Friday, February 10, 2012

The Role of Obesity

You would have to be a hermit not to know about the dramatic rise of obesity levels in North America. Health issues have been plastered around the media non stop for the better part of the last five years. The problem is that for the most part the message has been falling short of its mark. There are more obese people in 2004 then there were in 2003. The number of diet related health complications is growing and children are ballooning at a rate comparable to their adult counterparts. On the flip side, the health industry has been showing strong signs of growth, with one in four women and one in five men on a diet at any given time. While times have been tight financially, people have been opening up their wallets in record numbers to by fitness products and gym memberships.
So the bottom line is that while people are actively aware of health and fitness concerns, and are spending more then ever before on products and services to battle poor fitness, North America as a whole is getting fatter. It seems like a contradiction but it is the truth none the less. For one thing, the most people try to fix their health and then give up because it is too challenging. Often they lack the support from friends and family or even the proper skill set to be successful.
However, that being said, North America is in a bad way when it comes to health. We are a society that allows itself to binge to a point where obesity is considered an epidemic. Historically epidemics are things that rage outside of the ready control of human kind. When we typically think about epidemics we think about cholera, typhus or even 'the plague' – bubonic fever. In North America we have allowed our own poor habits to become an epidemic. It is really a shameful situation. We are simply eating ourselves to death. It is so serious that we have declared a war on fat. A war, on fat. Somehow by drawing on images of fighting, of military might, of violence, we will be able to battle obesity.
Are we that soft (no pun intended)? Can we not take responsibility for our own actions, including what we put into our bodies? Recently there have been lawsuits filed against fast food establishments that charge them with knowingly selling harmful goods. The lawsuit does not surprise me, after all it's the American way, it does surprise me that we are willing to acknowledge that we cannot feed ourselves safely. That is, by assuming the position of a victim we allow someone else to be responsible.
In North America, the sad truth of the matter is that we have managed to take the normal daily necessity of eating and pervert it into a national killer of epidemic proportions. We are, as a society, beginning to ask why this as happened. Fingers are being pointed at corporations who used processed foods to enlarge their bottom lines at the expense of health, at the creation of 'big box' food companies who saturate the media with their products inciting us to eat, at the government for being so passive and allowing obesity to become such an issue, at budget cuts that see physical education programs taken out of schools. Everywhere you look you can find a guilty party.
While all this seems to make sense - after all you can start healing after you find the culprit- this mode of reasoning deprives us of our individuality and our integrity. If we allow others to be responsible over such base matters as our eating, then what we are really doing labeling ourselves as incapable.
Yes, obesity is an epidemic. Yes, drastic measures should be taken to stem the growth our waist lines. However, the only one to really blame for this is ourselves. Accept in a very few cases, nobody forces you to eat anything. What you eat is predicated on choice alone. Make a choice and choose to be healthy. Take responsibility for what goes into your body. Be capable of guiding your own health and well being.