‘The Role of Society in Increasing Obesity’ or the Effect of Society on Obesity

Statistics show that the US is undergoing an obesity epidemic. More children are becoming overweight and more and more adults are becoming obese. This epidemic is largely due to the eating habits of the people and the lethargy shown by them in not taking proper exercise. Introduction Over the years our society has changed from one of human workers to technological work. The work that was done by human hands has today been automated and more and more people are sticking behind the desks to get their work done. Children are hooked on video games and sitting for hours in front of the TV rather than out playing games.

Children as young as two are watching more TV than they would have ten years ago. This lack of exercise is contributing to the increase in obesity. With the rise in divorce rate and more and more women working out of the house, a family meal usually consists of take out. School lunches consist of junk food and high calorie meals while fast food restaurants introduce bigger and bigger meal sizes enticing people to buy meals that are huge for less the value. All this unhealthy eating and high calorie foods is contributing to the growth of obesity in society.

There are 58 million people considered overweight in the US and 40 million considered obese. There are 3 million morbidly obese persons’ whose weight can cause death and eight out of every ten people over the age of 25 is overweight. 78% of the average American people do not get the basic recommendation of exercise required to stay healthy. [1] All these facts point at one thing, the US is in danger of becoming a population of overweight people. Analysis Our society has always done things wholeheartedly and being a fast paced nation we tend to always be on the move.

Over the years we have seen a change in our social, political and cultural structure. The type of lifestyle we have adopted is however, slowly killing us. In the past fathers were usually the bread earners and mothers stayed at home to take care of their children. Meals were cooked fresh at home and they had good nutritious value. Children played for long periods of time, outdoors and indoors. They had little or no TV and went to sleep exhausted from physical exercise. This helped them maintain a good weight, be healthy and have a well structured life style.

With the advent of the World War II things changed. As men went away to war women became the sole caretakers of the family. They worked and cooked meals and still to a large extent kept their families together. Then came the industrial revolution and the technological revolution and completely changed society as we know it. Video games, TV, Video, and other such technological inventions all helped to create a sedentary lifestyle. As both parents went out to work meals became a luxury. It was easier to get take out or go to a fast food joint. Nutrition and health took a back seat to economics and finance.

As the fast food culture grew the convenience was irresistible. More and more families turned to fast food and slowly the epidemic began. Today we see hundreds of fast food joint franchises throughout the country. They are of every variety and of every economic level. No one, can- not afford fast food. The problem is no matter how easy it is to eat it is wrecking our bodies. The confusion people are facing as they grow overweight is how they can gain weight when they have maybe two fast food meals and a couple of soda’s a day. How can that make one so big? The answer is our physiology.

Consider this the average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall. Her optimum weight should be between 130- 140 pounds. This makes a BMI of 24. [BMI=body mass index, a weight-for-height formula used to measure obesity) This is considered a normal BMI. [2] When the woman [age 25] is living a sedentary life she needs about 1900 calories daily. Anything over that would cause weight gain. Now consider the menu’s available in fast food joints, to name two, Nathan’s Chicken Tender Platter consists of 1300 calories and Burger King’s BK Quad Stacker contains 1000 calories.

[3]This does not include any sides, sodas or dessert. So in one meal a person likely consumes more than have the daily calories. No wonder we are a nation of overweight people. The problem we are facing is not only lack of exercise it is the lack of meals with nutritional values. We do not get enough vitamins or fiber and are consuming entirely too much fat and carbohydrates. This is affecting our overall health. Who is to blame? Society has changed and the societal representatives from the legislature to the executive must ensure that laws are made that ensure people get nutritious food.

Average Americans are unaware of the facts regarding their physiology, metabolism, BMI, needed calories etc. There have to be campaigns to make people aware. When individuals are unable to make an informed choice, public policy has to intervene and ensure that the information is provided to them to make that choice. According to an article ‘Many Misunderstand obesity’s effect on USA Today’ [4] Americans do not have enough information on the effect of obesity. They are unaware of the adverse effects on their health and how detrimental lack of exercise and bad nutrition can be on the human body.

