Obesity in America: a Treacherous Status Quo

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Obesity in America: A Treacherous Status Quo
Although the United States is an economic power and constantly progressing, Americans are some of the unhealthiest people in the world. The United States is so plagued with obesity that it is quickly becoming an accepted aspect of our culture, but the last thing this country needs to do is to embrace obesity. Consequently, something so American as being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life and behavior is lowering the life expectancy rate for younger generations and threatening our national security. Among the 75 percent of young Americans ages 17 to 24 who are unable to serve in the United States military, 27 percent are not able to join because they are overweight, “making weight problems the single biggest factor limiting the pool of potential recruits” (Too Fat, 2010, p. 1). Many obese people have learned to change their diet out of necessity––i.e. due to various life threatening diseases and complications––but will more people be able to go against the strong current of an unhealthy society for the sake of national security?

Everybody has a need for fat tissue in his or her body, but an excess of fat can result in obesity. It is different than being overweight, because one may be overweight from muscle, bone, fat, and/or body water (What are overweight and obesity, n.d., ¶ 1), but obesity is from too much fat. Obesity occurs over time by eating more calories than the amount of calories burned––calories-in versus calories-out––and daily calorie requirements differ for each person. Therefore, for the most part, an inactive person does not need as many calories as an active person––balancing the number of calories consumed with number of calories the body uses. Additionally, factors that contribute to obesity include overeating, eating high-fat foods, and not being physically active.

As previously stated, requirements of calorie intake differ for each individual; but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide provides a blanket recommendation (2000 calories) for all Americans. This does not take into consideration different metabolic rates, body types, or levels of activity. This nutritional pretense leads to irresponsible food choices by a lot of Americans because they do not know their daily requirement of calories. Why does the USDA even set a generic standard? Why not report that individual daily-recommended calorie intakes vary? It is a failure of the Government to correctly inform the people about accurate nutritional information.

People make health decisions based on their environment or community. For example, low-income neighborhoods have the highest number of available fast food restaurants (Powell, Chaloupka & Bao, 2007, ¶ 2), so the convenience and affordability make it an easy choice. Much of the obesity epidemic is attributed to environmental factors, linked strongly to the development of the fast food industry, as well as the increase in portion sizes and the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of some Americans. Although fast food restaurants are a major element of the obesity plague, grocery stores and convenient stores make it easy to make poor health choices also, by placing racks of candy and soda near the checkout lanes. Since most retailers view the checkout lane as a “last chance” area––a place to sell impulse items––one would think they would put dried fruit and/or healthy nuts there instead of candy, and promote healthier choices. It is important to create a healthy environment since people often base their decisions on it. Instead, advertisements for prepackaged and fast foods saturate television, billboards, and the airwaves.

Although briefly mentioned, the increase in serving sizes is a major factor in the growing rate of obesity. Over the past few decades, portion sizes have grown considerably, from burgers and milkshakes to pizza slices and...
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