Monday, November 16, 2009

O'er the Land of Fat-Free?

Dia Darcey
Dr. Holland
Sociology 112
16 November 2009

Don't take this too seriously, kids; it was a quick opinion essay for a class.

The facts are clear: America is getting wider, and not from sea to shining sea. More Americans are overweight than ever before—a whopping two of three adults and almost one of three children. Overweight people are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and debilitating stress on joints and bones; the condition is definitely no walk in the park.

The obvious, looming question about obesity in America is why. Can we point the finger of blame at the school system for only providing sugary soft drinks and cheesy fried snacks for lunch? Can we malign the government for neglecting to inform us of health risks before it was too late? Or can we only hang our heads in shame, muttering that it must be a late offshoot of McManifest Destiny (now bigger than ever!) and we, like our great-great-great-grandparents, are just trying to increase America’s magnitude? Such a huge problem could never have stemmed from one origin, and it is ignorant to blame a single factor (like fast food) for these shocking statistics. Also, it is impossible to blame only the individual for their obesity because we are so affected by the society around us—and the occurrence of obesity is higher in African-American and Hispanic populations, which would imply that they have less self control than Caucasians or Asians. Several of the most basic causes of the rapid, recent increase in the occurrence of obesity in America are the breakdown of family structure and a general and increasing ignorance of nutrition and biology, exacerbated by a healthy capitalist economy.

The family structure provides innumerable benefits to individuals and society; many of these benefits relate to weight management. Close families spend time together playing—and it’s awfully hard to get an entire family onto a computer. Outside activities and play have decreased exponentially in the lives of children, perhaps because their parents simply don’t have time to encourage creative and active play. Eating together as a family reduces the calories which would be consumed by each member eating individually, especially if the meal is home-made and includes plenty of vegetables and fruits. Family relations also provide needed education to children about healthy eating habits.

The general ignorance of and apathy toward essential nutrition facts has worsened in recent years which has aided the media and food companies in making a couple bucks while everyone gets a little rounder. Even the calorie is not understood by five out of six roommates at Regency #309, and surely the statistics aren’t much better for the rest of America. The “big, bad” media and food companies cannot be blamed for making food cheaper and more attractive—that’s what the competition of capitalism encourages, usually providing us with excellent results—even if they use high fructose corn syrup and celebrity promos to do it. The problem results when these two circumstances combine and ignorant consumers cook Hamburger Helper for a “healthy” family meal or provide “low-cal” (but high everything else) soda for refreshment.

Whether the obesity problem busting America’s Bible Belt and clogging up the Continental Divide lays with society or the individual or, most likely, some combination of the two, it is ballooning to ridiculous proportions. As the occurrence of obesity has increased, the average life expectancy for an American citizen has turned begun to decrease. Only a return to the close relationships of the family and a revolution in nutritional education could even begin to contain this epidemic which is truly affecting everyone in the home of the broad.

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