Many argue that it okay to cave-in to such cravings every once in a while. In fact, some even suggest that an extreme break from one’s normal diet is desirable as doing so:
- Keeps your body guessing, which boosts metabolism
- Makes you less likely to cheat uncontrollably, if you have a preapproved indulgence
- Helps you maintain a healthy attitude toward food
So, maybe a special splurge is alright, but does that mean that every binge is benign? Or, is there such a thing as an unacceptable indulgence? Of course, given the focus of this blog, the ultimate question here is whether marketers have any responsibility for encouraging such overindulgence.
This question reminds me of an article I read recently that recognized the “9 Unhealthiest Restaurant Dishes in America.” A few of the “winners” were:
- Sonic’s Pineapple Upside Down Master Blast: 2,200 calories; 61 grams of saturated fat; 29 teaspoons of added sugar
- The Cheesecake Factory’s Louisiana Chicken Pasta with New Orleans Sauce: 2,370 calories; 80 grams of saturated fat; 2,730 milligrams of sodium
- Dickey’s Barbecue Pit’s 3 Meat Plate with two sides: 2,500 calories
According to WedMD a moderately active male, age 19-30, should consume 2,600 to 2,800 calories per day, while a similar female should eat 2,000 to 2,200. So, ladies, that Sonic Master Blast is all of your food for the day, and men, Dickey’s Barbecue Plate is pretty much yours. Meanwhile, to lose one pound of weight a person needs to burn 3,500 more calories than she consumes, e.g., 500 calories per day over a week.
But, if people want to make one of the aforementioned foods a special indulgence, isn’t that their prerogative? Ultimately it is their choice, but a case can be made that some splurges are just too much. A comparison to other consumption might help illustrate. For instance, a person may rationalize spending $112 on a very special pair of sneakers. However, what if the price of the shoes were 100 times that, i.e., $11,200? If you’re thinking that’s impossible, checkout Air Jordan 11 (Blackout).
Most of us don’t have bank accounts big enough to consider such an extreme expenditure, but if we did, the sneakers still would take a significant toll on us financially. Perhaps even more importantly, such extravagance likely enacts a psychological cost, as such lavish possessions assume at least some control of our lives.
The same type of inordinate influence might apply when the overindulgence is food. When a single snack represents all or most of one’s daily calorie intake, that splurge has grabbed a place of influence it doesn’t deserve, which may set us up for related physical and psychological failures. For example, “That Master Blast tasted good, but what nutritional value was there, and how am I going to compensate in the rest of my food consumption for the extra 2,200 calories?”
So, what’s my advice for food marketers? Don’t do it. Just because people will eat over-the-top indulgences, doesn’t mean you have to make and/or sell them. Show restraint, even if your customers are lacking their own. True, there’s money to be made marketing all types of extravagances, but many are sold at the expense of societal values such as moderation, stewardship, and self-control. For these reasons, encouraging such extreme excess represents “Single-Minded Marketing.”