Supersized to Oversized
Obesity has become an epidemic in America. From as recent as August 2017, adult obesity rates in five states now exceed 35%, 24 states now exceed 30%, and 46 out of 50 states exceed 25% adult obesity (“Adult Obesity in the United States,” n.d.). Obesity is not only affecting adults, it’s affecting our children. Childhood obesity is on the rise, with three in 10 kids being overweight or obese (“Three in 10 U.S. Kids,” n.d.) and these numbers are climbing. This is a huge problem because obesity can have dramatic negative effects to your health, both physically and mentally. But why has this become a problem? What problems does it impose on your body? What is causing it and what can be done to stop or prevent it from getting worse? These are issues I want to address in this essay.
Obesity is clearly a problem in America and it is only getting worse. The obesity rate is increasing by 0.77% every year for adults and between 0.46-0.49% for children. If these rates continue the way they do by the year 2030, 86.3% of adults will be overweight or obese and the obesity rate for children will have doubled to 30% (Wang, et al. 2012). Not only is this detrimental to the health of people but it is also extremely costly to our healthcare system. Right now weight related medical issues cost our healthcare about 430.4-478.5 billion dollars annually. By 2030, that number will have doubled and overweight and obesity will account for 16-18% of healthcare cost (Wang, et al. 2012). The medical problems that come with being obese as a child are those that have been commonly found in overweight adults, until now, but due to obesity have made their way to children (“What are the Complications,” n.d.). These include Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease, bone and joint problems, respiratory problems, earlier than normal puberty or menstruation, eating disorders, skin infections and fatigue. The problems only get worse as they get older including, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, mental illness, some forms of cancer and death.
What could be causing the obesity problem to become an obesity epidemic? The first problem is the lack of exercise and the increasing sedentary lifestyle we now live. We can see a good example of this by one study that showed that 50% of jobs in 1960 required moderate physical activity and that number has declined to 20% today (“Why are Americans Obese,” 2017).
The second reason is poor nutrition. It’s not that people don’t get enough food, it’s that they don’t get healthy food. Many lower income areas don’t have as much access to healthy food choices which creates what are called “food deserts” (Levine, 2011). Even when healthier options are available not everyone can afford it. According to research by the Harvard School of Public Health, it cost $1.50 more to eat healthy foods versus their unhealthy counterparts (“Eating Healthy vs. Unhealthy,” 2014). That is why the most impoverished areas in The United States are the most likely to have the highest obesity rates (levine, 2011).
The third, and probably the biggest cause to the obesity epidemic, is our food portions. According to Dr. Lenna Liu, a pediatrician at the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic and head of the obesity program at Seattle Children’s Hospital, “Our portions are bigger, we’re eating more processed and calorically dense food” (Burnett, 2012). And she’s right. Compared current portions of restaurant, grocery products, and recipes in cookbooks with comparable older data, it was found that all the portions have been raise in all food categories except for bread. It started in the 1970’s and increased sharply in the 1980’s (Young and Nestle, 2002). The biggest culprit to increase their portion sizes is the fast food industry. The increased portion size of fast food and the obesity rates have increased in parallel (Nielsen, 2003). You see it everywhere in fast food with their “value meals” and “supersize” options. Because food is only a small percentage of the cost of a meal, giving customers more food for a few extra cents is a great way to get repeat customers and increase their total sales (PhD Barbara, 2003). So you get more food for a cheaper price, but it is more processed, unhealthy food that you’re getting. Our portion sizes today are so unhealthy yet they are socially accepted. So much so that automobile manufacturers have made their newer car models with lager cup holder to accommodated for “Big Gulps” and “Extra Sip” cup (Young and Nestle, 2002). The fast food industry knows that there is a obesity epidemic going on, and they know they are in part to blame. In the movie “Supersize Me”, one of the spokesmen for McDonalds was interviewed and said, “ Yes we are part of the problem. But we’re also part of the solution” (Supersize Me, 2004). He was fired for that statement after the movie was released. When confronted about the situation the National Restaurant Association had this to say:
“All of this finger pointing assumes that Americans have no self-control over what they put in their mouths. Is it true then that people today cannot control the foods they eat? Is it the responsibility of restaurants to compensate for this loss of control by limiting food choices for their customers by banning large portions? In the restaurant industry, we believe the answer is a resounding “no” to both question. Customers clearly vote with their pocketbooks every day”(Cohn SR, 2000)
The statement they made is true on all accounts. It’s not their responsibility to properly portion our food, it’s ours. Yet we still keep going back. I believe that this is mostly in part that we are uneducated and unaware of portion control. The American Institute for Cancer Research did several surveys and 62% of their participants were unaware that potions served in restaurants had increased in size in the past ten years (American Institute for Cancer Research, 2011). Not many people today know what a standard portion size is for any particular food. Even students studying to become nutritionists are confused on correct portion sizes. A study shows this when a class of undergraduate nutrition students were asked to bring in a “medium” size portion of a bagel, muffin, cookie, or a baked potato. The amounts brought in widely varied, and most were twice the size of what the United States Department of Agriculture recommends (Young and Nestle,1998). Knowing proper portion sizes is very important because you can not rely on your body to let you know how much food is enough. This is illustrated in a study that was done where adults were give four different portions of macaroni and cheese on several different days. When given the larger portions of food it showed that they ate about 30 % more than the standard portion size they started with. After the study was done, less than 45 % of the participants said they had not noticed that the portion sizes had changed. Yet all of them had reported similar ratings of hunger and fullness after each portion of food (Rolls, et al., 2002). This is why education is so desperately needed.
