Obesity and How It Has Permeated Social Class
America is facing two of its most deadly epidemics, and though each has to do with our diets, they are polar opposites of one another. America’s population is facing the biggest disparity between the overfed and the underfed in our history. Yet, even though a majority of U.S. citizens are unaware of how they will get their next meal ,obesity runs rampant. We once saw obesity as a disease of the privileged, the overindulged and the lazy wealth of our nation, now obesity threatens to shorten lives of all our posterity rich and poor. It is the corporations that, through genetic modification and the use of shortcuts when growing and raising farm stock, that have put us all at risk. Patel makes note that supermarkets aim to sell food that stays picturesque and looks more appealing to buyers. British children are, for instance, able to select from twenty-eight branded breakfast cereals the marketing of which is aimed directly at them. Cereal brands market specifically to children through bright colors and high levels of sugar which cause young children to crave the taste in order to hook them to that particular brand. When people have no choice or funds to pick from health options which are scarce in major chain supermarkets, we see the issue of obesity existing when sometimes eating is not even an option.
When companies pursue capital gain over the welfare of their consumers, it is the consumers, mainly the ones who are too young to choose, who suffer. Obesity itself is no longer an individual failure, rather the byproduct of marketing and corporate exploitation. These big companies lobby congress and influence environmental laws which may harm their business. When the general public is not aware of how their food is created the gap between consumer and company only allows for poorer food to be sold. In America, fast food chains and on-the-go meals are everywhere. But, more are concentrated in impoverished cities and urban neighborhoods. For example, popular food chain Wendy’s markets a deal where a cheeseburger, french fries, chicken nuggets and a soda will cost the consumers less than a side salad. Places like McDonalds will charge consumers to “upsize” to a water bottle while selling soda (which is produced cheaply and has a higher return value) for no additional cost of a meal. When people face choices such as these they lose the choice of considering their own well being. When a family must feed four people off of a salary designed for one they no longer can exercise freedom of choice, they must buy the cheaply made food because that fits their needs.
Our culture is as much to blame for obesity as is our culture of greed and capitalism. America is a country of excessive living. Food is sold in bulk quantities when it is made to be preserved for weeks, even months on end. Bread, meat and other produce that should be eaten fresh is often sold frozen, filled with preservatives. Even the human body takes weeks longer to decay now than our recent ancestors as a result of the preservatives we digest daily. This is why Patel points out the correlation between obesity in Mexican children and the distance they live to the American border. The closer these children live the more bloated they are simply due to the access of poorly made food and the ease of which the food is obtained even in a third world country.
We are used to blaming obesity on overeating, but it’s not that obese people are eating too much, its what the little they do eat, is bad for them. The overly processed foods that are widely available are filled with ingredients that cause the consumer to quickly feel hungry after they consume it. The more widely available a food the more likely that it will become a staple of lower class diets, in the article obesity and social class, J.T. Silverstone, points out that 72% of women and lower socioeconomic classes were obese compared to only 39% of women in higher socioeconomic classes. Causing the consumer to over indulge in the product they are eating to find the feeling of satisfaction. Pretty much every ingredient behind a fast food counter is designed to make you supersize your meal. For instance, trans fat inflames the gut, potentially impairing the body’s ability to produce appetite-controlling neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
Overall, obesity is not just an issue of the privileged but for the entire United States. It is predicted that by 2030 that nearly 40% of the U.S. will be obese, thats almost half of our country! Obesity is becoming unavoidable, we need to steer further away from processed foods and popular fast food chains and begin choosing healthier choices. Even if it means spending a dollar or two extra than what we are normally used to paying. Spending extra money on healthier choices is investing in our future. Hospital bills are more expensive than buying healthier groceries. Our lives aremore important.