Discussion Guide
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Weigh In: Your Comments

We have found that our movie on Las Vegas buffets is a great tool for stimulating discussion on American consumption behavior and its consequences. Below are some questions to help guide discussion.

  • While watching the film, did you feel grossed out? Hungry? Both?
  • Have you ever been to a buffet? What was your experience like?

  • Has watching this film changed your ideas about buffets? If so, how?
  • What does this film tell us about the appetites and fantasies of American culture?
  • At some Japanese buffets, people can eat as much as they want but are required to pay for what they don’t eat. How do you think Americans would experience this rule?
  • What do buffets share in common with other activities that Las Vegas has become famous for, like gambling and sex? How are they different?
  • What do buffets share in common with other consumer environments where we shop and entertain ourselves?
  • Do buffets encourage people to express behaviors that are normally taboo, or is what we see at the buffet simply an intensified verison of everyday life?
  • What cultural values does the buffet express?
  • People say buffets allows them freedom of “choice.” In what ways do buffets enable freedom of choice, and in what ways do they constrain freedom of choice?
  • Is overeating at the buffet a problem of self control, or a problem of food industry design?
  • If you could design a buffet, how would you do it differently, and why?
  • The chef in the movie says that women steal more than men at buffets. Why do you think that is? What other gender differences have you noticed at buffets?
  • Although eating disorders are typically associated with women, the buffet movie reveals more about the extreme eating behaviors of men. Men and boys in the film talk about eating as a “contest” or a “competition” to demonstrate their strength. Should we regard this "competitive eating" as a kind of male eating disorder?
  • At the end of the film, a young man headed for Afghanistan tells us: “this is what we fight for.” Do you think the gluttony of the buffet is akin to other male public performances of strength, for instance military strength?
  • What does this film illuminate about social problems related to “extreme appetites” – like compulsive eating, smoking, or other addictions?
  • Is the buffet behavior we see in this film a uniquely American phenomenon?
  • One of the buffet patrons tells us that the buffet demonstrates the “sad truth of human desire” by leaving us “full, but not satisfied.” Do you think it is possible for the buffet to satisfy our desire? Why or why not?
  • Economists might regard buffets as a rational choice for those who wish to maximize nutritional value with their limited finances. Does this account for the appeal of buffets?
  • A woman in the film says this about food: “If they had it in a pill, we wouldn’t take it.” What do you think she means by this?
  • Casinos award free buffets if a person gambles long enough. How do you think the possibility for free food might affect the gambling habits of local gamblers?
  • Do you think the pig farm and its recycling operation is an endorsement or a remedy for buffet waste?
  • Although we typically think of “production” and “consumption” separately, sometimes consumption itself has a productive force. What gets produced at the buffet?



The following is a list of websites and readings with information about consumption, obesity, and environmental sustainability, and how you can help make a difference in these areas.

We have selected these resources for people to further educate themselves about the issues raised in our film. We do not endorse every statement made in these resources. We hope readers will obtain more information and reach their own conclusions.

The Food Industry

For info about McDonald’s: www.mcspotlight.org and www.mcdonalds.com

For info about Burger King: www.mcspotlight.org/beyond/companies/bking.html and www.burgerking.com

For an audio interview with Eric Schlosser and an article about his best selling book Fast Food Nation, a scathing indictment of the fast food industry: http://www.nytimes.com/books/01/01/21/specials/schlosser.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. By Eric Schlosser. Houghton Mifflin, 2001

Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health . By Marion Nestle. University of California Press, 2002.

This Steer’s Life. By Michael Pollan. In New York Times Magazine, March 31, Section 6, 2001.

Is the Food Industry the Problem or the Solution? By Dale Buss. New York Times, Sec 3, Pg 5, Aug 29, 2004.

House moves to ban lawsuits blaming obesity crisis on the fast food industry. By

Jesse J. Holland. Associated Press, March 10, 2004.


American Diabetes Association: www.diabetes.com

Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine: www.pcrm.org

Fat Land , How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World . By G. Critser. Houghton-Mifflin, 2003.

Data on Deaths From Obesity Is Inflated, U.S. Agency Says. By Gina Kolata. New York Times, Pg A16, November 24, 2004.

Environmental Influences on Eating and Physical Activity. By French, S.A., M. Story, and R.W. Jeffrey. Annual Review of Public Health , 22: 309-335, 2001.

Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999-2000. By Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Ogden CL, Johnson CL. JAMA. 2002; 288:1723-1727.

Youth Obesity

American Academy of Pediatrics, resources on child obesity: www.aap.org/obesity

Child Obesity Resources for Health Professionals, Educators and Families: www.childobesity.com

Rethinking School Lunch: www.healthyschoollunches.org

Tool kits on trends and policy solutions for adult and youth obesity : www.healthystates.csg.org/Public+Health+Issues/Obesity/Obesity+Resources.htm

Prevalence and trends in overweight among US children and adolescents, 1999-2000. By Ogden CL, Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Johnson CL. JAMA. 2002; 288:1728-1732.

Environment and Sustainability

Union of Concerned Scientists website provides information and suggestions for activism around issues of food and the environment.

The Green Plan for the Food Service Industry Web site includes: information and examples of waste reduction and recycling in the food industry.

The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences website with plans for industrial and institutional food waste composting.

EPA recommendations on strategies for waste reduction.

An EPA guide for feeding the hungry and reducing solid waste through food Recovery. www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/reduce/wastenot.htm

An article examing how food waste and hunger exist side by side in America.

To find produce from local farmers near you, and alternative sources to corporate-owned supermarkets: www.localharvest.org and www.sustainabletable.org

The Center for Food Safety works to protect human health and the environment by curbing the proliferation of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS engages in legal, scientific and grassroots initiatives to guide national and international policymaking on critical food safety issues: www.centerforfoodsafety.org

CropChoice is an alternative news and information source for American farmers and consumers about genetically modified crops, corporate agribusiness concentration, farm and trade policy, sustainable agriculture, wind farming and alternative energy, and rural economic and social issues: www.cropchoice.com

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving only consumers: www.ConsumerReports.org