There are many things that can be done to combat the obesity epidemic. The first thing that can be done starts at birth, and it is breastfeeding your baby. Research suggests that breastfed babies are 15-25% less likely to become overweight; and for those that are breastfed for at least six month, that number jumps to 20-40% (“Obesity Prevention,” n.d.). Something as little as breastfeeding your baby can have a positive impact child for the rest of their life. Other things that can be done are probably the most obvious like increasing physical activity. That doesn’t mean you have to spend hours at the gym or on a treadmill. It just means get up and move around more. Go outside and play, ride a bike, go swimming or play a sport. Exercise doesn’t mean you have to tediously push weights. It can be something that you love to do, just exert some physical effort. But the most import thing we can do is educate ourselves on proper nutrition. This education should also start at a young age. It would be in a nations best interest to have mandatory nutrition classes starting in elementary school and continue though high school. We have sexual education class, why not have one on proper nutrition? In these classes student need to be made aware of what are healthy and unhealthy foods, how to read a nutrition label on food packages, what the consequences of having unhealthy eating lifestyle and, of course, how to properly portion out their food. The Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, and all the other fad diets out there are not going to cure this epidemic, education will.
I hope now you understand that obesity is a tremendous problem in America. A problem that won’t just go away, and left unchecked can have severe consequences to our health and to our healthcare system. We know that the cause of this epidemic is from poor nutrition and our oversized food portion.
- Rolls, Barbara J.PhD, “The Supersizing of America: Portion Size and the Obesity Epidemic”. Nutrition Today, April 2003. Vol.38, no. 2. Pp.42-53.
This article talks about how the portion sizes of foods have increased in America and are affecting the obesity epidemic. This will help me show there is a obesity problem and what is causing it. Since it was published in a science journal I believe it to be reliable.
2. Johnson, Demetric, “The Obesity Epidemic”. Integrated Studies. Vol.139, 2018.
This journal goes into great detail about the obesity epidemic. Who it affect, how it affects and why. I will use this to show there is a obesity problem and the causes of it. Since this was published in a science journal I believe it to be reliable.
3. Wang,Youfa, Beydoun, May Liang, Lan, Caballero, Benjamin, Kumanyika, Shiriki. “Will All American Become Overweight Or Obese? Estimation the Progression and Cost of the US Epidemic”. Obesity vol.16, no. 10. 2012.
This article talks about what will happen if the obesity problem goes left unchecked and the effect it will have on our healthcare system. I will use this show what will happen to us if we don’t address this problem soon. Since this was published in a science journal I believe it to be a reliable source.
4. Young LR, Nestle M. “the Contribution of Expanding Portion Size to the US Obesity Epidemic,” Am J Public Health. 2002; 92; 246-249.
This article talks about the problems of portion control we have with our food. This will help me identify what is causing the obesity problem and how to stop it. This study produced solid data from their test so i believe it to be reliable.
5. Nielsen SJ, Popkin BM. “patterns and Trends in Food Sizes, 1977-1998″. JAMA. 2003; 289: 450-453
This article shows how obesity rates have climb along side with portion sizes. I will use this to show that portion sizes are what is causing the obesity epidemic. This was referenced in “The Obesity Epidemic” so I trust it to be reliable.
