Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dumb or Diseased?


America’s obesity epidemic is of great interest to me. Having just recently graduated with a Masters in Health and Physical Education, I have seen the efforts being made by schools and universities to enhance a childs physical education. However, I have served in a steakhouse for over 7 years, and have been privy to the efforts families make to enhance their waistlines. As much as the educator in me wants to believe that people don’t blatantly disregard the overwhelming warnings about poor eating habits and the value of healthy eating and exercise, the server in me has seen people do it too many times.

Sweet Tea, Coke, and other soda options were not an option for me as a child as water was my only choice. More often than not, I see parents allow their child to suck down 6 glasses of their sugary drinks, probably because they are only concerned with receiving their 7th refill. The amount of sugar and calories in these drinks have been well exploited. I would also like to add that even though you ordered diet coke, after drinking 4 glasses, it is no longer a healthier option. PS…ordering water for you and your kids will save you about 2.50 a drink….which could be used towards the tip…water is easier to refill than Mr.Pibb…

Cheesefries have never nor should they ever be ordered as a meal for any person, let alone a child. Especially when the salad ordered from them contains only iceberg lettuce (the lettuce that provides absolutely nothing to your body..aka the redneck lettuce), extra cheese, ranch, and crotons but NO tomatoes or cucumbers. Basically, any excuse to eat ranch dressing. Sometimes people just forgo even the lettuce and just ask for cheese and crotons.

More often than not, these are the families that had to request a table because a booth isn’t large enough for them or had to ask for a large booth that should seat six but will barely accommodate their family of 4.

Older generations, such as my parents, didn’t have the education that so many people do now about portion control, exercise, and calories. And yet, this is the fattest generation we have ever seen and it is only getting worse. I am a firm believer that the root of childhood obesity can be traced back to the parents. Portion control shouldn’t have to be taught. If you eat fried foods and cheeseburgers every day, how in the world would you not expect to gain weight?? Americans used to understand that. So my question might be, as we as a country get fatter, are we also getting dumber? Test scores from around the world might indicate that we are.

If you are reading this and don’t know me, you might be thinking I am some skinny bitch who has never dealt with weight issues. You would be right about the skinny bitch, but I have definitely had weight issues. Currently healthy at 105 pounds, I remain in shape by running and using portion control. However, in college, I gained 30 pounds because I chose to ignore my education, and decreased my activity level and increased my greasy food and beer intake.

After college, I conveniently remembered everything I had been taught over the years and started using my common sense. Running and a healthy diet, with definite occasional splurges, allowed me to shed the weight over the course of a year. I believe this is a dying practice

Look at the ways more and more Americans are trying to lose weight. Gone are the days of shedding pounds in a healthy way over a longer period of time. People want to lose weight quickly and much like they did on their journey to becoming obese, they disregard the harmful effects of their actions on their body. I believe the dangerous stomach stapling surgeries, cleanses, and diets that are so currently popular have been sending out a very risky and powerful message: “It doesn’t take hard work to get what you want.” And unfortunately, I think it is obvious that this is the mindset so many Americans have begun to encompass. Many people want to lose weight fast or get rich with minimal effort. Younger generations feel entitled to instead of working hard for some of the creature comforts we all desire. Although I know it still exists, that American spirit of working hard for what you want is quickly diminishing.

I was at a water park outside of Atlanta a few days ago, and I still haven’t figured out if I had more fun on the rides or people watching. I feel like I was watching a showcase featuring America’s most unhealthy families. I am not being critical when I say we were in the minority by not being overweight or obese. I actually thought to myself, “Americans in general are a terrible looking population.” I know this is obviously a very small demographic but it was still very disconcerting. The south has some of the highest rates of obesity. Seeing these people walking around in bathing suits with no apparent concern for the excess weight displayed made me ask the question, “when did it become normal for people to be so fat?”

I know it is incredibly important to have a healthy self image. People need to be comfortable with themselves and their body. But where should the line be drawn? Now considered a disease, allowing these obese people to be comfortable with their body is like encouraging a smoker to keep lighting up.  

Americans have become desensitized to the dangers of obesity. Allowing it to be so common that is now considered a disease should be a huge warning sign to those of us concerned with the state of our country. It appears that the concept of self control is being lost.  People are more willing to lose limbs from the complications of diabetes or endure a possibly fatal heart attack rather than stop going to McDonalds.

My education is in health and wellness. Prior to receiving my masters, I earned a bachelors degree in Health Promotion and Behavior. I am well aware of the difficulties that can cause weight gain. I know that unhealthy food is almost always cheaper to purchase than healthier options such as fruits and veggies. I know there is varying combination of factors that can allow people to become obese. Is there too much empathy for the obese? Should we continue to enlarge seats and increase weight maximums to accommodate the growing obese demographic? Are the accommodations and modifications being made for the obese actually encouraging people to not change?
I work hard to maintain my weight. I try to eat healthy. I indulge in double quarter pounders. I almost understand how obesity first emerged due increased portion sizes and decreased activity. But what I am still trying to fathom is why it is only getting worse.  

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