Western Governors University
Collegiate Level Reasoning and Problem Solving
The Problem of Obesity
Obesity is a major problem in American. Year after year, new diets are published, and new medications are hailed as wonder drugs that will take weight off with little physical effort, yet the problem still exists unabated. In testimony before the US Congress, Berzins (2001) asserted that, “[weight] is a complex result of heredity, culture and lifestyle.” According to Rosin (2004), “About one-third of the U.S. population is 20 percent or more overweight and is therefore at risk of suffering high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular diseases.” Finding the best way to deal with obesity in America is also a problem. Since it is an open-ended problem, there is no certain solution. Some of the factors that impact the complexity of the problem of obesity are healthcare costs to treat obesity-related diseases, second-hand diseases which arise from obesity, such as diabetes and hypertension, and the fact that there has never been a successful treatment found for obesity. Biases and assumptions about the topic of obesity include believing or not believing genes play a role in this condition, the idea that it is all right to eat more calories, as long as one is on a low fat diet, and perhaps the most clichéd of all, that “Overweight persons are…unhealthy, unattractive, asexual, weak-willed, lazy and gluttonous” (Smith, 1996). In a certain way, we face persons and environments affected by obesity every day. Our whole American society, for example, places too much value on physical appearance. But the obese themselves may include those with sedentary lifestyles who do not get the physical activity they need and then rely on television for entertainment. They may be partial victims of a culture filled with “quick fix” remedies for being overweight or a portion of the population who are constantly looking for a miracle cure. One major ambiguity regarding obesity in America is the differing definitions people apply to the term. Some would define a person who is visibly round, but not struggling to climb a flight of steps, obese. The clinical definition of obesity is a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher, but most who use the word will not be referencing it in the clinical sense. There is no one clear cut definition of obesity in our society, which makes the word ambiguous. Another major ambiguity is that no consensus has been reached as for how great an impact the condition has on our health. Smith (1996) asserts that “…there is no evidence that obesity significantly decreases longevity.” Conversely, Farley & Cohen (2004) exclaim “…at the rate Americans are dying, we’d better start treating obesity like an infectious epidemic.” This inconsistent diagnosis serves to make the threat level of obesity ambiguous. Gaesser (2004) asserts that one does not need to be lean in order to be fit. He cites coronary artery disease, the number one killer in America, as an example. Logic should dictate that obesity would be a major cause of this problem, assuming fat on the body begets fat in the blood stream and arteries. But research done at the University of Tennessee, in which coronary angiograms of 4,500 men and women were analyzed, showed the risk of clogged arteries lessened as weight increased (2004). “It’s just that body weight, and even body fat for that matter, do not tell us nearly as much about our health as lifestyle factors, such as exercise and the foods we eat” (Gaesser, 2004). Health problems can be corrected without losing any weight at all. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 1997 that showed 133 men and women with high blood pressure lowered their systolic blood pressure an average of 11.4 mmHg simply by eating more fruits, vegetables and using low fat dairy products, yet they had no weight loss. This...