6. Smiciklas-Weight H, Mitchell DC, Mickle SJ, Goldman JD, Cook A. “Foods commonly Eaten in the United States,1989-1991 and 1994-1996: are Portion Sizes Changing?”. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003; 103:41-47.
This article talks about the unhealthy foods that are commonly eaten in America along with oversized portion. This will be used to Identify the obesity problem and what is causing it. This was referenced in “The Obesity Epidemic” so I trust it to be reliable.
7. Rolls BJ, Morris EL, Roe LS. “Portion Size of Food Affects Energy Intake in Normal-Weight and Overweight Men and Women.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2002; 76:1207-1213.
This shows studies done on portion control. The methods use were sound and produced what i believe to be good quality data. This will be used to show how the fast food industry can increase our portion sizes and we wouldn’t even know.
8. The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA). “From Wallet to Waistline: The Hidden Costs of Super Sizing.” Washington, DC: NANA; 2002.
This article takes about the fast food industry and how they have increased their portion sizes and how they use it as a business tactic. The information use from this I know to be true from business and economic classes I have taken.
9. Adult Obesity in the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2018, from https://stateofobesity.org/adult-obesity/
This talks about the obesity rate in America and how they have grown. I will use this to point out the obesity problem in America. This was referenced in “The Supersizing of America: Portion Size and the Obesity Epidemic” so I trust it to be reliable.
10. Burnett, C. (2012, December 28).Childhood Obesity: How Did So Many Kids Get So Overweight?”. Retrieved April 19, 2018 from https://parentmap.com/article/childhood-obesity-how-did-so-many-kids-get-so-overweight
This explains the obesity rate for children in America and what the cause might be. I will use this to show that adults are not the only ones affected by the obesity epidemic. This was referenced in “The Supersizing of America: Portion Size and the Obesity Epidemic” so I trust it to be reliable.
11. “Eating Healthy vs. Unhealthy Diet Costs About $1.50 More per Day”. (2014, January 13) Retrieved April 19, 2018, from https:www.hsph.edu/news/press-releases/healthy-vs-unhealthy-diet-costs-1-50-more/
This talks about how it is much cheaper to eat unhealthy food vs their healthier counterparts. It also explains that poorer income families have higher chances of being obese. This was referenced in “The Supersizing of America: Portion Size and the Obesity Epidemic” so I trust it to be reliable.
12. Levine,J.A. (2011, November). Retrieved April 19 2018, from
Levine talks about what food deserts are and how they contribute the the obesity epidemic. I uses this to point out causes of the obesity problem. This was referenced in “The Supersizing of America: Portion Size and the Obesity Epidemic” so I trust it to be reliable.
13. The State of Childhood Obesity. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19 from https://stateofobesity.org/childhood-obesity-trends/
This article gives statistics and stats on childhood obesity in America. I will use this to explain how obesity is affecting children. This article is referenced in “The Supersizing of America: Portion Size and the Obesity Epidemic” so i trust it be reliable.
14. Three in 10 U.S. Kids Are Overweight or Obese. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2018 from https://aecf.org/blog/three-in10-us-kids-are-overweight-or-obese/
This gives statistics on childhood obesity. I will use the to show how the obesity epidemic is affecting children. This was referenced in “The Supersizing of America: Portion Size and the Obesity Epidemic” so i trust it to be reliable.
15. What Are The Complications of Childhood Obesity?(n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2018, from http://childhoodobestiyfoundation.ca/what-is-childhood-obesity/complications.childhood-obesity/
This article goes into detail about the health effects obesity can have on children. I will use this to explain why the obesity epidemic is such a problem. This was referenced in “The Supersizing of America: Portion Size and the Obesity Epidemic” so I believe it to be reliable.
16. Why Are American Obese? (2017, December 12). Retrieved April 19, 2018, from https://www.publichealth.org/public-awareness/obestiy/
This article talks about poor nutrition and portion sizes. I will use this to show that oversized portion are the cause of obesity in America. This was referenced in “The Supersizing of America: Portion Size and the Obesity Epidemic” so i believe it to be reliable.
17. Obesity Prevention.(n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2018 from https//stanfordhealthcrae.org/medical-conditions/healthy-living.obesity/prevention.html
This article give tips on how to prevent obesity and what can be done to decrease the already high obesity rates. This was referenced in “The Supersizing of America: Portion Size and the Obesity Epidemic” so i believe them to be reliable.