Reading this week’s articles involving obesity, it becomes readily apparent that the government considers obesity to be beyond a mere matter of personal choice. Reading President Kennedy’s piece in which he calls upon Americans to better their physical fitness as a means of patriotic service, one could easily make the assumption that this is an antiquated example of Cold War politics, and that America was looking for every possible way to exert its superiority on the world stage over the Soviet Union. It is therefore intriguing to note that even today, justification for government involvement in policing against obesity is justified through its relation to national security, as this article implies. Its author goes as far as to call obesity a “national security threat,” and centers his argument against obesity on the fact that obesity is a legitimate, tangible national security threat. Although the article is light on potential solutions to the problem introduced, one of the most interesting is to create zoning laws that would prevent fast-food restaurants from being allowed near schools, as the author asserts that studies have shown that there are more obese children in areas in which such restaurants are within a half mile of a school. Other measures have also been proposed that would involve an active government role in the regulation of what individuals consume. There is currently a debate in New York City over whether food stamps should be allow to be used to purchase soda and other sugary beverages, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in favor of enacting such a ban in an attempt to lower obesity rates in within the city. While advocates of the ban insist that they are not attempting to stigmatize underprivileged citizens and are merely attempting to aid the public health, opponents criticize the attempt as a means of trying to control the bodies of poverty-stricken citizens, and see such laws as an attempt to further the gap between the rich and the poor. Given such that such a politicization of obesity has clearly become the norm, one must ask: at what point does an attempt to improve the public health become a situation of over-regulation? Should people have complete freedom to choose what to eat, or is it justified to treat certain types of food as tobacco is treated, ie. as a dangerous product that should be made more difficult to purchase? And finally, is it ethical for the government to impose limitations on what is purchased with government sponsored food aid such as food stamps, and if so, why?
This reminded me of some class discussion we had. figured i would share
It has become quite clear that obesity is becoming a growing problem for not only the United States but also the world. “The two most common and well-known reasons for obesity are lack of exercise and eating unhealthy foods that are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Probably 80 to 90 percent of people are overweight due to these reasons” (Ramm). However, the problem lies in who is to blame for this obesity problem, the users or the suppliers? I guess this same argument could be used in the drug war, so is obesity the worst drug of them all? “Prof Stephenson said it was likely the solution lay in changing the way people were exposed to advertising. “Another aspect is the taxation of cigarettes to deter people from buying them – that seems something to look at in relation to food.”(Stephenson).” The overexposure to unhealthy food choices creates for an environment in which society is entrapped in a world of unhealthy food choices. So what is going to be done to try and deter people from making unhealthy food choices? A campaign by the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges was launched yesterday with a broadside against an unlikely target – the London 2012 Olympics. The body, which represents 200,000 doctors, says sponsorship of the Games by fast food and soft drink firms including McDonald’s and Coca-Cola sends out the wrong health message. Spokesman Professor Terence Stephenson said: “They clearly wouldn’t be spending the money if they didn’t benefit from being associated with successful athletes.(Stephenson)” Without creating a deterrent for people to stop eating unhealthy choices and creating an incentive to start exercising and living healthier lives are we doomed to allow obesity to take over the world?
It is clear that the people of the United States have progressively grown fatter over the decades leading up to today. Studies show that though calorie expenditure has not increased much over the last thirty years, calories taken in have risen significantly. This begs the question: Why? Today, people tend to eat prepared meals, rather than cook their own meals, because they are quick and tasty. These meals are often loaded with preservatives and fatty oils. As technology has progressed we have become a faster paced nation. This may answer many of the questions why obesity has become an epidemic in the United States. It has become common for women to have fulltime jobs to help pay for family expenditures. This takes women away from the home, where they were expected to cook healthy and hearty meals, and puts them into the work place. Now, less people know how to cook, people are tired and would rather settle for a cheap easy alternative, and more fast food places are readily available for consumers.
Bad habits are being created at young ages in America, where children are being raised off up snacks foods, microwave dinners, and fast food. They are innocent casualties in our country’s shift towards unhealthy eating because they lack a voice in what foods they will eat. Children suffer from the same trend in obesity as the rest of the country, increasing year after year. Over recent decades, numerous efforts have been put in place to nip obesity in the bud by schools nationwide. It has been proven that multiple smaller meals throughout the day are more efficient in boosting metabolism and burning fat than fewer large portioned meals. In cities around the country this has led to schools distributing breakfast to students, to get their minds and bodies working early in the morning. They began doing this for students who were suffering from the current economic hardships, and could not afford meals of their own. The problem with this, noted here, is that this may lead some students to double-dip, eat breakfast at home and then again at school. This would further the problem of obesity by allotting children with more than the necessary required amount of calories they need.
In most high schools around the nation, one can find vending machines. Schools use the extra funds accumulated from these machines to buy things for the students that are not in the funding programs. Up until recent years they were stocked with snack foods like cookies, sodas, candies, and potato chips. The Obama administration has been working to make these machines more nutritious, in order to get students eating healthier. Alternatives that have been proposed include fresh fruits, yogurts, and wraps. Schools argue that they need the extra revenue brought in by the vending machines, while food activists argue that they would still make money if the products in those machines change.
