that are not nutritionally sound. Report
DVR your shows and fgast forward thru the commercials. And, like you mentioned, tell yourself that the foods NEVER look or taste as good as the TV ads. Report
Best advice? Get rid of your TV! I never see any ads, because I don't watch TV.

(Although the shrinking game with pushups sounds like a good start for those who aren't ready to chuck the screen.) Report
I record what I want to watch and fast forward through the ads Report
stay away from commercial television, that should solve the problem. Report
Become a vegetarian! That elminates at least 50% of the advertised food. Report
Oh and how about the Arby's commercial that says, "It's Good Mood Food"
We are supposed to eat their food so we can be in a good mood,
C'mon, we can't be that stupid or gullible! Loved the blog! Report
I don't watch TV live--if I didn't set the DVR, I don't watch it. This way I can fast forward through all the ads. Report
I've been doing the "shrinking game" for years. When commercials come on, I do an aerobic routine I devised from a collection of DVDs. Since I'm focusing on my routine and not the commercials, their attraction is minimal. The other thing I do is go to the kitchen and get a glass of water. Finally, if a product does catch my attention, I go on the seller's website and check the nutrition facts. That usually convinces me that it won't be entering MY body. Report

Invest in a DVR and Netflix and never watch another commercial again...

I am tempted... but not by the TV ads :-) Report
I love the idea of the "shrinking game"!!!! What a great idea!! It's one small way to "stick it to the advertising man" every time one of those commercials comes on.

It's so ridiculous to think about how often everyday we are bombarded by food ads, from TV to billboards on the highway, to junk mail in our mailboxes. Enough!! Just leave me alone so I can eat my veggies and fruits in peace!! :) Report
There is an incredibly simple solution to the mind pollution of television: turn it off. Back in 1995, I eliminated television from my living room and life, and have never missed the invasion of my mind. Get out and live a life: spend time with your children, spouse, friends; do some things for others; start and develop a thriving business; read the scriptures and the classics - something to improve the mind the Lord gave you, or go back to school. In addition to eliminating the negative influences brought by poorly policed media and advertisers, you will save LOTS of time. And, I noticed, sleep better without the mind and noise pollution! Report
"So the question begs:" No! Please! "Begging the question" is a logical fallacy. It does NOT mean "raising the question". I see this phrase misused so often these days, and I cringe each time. The question does not beg. The question is raised. Report
Just turn off the TV! Report
I have been disgusted by the amount of food commercials for over a year! Every other commercial is food. No wonder over half of Americans are obese! I have a DVR, so I usually fast forward commericals or I do chores during commerical breaks. As for exercising self-control as commented by some others, why doesn't the food industry take some responsibility for serving such unhealthy foods? I don't even understand why restaurants are allowed to sell people a meal that satisfies there entire day's worth of calories, fat, and cholesterol?! Report
When I see a fast food commercial, I think, "What disgusting food! I will never eat that again! I wouldn't eat that if you put a gun to my head! That food is killing people!! Yuck! How disgusting!" This helps. Report
Quit watching any TV two years ago in June when it changed over. Haven't missed it at all. Now we have NetFlix so we watch what we want when we want. I get news off the internet when I want it. I was getting lots of videos from the library as I love David Suchet as "Poirot" in the Agatha Christie series. Report
I mute the TV or change the channel sometimes when those type of commercials come on. Report
I too use a DVR and watch programs after they air to avoid the commercials. The food is tempting, but so is everything else (clothes, cars, even pet supplies...LOL). It not only helps my waistline, but my wallet as well. Report
I can't deal with commercials during a show anyway so I tape my shows and fast forward through all commercials -- that's what works for me :) Report
If you don't watch TV then it isn't an issue. Turned off the TV over a year ago and do not miss it. Report
I am super-encouraged by the number of people who have commented that they've just given up TV altogether. I did 30 years ago and raised my kids without it and have never, ever regretted that decision. When I do see TV at a friend's house, the food ads seem over-the-top tempting. Report
These commercials have always annoyed and at the same time tempted me. I like the idea of the dumbells during commercials. Maybe I will paint the the McDonalds or Domino's Pizza icons on them to remind me of why I need to use them!! Report
Luckily, I don't watch much TV. Unluckily, I'm a trained cook/baker and avid foodie, and as such, I read a lot of food magazines, books, and blogs--eye candy all day long. In a way, worse, but in a way, better. Report
I also am tired of all of the fast food commercials. So, we do "commercial cleaning." It is amazing how much you can get done during a 1hr show. What is that, like 20 minutes of commercials? Report
I usually get up and walk during a commercial or do a mini chore. I have PLENTY of those! Since I have joined the 10,000 steps group I am always looking for chances to get in extra steps! Report
I usually get up and walk during a commercial or do a mini chore. I have PLENTY of those! Since I have joined the 10,000 steps group I am always looking for chances to get in extra steps! Report
I watch TV programs online. there are no ads and I am woefully out of date about the "Best " commercials around. With all the options available, PVRs, TIVO and the like, why would anyone sit through commercials? Report
we disconnected our directv and have no antenna. problem solved Report
don't watch TV. So easy. Report
I love your shrinking game too!.. But I have to agree with most of the commentors, just lose that tv!!! Report
I watch PBS ! Of course, PBS only becomes a problem when I start watching the cooking shows. LOL !!!

In general, the food ads don't bother me too much. Here's what I've learned over the years, the food in the commercial always looks better than in real life. When I've decided to try certain products, they've rarely lived up to the promises the commercials made. Fast food looks great on TV, but less so in real life.
We don't have TV anymore so don't see the commercials. But if you do watch TV, you could mute it during commercials or do something else when commercials are on. And just because you see something yummy on the TV doesn't mean you have to go right out and buy it ;) Report
I like the shrinking game idea too. Or you could make it a drinking game and drink water every time an ad comes on. Giving up t..v. is a great idea. I haven't done that yet.
If people are bothered by too many fast-food commercials, then they're probably watching too much TV. Just sayin' ... Report