High-fructose corn syrup. Cheaper and more intense than sugar, this additive has invaded the food supply and helped train our tastes to crave ever-sweeter rewards. It is partially responsible, some say, for the rapid rise of obesity in America.
Trans fats. These heartbreakingly bad-for-us fats can hide out in food without our knowing it because companies aren't required to list them on the label. That will change in 2006, but for now the trans fat tip-off is the term "partially hydrogenated oil" along with a high total-fat content.
Supersizing. You've heard it ad nauseam: Food has undergone some serious sprawl. "Larger portions encourage people to eat more whether they are hungry or full," says Marion Nestle, PhD, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University.
Stuffed foods and loaded treats. Fried Snickers bars. Cheese fries. Mozzarella-filled pizza crust. Peanut-butter-packed pretzels. Brownie hot fudge sundaes. More foods are combining a few of your favorite things to send what was already an indulgence into a whole new caloric stratosphere (740 calories for a Dairy Queen Brownie Earthquake!). A regular slice of a large thin-crust pie from Pizza Hut is 190 calories; the stuffed crust plain pizza is 360 calories and almost double the saturated fat.
Fatigue. When you don't get enough sleep, you're more likely to reach for something sweet to keep you going. You also have less energy to maintain your diet, not to mention exercise.
Ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy. The food industry, it's true, has cunningly teased our taste buds into a constant state of arousal. But we don't have to buy it: the marketing or the calories. We're smart consumers. We're strong. And we care about the national obesity problem. Why not bond together and take a stand? The last time Americans rallied around food was during World War II (a few of those ration books would come in handy now). If we refuse to eat what the industry dishes out, it'll eventually have to change the menu. So here's the challenge. Every day we each make one smart food choice: Maybe we buy regular pretzels versus the peanut-butter kind, and if the bakery item formerly known as a bagel has doubled in size, perhaps it's time to start eating half. Let's put our money where our mouths are and, bite by bite, win the war against weight.