According to statistics from the Center of Disease and Control (2013), over 35.7% of Americans are obese. The most obvious of causes for such a huge amount of fat derives from terrible eating habits and lack of physical activity. These issues occur due to the direction of American culture. With America undergoing an era of recession, many people have relied on welfare and lost their sense of hope, which in has led them to being inactive at home. The activities that follow come from another aspect of America’s culture, electronic media. People are less motivated to exercise, when TV and surfing the Internet has been such a bubble of comfort. Organic foods are a healthy, but expensive commodity in America. Many Americans can’t afford to purchase such material, so they have to rely on the abundant diversity of fast food and microwaveable dinners.
One may ask, why should we care about the obese population and lifestyle? Obesity is covered with statistics of fatality and disease. 18% of American deaths from 1986 to 2006 are caused by obese symptoms to adults between the ages of 40 and 75 (Masters, Reither, Powers, Yang, Burger & Link, 2013, pp.1900). Although there has been no recent statistics, Masters and his co-writers assure (2013, pp.1900) that goals made in retaliation to such alarming results have not been met, which means obesity is still a current issue for American fatality. Even for those that live and breathe, obesity has been a major hindrance in lifestyle as the obese lack motor skills to move around, which restricts them to wheel chairs. On top of this fact, the issue of immobility has given family members the burden of constantly tending to an obese person’s needs.
From the recent statistics and facts mentioned previously, it is clear that methods to tackle American obesity has not been effective. Americans lack the ability to purge obesity, so a change must occur in three of America’s institutions.
The first institutions worth changing are American schools. 18% of America’s children from the ages of six to eleven are obese. Another 18% of America’s teenagers from the ages of twelve to nineteen are also obese (CDC Adolescent, 2013). The best way to stop a cancer is to attack at its early stages. For future generations, it is the duty of the American education system to not only focus on a student’s academics, but their health also. Schools will need to change their physical education system in order to help limit obesity. Firstly controlled study in UK shows that playgrounds with designs that promote active games bring a 20% long-term improvement in physical activity (Sallis&Glanz, 2009, p. 130). With such a positive result, the US Government should put more investment into improving elementary school playgrounds. Secondly, schools will need to bribe their students into being more physically active. Recently Michelle Obama has developed the Presidential Youth Fitness Test, a school-program that promotes healthy physical activity without intimidating students away due to the hierarchy of competitiveness. The new program will be enforced in 25% of American schools by 2013 and 90% by 2018 (Obama, n.d.). Even though the Presidential Youth Fitness Test is an inspiring idea, it’s voluntary aspect doesn’t give students the incentive to free their extracurricular time. To out of shape students that get low marks in their compulsory physical education classes, applying extra credit to the Presidential Youth Fitness will be a good leverage of motivation.
The second institutions that will need changing are restaurants. According to J.F. Sallis and K. Glanz (2009), writers of the Milbank Quarterly, the amount of food consumed outside of households have increased in America. They believed that the growing reliance on consuming in restaurants has had a negative effect on the American diet as people have consumed more calories and fat, while lacking on fruits, vegetable and fiber. To limit nutritional issues present, restaurants must first regard the health of America’s youth as a major priority. Menus for children should be based on low calories and less sugar. Such a change won’t damage a restaurants customer base, as parents will want their children to eat healthy. Secondly, researchers believe that restaurants can tackle obesity more effectively by improving calorie listings and providing “health options” online. Their studies have shown that this method has been more efficient than simply providing the details on menus in restaurants, as people need to plan their diet before entering restaurant doors (Whiteman, 2013).
