Obesity in America – Is it a Choice? (Part 4)

Obesity in America – Is it a Choice? (Part 4 of a 4 Part Series)


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Anyone who walks down the aisles at the supermarket or drives down commercial America knows that it can be difficult to make healthy eating decisions. Who’s going to pick the grilled chicken sandwich on a wheat bun with a bottled water and a fruit cup on the side when you could have the tasty 1/4 pounder with cheese, fries, and a Coke? What honestly sounds better?

Or how about when you’re at the store and you see the box of reduced fat Cheez-Its; do those sound appealing?

In a world where you have to count not only your fat intake but you also have to make sure you are eating healthy fats – how do you make a healthy decision? Here is a breakdown of the different kinds of fats:

Type of healthy fat Food source
Monounsaturated fat Olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds
Polyunsaturated fat Vegetable oils (such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils), nuts and seeds
Omega-3 fatty acids Fatty, cold-water fish (such as salmon, mackerel and herring), flaxseeds, flax oil and walnuts
Type of harmful fat Food source
Saturated fat Animal products (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter), and coconut, palm and other tropical oils
Trans fat Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, commercial baked goods (such as crackers, cookies and cakes), fried foods (such as doughnuts and french fries), shortening and margarine
Dietary cholesterol Animal products (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter)

According to F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America 2009 – a report released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) – adult obesity rates have increased in 23 states and have not decreased in a single state in this last year. What’s worse is that the percentage of obese and overweight children is at or above 30% in 30 states.

Let’s take a moment to look at some statistics: Mississippi has the highest rate of adult obesity at 32.5% – 2009 is the 5th year that they have topped the list. Three other states now have rates that are over 30% (Alabama – 31.2%, West Virginia – 31.1%, and Tennessee – 30.2%)

8 out of 10 of the highest states with obese adults are in the South.

Colorado continues to have the lowest percentage of obese adults at 18.9%.

31 states now have rates that exceed 25% while 49 states (and Washington D.C.) have rates that exceed 20%. Currently 2/3 of American adults are either obese or overweight. Back in 1991 not a single state had an obesity rate over 20%. Go back even further to 1980 and the national average was no higher than 15%.

Sixteen states have experienced an increase for the second year in a row. Eleven states have experienced an increase for the third straight year.

Steering away from statistics and back onto the road of choices. As a perfectly competent adult it’s hard for me to acknowledge that as humans we somehow aren’t able to make healthy choices for ourselves. I think that there is a huge amount of accountability in the hands of each person who is overweight – however, there is accountability in the food manufacturers, restaurants, and parents who allow their children to eat unhealthily as well.

When choosing between regular milk which costs $3.09 per gallon (2%) and Shatto milk which costs 3.29 per 1/2 gallon (2%) but has no added hormones – it is hard to decide what you feel is ‘right’ for your (and your family’s) health.

The choice to be healthy isn’t just a task you have to take on mentally it is also one you have to take on financially. Joining the gym? Expect to pay anywhere from $40-150/month in fees. Want a gastric bypass procedure or lap band surgery? Expect to pay from $17,500-22,500. How about just eating healthy? It’s estimated your monthly food bill will jump upward of $150-300!

You would think eating less would cost less. However, before you just start cutting foods out of your diet you often try to eat something healthier in their place as to not have a relapse in weight loss. Healthier foods across the board cost more. 100 calorie packs are $5 for 6 packs vs. buying the package of cookies and just limiting yourself to 2.

There needs to be better alternatives to weight loss. Food needs to be more cost effective, gym memberships probably won’t budge but maybe they should offer more deals – like group discounts, restaurants need to POST their nutritional information (Calories, fat, cholesterol, and sugars) for each of their items on their menu so consumers can make more informed choices.

Earth doesn’t suck because a bunch of people are fat – Earth sucks because the chances of the next generation’s majority actually being in decent health is very low.

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