As per the article, “Unfortunately, far too many Americans consider obesity a cosmetic issue… They don’t recognize the increased health risks associated with obesity, including cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and cancer. Some simply don’t consider themselves obese, but rather just a few pounds overweight. These can be the hardest people to reach because they can be less likely to recognize their own health risks. ” One other problem in the food industry is the portion sizes.

When people go out to eat and order a meal they tend to order a ‘mega’, ‘large’, ‘big’ meal because they think they are getting better value for money. The fact is this has caused people to eat more. They save money on food by getting bigger portions and try to eat all of it so that it does not go to waste. They teach their children to do the same. Children are asked to ‘clear their plates’ and they then tend to continue eating, even though they are full. This means that they are no longer capable of reading their internal signals and end up creating a habit of eating more in every meal. [5]

Doctors and health practitioners understand all too well the effect the current state of affairs is having on the health of people. They are the one’s treating the patients, adults and children, coming in with Diabetes, Blood Pressure problems, heart diseases, increased cholesterol and other weight related problems. They have realized that society has created the current epidemic and must take a responsibility towards the people so that the state of affairs can be changed. They are lobbying to create new health laws in school where students should get access to healthy food rather than junk food.

They are asking food joints to ensure that every meal labels the nutritional values and the calories that the meal has. They ask that the city council create programs to advise and make students and adults at every level aware of the dangers of being over-weight and also to show them how the optimum weight level can be achieved. For those people who believe that being overweight is someone else’s problem should consider that when individuals become obese and start having health issues their medical bills will be paid through the tax payers money.

Insurance costs will skyrocket and premiums will increase. If American industries have to make way for a ‘bigger American’ they will have to adjust all mechanisms and products accordingly from car seat size to theater seats. This will increase the prices and costs of everything. [6] Besides the problem with our food industry people have to do something about the lack of activity in their life. The amount of food they consume should be directly proportional to the exercise they are getting.

If they are eating for two people then it goes to say that they should be exercising just as much. That is obviously not the case. Most of the professionals lack the time and energy to go out and exercise as they work long hours, have long commutes and work to survive in a declining economy. The society is so consumed with moving forward that they fail to consider the effect this is having on their health and future. Employers should create fitness programs which allow their employees to utilize a small portion of their office time to exercise.

[7] This will ultimately ensure that the employee has less sick days, is more productive and thus, helps make a bigger profit. Overweight people have a higher risk of getting sick, are more prone to lack of motivation and tend to produce less in terms of work. Society has double standards. While it links ‘thinness’ with attractiveness, it is promoting a lifestyle that causes most of the population to be overweight. The media airs advertisements with tempting food, the city allows fast food franchises to open for the economic good and the people become overweight.

These people then face discrimination as they are seen to be pitiful by society. Conclusion The US society has grown in unbelievable ways. It is amazing how sheer hard work and the need for the American Dream has driven the people to create a lifestyle for themselves and their children that is better than they had. This need to give to the future generations, more, has created the current epidemic. As parents strive to give their children a better economic future and the best life available, they do not realize that the best is not always good for them.

Giving their children the latest technological devices means they do not get the exercise they need. Allowing them bigger allowances suggests they can go out more and all this leads to the path to being overweight. [8] Parents themselves cannot be role models as they are driving themselves to earn more while living with their own personal pressures. They do not have time to exercise. The media and the politicians are no help. They are all working to make a great America and in the process ignoring the basis of what makes America so great—the people.

Individual people in society need help. The lifestyle they crave is causing them to be hurt and the government needs to take action. The government has started to create laws that ensure the fast food joints provide more nutritional food and list the calorie value. However, the fact is that is not enough. [9] They must introduce health programs and educate people at all levels to understand the calorie system and make society open to helping the individual to create a lifestyle that keeps America from growing a size bigger.


  1. Author Unknown, Obesity Statistics, Wellness International Network Ltd – web.winltd.com, 2007 accessed at http://www.annecollins.com/obesity/statistics-obesity.htm
  2. Author Unknown, Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator, Baylor College of Medicine, 1999 available at http://www.bcm.edu/cnrc/caloriesneed.htm Author Unknown, The 272 Fast Food Items Highest In Calories, a Calorie Counter,

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