The image of a thin American woman has only become a recent trend in society. Diets and workout videos have only recently started popping up as television commercials and the over all health of the population has just become an increasing trend. This new spike in keeping healthy began when Surgeon General David Satcher announced in 2001 that American obesity was becoming an epidemic and that the USA was the worlds most obese nation. The Surgeon General and his team defined America’s obesity by the Body Mass Index (BMI) system that measures the amount of fat a person has in comparison to their height; “BMI is calculated as weight in pounds divided by the square of the height in inches, multiplied by 703. Alternatively, BMI can be calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters (The Lancet).” A BMI over 25 is considered to be overweight. In 2001, Americans were considered to be overweight with a cumulative BMI of approximately 41.5.
But, the BMI system has various limitations that were not taken into account during the Surgeon General’s announcement. For one, the system can overestimate the amount of fat in a person(s) who is muscular and underestimate the amount of a person(s) who have lost muscle mass, such as the elderly.
In adolescents, obesity is defined as age and gender specific or as anyone ranking above the 95th percentile range. Doctors can calculate this easily through growth charts that not only mark age but mark height and weight. Each child is supposed to be measured with the charts during their yearly physical.
One of the most important factors in fighting obesity is government intervention, or actions taken by the government in order to affect the decisions made by individuals on either economic or social matters. Due to the fact that people highly value their privacy and ability to make their own decisions, government intervention into the personal lives of the public is constantly being called into question: how far can the government go?
The government has already intervened into the every day lives of Americans; they have done this so much and so well that people hardly notice it anymore. For example the federal government constantly intervenes in the lives of Americans by installing traffic lights, setting curfew laws, and creating school curriculums. But, when the Surgeon General made his announcement, the general public rejected the early attempts to regulate the nations obesity levels. Weight, is a personal issue and for a while, a great deal of people felt that it was too personal for government intervention. However, the public has overtime become accustomed and more aware of the obesity epidemic, primarily to government intervention.
A major issue with the government trying to reduce the and maintain the current levels of obesity in America is the fact that their intervention would have to surpass laws and school curriculums. These laws would have to enter a new sphere of influence perviously untouched: the private sphere. The private sphere is a space known only to the person who possesses it; it contains their thoughts, desires and knowledge. Republicans feel that there should be little to no government involvement into this realm while Democrats feel that there should be a great deal of intervention. But with an issue such as obesity, something needs to be done.
A government official cannot sit down with every family during every meal to make sure good eating habits are being enforced and proper exercise routines are being followed. One possible way of doing this, according Kersh and Monroe, is to create an even stronger sense of social disapproval. The idea is to alter social norms and have fast food chains and fattening foods be thought of as highly unacceptable. According to Kersh and Monroe, a step like this should be conducted similarly to the way things like marijuana and alcohol were deemed socially unacceptable and bad. Another way to influence public behavior is through medical-science which means allowing people to know facts about being overweight and what it means to be physically fit. However, according to the authors, the facts do not have to be entirely accurate; the idea is to convey the true message that being overweight is not good and will soon be socially unacceptable. Also, people should be able to get help outside of the gym, according to the authors, who want there to be group meetings similar to meetings set up for drug addicts. The demon user/ industry effect is to make Americans feel that people who eat poorly and industries that promote poor health habits are “demons,” or bad.
Surprisingly, it is easier than it seems to put a demonic spin on negative foods such as sugar. Sugar, can be defined as the most toxic food. Although there are positive sugars that come from eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables that will give off quick and healthy energy, most people receive negative, fatty sugar, allowing a toxic sludge to form inside of their bodies that make them sleepy and fat. Recently, it was proven that some artificial flavorings and sweeteners can cause early signs of cancer. Also, hard sugars, the sugars that make foods such as cakes and sodas taste delicious, increase calorie intake, allowing fat to marbleize into muscle and other body tissues, making it almost impossible to rid the body of its new found layering. Sugars also cause acne and have also been linked to attention deficit disorders. This fat not only makes way for America’s “obesity” problem, but it also creates social issues for children and teens. As it turns out, sugar is toxic to the body.
Following up with “toxic” sugar, a study produced by one of the top medical journals, The Lancet’s, the government should be responsible for making healthy foods cheeper and affordable. They should be easily accessible at both private and public schools along with universities. A large portion of American citizens that are overweight are underprivileged and cannot afford top grade foods, especially since the price of produce and lean meats has risen significantly with the current economic recession and the decline in the American agricultural industry. So, a possibility to increase health in the general public would be to produce cheeper produce and for the government to fund more home-grown produce, such as establishing new farms and giving money to already existing ones.
Since Americans have acknowledged their growing obesity problem, there has been a rapid increase in the over all health of the American Public and a decline in the nations average BMI. According to a study conducted by one of the top medical journals, The Lancet, when modern international BMIs are compared, America is not even in the top 10. America has lost its perviously held number one spot to the small nation of Nauru. Over the last decade or so, the push for government intervention and personal motivation to get fit, and healthy has paid off. While American men are rated 10th on the international BMI scale, American women are ranked 36th with a BMI of 28.7. This is proof that, obesity can be sustained and maintained at its current levels and even prevented for the future.
The truth is, it is very hard to influence the public and personal sphere of America. But, if it is reached, it is possible that obesity can be maintained at its current levels and even possibly decreased and one day stopped.
“Changing the Future of Obesity: Science, Policy, and Action.” : The Lancet. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)60815-5/fulltext>.
“Health Affairs.” The Politics Of Obesity: Seven Steps To Government Action. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/21/6/142.full>.
“Scarsdale Diet â The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet.” Scarsdale Diet. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.scarsdalediet.com/>.
“The Surgeon General’s Call To Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity.” Surgeon General. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/calltoaction/1_1.html>
“US Loses Its Fat Supremacy.” LiveScience.com. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.livescience.com/11825-global-obesitiy-united-states-ranking.html>.
“US Loses Its Fat Supremacy.” LiveScience.com. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.livescience.com/11825-global-obesitiy-united-states-ranking.html