It’s An Epidemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average weight of American women in 2017 was 168.5 pounds, and the average height was 5.3 feet; This means the average body mass index of American women in 2017 was 29.8. For clarity, someone is considered overweight at a bmi of 25 (and considered obese at a bmi of 30), according to the World Health Organization. Therefore, the average American woman is 4.8 points above the overweight threshold, and .2 of a point below the obesity threshold.
In 2017 the Centers for Disease Control reported that 34.9% of US adults (78.6 million) have obesity, which is only considering those who are obesely overweight, not counting those who are under the obese limit but are still overweight. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the rate of combined overweight and obesity of US adults is 64.8% (more than 210 million).
And as for children, 31.8% of US children ages 2 to 19 (23.9 million) are overweight or obese, per the American Heart Association. “Combined, the number of obese 5 to 19 year olds rose more than tenfold globally, from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016. An additional 213 million were overweight in 2016 but fell below the threshold for obesity. If current trends continue, more children and adolescents will be obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022” reported a 2017 study by the World Health Organization and Imperial College London.
The World Health Organization considers obesity a “global epidemic”. And it no doubt is one. Weight is a major indicator of health, and the more studies being done on the matter continue to produce more evidence of the same conclusion that being fat comes with a multitude of health and mortality risks. This is not a secret, despite the growing (pun intended) fat activism crusading for fat acceptance. A 2017 study by the New England Journal of Medicine found “sufficient evidence supporting a causal relationship between high BMI and cancers of the esophagus, colon and rectum, liver, gallbladder and biliary tract, pancreas, breast, uterus, ovary, kidney, and thyroid.” Fat acceptance is disease acceptance, and essentially premature death acceptance. Think about it this way, how often do we see elderly obese people? Rarely do we see an eighty or ninety year old with obesity, because obese people are at a much higher risk of early death.
But it’s not just the morbidly obese on medications and in hospitals due to their weight; overweight people in general are putting themselves at a higher risk of ill health and shorter lives. Type two diabetes, heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, cancer, stroke, pcos, among other conditions and diseases occur in even the mildly overweight. What people often find is that if they’re not losing or maintaining, they’re gaining. And every extra pound tacked on adds more risk of the deadliest diseases and most debilitating conditions. What the fat activists and “live and let live” people of the world fail to acknowledge is the pressure of the burden put on our society by the people who are making and keeping themselves sick. With 35% of the nation obese, and 65% overweight, it is unimaginable how much money is being spent to treat people in these conditions. And as these percentages rise, so does the demand for medical treatment, adding to the financial burden on taxpayers and the government. In fact, according to Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, “Looking ahead, researchers have estimated that by 2030, if obesity trends continue unchecked, obesity-related medical costs alone could rise by $48 to $66 billion a year in the U.S.”
And to add insult to injury, obesity that inflicts physical impairment is now considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, allowing the morbidly obese to receive unemployment benefits, which gives them zero incentive to get healthy. I’ll ask the obvious question that we’re all thinking: Why should binge eating and sedentary behavior be financially rewarded at the expense of the government and hardworking taxpayers? It shouldn’t. But due to the coddling nature of our current government, and the victimization of self-induced conditions, it is our reality. And not only do we collectively fund the healthcare of the overweight who require new knees, new hips, bariatric surgery, physical therapy, and prescriptions, we’re also forced to watch the cost of healthcare steadily rise because of them.
Like anyone in denial that they have a problem, the overweight and those who defend them often deploy the same vague checklist of excuses. One of the most common and overused excuses is that “it’s my genes”. Overweight people frequently go to this excuse first because it relieves them of having to take responsibility. It’s the easy one, the lazy one, and we all know about fat people and being lazy. It comes with the job. Instead of blaming their health issues on their weight, they’d rather blame their weight on their health issues and play the “genetics” card. “My whole family is big”, “I have big bones”, “I have a hormonal imbalance”, we’ve all heard these seemingly rehearsed justifications plenty of times. Not only is the impact of genetics on weight largely overstated, genetics as a cause of excess weight and obesity is virtually a myth.
