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Devin DeWitt ENC 1102 Joseph Cottle 2/11/13 Responding to America’s Obesity Crisis It is no myth that in America we love to eat, a lot. You can observe this by simply walking around your local fast food restaurant and recognizing that most of its patrons are over weight. This means that they have a body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 and higher ( ) In America more than anywhere else in the world there is an obesity epidemic. Since the mid 80’s the number of overweight adults in the United States has easily doubled, even tripled. Now, around 30% of the American adult population is considered to be overweight (Facts about obesity… 1). Even worse, it seems fast food and junk food companies are marketing their food more towards a younger population. This is why childhood obesity has skyrocketed and caused such uproar from the American public. In response to this, Americans have started a healthy revolution in hope to change and reform eating habits and lower obesity rates. Fast food has lead the United States to be the number one most obese country in the world, it is up to our citizens to strike back with a wave of health and nutrition to combat this crisis. There are many reasons to why Americans continue to choose fast food. First off, it is convenient. You can not deny the fact that ordering a complete meal through a small speaker then driving 20 feet to pick up your order a minute later is not easy and super quick. The invention of the drive through has brought fast food restaurants a great deal more customers. Second, fast food is cheap. For usually under or around five dollars,


you can purchase an entrÊe, a side, and a drink. A typical healthy meal you would expect to spend around eight dollars for, and usually would have more opportunity cost as well. Finally, fast food is made to look like fun, or simple to the consumer. Fast food companies market their food like this because it draws in customers of all ages and ethnicities, and it makes the consumer not feel so guilty about eating a nutrition-less meal. In the past, before the time of McDonalds and other greasy fast food chains, obesity was rare. In fact, so was type two diabetes, which is caused almost always by being overweight. Nowadays however, more than half of diagnoses of diabetes are in fact type two. In 1980 there were only 400,000 type two diabetes diagnoses in the U.S., now there are almost two million. This condition once thought to be non-existent in young children is now popping up left and right. The leading causes are, naturally, an unhealthy diet and over eating. Serious complications can occur from this, especially later in life. The sad part about this life threatening disease is it is completely preventable by choosing healthy food over fast food and foods high in bad fats. The key to a healthy lifestyle is prevention. Already there are so many programs and nutrition guides that are designed to help one lead a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet, which brings hope for America’s obesity problem. The key to anything though is prevention and moderation. To show an effort to make fast food more nutritious, restaurants are offering healthier choices and educating their consumers more thoroughly on what they are really eating. In the past, fast food joints were not required to put any nutrition facts out about the food they were serving, however in the past few years it has been mandated that a clear nutrition label is present on all menu items. Despite this,


some restaurants neglect to display their nutrition facts in an area where customers can easily see or read it. Despite these fair warnings, many Americans do not get proper nutrition and exercise. More than half of Americans do not exercise regularly. Not even a quarter of the population eats the recommended quantities of fruits and veggies each day either. Nowadays, physical education programs have been cut out of most high schools curriculums, which means at a young age one can start to get out of shape. This has led to a large increase in childhood obesity and unhealthy lifestyles in children. The real nightmare is the amount of money spent each year to combat all of the diseases and disorders that over eating and obesity lead to. Over $75 billion alone was spent in 2003, with that statistic on the rise still ten years later (Facts about obesity… 2). The amount we spend on problems stemming from obesity outweighs almost any other figure in health care. America needs to take steps to promote learning more about nutrition and health in order to have a healthier and more fit population. In the past decade there has been a huge increase in the number of Americans that regularly work out. The rising number of people concerned about their weight has partly started this positive trend. Staying physically active is one of the key ways to keep the pounds off. Those with an active lifestyle which stay active for at least an hour every day have a much lower possibility of becoming overweight or developing serious health issues. Programs like Nickelodeon’s hour of play began to get kids off the couch and outside like they should be. This has been a very successful campaign and improved the lives of thousands of kids just because a TV company decided to be responsible and do its part to help out America’s youth.


On the other hand, fast food companies target these younger audiences. Companies like Burger King and McDonalds frequently show their ads on children’s networks because they know kids are more easily persuaded into eating their food. This way of getting to America’s youth has been successful due to the friendly and happy nature of the commercials as well as the children not knowing about the actual nutrition of the food. This has led to an epidemic that seems to only get worse. It may be necessary to put “a ban on advertising unhealthy foods to children” ( ). In the long run, this may be the key to stopping the early development of poor “eating habits that are not only hard to break but potentially life-threatening” ( ). Children are not the only group targeted however. Fast food companies are targeting certain ethnicities, particularly Hispanics. “In 2009, Hispanic children and teens were exposed to approximately one ad per day on Spanish-language TV in addition to ads they viewed on English-language TV,” ( ). This may not sound like a lot, but just that one commercial can be enough to ignite the urge to go to out and choose an unhealthy meal instead of a healthy one. Not only do they get influence from TV commercials, but also McDonalds has a Spanish-language website as well, MeEncanta.com. McDonalds also advertises on websites across the net with both English and Spanish billboards, so they are sure to target both audiences. This means they are twice as likely to draw in a potential customer. The reason these groups, such as Hispanics, are generally targeted is because many statistics show that their income levels are lower. This means they would typically be more inclined to purchase cheap fast food over more expensive, healthier food. .


Staying healthy and in shape can be greatly attributed to having the proper nutrition. The grease bomb food that the drive-thru serves you is not going to get you those cuts you want. Not only is fast food loaded with trans fats, but also unknown quantities of other artery clogging ingredients. By eating a meal prepared at home, you can clearly see what you are putting together and how much of each ingredient you are getting. A healthy diet will not only make one physically look better, but feel better as well. Brain foods such as salmon and many types of vegetables are proven to make you age slower and maintain memory and intelligence easier as you get older. Leafy greens and fruits are great anti oxidants and help the immune system function properly. Basically anything natural and unfertilized will somehow positively benefit the body. With the proper combination of diet and exercise, the body will last longer, perform better, and will be less prone to illness and health issues. Fast food restaurants make you believe their burgers are not as bad as they really are by topping them with a dash of lettuce and a few slices of tomato. However under those toppings is the trans fat loaded patty along with an array of artery clogging sauces. In America, we like to do everything big, which includes everything from our burgers to our sodas. One of the biggest issues with fast food is that the portions you get at some places are enough for at least two people to share. McDonalds once had an option on their menu to “Supersize” your meal. Thanks to the movie “Supersize Me” and certain lawsuits, this was taken off of their menu. Even though there is not a “Supersize” option on the menu any more, the large is basically the same amount of food, just presented in a different manner. By preparing your food at home you are able to see


exactly how much food you are going to eat. You can make healthier choices about what food you are about to eat and know what is going into your meal. With the right set of tools, Americans can drop the surplus weight and all of the setbacks stemming from it. Though fast food companies are using sneakier methods to target specific audiences and appear more convenient, we are able to make the right choice to eat a healthier meal at home. Fitness and nutrition have positively impacted the American population and are continuing to make the country more fit and healthy. If we can prevent complications like heart disease and type two diabetes through moderation or extinction of fast food, the citizens of the United States will be better off financially and physically. A healthier and more physically fit America needs to be our future.


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