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America's Obesity Epidemic
As the numbers of overweight Americans continue to skyrocket, one thing is clear: being obese is the true exception to the rule in a society governed by a culture of gluttony. You can't turn on the television or turn the pages of a magazine without being bombarded by tantalizing images of cheap, marginally nutritious foods. Especially during the holidays, when visions of turkey with all the trimmings, cakes thick with icing, and gravy sodden mashed potatoes, may dance in our heads. Is it any surprise that more than 50% of us find this pressure to indulge almost impossible to resist? It's no big secret why 90% off all dieters fail. Society makes it impossible for them to succeed.
The overwhelming pressure to eat doesn't end with the appeals of Madison Avenue.
The act of eating is interwoven with our social and work lives. Think about all those meetings when plates of cookies were available just because, or how going to the movies becomes an excuse to scarf down huge buckets of buttered popcorn and mega-sized bags of candy. Let's face it, for most Americans eating, like shopping, has become a recreational activity that has little to do with our basic biological needs. This is one reason why diets don't work. Only a fortunate 20% of Americans can easily eat for recreation. Blessed with a speedy metabolism or a personal trainer, their bodies will never betray them by turning that extra croissant into a love handle.
While we're placing blame, let's not forget the role that technology has played in thickening our middles. These days we don't have to work at anything but the office. We've become a remote control, vacuum cleaner, washing machine society. In short, a nation of sedentary button pushers. Yes, there are gyms and aerobics classes, but who has the time? In the face of long work hours and lengthy commutes we're too tired. It takes almost superhuman effort to stay in shape. The result: a population that's getting bigger by the minute.
What's the Solution?
Despite a diet industry that nets over 33 billion dollars a year, a smorgasbord of fat free and low fat foods, and so called miracle diet pills, no cure has been found for obesity. Even if a cure materialized tomorrow, it wouldn't remove the near insurmountable obstacles to healthier eating habits. For that to happen a societal sea change must occur modifying the way we as a nation eat, move and work. Once bicycles and walking have become our preferred modes of transportation, once restaurants replace frying with baking and super size portions with realistic portions, and once eating becomes something we do in response to our true biological hunger, then, and only then will obesity cease to be an issue. In the meantime, many of our futures continue to loom large.
If you are among that lucky 20%, and if you've ever made fun of an overweight person (be honest), know that by the grace of God, your quick metabolism or gym membership, that obese person could've been you.
Lynnel Hampton is a native of Seattle, Washington and a graduate of the University of Washington. She holds a BA in English with creative writing emphasis and is currently pursuing an MA in Communications. She is a past winner of The University of Washington's Annual Black History Month Essay Contest.
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