Recently a commercial by the American Beverage Association has caught my attention. It's a smart sounding mom with some straight talk. She says "Give me a break, getting serious about obesity starts with education, not laws and regulations."
As the woman pushes a cart in front of a pile of shiny apples she tells us "The fact is, it’s not the government's job to grocery shop for my family, it’s mine."
I'd like to know when and where she's starting her obesity education. Is it mandatory? Is it offered at a local church, a community college, public school? It's definitely not outlined or suggested in the commercial. Perhaps the American Beverage Association is going to offer courses on what causes obesity or create some reputation-enhancing PSA. Though highly unlikely their members who make sugary sodas would be recognized as an obesity contributor. Education is valuable, but this straight-talking fictional mom and the American Beverage Association miss one great point, obesity can be avoided. In theory, learning about obesity is a ridiculous proposition. How about learning about prevention?
But, you say, you've heard about obesity prevention. You've heard the arguments against fast foods, sedentary life styles, and junk food. You've tried diets, you've failed, you've felt defeated. You've been schooled on what causes obesity but still every year you put on more pounds than lose? If simple education worked shouldn't the percentage of obese Americans decrease instead of increase?
There's no doubt that Americans are getting bigger and bigger every year, education or not. In 1962, the obesity rate was 13%. Today it's 34% and 17% of those are children. Many of us have accepted a bigger me because it seems to be how it's shaping up. It's not like those of us who gain weight each year are purposely deciding to damage our health or become burdens to society. More correctly we are a product of society.
Which is why we've adjusted to seeing bigger Americans and thinking it's okay. Why didn't they use an actress for the shoot who was the same frame and weight of an American mom from any generation prior to the 1990's? We have actors like James Gandolfini and journalists like Tim Russert who were clearly overweight and who died early from cardiac arrest. James Gandolfini's last meal reads gluttonous loud and clear.
Unlike older cultures like in Europe where public transportation grew alongside population, our U.S. communities require cars to get around. Our neighborhoods do not model villages. We eat on the run because we have to make money. Many work environments favor lunch at the desk. We don't eat regularly with friends and family in a calm setting where food and community is digested, figuratively and literally. Plus who has time to make home cooked meals? The kind that aren't frozen. Unlike Europe, food producers in the U.S. steer far far away from whole foods in the name of profit. Anyone who stays more than fifteen minutles in the middle aisles of a grocery store, non-produce or meat aisels, are consuming a lot of processed, salty and or sugary items.
This week the AMA declared obesity a disease. Many were left scratching their heads. How can it be a disease if it's self-inflicted? No one forces a gun to your head to overeat. You become fat and obese because you consume far more calories than you use. So why do you do this? This is the real question. Instead of educating on obesity, why don't we talk about community, offering better school meals, valueing time spent communing while we eat. It's sad to admit, but on some days, the only relaxation and pleasure we get is from our fast and junky food. Obese bodies are really trying to tell us something far different. Why can't we as a society, as employers, as government, as individuals listen?