Please watch: CBS’s Where America Stands on Obesity
My generation was labeled Gen X . It saddens me beyond belief to know that the current generation is being labeled Gen XL. This is the first generation since the civil war that is not expected to outlive their parents. Why is that, and what can we do about it?
Currently America spends 150 BILLION dollars treating obesity related (completely preventable) diseases. This number is only expected to grow as this generation grows larger and grows up. Who is to blame? How can we fix the problem? Some blame the individuals themselves, some blame parents, some blame the government, and others blame the food companies. Let’s look at all the culprits…
Individuals: Is America just destined to be fat due to our laziness? Is it all based on an individual’s choices, therefore making group efforts useless? How is a child supposed to overcome this obesity epidemic on their own? Can today’s children turn around their generation?
Parents: Certainly parents play a part in obese children. But to what extent can we lay the blame? There’s a debate right now as to whether severely obese children should be removed from their homes. The law states that under-feeding is a form of neglect, and that underweight children should be placed in foster care. Would this same rule not apply to over-feeding? One in three children are considered overweight right now. This plan could end up costing America billions in resources.
Government: The government is being blamed for not providing enough resources. The healthiest food is the most expensive. They have paid corn farmers a lot of money to produce corn for sweeteners, mass producing extremely cheap junk to put in our food. PE is being cut in schools, and school lunches are horridly high in fat, sodium and calories. But is it the governments job to make our food/exercise choices for us? Now that obesity has become so expensive in America, what is the governments role in helping us get back on track? The First Lady, Michelle Obama, has made childhood obesity her platform launching the excellent Let’s Move campaign. But is it helping?
Food Companies: One expert compares this obesity epidemic to the recent battle with smoking. Tobacco companies used to target children, fill up the advertising slots on television, and be cheap. America spent billions of dollars on smoking related diseases. We finally banned advertising to children, banned tv ads, and hiked up the taxes on tobacco. Smoking has dramatically decreased along with the spending for treating smoking related diseases. Could the food companies be treated this same way. Could we simply ban marketing unhealthy food to children, get rid of tv ads for unhealthy foods, and tax junk food to solve obesity?
Why is it cheaper to buy a large burger combo with large drink and fry at a fast food restaurant than a salad and water? Mark Bittman of the New York Times was asked about the way food is marketed. On the green check indicating a “Smart Choice” on Fruit Loops (which by the way contain NO FRUIT)- “When sugar is 40% of the product, the product is dessert, not breakfast.” And yet, this is how most American children start their day. The front of the box indicates added fiber, vitamins and minerals, telling us it must be good for us. “You can put vitamins and minerals in garbage and it will meat the nutritional requirements as long as the garbage is low in fat.” Bittman says.
Clearly we as Americans have a lot of work do if we are to overcome this epidemic. But are we willing to do it? Have we as a country become so desensitized to obesity that we are willing to leave this epidemic for our children to fight? Will they even be around to fight it?
I don’t have the answers for America, but I do have the answers for MY family. And while our method of Clean Eating and regular exercise might seem drastic to some, it is how I know I am doing the best I can to keep my children from suffering through what over 60% of Americans do. Maybe if we all take charge of our own family’s health, Americans will survive…
If you haven’t seen this yet, please watch: CBS’s Where America Stands on Obesity