Obesity: An American Epidemic

In many ways, obesity is changing the way Americans live, eat, work, and even travel. This means that this condition is among the most challenging issues that impact every facet of Americans’ lives. Not only has obesity become the subject of heated debates within the society, but also the arguments regarding this issue seem to be circular. By definition, obesity, which is determined by an individual’s body mass index (BMS), is a medical condition that culminates from accumulation of excess body fats. A person is said to be obese when his or her BMI is 30 or greater (U.S Obesity Trends). The facts about this medical condition are shocking, if not appalling. According to Greenblatt (73), at least two out of three persons in America are overweight. This number has in fact tripled over the last twenty years. Not only is this condition expensive to manage, but also detrimental to the sufferer’s health. Greenblatt (75) argues that people spend a staggering $117 billion every year to manage this condition that causes over 300,000 deaths annually. That Americans are at the initial phase of a challenging issue is not an understatement because the core of the problem is yet to be understood. The fact remains that obesity is a global disaster that must be addressed. Nonetheless, this can only be achieved if the real causes of the condition have been clearly defined.

The blame game as to what causes this condition continues to shift between lack of physical activities and food companies on one side, and the eaters themselves on the other side. Whether obesity is caused by fats or carbohydrates is yet to be established. Nonetheless, the poor lifestyle of Americans, with emphasis on poor eating habits, is the main reason for the increasing obesity rates.

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In many ways, American’s lifestyle, combed by the food industry contributes to the poor eating habits. Many food manufacturing companies spend millions of dollars to portray an image of a perfect consumer through heavy advertisements. Due to their naivety, Americans flock food stores all over the country to buy and obtain as much pleasure from their money as possible. While the automobile industry encourages Americans to buy more and more cars, food companies on the other hand encourage naïve Americans to purchase their products. It goes without saying that this trend makes an average American to be docile and inactive because of the many hours spent in the offices and in cars. It is very surprising that they spend this hours doing nothing but consuming the advertised products. While the automobile and food processing firms are the gainers, an average American is the looser.

Although fast food companies are not to blame for this situation, it is obvious that they bear the heaviest brunt. In a typical day, an American is more likely to visit a fast food restaurant and grab a quick bite of a super-sized serving that is rich in fats. It is asserted that a company like the McDonald serves its clients with Coke and French fries. It has been established that such diets supplies the consumer’s body with over 1600 calories, or twice as much that an individual’s body requires in one sitting Greenblatt (82). Although many would argue that no one is forced to consume all this, the truth of the matter is that Americans have gotten used to the supersized portions as well as eating a similar amount of food in their homes to match the servings that they consume in fast food restaurants (Greenblatt 82). It is quite disturbing that fast food processors even solicit school going children to buy and consume their unhealthy products. As a result, the consumption of unhealthy foods has becomes a norm in the American society. Necessary steps should be taken to prevent this behavior from going on. For example, the government, through strict laws, should compel fast food companies to place warning signs on the packaging of fast food products. The signs should highlight the harm and effects of consuming such products to people’s health. 

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Lack of physical activities is another factor that needs to be highlighted. People can avoid this condition through regular exercises even if they overeat. It has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that regular exercise helps burn out excess calories. It is very unfortunate that America’s participation in various physical activities has experienced a significant downfall in the past few decades. Greenblatt (81) is of the opinion that foot and bicycle travel in America has dropped by 40 percent. Moreover, most American schools do not have physical education (PE) in their curriculums any more. This problem has been worsened by the fact that there are limited spaces on which people can walk or even talk in many American residential estates. This fact is lauded by Jim Rohrer, who writes “most people live in the suburbs where there is no place to walk and often no sidewalks” (81). As a result, many Americans have resorted to use other alternatives such as buses or personal cars to travel, rather than walking on foot. At the end of the day, they spend most of their time in front of their T.V sets watching their favorite programs, including advertisements that encourage them to continue with this dangerous lifestyle.

Indeed, advertising has played a huge role in the rise of obesity cases due to its propagation of unhealthy diets, which instill certain patterns of behaviors within the American populace. The sustenance of fast food companies is heavily inclined on the consumers of their products. Therefore, they are ready to spend more in luring more and more consumers in this band wagon. As Jim Rohrer put it, “let’s not kid ourselves; the restaurant industry wants us to eat like pigs” (81). The statistics below are a clear indicator of how bad the situation is. While the National Cancer Institute has a merger $2 million to run its “5-a-day” program, McDonald pumps in 500 times more than this amount on its advertising and promotional ventures. On the other hand, Mars spends approximately $68 million, which culminates to 35 times more that the said amount to advertise its M & M candies Greenblatt (77). No wonder, such advertisements have experienced such immense success.  

There are some who argue that fast food companies are only doing business, and therefore should not be blamed for the surging rates of obesity in America. Whether one decides to buy and consume these products is upon their conscience. This means that the behavior of consuming unhealthy foods is exclusively put on the consumer, rather than the producer.

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That “not to know that a Big Mac is unhealthy is ignorance” is an understatement, considering that research has not yet established the real cause of obesity. This can be seen through scientists like Robert Atkins who believes that the real cause of obesity is the consumption of too much carbohydrates rather than fats (Greenblatt 84). Based on this, it can be argued that fast foods are not as harmful as perceived. On other hand, Neal Barnard, who is the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicines provides a strong counterargument by asserting that skinniest people on earth, particularly vegetarians and Asians consume plenty of  rice and other crops (Greenblatt 84). Based on this assertion, it seems unbelievable that an individual can become obese as a result of consuming fruits and vegetables.

Thus, blaming carbohydrates and eaters appears to be unjust. This takes us back to the real cause of this pandemic, poor American lifestyle that shuns physical activities and healthy diets. To avert this health condition from becoming an unmanageable epidemic, Americans should change their ways and move towards the right direction. To begin with, comprehensive research should be conducted to establish the real cause of this condition. Thereafter, consumers should be educated about the possible impacts of fast food consumption to their health. On that note, Wilder, Cheskin and Margolis have provided a three-step formula that people can adhere to: “changing your behavior, altering your diet, and increasing your physical activity” (59). Moreover, the government has a role to play to enhance the lives of its populace. It should help its citizens to transform their unhealthy behavior by limiting the advertising power that fast food companies have.

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