Modern America is facing an obesity epidemic that is unsurpassed in the nation's, or indeed the world's, history. It is now one of the most significant problems in the United States, with the proportion of overweight and obese people increasing substantially in the last few decades. This has led to the increase of weight related problems such as heart disease and diabetes. As such, addressing the problem of obesity, and promoting healthy and active lifestyles is one of the major tasks for America's health system.
Nutritionists, physicians and therapists attribute many reasons for the rise of obesity in adults, children and teenagers across the country. While they state that not enough physical activity is one of the major factors, the major factor itself is the culture of eating plenty and often, and not restricting portions to healthy levels, or promoting healthy food enough. The fact is clear that most citizens eat more than is recommended. Not only is too much eaten on a daily basis, but the most common types of food eaten are high in fat and calories.
The biggest culprit for this is the rapidly expanding fast food industry in the US, which only ever seems to gain popularity every year. The excessive eating of fast food is the biggest contribution to weight gain and disease, which can often end in death. What reasons are there for the increase in popularity in fast food? An ever increasing pace in lifestyle appears to be the leading factor, and more and more Americans are finding that they have less and less time to cook for themselves on a regular basis. The contemporary pace of life is rendering many families, couples and singles to eat take-aways. And another problem is that few people think of healthy food when it comes to ordering take-aways. Most Americans will go for a high fat option when ordering fast food, and avoid healthier options.
High fat, high calorie snacks and drinks such as soft fizzy drinks and chocolate are also a popular choice for parents, which curbs children's hunger in-between meals, and often leads to weight gain and obesity in children. This is amplified by the little physical activity that American children do these days, with the rise of the internet, television, computer games and other forms of home entertainment. So it does not surprise us when the statistics show that over 10% of children in the US are obese, with an ever higher number of overweight children (World Heart Federation Fact-Sheet, 2002).
The situation is even more worrying for adults. Taking obesity to be defined by the current standard, being a BMI of over 25 for being overweight, and a BMI of over 30 for obesity, then we find that almost 40 million US adults (well over half of the population) are overweight, and that a quarter are obese (CDC, 2006).
As previously mentioned, media is having a marked contribution to the problem facing American society. 43% of US adolescent citizens watch over 2 hours of television each day. Genetic factors are also one of the main contributions, and those who are predisposed to weight gain should be extra careful in monitoring their weight. It is often those who are genetically predisposed who become obese in adulthood, and especially in childhood.
Most people in America love fast food; it is a significant part of our culture, with many people easting fast food on numerous occasions each week, and this is a huge problem; unless you have a very high metabolism, this will surely lead to weight gain, since foods offered in fast food chains are packed with calories. They are also designed to not be filling, so that you order lots of food, which means that customers often ingest twice as many calories in a fast food sitting than they should, or than a regular cooked meal will provide. Even though the evidence is obvious, chains like McDonalds are keen to dispute this fact. If there has ever been a compelling film to document what fast food can do, then the film "Super Size Me" is the one. Staring and directed by Morgan Spurlock, this is a documentary which sees what happens if you eat nothing but fast food for a whole month, and in doing so, Spurlock puts his own health on the line. The results are not difficult to predict, but what happened is that he gained lots of weight, and also developed some other surprising and serious conditions, such as depression, and cravings for sugar.
It can be seen that fast food has direct physical and psychological consequences on the consumer. Physicians and other health professions stick by the evidence and state that fast food is the largest cause of obesity in the US, which leads to many other dangerous problems such as diabetes, heart disease, alongside many others. What Spurlock's documentary also showed was that there are also psychological consequences, which can lead to things like Bulimia and Anorexia and other eating disorders (Levy, 200). Fast food is great as part of a balanced lifestyle, but it also poses a mortal danger for many who do not lead a healthy life.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2006). Overweight and Obesity: Obesity Trends: U.S. Obesity Trends 1985-2004. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/trend/maps/
World Heart Federation (2002). World Heart Federation Fact-Sheet. Obesity/Nutrition.
Supersize Me. A film of Epic Portions. (2002). About the Movie. < https://www.supersizeme.com/home.aspx?page=aboutmovie>
Levy, L. (2000). Understanding Obesity: The Five Medical Causes. New-York: Firefly Books Ltd., p.11