Understanding Obesity and How to Avoid It: Part 2

Understanding Obesity and How to Avoid It
Part 2
by Dan Amzallag

...continued article from the 05-01-05 issue of the Picket News.
Obesity is such a major problem in the United States that the number of obese Americans is higher than the number who smokes, use illegal drugs, or suffer from physical ailments. It has been linked to multiple health issues that plague our nation such as diabetes and heart problems. Not only have machinery and labor saving devices changed the work environment, more Americans than ever work in offices or other sedentary settings where employees do not have time for physical activity throughout the day due to their work environment.
Along with the lack of physical activity at work, technology has also led to decreased levels of physical activity in our leisure time. Many Americans work so many hours each week that they prefer spending their limited time off relaxing.
One way of relaxing is taking the shortcuts that technology offers us. These shortcuts appear all through our lives and we may not even know it. If you pay attention, you will notice that many Americans choose to use an escalator or elevator instead of using the stairs. We would rather drive our cars than have to walk or ride a bicycle anywhere. Instead of going outside to play, many children sit at home watching television or playing video games that are available in abundance these days. This lack of enthusiasm for physical activity worries many experts. These experts wonder whether the simple act of walking will be eliminated by devices that make maneuvering in urban environments easier.
And of course, technology has changed our environment so much that it affects the food that we eat. Instead of eating the types of food that are part of a balanced diet, many Americans choose to eat unhealthy, cheap, and convenient food. Instead of making a meal at home, we would rather go out to a fast food restaurant where we don't even have to get out of our cars to eat. If we do choose to eat at home, we have the convenience of frozen dinners that we can prepare while watching TV. Or we can have food delivered to us. All around our new environment are vending machines that give us easy access to junk food and candy. It is this easiness of getting food that technology has given us that has greatly attributed to America's obesity problem.
Finally, technology has caused many to believe that actions do not have consequences. If someone is overweight, doctors will be able to fix it with such things as liposuction. There are constant advertisements on TV about new inventions that claim to slim you down in just five minutes a day. People believe that taking certain types of drugs will take off weight without having to exercise. However, this has proven very dangerous with such drugs as Fen-Phen, which causes permanent heart problems. We are programmed to always look for the quick fix in life, and solving a weight problem is not an exception.
Getting fat is deeply ingrained in American culture. Physicians and public advocates have had little to offer overweight Americans but the same eat less, exercise more message. The problem is not the message. It is indeed the solution to combating obesity and losing excess pounds. The average person who is obese knows what they are supposed to eat, says Charles Billington, M.D., a leading obesity specialist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. They can do it conceptually, but they can't do it for real.
Portion size contributes as well to the obesity problem in America. More delis and fast food restaurants are offering more, for less. The Big Meal concept is ingrained in the American culture. The original muffin was 2 oz, now it has increased up to 4 and 5 oz. It seems it (the muffin, of course) had been injected with anabolic steroids.
What is shocking is the fact that hospitals, which are supposed to promote a healthier environment for patients, have opened their doors to fast food joints. In San Diego, St. Louis, and Chicago, you can be admitted for a triple bypass surgery and then, before checking-out of the hospital, can stop by the fast food counter and order a Big Mac. Not a bad strategy for re-clogging your arteries.
The average child is exposed to 10,000 food advertisements a year and spends more time in front of the TV than on any other activity, except sleeping. We have spent years and years trying to figure out why an individual is overweight and almost no time thinking about why the nation is overweight, says Kelly D. Brownell, from the Yale Center of Weight and Eating Disorders. His answer: Its the environment.
Corporate America has to get involved. For every dollar spent on the prevention of obesity and the promotion of fitness, corporations will see many more back in reduced healthcare expenses. Fitness awareness must start in school, not the workplace, says Foreyt. We have to help adults, of course, but the future depends on the kids, who now spend more time watching TV than they spend in school. Kids are the ones who eat the most unhealthy snacks since most of their days are spent in school or an after care program where fatty snacks are readily available. Education is not fulfilling its purpose. We have to teach these kids good eating habits to assure a good future for them. We see academic curricula that include sex education for seventh, eighth and ninth graders. How about more attention to health education, followed by support from the school systems? How about removing all unhealthy snacks in vending machines from schools and other academic institutions? The following study devotes an entire chapter to the vending machine industry as well as the damage done to the health of children. Educating students about healthy eating habits in school will prevent obesity in these children, soon to become adults.
The damage doesn't stop here though. Processed food also damages your health. All fast food companies are making money by destroying your health. The amazing thing is that people continue ordering the same food day after day for lunch and sometimes even for dinner. Adults are participating and becoming negative role models in this epidemic. We are all very busy with our schedules and are unable to find time to eat properly. This is where education starts. All corporations and academic institutions should offer seminars to their employees or students and take the time to fulfill the needs of the population by helping them understand the importance in becoming, being, or staying healthy.

This article will continue in the 5-22 issue of the Picket.