Obesity: Why It’s Still an American Problem

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! 🙂


7 thoughts on “Obesity: Why It’s Still an American Problem

  1. Good post and question. In my opinion, a person’s socio-economic status has everything to do with their level of obesity, or rather quality of health. As you and the article pointed out, processed foods are cheap, easy and fast to consume, while organic foods cost more, and are less readily available to purchase at all local food markets. I think you would find this fascinating: My friend, Christian, did a sculpture project in relation to this idea. For her project, she decided to do a 12 mile, round trip walk where she traveled from her apartment in Pilson, south to the Chicago neighborhood of Englewood. She noticed that the further she got closer to her destination point, the less grocery stores she found. In my neighborhood of Ukrainian Village, I have at least two grocery stores in walking distance from my apartment; Christian said that after walking for miles through Englewood there were no chain or local grocery stores, only convenient stores that sold minimal food staples like milk and white bread (this example of no local grocery stores is usually referred to a “food desert” in the city). What’s even more ridiculous is that Christian said that at one convenient store they had a sign out front that said “Fresh Produce for Sale.” Hungry for something nutritious after her long walk, Christian went inside to buy what she thought would be an assortment of fruits or veggies, but it only turned out to be a pepper, and I think a head or iceburg lettuce! Isn’t that crazy! I know my story is very specific to the drastic levels resources available in different parts of the city of Chicago, but it really goes to show you that even if a population of people can be educated on the benefits of healthy eating, in some cases they simply don’t have the healthy options made available to them:-( HOWEVER, to end on a happy end note: Community gardens have become very popular in the city, some having been started in communities with food deserts. Starting these gardens not only provides some organic produce to some community members, but it also teaches people the new skill of gardening, about the nutrients it can provide, and further strengths ties within the community. I hope this gardening trend continues spread within the summer months to come, and hope that one day more grocery stores can be built to take care of people in the winter months!

    • O my goodness what an interesting reply!! Thanks Erin! I agree that socio-economic status plays a part too! Hmmm… Maybe because here they have a more “socialized” government (people in general earn less money a year than people in the US but everyone’s salaries are more equal) There’s definitely a lot less poverty here because of government aid – maybe that’s why there are more healthy people with a normal weight!

  2. Not only is there a lack of grocery stores, I fell that there is a lack of motivation,talent, and time to make American meals. And just what constitutes an “American” Meal? We have borrowed everything other than fast food from our European /S. American neighbors.

    American woman’s motivation is at an all time low. Cooking for a less than appreciative hoard reaps few satisfactional rewards. Yes, I know there is a definite Agape way of looking at it, but when a Mother comes home from an 8+ hour sub par job to cook and clean up for a family of 4, 5 6… Mickie D becomes her new savior.

    Obviously, we can’t re-invent the wheel nor can we keep it from turning. But perhaps we can put a different spin on it.

    • But it’s easy to prepare meals like brown rice and vegetables and have that for dinner right??? Yeah, maybe our food problem is that we don’t have healthy “traditional foods”. Also maybe we are overwhelmed by having too many food choices? Or maybe we are overly stressed as a society and we turn to unhealthy “comfort food” as a coping mechanism??’ So many ideas! I love it! What I wanted to make clear about this post is that there’s no one easy solution and it’s going to take a long time for us to beat the problem.

  3. Erin what a reply, very interesting. And I agree with Mrs. Miller as well, as a whole I feel everyone is just so busy and worn out that a drive-thru is their easiest option.
    I was also thinking along the lines of lack of exercise. The government has stepped in to try and produce healthier lunches at schools and have put together programs so that those who cant afford healthy meals can get them at their schools, however schools are allowing Wii Nintendo to replace actual activities in gym class! Mrs. Mcatee would not approve. I know that when we were little kids we were alwasys outside doing something. I feel like now I hardly see any kids outside. Sure the Wii fit is a better option than Mario if you’re rained or snowed inside, but we shouldn’t accept that as a substitute for real physical activity. Bring back the kickball, wallball, capture the flag and night games!!

    • Yeah, we always comment about the lack of kids outside nowadays! Wait what is this about the WII taking over gym classes?? Does that happen in Olivia’s school? I seriously can’t believe that! Around here everyone in general gets more exercise because they use the car less and walk everywhere – I walk between 30 mins and 1 an hour every day just moving around town – think if everyone at home did that too!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s