If you just eat less, exercise more, make better food choices, diet, and whatever other social wisdom that people put forth about losing weight and solving the weight issues of American sound great – and then there is reality.
Americans live for the ideal of self-determination and boot strap mentality. If everyone could just take control of our lives we could solve our own problems and not need anyone help. And maybe if you have enough money, a 40 hour a week job that really only required 40 hours, a partner to support you and watch your kids while you go work out, access to good food, and other middle to upper middle class things, sure this logic would work great, assuming you don’t have some medical issue that prevents you from doing so or getting some sort of weight loss surgery. But for the vast majority of Americans, especially those who are most likely to be obese, this is not the case – not even close.
You see, for the vast majority of Americans, especially those who are most likely to be overweight, the things needed to lose and sustain weight lose are not available. If you make minimum wage, you make 1000 for a single person and 4K for a family of three to live on for a year. This means there are good odds you live in a lower income area, where there is also less likely to be a grocery store. We call this a food desert. Instead, the local gas station or convenience store is where you get your food as is the local fast food place. When you do go to the grocery store, your food stamps support you buying cheese, juice, peanut butter, maybe some carrots, beans or rice, and maybe bread. When you have to choose between a $1 loaf of bread and a $2 jar of peanut butter which will feed your kids dinner for a week but is nutritionally poor, or a $3 bag of apples you feed you kids dinner for the week. And this assumes your kids get dinner. A growing number of children are food insecure, meaning they are often living off of what is being supplied in school.
When you have to work 60 hours a week to pay the bills, you are freaking tired when you get home and cooking for 30-40 minutes with your kids telling you how hungry they are sucks, especially when you can hand them a bag of government subsidized chips or nuke some nuggets that cost a buck or two. And when your kids go to school and get meals, the government counts pizzas as a vegetable and gives them the same burgers, fries, fried chicken, Jell-O, chicken nuggets, and canned vegetables you do. If it is approved for school lunches by the government, why they aren’t good enough for your children at home? We know these foods are terrible for everyone and lead to obesity, but that is what is fed to kids at school. Your kids are also not getting as much exercise as they used to, since after school activities and recess have been cut back to the bare minimums in most states leading to kids being more sedentary.
For all of Michelle Obama’s concern about the health of our children and our country, our policies are still supporting Big Ag, who makes the rules about what is being feed and subsidized and fed to us. While, yes individuals are somewhat responsible for what they eat and what their kids eat, we also exist in a controlled food economy where corn is in everything. Your meat is corn (because you and that cow or chicken you are eat are what you eat and we feed them corn). Every process food out there has corn or soy in it. Your eggs are corn, your dairy is corn, hell, the nice shine on your apple is CORN. We are not made to eat like this. THIS IS PART OF THE PROBLEM. An apple is not just an apple anymore. And people do not have access to affordable whole foods, because the government doesn’t subsidize them. As more natural disasters hit agricultural areas, as prices increase on meat, dairy, and vegetables, the people who are most at risk for obesity and its health issues will be further pushed to eliminating these foods and only having processed one, leading to more obesity. They will also need to work more hours to keep food on the table, meaning they have less time for food preparation and their kids will have less access to nutrition. As food prices climb, schools will keep looking for the lowest costing, higher caloric foods to meet the FDA standards. If the meal is not 600 or more calories than schools don’t get funding for it. That means a large garden salad, slice of whole grain bread, small milk, and a piece of fruit will not be subsidized but nuggets and fries will. As these kids become adults, they think this means nutrition and they are already battling the health issues of obesity, and need to spend their income on medicine rather than food.
There are things that I didn’t even include here – but one thing should be clear it is not just about shutting your mouth and moving around when it comes to weight loss and obesity. It’s so much more complicated than that.