Would you like fries with that? Just say ‘No’ to upselling

Wednesday, September 20, 2017. Author Dr. Haran Sivapalan

supersized food

“Would you like to go large for an extra 50 cents?”
“Whipped cream and sugar with your coffee, sir?”
“Would you like fries with that?”

You’ve probably heard these types of phrases before. You’ve just ordered your regular morning coffee when immediately the barista offers you an accompanying pastry. There’s a term for this practice of persuading a customer to buy something extra – it’s called “upselling.” Now, a joint report by the Royal Society of Public Health and Slimming World [1] suggests, somewhat unsurprisingly, that ‘upselling’ could be to blame for the UK’s obesity crisis.

Upselling affects most of us. According to the report, 78% of us experience upselling at least once a week. Restaurants, fast-food joints, supermarkets and coffee shops seem to be the biggest offenders. Of course, all those extra sides, portions and toppings also contain extra calories. And it all adds up. Succumbing to each instance of upselling can, over time, cause us to amass a large calorie surplus. This, in turn, leads to fat deposition and weight gain.

But just how much weight gain can it cause? Over a year, the average person will chow down an additional 17,000 calories as a result of upselling. That’s an extra 5 lbs (2.27kg) of body weight every year you’ll have to lug around. The figures are worse for younger people (aged 18 - 24 years old), who are more vulnerable to marketing ploys from the food and drink industry. Young people could potentially consume a gargantuan 39,000 extra calories over the year: equivalent to 11 lbs (4.99kg) of body weight. With figures like those (in both senses of the word), it’s little wonder the current obesity epidemic shows no sign of slowing [2].

So what can be done about this disturbing trend? The problem is that upselling is big business. Food and drinks retailers will always be trying to maximise sales and, by extension, profit. But, even as a customer, it’s often better value for money to buy that bigger portion or get that ‘discounted’ extra side. Arguably, parting with only 17% more cash for 55% more calories is financially a good deal. What makes rational economic sense, however, doesn’t always make the best sense for your body.

Luckily, FitnessGenes can help you resist the urge to say ‘yes’ to that extra packet of crisps or upgrade in portion size. Here are some helpful tips:

Know your genetic make-up: in particular your FTO genotype. Numerous research studies show that a variant (the A allele) of the FTO ‘obesity’ gene increases your risk of putting on weight [3]. People who carry one or two copies of the A allele typically feel hungrier and are less likely to feel full after a meal. They’re also more likely to eat higher-calorie foods – including the high-fat, high-sugar, high salt offerings from upsellers. By analyzing your DNA, FitnessGenes can determine your FTO genotype (as well as your genotype for several other diet and fitness related genes) and give you an appropriately tailored diet and workout plan. This will help you to stave off cravings and maintain a healthy weight.

Eat intelligently: knowing when and what to eat to promote feelings of fullness (satiety) will help you refrain from those extra snacks. Increasing the amount of protein in your diet is one means of feeling fuller for longer. Spreading out your daily caloric intake across more meals is also a useful strategy for some people. Of course, the most effective nutritional advice is personalized to your unique genetic makeup and your particular lifestyle – FitnessGenes can help you here.

Cook at home. It’s easier to say ‘no’ to extra portions at a cafe or restaurant if you’re not there in the first place! Cooking meals at home gives you control over the nutritional value of your meals. It’ll probably taste better and save you cash too! If you’re feeling short of inspiration, check out some of our delicious, nutritious and easy recipes.


[1] Royal Society of Public Health and Slimming World. Size matters – the impact of upselling on weight gain. 2017. Available from: https://www.rsph.org.uk/our-work/policy/obesity.html

[2] OECD. Obesity Update. 2017. Available from: http://www.oecd.org/health/obesity-update.htm

[3] Fawcett KA, Barroso I. The genetics of obesity: FTO leads the way. Trends in Genetics. 2010 Jun 30;26(6):266-74.

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