According to Centers for Disease Control, “Genetic changes in human populations occur too slowly to be responsible for the obesity epidemic.”
We need to accept that our diet choices and physical activity level are by far the biggest contributors to our weight, and the genetics excuses need to be left in the past if we are to move forward as a fitter society. In an article published by Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, it was pointed out that “ it’s important to remember that overall, the contribution of genes to obesity risk is small”.
Another very common excuse that keeps the overweight from getting healthy is the misconception that healthy eating costs more than unhealthy eating, and that those with low income can’t affordably eat clean. This myth is pushed by lots of different people for lots of different reasons, and is a massive barrier that serves to keep the masses spending their money and lives eating harmful food. Clean eating is NOT expensive, and surely is no more costly than a diet heavy in animal products and refined and processed junk. And just to show I’m not yanking your chain on this, bear with me while I prove this point.
- The brand Market Pantry sells one pound of brown rice for 79 cents at Target (and online)
- Market Pantry also sells two pound bags of dry beans for $1.59 at Target (and online)
- Bush’s sells 16 ounce cans (containing 3 servings) of beans for 79 cents at Target
- Aldi sells a head of cabbage for 69 cents, two pounds of carrots for 69 cents, two pounds of onions for 79 cents, five pounds of red potatoes for $1.69, three pounds of gala apples for $2.99, and 40 ounces of peanut butter for $2.99
- Walmart sells 12 ounces (4 servings) of spinach for $1
- One loaf (7 servings) of whole grain bread can be found most anywhere for under $5
- The popular pasta brand Barilla sells one pound of whole grain pasta for $1.39 at Target
- Quaker sells 18 ounces (13 servings) of oats for $2.68 at Walmart
- The brands Silk and Blue Diamond both sell a half gallon of almond milk for $1.99 at Target and online, and Silk sells a half gallon of soy milk for $1.49 at Target and online
- One pound of bananas costs less than 60 cents anywhere
To quote an article published by Consumer Reports titled Why Healthy Food Doesn’t Have to Cost More, “Stick to in-season fruits and veggies, which are generally cheaper and more flavorful than items that travel a long way to reach your store. If you’re craving blueberries in January or butternut squash in summer, however, head to the freezer case. Frozen produce is usually just as nutritious as fresh. Skip pre-cut or sliced items, which can carry a premium price but offer no nutritional boost. And embrace ugly produce. Some supermarkets put slightly bruised or oddly shaped fruits and veggies on discount.” Where there’s a will there’s a way, and this type of excuse is no longer acceptable in a nation where a clean diet is affordable for just about everyone.
Essentially, for every meal purchased at a drive through, a few meals could have been purchased at a grocery store. The stigmas around healthy eating need to be dispelled so we can all embrace affordable clean diets. The problem is that people simply don’t want to take the time to buy groceries and prepare their own meals; they’d rather drive through a burger joint or pick up a take-away pizza, plop down on the sofa, and avoid the work of cooking dinner and cleaning dishes. This ultimately leads to a calorie dense, nutritionally void meal from which the calories will not get burned off because the individual is in too much of a bloated daze to feel enthusiastic enough to move around.
People also tend to spend their money on things they consider necessities that aren’t really necessary, like donuts, soda, ice cream, and processed snacks like chips and cookies, (and obviously animal products), and associate these items as being cheaper than healthy foods because they’re bulked out with sugar and cost nothing for companies to produce; and then when they can’t buy as much healthy food for the same price as the donuts and chips, they cop out by saying “eating junk food is cheaper than eating clean”, when actually if they cut out the junk entirely they’d have more money to spend on nutritional food to begin with.
According to Harvard TH Chan school of public health, “What’s become the typical Western diet – frequent, large meals high in refined grains, red meat, unhealthy fats, and sugary drinks – plays one of the largest roles in obesity. Foods that are lacking in the Western diet – whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts – seem to help with weight control, and also help prevent chronic disease.” The issue is that people aren’t willing to give up the junky, calorically-rich foods and would rather just make the excuse that they can’t afford to add healthy food into the budget. And no, many can’t afford to buy healthy while still buying the foods they aren’t willing to give up, which is precisely the reason they need to make better choices in the supermarket. America needs to learn that you can’t have your cake and be fit too.
