Obesity in America

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Joseph Saah
Cameron Mozafari
English 101, Section 0603
16 November 2011
Considering another Side Essay
Growing obesity rates among our adolescent population has become an increasing problem over the past decade. While pressure has been placed on government agencies to limit the amount of advertisements that adolescents are exposed to, these efforts might be futile due to constitutional limitations. The issue that is increasingly brought to the attention of the public is how to balance regulation of the informational environment to help reduce child obesity versus the First Amendment’s guaranty of freedom of speech. However, the roots of the obesity epidemic can be traced to more fundamental environmental factors. The obesity epidemic must be addressed by parents who are ultimately responsible for their child’s health and well-being because fast food companies cannot be faulted or penalized for marketing food that children want to buy. Due to rising obesity rates coupled with the legislative stalemate involved with banning advertisements, parents should play a more active role in the health of their child. Parents can achieve this by influencing micro environmental factors such as dietary preferences and attitude toward advertising, and macro environmental factors, such as maintaining a supportive surrounding environment.

Parents must address food preference early enough to ensure a proper balanced diet for their children. Although an individual has innate food preferences, dietary habits are learned and mirrored through those of the family, and more specifically, the parents. At a young age, children consume a majority of meals bought and prepared by their parents. This can have a positive or negative outcome because parents make uninformed decisions regarding the types of food they buy for their children. The availability of junk food plays a major role in an individual’s daily caloric intake. Consistent purchasing of junk food will inevitably cause children to become accustomed to the taste, leading to preference of these snacks over healthier substitutes. This is crucial because young children do not know why they dislike green beans or carrots, nor do they consider the consequences of their decisions on the future. In fact, since learned behaviors are adopted through role modeling by parents; if parents overeat, then children are likely to follow this pattern. While some might hold the belief that advertisers combat parent’s efforts to keep their kids healthy, simple steps that are fully within parental control can be taken to reduce a child’s risk of obesity. Barbara Livingstone, a medical researcher, claims that “cross-sectional studies have reported that children and adolescents who regularly eat dinner with family members are significantly less likely to be overweight and more likely to have healthier eating habits, compared with those who eat less regularly with the family”(2). This cause and effect relationship is especially important to children because, at a young age, food preference changes with the experiences. If an individual develops bad eating habits at a young age, there is a greater chance that these habits will persist into the teenage and early adult years. In terms of dietary habits, advertising agencies have a minimal effect on fast food consumption in comparison to the parents who supply the meals. The task of shaping a child’s dietary preference may be challenging for parents who lack the necessary knowledge to promote a healthy diet. Parent’s lack of information regarding a healthy diet serves as a major barrier of progress regarding the rising obesity rates among children. As a parent, personally maintaining a healthy diet is not enough to fully prevent their child’s risk for obesity. Parents must take the extra step by communicating to their children the real message that advertisers are trying to get across and the true dangers that can become prevalent if unhealthy habits continue...
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