More and more policies are put in place each year to try and prevent obesity, but still the problem continues to grow. What policies could be put in place to prevent people from eating foods that impact their health negatively? Are these policies required or should the government lack the right to dictate what a person can or cannot put into their body? Why does the government care?
Because of the rapidly growing obese population in the United States, the fight against obesity had been the most popular American war. It had led to the development of various fitness equipments, such as treadmills and bowflex, an assorted array of weight-loss nutrition foods, such as Slim-Fast!, and now, laws that would lead to the taxation of high fat and high sugar foods. According to this article, surveys conducted by Phalanx Investment Partners LLC revealed that “1 in 3 Americans believe that obese people should pay more in taxes than healthy weight people.” But the article argues that this idea would be unattractive to most politicians who are constantly seeking for the votes of those people. The article states that the best alternative would be to tax high fat and high sugar foods, such as french fries and cotton candy, just as how the government fought smoking by taxing cigarettes.
America is not the only fighter against obesity. Great Britain had been fighting as well. According to this article, its most recent attack, initiated by the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, was protesting against McDonald’s and Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics. They argue that those companies “send out the wrong health message.” Furthermore, spokesman Professor Terence Stephenson said: “They clearly wouldn’t be spending the money if they didn’t benefit from being associated with successful athletes.” In other words, it’s all about the money. Another solution they considered was to tax unhealthy foods just like what’s being considered in the U.S.
What do you think about taxing high-fat and high sugar foods?
Are national identities really as timeless as they seem? Well, not really…
More than any other country in the world, obesity is a high priority issue in America. According to one article assigned in class, “despite our good food and our many playgrounds, despite our emphasis on school athletics, American youth lagged far behind Europeans in physical fitness. Six tests for muscular strength and flexibility were given; 57.9% of the American children failed one or more of these tests, while only 8.7% of the European youngsters failed.” An increasing sedentary lifestyle in combination with a diet full of saturated fats and cholesterol lead to a high rate of obesity in America. An NYT article agrees, stating that, “Americans are eating more than ever, increasing their average number of calories year by year. And the percentage of adults who claim they are physically inactive remained nearly flat from 1991 to 1998, at about 29 percent.” The result is the launching of President Kennedy’s “War on Obesity”. The objective of the War on Drugs is to eliminate the increasing rate of obesity, ultimately ending with a generally healthy population. President Kennedy, when introducing the War on Obesity, states, “Throughout our history we have been challenged to armed conflict by nations which sought to destroy our independence or threatened our freedom. The young men of America have risen to those occasions…But the stamina and strength with the defense of libery requires are not the product of a few weeks’ basic training or a months conditioning. These only come from bodies which have been conditioned by a lifetime of participation in sports and interest in physical activity.” Here, Kennedy asserts the importance of physical fitness upon the county. According to a different NYT article, the War on Obesity is nothing but a trend of paranoia in our country. Being fat is not as big a deal as it is made out to be by the government. The article states, “But a growing group of historians and cultural critics who study fat say this obsession is based less on science than on morality. Insidious attitudes about politics, sex, race or class are at the heart of the frenzy over obesity, these scholars say, a frenzy they see as comparable to the Salem witch trials, McCarthyism and even the eugenics movement.” Another article from class sides with this view, stating, “…portraying obesity as a problem of class and race potentially provides new avenues for racism and classism…” In short, prejudice against obese people can open the doors to new types animosities against obese, such as linking them to race or class. These articles are claiming that one of the deficiencies with the War on Obesity is that it demonizes and targets obese people, instead of the actual institutions that produce fatty foods themselves. My discussion question is: Which would be more effective, targeting the people themselves for their choices or the food manufacturers?
NYT articles: http://www.nytimes.com/1999/10/31/weekinreview/ideas-trends-eating-disorder-the-fat-war-hope-amid-the-harm.html#
I had a friend who taught English in a French high school for a year. Her students did not believe that she was American. When she queried the reasoning behind their disbelief, they said, “Because you’re not fat.”
My experience studying abroad in France paralleled this comment, as I endured many lectures from the French about the negative eating habits that Americans practice, regardless of whether or not I practiced them myself. While France does not represent the entire world, it remains difficult to deny that America has a bizarre politics surrounding food and weight.
The readings from this week discussed obtaining physical fitness as a step on the quest to American patriotism and mentioned the paradox of how American cultural food contributes to obesity. Another more important theme of the reading relates to the unevenness of obesity across populations.
This article discusses the statistical tendency of obese people to be unable to afford healthcare with doctors and other professional services that can help them relieve this condition. This further propagates obesity among these underprivileged populations. Insurance companies have started covering costs of obesity, though that does not guarantee quality of doctors that people can afford seeing.
This article does not boast a great length, but it relates to the readings through commentary by British experts who theorize that American obesity would become less of a problem if physically fit athletes and models did not promote junk food through sponsorships and other forms of advertisement. It argues that changing the culture would affect the obesity phenomenon.
The questions I pose are as follows: When does obesity, a seemingly personal matter, become an issue of the state? What measures to combat it remain justified? Would a “fat tax” and cultural shift of the media really make a difference?