Society’s Attitude Toward Weight
What’s interesting (and by interesting, I mean frustratingly repetitive and useless) is how many people are willing to band-aid the problem by masking it as society’s and the media’s standards setting unrealistic expectations of people’s bodies. We frequently hear euphemisms like “plus size” and “curvy” put forth in an effort to cushion the feelings of the overweight. But rarely do we hear the truth, that being overweight is not ok. We hear overweight people preaching the message that “what’s on the inside is what matters” and then witness the same people putting down thin people to raise their own confidence. A few years ago we were utterly blessed with the Meghan Trainor song “All About That Bass” in which she glorified her obesity and encouraged the shaming of “skinny bitches”, and the mass majority were enamored with her bravery and boldness. But what about when in the same year YouTube comedian Nicole Arbor posted a video titled “Dear Fat People” in which she made fun of stereotypical fat people as an avenue to discuss the obesity epidemic? Mass outrage that nearly ended her career. This double standard is quite telling of our attitude toward weight.
As a general rule I loathe personal anecdotes, but this one is too hilarious and a rather valid representation of the issue at hand. I worked at Macy’s for a few years as a customer service and sales associate (yes my soul was thoroughly drained out my pores in the process), and one day while I was alone at my counter, a humpback whale approached me (when you have fat on your forehead, I have the right to refer to you as such). Upon catching her breath from the escalator ride up, she asked me in a seemingly frustrated and pissed off tone, “Excuse me, can you tell me where the real women’s section is?” At first I was unsure what she meant, and then it set in. After I smiled and told her “the plus-size section is downstairs to the left”, I thought about her comment for quite some time. Did she really target a young, thin girl and imply that she wasn’t a real woman? What’s even more amusing is the notion that a morbidly obese woman is a “real woman”. In that case, who would want to be a real woman? Anyways, the point of the story is that there is this attitude, usually from women, that real women are chunky and carry around extra body weight. I think this is in part due to the glamorization of fat bodies, and partly due to the effort to nurture self esteem rather than self improvement (we see it in schools, the media, and the general conversation about weight).
Fat people want to promote the “health at every size” nonsense and the “body positivity” crap (which was originally meant for burn victims and people missing limbs, not people who make bad life choices). We hear the message that “I don’t have a problem, society has the problem”, and get called “fat-phobic” if we refuse to agree with fat acceptance culture. We’re told not to fat shame (since when is shaming bad behavior frowned upon?). These people are internally mad at themselves, and want the rest of us to go along with their delusions. Newsflash: It is your fault that you ate the refrigerator, not anyone else’s. We see the idea of fat shaming being thrown around any time someone tries to show the relation between weight and health. We see the fat acceptance movement pushing the overweight majority to keep themselves in an echo chamber surrounded by idiosyncrasies of victimhood. We see accommodations being made for those who refuse to lose weight, such as wider stadium seats, wider wheel-chairs, “heavy duty” bed frames, plus size clothing for children as young as three, plus size coffins, wider seating for Disney rides, and hospitals widening doorways and reinforcing toilets and beds.
Enough is enough.
We can not allow everything around us to enlarge in an attempt to make fat people feel less out of place. We need to put the fork down and get our asses in gear if we want to see our children outlive us. It’s common sense that children mimic the behavior of the adults who are influencing them, and it’s entirely unfair to pass along our poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles to the next generations, and this is exactly what’s happening; Parents feeding their children milkshakes and sodas and fried meats, enabling them to follow their own footsteps in becoming ill and a burden on society.
Your weight is within your control, and no amount of excuses or justifications will excuse you from the responsibility you have to look after your health and the health of your children. Shape up (or should I say down?) America.
Photo credit: https://oneratstudies.wordpress.com/