Fat Salary, Fat Bellies?

Zafira Amani

2 min read

Nowadays, Indonesia, as the biggest growing consumer in the world, is bombarded with various food and beverage products from all over the world. These products also come with their magical viral marketing strategies, which appeal to Indonesian netizens. According to research in 2014 conducted by McKinsey, this results in a high consumption rate in this developing country. Sure, it might be good for economic development. But, how about the health and well-being of Indonesian consumers?

Research conducted by Asian Development Bank in 2016 stated that excessive weight and obesity have risen in Indonesia between 1993-2014. The rates of excessive weight and obesity are higher in higher-income families, but low-income families also have the probability of having the same problem. On the same timeline, massive urbanization also happened from the year 2000-2013. McKinsey also stated that this urbanized generation is very optimistic about their wealth (read: high-income) and is among the consuming class–the most highly consumptive customer group.

Does this high consumption have a connection with excessive weight? One can postulate, yes, it does. Based on research in 2021 that is articulate by Mathew, high consumption of food and beverage products, especially from Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies, which are high in starch and sugar, commonly equals more calorie intake for our bodies. An excessive amount of this kind of goods won’t do our bodies any good. But, why do these people keep devouring these kinds of drinks and foods?

There are explanations for this phenomenon. The first explanation is from Schwartz’s works in 2004, The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less, people with high incomes are given a vast field of choices because they have the buying power and exposure to information. This causes a paradox of choice, where people have too many choices and tend to have difficulty deciding what they should buy, resulting in increased anxiety and stress. Sometimes, to calm these emotions down, the choice goes to buying everything or not at all. When they buy everything, there are two possibilities that might happen; they eat them all or they become food waste, which is another problem I will be discussing in another article.

The second one can be explained by Gul’s & Pesendorfer’s paper in 2004, Self-Control and Theory of Comsumption, which stated this condition because of the lack of self-control. Even though high-income families usually pursue higher education and become financially literate, there is a gap between their knowledge and the application of financial self-control. Thus, causing unwise financial behavior, such as overspending on unhealthy snacks and desserts.

Third, is the awareness of gender equality (GE). This notion might be a bit controversial, as it varies on how each family views GE. Anderson’s journals in 1997, Gender, Status, and Domestic Violence: An Integration of Feminist and Family Violence Approaches, conclude that hard-line GE supporters want women to be equal to men in every aspect of life. This can impact how family eating habits are made. If both parents are working in the office, it commonly means that they have less time with their family. Thus, less time (or even no time) for prepping for food and everything in between cooking. Resulting in choosing foods that are ready-to-cook and instant, but have fewer calories. Worry not, as there are also other GE supporters who still respect traditional family structures, as it is part of a woman’s right to choose to be a homemaker and a man’s decision as a breadwinner.

Therefore, how should we, as customers, nourish our health and well-being? Let’s review the main explanations. There is the paradox of choice, self-control, and hard-line views of gender equality. To manage the paradox of choice and self-control, we can reduce our choices. How do we exactly do that? By reducing the exposure to information and putting some of our money into a budget. By doing that, we make our circle of choices smaller, resulting in fewer choices and preventing stress from the paradox of choice. For gender equality, it is okay to use that ideology at a normal level where a family decides their roles and still fulfills their economic, social, and nutritional responsibilities to their families.


Editor: Moch Aldy MA

Zafira Amani

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