The final institution worth noting is the American Government. No other institution can be affecting the issue of obesity better than the system that has the power to control the whole country. The government can implement two policies in order to limit the issue of obesity. First of all, the government should change its agricultural priority. According to Aaron Sankin (2013), a writer of Huffington Post Canada, the government has invested $50 million of it’s capital into agricultural crops that promote negative effects on nutrition (Corn, Soy, Wheat). These crops have been a contributor for fattening additives and feeding cattle. The lack of financial emphasis on healthy fruits and vegetables have risen their prices in the market, which in turn makes people less inclined to purchase them. Therefore if the government wants the public to purchase healthier goods, then they need to invest in healthier crops. Secondly, the government could kill two birds with one stone by hosting charity walkathons. By creating such an event, the government can encourage communities to become more active and thus create a cultural change against inactivity. The sponsorships from these events can be put into building facilities that can further emphasize physical activity or tackle issues of nutrition.
America has been known as a land of opportunity and change. If brave selfless leaders from these institutions can spark the flare by implementing these opportunistic solutions against obesity, then America can change back into a healthy and active nation.
Dan , G., Parker, L., Sim, L., Cook, H., & Miller, E. (2012). Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention : Solving the Weight of the Nation. Washington, D.C., USA: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com.ezproxy.cityu.edu.hk/lib/cityu/docDetail.action?docID=10565364
Harding, A. (2009, 18). CNN.com International – Breaking, World, Business, Sports, Entertainment and Video News. Obesity can shorten lifespan up to a decade – CNN.com. Retrieved November 6, 2013, from http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03/18/healthmag.obesity.lifespan/index.html
Masters, R., Reither, E., Powers, D., Yang, C., Burger, A., & Link, B. (2013). The Impact of Obesity on US Morality Levels: The Importance of Age and Cohorts Factors in Population Estimates. American Journal of Public Health,103(10), 1895-1901.
Obama, M. Let’s Move!. Accomplishments | Let’s Move!. Retrieved from http://www.letsmove.gov/accomplishments
Sallis , J., & Glanz, K. (2009). Physical Activity and Food Environments: Solutions to the Obesity Epidemic. The Milbank Quarterly, , 123-154. Retrieved , from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25474362
Sankin, A. (2013, 18). Huffington Post Canada – Canadian News Stories, Breaking News, Opinion. Agriculture Subsidies Promote Obesity, Charges New Study. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/18/agriculture-subsidies-obesity_n_3607481.html
Whiteman, H. (2013, 20). Medical News Today: The Latest Health News. Restaurants ‘should help tackle obesity’ through apps and websites – Medical News Today. Retrieved November 19, 2013, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265044.php
(2013, 10). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC – Obesity – Facts – Adolescent and School Health. Retrieved November 6, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm
(2013, 16). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity and Overweight for Professionals: Data and Statistics: Adult Obesity – DNPAO – CDC. Retrieved November 6, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
It has long been debated whether obesity is a relative measure and should not be used as a stigma to label overweight people. However, the fact is, when the weight of a person significantly exceeds a certain norm for their age and gender, the health and well-being of a person tends to generally decrease in quality. Obesity might not be a serious disease in the commonly established meaning of this term, since it is not contagious like the flu, irreversible like AIDs, or deadly like cancer. Yet it has been proven there are numerous links to a higher probability of heart-related diseases, depression and passiveness, diabetes, and premature aging of the body as a whole and the brain in particular. Moreover, obesity decreases the general quality of life, since it becomes difficult for an obese person to enjoy simple activities, stay energetic and active, succeed in sports, and enjoy a full-range diet. Thus, when talking about obesity in a country like America, where the problem is especially acute and critical, we need to consider the most probable causes and factors of obesity in order to come up with an effective health program to deal with this issue in the United States.
Obesity can be argued to be genetically predisposed and there is little governments and NGOs can do about this fact. It is true that some people are born with a higher probability of being overweight and eventually obese than others (Porps 73). However, such predisposition cannot be considered a purely “American problem” since it is almost equally spread amongst different races and ethnicities. Statistically, around 20% of people in the world suffer from obesity. However, this number is significantly higher for the US population. Thus, we need to look at those factors that could explain why the problem of obesity is more serious in America than in, for example, Germany, Russia, or Brazil. One of such factors is the factor of eating habits.
