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View Diary: The Obesity Epidemic (100 comments)

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  •  I didn't even want to bother getting into (16+ / 0-)

    the various causes of obesity which are pretty much beyond people's control, or which actively reduce one's ability to exercise said control:

    - Endocrine problems.
    - Disease, particularly diabetes, which is exacerbated by the fact that everything's loaded with sugar nowadays and the other anti-exercise biases which crop up below.  The spread of asthma means that high-impact exercise is essentially forbidden to a large group of people, on pain of asphyxia and possible death.
    - Viral obesity (the jury isn't quite in on this one yet, but it's certainly been indicted.)
    - Poverty, and the fact that shitty foods are less expensive than good ones.  This is particularly true when one cannot justify starting up a real spice rack at $5-$10 a jar, when you need to buy six to ten jars...and uninteresting, unspiced food is so boring that after a while a big mac is a goddamned taste explosion.
    - Poverty, and the fact that sometimes one of the only comforts available to some people is good-tasting food.
    - Social changes which lead to children never having an active lifestyle. (Video games and TV factor in, but moreso is the rampant 'omg if my kids go play outside they'll be abducted by child molesters' meme. )
    - Again, Poverty, combined with the above but focused towards the much more real danger of your kid getting involved or running afoul of gangs.  But you can't afford to move out 'cause you're po' 'nuff you can't afford the extra -or.
    - Increasing 'workforce engagement', that is, people working longer hours just to stay in the same place, which means that by the time they get home they don't want to do anything, yet they still need to do daily chores, and after that, they lack the motivation to do much more than crack open a beer or something and sit in front of the 'tube.  When peoples' free time is minimized, they tend to want to maximize the amount of pleasure that they obtain from what they have left.
    - The increasing alienation of people towards eachother, which prevents people from getting together and engaging in activities together.  
    - The fact that, with cheap goods and automation, most people don't have to engage in strenuous activity on a regular basis.  You don't go out and hoe a garden, weed it, put up preserves, hoe in manure, turn over a compost heap etc -- you go to the store and buy what you want.  You don't carry two five-gallon, 40-something-pound buckets of water out to the goats or whatever once or twice a day.  You don't beat out your rugs -- usually because they're tacked down to the floor -- you vacuum them.  If you have a lawn to mow -- and many in the cities don't -- you use a gasoline or electric mower, not one of those horrible but exercising manual push-mowers, or a scythe.  
    - The increasing use of medications for every damned little thing, particularly psychiatric medications, for which a common side effect is weight gain.
    - Forced inactivity.  You can't get much activity in if you're commuting by bus or car for an hour each way on the way to your eight-hour job where you're required to sit on your ass at your desk for the maximum amount of time they can force you to legally stay there.  This is exascerbated in poorer areas where commuting time is increased due to the need to use buses or other public transportation and the fact that the schedule will generally require you to arrive earlier than you need to, sometimes by an hour or more, and leave later than you need to, again, sometimes by an hour or more.  When I took the bus to college, it took a good three or four hours out of my day, between wasted time and the transit.  Mind you, it's a 15-20 minute drive in a car from my place to the college I attended.
    - Lost skills: preparing good, healthy food is a challenge if you have never eaten or learned how to prepare things like dried beans, barley, etc.  An increasing portion of society's idea of 'cooking' is throwing something in the microwave.  And then the whole motivational deficiency mentioned above fits in here too -- are you going to want to spend 45 minutes or an hour or more making a healthy meal when you get back from your job, or are you gonna be lazy and throw something into the microwave or pick up something from a fast-food joint on the way home?  
    - Bizarre prejudices.  Look at the people freaking out about the NYC Bikeshare thing.  Biking instead of driving a car to work is probably one of the easiest ways to enhance your health, if it's a feasible option, but there's a stigma to it in many places.  And of course it takes longer, which biases those who're already low on leisure or even time-to-do-necessary-chores time.
    - Poverty, again, which leads one to get into the habit of cleaning one's plate in times of plenty so that you'll be able to survive times of dearth.  This is particularly terrible when you combine it with the fact that portion sizes have increased radically, at least when it comes to high-energy foods like meat and complex carbs.
    - Injury or disability which prevents people from engaging in common physical exercise, compounded by the fact that knowledge of lower-impact or alternative exercise is not widespread.  This is particularly bad once you're obese enough that it interferes with your ability to exercise.
    - Again, a lack of time or funds which leads people to eat one or two meals a day, which decreases metabolic activity.
    - A lack of fiber in the processed foods we eat.  This sounds too simple to be true, but it is.  
    - The social stigma of obesity, which leads to depression, isolation, and not giving a shit because, hey, you're a horrible person because you're fat, if you even qualify as a person and not a 'pig' or 'cow.'  If you go out and try to jog, people will point and laugh or add sound effects.  People will be astonished that you're 'trying' to exercise, some in much the same way as when they see a dog doing an unexpected trick, like riding a skateboard, but with much more derision involved.  

    Obesity is more complex than 'those fat fucking selfish slobs eat too much,' as most things which are behaviorally influenced are.  The obesity epidemic lay at the nexus of many disparate and not-immediately-obvious social, economic, technological, and memetic changes which have occurred over the last several decades.  Of course, some people are just hugely fat because they eat far too much, but in most cases this is driven by an underlying psychological problem, and is rather rarer than most people think.  Most of the morbidly obese people I know don't eat more unhealthily or in greater amounts than those of a healthier weight, and many eat less than the skinny bastards I know who're blessed with hummingbird-on-coke metabolisms.

    •  Not to mention the myriad of legitimate medical (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      avsp, Eyesbright, The Marti

      reasons for obesity:

      Blood sugar imbalance, hormonal imbalance, and genetic predisposition, among others.

      "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

      by zenbassoon on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:26:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good list- all of those factors (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      avsp

      can play into it. And many of them are societal factors that could be changed, some of them rather easily, some that would  take a real societal shift and a better distribution of resources.

      Healthier school lunches, insisting on PE programs and recess, teaching kids the basics of nutrition and food preparation would not require a zillion dollars, just saner decision making from the adults who administer education. It's certainly possible for parents to tell kids to put down the ipad and go outside to play (and I share your disgust with the OMG kidnappers mentality). Start a parent-child basketball or baseball group and show the kids how much fun they could be having- or just take a walk with your kids. Kids whose parents are working or not available could be welcomed to join in. And it doesn't have to be a competitive league, just throwing a ball around or running around or jumping rope- all the stuff that many of us grew up doing.

      Many of the other problems- food deserts, overworked/overstressed parents, and of course poverty poverty poverty- really are huge challenges. Those changes do require huge shifts, but while we work on those macro shifts there's a lot we can do on a micro level, right now.

      Interesting that you included the impact of prescription drugs, I wouldn't have thought of that but you're right. And interesting that one effect of the AMA designating obesity a disease will be more pressure for the FDA to fast-track new weight loss medications. Chalk up another win for Big Pharma.

      (By the way, there is one problem that's pretty easy to solve- you can buy a big variety of spices at the dollar store, and I can't detect any difference with the pricier brands.)

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