Is America getting fatter or fitter?
In 2010, WHO reported 1.6 billion people worldwide are overweight (with a BMI of 25+). 500 M are obese (BMI of 30+) In the United States, the obesity rate has jumped from 13 percent in 1960 to 34 percent in 2008. The number of overweight people is projected to hit 2.3 billion by 2015.
How is the United States enabling obesity? Should obesity be health target priority? WHO explains that risk of disease significantly increases in people with BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 21.
So how does the United States enable this “culture of obesity”? What we eat is one part of the picture; schools, day care, restaurants, food manufacturers, employers and health care providers are addressing (or being made to address) health conscious initiatives. Mandatory nutrition labels and product information, calorie and nutrition data posted on commercial and restaurant foods, Schools are serving healthier lunches and provide reducing junk food available in vending machines. There is only so much that institutions and commerce can or should do to prevent obesity. Free trade is the American way. The bottom line is that the person responsible for change is the obese person, and parents of obese children.
Sedentary lifestyle, as much as diet and nutrition, is responsible for obesity. We’ve moved from active to passive in school, work and leisure pursuits. Some of us make our living sitting in front of a computer. Children spend most of their school day sitting. If we also spend our leisure time in front a screen: Xbox, television, internet play, PS3, movie screen, Kindle, cell phone or other vicarious digital device, we keep getting fatter.
Is “society” responsible for sedentary lifestyles? Again, ultimately we make our own lifestyle choices. However there are several ways in which we enable obesity. Obesity is fast becoming the number one killer in the US. It costs taxpayers billions of dollars in health care. Why do insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid pay exorbitant sums for motorized carts, extra large chairs and expensive walkers for obese people?
In my summers off from teaching, I cleaned house for an obese man who literally rode everywhere on his cart. He had a handicapped accessible vehicle. As a minister; his parsonage was next door to the church. He rode his motorized cart from his door across 100 feet of parking lot to sit in a special oversized chair, eat Hershey’s Kisses and drink Coca-Cola all day. I know because I had to clean up the wrappers that he threw on the floor and clean out his pop cans. He was diabetic and said he had to eat this way.
Why do obese people qualify for handicapped parking passes? I watched a man drive in to our local library parking garage. He was so fat he could barely turn the steering wheel. He parked in the handicapped parking space, actually driving up on the curb because he could not operate his vehicle properly. Getting out took him quite some time and required assistance. He had a special key provided for use of the elevator (in many buildings the elevator can only be used by handicapped people). The library is two stories and a handicapped ramp was accessible. He played games and chatted online in the computer lab all day. He did not have a job because he is “handicapped” and cannot work.
Are we afraid if we address obesity we interfere with a person’s liberties? Funny, we don’t worry about liberties with smokers. Entire communities have banned smoking. Some employers do not allow smoking on company property, including inside an employee’s vehicle if it’s parked in a company parking lot. Schools and employers put video surveillance cameras in bathrooms. Isn’t that interfering with liberty and privacy? With a projected 700 M obese people, isn’t it time we quit supporting lifestyles that hurt us all?
Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben writes from 25+ years teaching K-8, EI, CI, ASD, LD, ESL, Montessori, adult education and homeschool. She is passionate about child and family issues, emotional health, sustainable lifestyles and social justice. Marilisa writes for the Yahoo! Contributor Network about parenting concerns.
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