Americans have a tendency towards substantial fast food and soft drink consumption. Eating french fries, pizza, cheeseburgers, and drinking Coca-Cola are the top metabolism inhibitors in modern American society. By consuming such foods and drinks regularly, American teenagers, adults, and children slow down their metabolism by up to 12 times, as research has proven (Henrix 122). This means the same amount of food will be digested and absorbed 12 times slower by an American teen than by a healthy-eating Russian or African child. Moreover, numerous health issues such as ulcers, dysbacteriosis, cholecystitis, and diabetes, which are also directly related to one’s eating habits, have a negative influence on a person’s weight and the amount of fat in a body. Hence, when working towards decreasing obesity rates, we need to start from completely changing our dietary habits and refraining from eating fast foods or drinking soft drinks.
Another point to consider when talking about American dieting habits is the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in their everyday ration. We seem to think a glass of orange juice, watered down from concentrate and flavored with artificial sweeteners, or a few grapes on top of a cupcake for dessert, or a bowl of spinach salad for dinner, does the trick and provides the necessary amount of vitamins, microelements, and minerals for our body and mind. However, this is far from being true, as dietitians inform. Five different fruits and five different vegetables a day is the minimum requirement for healthy development (Parker 56). The key is to eat in variety and to eat fresh, garden-grown products. In the United States, there are few places where fresh, recently-picked, and naturally-grown fruits and vegetables are sold at local markets. In the majority of cases, it is the supermarket chains which distribute such products to Americans across the country. Fruit and vegetables from a supermarket, like Wallmart or Safeway, do not supply us with even half of the valuable nutrients compared to fruits and vegetables from one’s own garden, picked right before consumption and grown without using pesticides and fertilizers.
Unfortunately, keeping our own gardens and growing our own fruits and vegetables is not an act most Americans are able or willing to do. Then, is there a solution? Organic food, which many consider to be rather pricy, is in fact much healthier than what we are offered in the regular chain supermarkets. When it comes to health, prevention and precaution are less expensive than the treatment afterwards. The solution that is most suitable for an average American family is to shop organic, fresh, and healthy, choosing vegetables and fruits over unhealthy calorie-booster snacks like chips, pretzels, and donuts (Open 43).
One more important factor we often forget about when investigating the reasons for high obesity rates in the United States is the factor of portion size. Comparative studies have often proven the size of an average serving portion in America is many times higher than in the majority of other countries. For instance, one portion of pasta in an average American middle-class restaurant can be split into 3.6 Japanese portions, 3.2 Chinese portions, 3.1 French portions, 2.8 Russian portions, 2.3 Polish portions and 2.2 Italian portions (Kin 21). Do Americans need to eat this much? We are not the tallest or the most active nation in the world, but for some reason, we consume twice as much as the Dutch, who ride bicycles while we drive cars, or the Russians, who walk by foot an average of 2.9 miles a day while we barely do half a mile. Americans are getting used to eating more than their body needs since early childhood. Next time we go to a restaurant to order a full bowl of salad followed by a huge plate of spaghetti and a glass of ice tea, we need to remind ourselves how our stomachs are only the size of an average man’s fist normally, but not if you stuff it with loads of food.
Whether we like to admit it or not, obesity is a problem for Americans. The quality of life and the state of health of Americans is much lower than it should be. Some may argue they try to live an active life, doing sports and participate in community activities, but they still have weight problems. This is the case for many Americans who forget that along with changing their lifestyle, going to a gym and running in the mornings, they need to cardinally change their eating habits, consume more fresh and healthy natural foods, stop eating junk food, lessen their portions by half and start eating smart.
Porps, Brain. Genetic Basis of Obesity. Cambridge: Cambridge Press, 2011. Print.
Henrix, William. Soft Drinks and Metabolism. Seattle: Rain City Press, 2010. Print.
Parker, Jones. The Five Secrets to Food. Connecticut: Bridge Publishing, 2009. Print.
Open, Rimpa. How to Shop Organic in a Non-Organic Society . London: Ioatolla Press, 2008. Print.
Kin, Richard. Portions of Mind and Stomach. New York: Boulevard Publishing, 2009. Print.
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