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The Epidemic Out of Focus

The Epidemic Out of Focus

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Hello! My name is Molly Roller and I am fortunate enough to be interning for Sam this semester. I am in my final semester at Butler and I look forward to seeing what is out there after graduation. I am a marketing major, but I am not feeling very excited or passionate about the business world anymore. Last summer, I decided to enroll in a Personal Training Certification course and I am almost finished! I have loved learning about the human body and I am amazed at what we can do. I am very excited to help others reach their health and fitness goals as a personal trainer very soon!

Personally, I have grown to have a deep appreciation for fitness. I got a late start, but I am always learning and growing on my own journey. I am particularly interested in the impact of rising obesity rates worldwide. For one of my classes, I wrote a research paper focused on the obesity epidemic. I have attached an excerpt below and I hope you enjoy reading it! I think one of the biggest takeaways from the research is that obesity is a completely understandable issue in terms of human biology. If you or one of your loved ones are struggling, please don’t feel guilty or ashamed. We are human, and the good news about obesity- it is a treatable condition! 


It is no secret that obesity rates have increased dramatically in areas all over the world. According to the World Health Organization, “Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults overweight – at least 300 million of them clinically obese – and is a major contributor to the global burden of chronic disease and disability. Often coexisting in developing countries with under-nutrition, obesity is a complex condition, with serious social and psychological dimensions, affecting virtually all ages and socioeconomic groups,” (WHO, 2003). 

Implications of Obesity

Obesity is a major health risk because it increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, sleep disorders, osteoarthritis, liver disease, kidney disease, and a myriad of pregnancy and fertility issues (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2015). 

Another interesting facet of the obesity epidemic is the economic cost associated with the disease. It is estimated that the annual direct healthcare costs associated with obesity in the United States alone reach $190.2 billion, which is 21 percent of all medical spending (National League of Cities, n.d.). This number does not account for the disability benefits, lost wages, or reduced worker productivity associated with overweight and obesity. Other countries with high obesity rates are experiencing the same burdens on their healthcare system. 

Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is perhaps the most alarming part of the epidemic. According to Blank Children’s Hospital, only 2% of children eat a healthy diet and over a quarter of American children do not participate in any sort of free-time physical activity (Blank Children’s Hospital, 2014). Internationally, childhood obesity rates are climbing at a rapid pace. “At least 340 million adolescents worldwide between ages 5-19, and 40 million children under age 5, have been classified as overweight, the report found. The most profound increase has been in the 5-19 age group, where the global rate of overweight increased from 10.3% in 2000 to 18.4% in 2018,” (Mcdonnell, 2019). 

At first, it may appear childhood obesity is a genetic issue but most doctors will disagree. If an entire family is overweight or obese, it is likely a lack of activity, poor diet choices, or a combination of both (Alli, 2020). Many of these decisions are made as a family. In other words, if the parents don’t prepare healthy meals or lead by example with an active lifestyle, the children will likely develop the same habits. 

Biological Influences

How did obesity reach epidemic proportions? To answer this, it is necessary to understand the foundation of human operation: energy intake versus energy expenditure. When humans consume what they expend, their weight stays the same. Any deviations on either side of this equation result in either weight gain or weight loss, generally speaking. The environment humans are living in today is one of very high calorie, satiating food served in epic proportions (compared to the rest of human history). To add to the problem, humans are less active now than ever before. Energy intake has greatly increased, while energy expenditure has decreased dramatically, which created the perfect conditions for widespread obesity (Mitchell et al., 2011).  

To an extent, humans are still hardwired for survival in the wild. “We [humans] developed multiple physiological systems to facilitate eating with no need for physiological systems for food restriction, and no need to develop a biological preference to be physically active when physical activity was not required. Essentially, our biology tells us to eat whenever food is available and to rest whenever physical activity is not required. In previous environments, this biology was adequate to allow most people to maintain a healthy weight without conscious effort (Mitchell et al., 2011). This is an issue today because food is always available in most areas of the world. Humans are following their natural instincts by overeating and choosing to eat more satiating, high-calorie foods. 

On a global scale, the United States ranks 12 out of 191 countries with an adult obesity rating of 36.2% (Global Obesity Levels, 2020). Obviously, there are a lot of ideas that can be taken from other countries with better health practices. In a recent Ted Talk, Amy Choi encouraged Americans to look at food on a more meaningful, intimate level. She suggested food should be used as identity, survival, status, pleasure, community, and humanity. Choi recommended taking the smaller portion sizes and slow, deliberate eating practices from France, the no take-out habits of Italy, and the social, family-style meals in China. All of these countries face lower obesity rates than the United States, so their tactics are substantive. 

Conclusion

I hope this essay allowed you to view the obesity epidemic in a new light. As I previously mentioned, it is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. If you are looking for more resources or interested in making changes, please reach out for help!

Stay well,

Molly Roller

References

Alli, R. A. (2020, August 30). Preventing Obesity in Children, Causes of Child Obesity, and More. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/children/guide/obesity-children#1

Blumenthal, D., & Seervai, S. (2018, April 24). Rising Obesity in the United States Is a Public Health Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2018/rising-obesity-united-states-public-health-crisis

Childhood obesity. (2018, December 05). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/childhood-obesity/symptoms-causes/syc-20354827

Choi, A. S. (2016, January 04). What Americans can learn from other food cultures. Retrieved from https://ideas.ted.com/what-americans-can-learn-from-other-food-cultures/

Controlling the global obesity epidemic. (2013, December 06). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/obesity/en/

Food Research and Action Center. (2015, October). Understanding the Connections: Food Insecurity and Obesity. Retrieved from https://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/frac_brief_understanding_the_connections.pdf

Global Obesity Levels – Obesity – ProCon.org. (2020, April 20). Retrieved from https://obesity.procon.org/global-obesity-levels/

Hospital, B. C. (2014, February 04). 10 Surprising Facts About Childhood Obesity. Retrieved from https://www.unitypoint.org/blankchildrens/article.aspx?id=a08c96a2-c311-40d3-8eee-93d15f92b7ef

Jimenez, G. C., & Pulos, E. (2016). Good corporation, bad corporation: Corporate social responsibility in the global economy. Retrieved from https://milnepublishing.geneseo.edu/good-corporation-bad-corporation/

Mitchell, N. S., Catenacci, V. A., Wyatt, H. R., & Hill, J. O. (2011). Obesity: overview of an epidemic. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 34(4), 717–732. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2011.08.005

McDonnell, T. (2019, October 17). Childhood Obesity Is Rising ‘Shockingly Fast’ – Even In Poor Countries. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/10/17/770905500/childhood-obesity-is-rising-shockingly-fast-even-in-poor-countries

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2015, February 01). Health Risks of Being Overweight. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/health-risks-overweight

National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education & Families. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.healthycommunitieshealthyfuture.org/learn-the-facts/economic-costs-of-obesity/

World Health Organization. (2003). OBESITY AND OVERWEIGHT. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/media/en/gsfs_obesity.pdf

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