As I was playing around on the computer last night before bed, I came across an article on the AOL That’s Fit website titled: Why are Obesity Rates Still Rising?
The article discusses how even though we are aware of the obesity problem in the US and even though the government has taken action to “combat the problem”, the obesity rates in certain states are continuing to rise. After dishing out the facts and statistics, the author turns to the public and asks real Americans why they think we are still struggling with obesity.
Many people blame portion sizes, lack of education, and how healthy food is “more expensive” than the unhealthy alternatives. The opinion that caught my attention the most, however, was located in the “Reader Comments” section. It reads:
This (obesity) is not a food problem, it is a self-restraint problem. Inherent in capitalism is a belief that more is better. When was the last time you heard someone say they had enough (money, food, time, etc.)? Self-restraint is a virtue that has all but disappeared in this generation. Growing up, my parents used to say “no snacks before dinner” or “you had two cookies at lunch, that is enough sweets for today” or “soda is just for special occasions, drink water with dinner.”
This kind of thinking has all but disappeared because of the influence or pervasive advertising in service of the profit motive. Seriously, who should be drinking a liter of sugar water (soda) at one time? Remember when a “small soda” was really small? People have forgotten they have free will. Nobody is forcing massive amounts of junk food down anyoneʻs throat. Brown rice,dried beans and home-grown vegetables are much cheaper than fast food, but it is easier to blame Ronald McDonald or corporate America for obesity than to look at our own complicity in killing ourselves with food. Water is virtually free compared to soft drinks so this is not purely an economic issue either.
A virtue like self-restraint does not serve a capitalistic economy so you will not hear this viewpoint coming from the media. It is time to take some personal responsibility for our own lives–the government, companies, schools, churches, all of those institutions that used to keep society functioning are falling apart. It is up to you to take control of your own life and that of your families and do the right thing. Bottom line, you are fat because you eat too much crap and exercise too little and you freely chose to do so.
I find it interesting how the author relates our unhealthy lifestyle to our national identity. In the United States we have a huge country (To give you some perspective: the entire country of Spain is the size of Washington combined with Oregon), a ton of resources, and enough money to go around. Those factors combined with a capitalist economic system definitely has an impact on what we value as Americans. As was stated above, in the US we tend to think that just because we can do something that we should do it. (For all you history buffs: it’s like Manifest Destiny for the 21st century) 🙂
We have a lot of open land in our country – so why not build huge houses!? We have relativity cheap gasoline prices (gas in Spain is roughly 7 or 8 dollars the gallon!) – so why not drive massive SUVS!? And finally (maybe I’m making a stretch here) we have grocery stores full of delicious (yet unhealthy food) – so why not buy a lot of it and indulge!?
I really believe that it’s a part of the American consciousnesses to find the biggest/best/most extreme/most indulgent thing and run with it despite its potential consequences on our healthy and/or the environment.
This belief that “most is better” doesn’t exist in Spain like it does in the US. I’ll use the Spaniard’s relationship with food as an example. Based on my observations – people from Spain are aware of the consequences of eating unhealthy things more than we are in the US and therefore avoid overindulging for the most part. I would say that here the quality and nutritional value of the food is valued over its taste and convenience.
To conclude, I am not surprised that obesity continues to be a problem in the USA. It is a complex issue that no doubt has to do with the education of the public and the availability of healthy food options – as well as our country’s relationship with food itself. I am optimistic, however, that my generation of Americans has become aware in the recent years of the consequences of leading an indulgent/unhealthy lifestyle and obesity, in time, will be a problem of the past.
My advice to everyone out there in the US reading this post is: Try to think more like a Spanish person when it comes to food! Spend a little extra money and time buying and preparing healthy meals (even if it means you have to spend less on other things!), keep less food in general in your house, and be mindful of the consequences of your food choices 🙂
Now it’s your turn. Why do YOU think that we have a higher rate of obesity in the US than in other countries? What is your advice for leading a healthy lifestyle? Thanks for participating! 🙂