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by Dale Connelly, 2/4/00

DC: This is DCR, news meant for amusement. There's a new report about Americans and their free time that was published this week in Recline, the journal of Leisure Science, and it reveals some startling information about our eating habits. It turns out that we are spending less time eating than we did over 30 years ago. Less time, and yet, obesity is up. How is this possible? Joining me in the studio is one of the authors of the report, a Professor of Idleness Studies at Pandering College, Dr. Helen Taffy. Thanks for coming in.

Taffy: Not a problem.

DC: (amused) You weren't doing anything anyway, right? In the Idleness Studies Department? Ha!


Sorry, you probably get a lot of that, don't you.

Taffy: (stifles laugh) Yeah, and for all the hundreds and hundreds of times I've heard that line or something like it ... it still makes me smile. It's a funny, funny field, leisure studies.

DC: Which is odd when you think about it, because people do take their leisure time VERY seriously. We used to say "the business of America is business, but increasingly, the business of America is leisure," isn't it!

Taffy: It is, and we in the field are busier than ever. Do you mind if I have a quick bite while we talk? I've been running from interview to interview today.

DC: Fine. Go right ahead.

(sfx: pop can open, sandwich unwrap)

The statistic that really floored me was that ... between 1965 and 1995, the time men spent eating dropped about three hours a week, from 10.6 to 7.5.

Taffy: (full mouth) Uh huh.

DC: And for women the time spent eating decreased from 8.7 to 7.2 hours a week. That's incredible.

Taffy: (still chewing) Yup.

DC: So women and men are spending about the same amount of time eating now ... but I don't know WHAT was going on back in 1965 with that almost two hour difference.

Taffy: (lip smacking) Beats me.

DC: Maybe that's the famous old 2 hour business lunch.

Taffy: (more chewing) Could be.

DC: And yet obesity is going up! Less time eating ... more obesity.

(sfx: rustle of chip bag)

Taffy: Want some chips? They're ripples.

DC: No thanks. There's a contradiction there ... a mystery that begs for attention, don't you think?

Taffy: (chewing) It's probably related to the kinds of foods we eat.
Higher fat. More calories.

DC: But is food so much more fattening today that we can gain weight with so much less time spent eating? That doesn't seem fair, somehow.

Taffy: Especially if you're the one gaining the weight. Ha!

DC: Ha! Right. It IS a funny field, isn't it.

Taffy: (more chewing) That's why I went into Leisure Studies.

DC: So what is really at the heart of this? What's pushing that figure downwards?

Taffy: Gravity!

(both laugh)

Dragging it down, I should say!

DC: No, seriously, what's behind this?

Taffy: Behind it? I don't know, but whatever it is ... it's GROWING!

(both laugh)

Get it? Behind. Growing.

DC: Seriously now, Dr. Taffy. The major culprit is ...?

Taffy: (eating) Fast food.

DC: That's it? Isn't there more to it than that?

Taffy: (mouth full) Nope.

DC: But wasn't fast food supposed to cut down on the preparation time rather than the time spent actually eating?

Taffy: (crunching) Uh huh.

DC: You can have a fast food meal and still sit and make more of an occasion out of it, but I wonder if people haven't de-valued food so much that they just slam it in and go and don't even pay attention to what it is and almost forget it as soon as they've swallowed.

Taffy: (full mouth) Mphghgh.

DC: And doesn't that have an effect?

Taffy: (sipping pop) Dunno. Maybe. Could be. Want some fries?

DC: Didn't you just have potato chips?

Taffy: (defensive) So?

DC: You're not even remembering what you eat! You're probably putting in twice the calories because the food is tasteless and meaningless to you.
You're really busy with something else at the time and ... you eat and you don't even know you've eaten!

Taffy: I may not know I've eaten ... but everyone else knows! Ha!

(both laugh)

DC: But seriously ... is it possible that the time spent eating is lower because people don't even recognize when they're eating anymore?

Taffy: (full mouth) You mean like a constant feeding?

DC: A constant feeding, yes.

Taffy: (chewing) It's an interesting theory. Maybe we can get a grant to study it. Some private source.

DC: There are a couple of buffet chains in town that are doing quite well.
Maybe you could approach them.

Taffy: Belly up to the bar!
(more laughing)
(full mouth) Perfect.

DC: Dr. Helen Taffy is director of the Department of Idleness Studies at Pandering College.

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