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Obesity was once known to be a personal problem to individuals across the nation. At a very rapid pace, obesity has become one of the most talked about social problems in America. There are many different theories and questions as to why obesity has grown to be the social problem we talk about on a daily basis. “Obesity became a visible social issue when medical research, national health organizations and medical professionals tied obesity to many health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease and found obesity to be the second leading cause of unnecessary deaths,” (Health Effects).
Our society is sadly made up of a stratification system simply meaning we are “split into groups that are unequal with regard to valued resources such as wealth, power, and prestige,” (Lauer). Although it may often not be perceived as “fair”, people are judged by their appearances on a daily basis in our society. Without the realization the link between society issues and obesity begins at a young age. Obese children are more likely to be bullied, which causes a disturbed self – image. In other words, these bullied children will grow to have poor self esteem throughout their lives. Living a happy life is nearly impossible when you are an individual with a disturbed self-image, which may also lead to a life that is not as successful as one may wish. Therefore, people with high self esteem and courage are more apt to make positive lifestyle changes that will result in a more successful life, on the other hand, when one has a disturbed self image mind set this is unlikely to happen.
In class we have been speaking about social mobility and how one most likely do not move or fall out of social class their parents have provided for them. Is there a similar correlation when it comes to obesity? “Children of obese parents are more likely to be overweight themselves. There is an inherited component to childhood obesity that makes it easier for some children to become overweight” (American Academy). Although it is very rare, genetic alterations and gene mutations are linked to cause severe childhood obesity. There are many different contributors to child obesity, and as technology continues to progress and advance, the list grows. Parental obesity can also reflect from a family environment that promotes excess eating and minimal physical activity. Children are given high calorie diets that do not include an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables (due to their high cost and effort). Physical activity is becoming less frequent due to the recent trends of sedentary activities where children spend most of their time in the house using the television and computers for movies and video games. In addition to their parents, children often seek out other societal figures to act as role models in their lives. Children are likely to follow in the footstep of these role models and mimic their poor lifestyle choices, such as eating patterns and exercise regimes.
Society is lead to believe that ‘thinness is beautiful’ or the perfect way to live life. One of the largest contributors to this distorted mindset is the media. Portraying celebrities as thin, beautiful people, when in reality, television, movies, and commercials all airbrush and photo shopped. We have this ‘perfect’ image in our heads of what society is supposed to look for, and we have been known to do outrageous tasks to achieve this image. As a result many individuals in society have eating disorders. People either eat too much, or too little depending on how one deal with their feelings. Not only are eating disorders on the rise but also cosmetic surgery is popular in the upper class of society to fix the fat instead of working ones way back to health. It is always looked at as unattractive; resulting in a shallow society where people do not realize appearance is not the only thing that matters.
One’s body weight is the result of many different issues in one’s life, such as genes, environment, culture, and socioeconomic status. Many do not realize that simple everyday tasks could play an active role in the prevention or reversal of obesity problems. For example, if one is in an environment where they cannot take a walk, or go to the park, one is at a greater risk to become obese for the pure fact of mechanical transportation. It is important to surround yourself in an environment that makes it possible to engage in physical activity. Lack of physical activity leads to obesity, which then leads to more serious health issues such as heart disease and diabetes for example.
Health problems associated with obesity also have a significant economic impact on society as a whole. The United States spends such a significant amount of money on preventing, diagnosing, and treating obesity. In addition to the indirect costs that are related to morbidity and mortality costs, “The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are staggering. In 2008 dollars, these costs totaled about $147 billion” (Finkelstein, EA). With this being said it is obvious why the job system is more unlikely to hire obese individuals than those in good health. Those who are overweight require more medical attention, which means health insurance rates increase. A vast majority of Americans that require treatment are those suffering with diabetes, a cardiac history and those who suffer from high blood pressure patients; all of which stem from mostly one problem, obesity. In addition, obese employees are more unlikely to perform tasks that a healthy employee would be able to accomplish. When working in a business setting healthy and unhealthy can mostly do the same occupation but when working in active careers such as construction, health plays a large factor. Society does not realize if an obese individual cannot be hired due to their health, these individuals cannot get away from an unhealthy lifestyle, it costs money.
Junk food is known to be the ‘food on the run’, quick and easy. This type of food is promoted through advertising in the newspaper, television, billboards, etc. Very rarely does one see healthy food advertised that steers clear of an obese lifestyle.
“The BBC revealed that food wastage is enormous. In the United Kingdom, some astonishing 30-40% of all food is never eaten, while in the US, some 40-50% of all food ready for harvest never gets eaten” (Shah). This shows that the United States turns to non-organic, artificial foods before taking in fresh food. Healthy food, such as fresh produce, is also much more expensive in comparison to the McDonald’s dollar menu. On the other hand, nutritionists and health coaches are not cheap to hire and have in your life either. For an individual to begin a healthy lifestyle, they would need to have the income to make alterations in their life and allow for these expenses. Everyday we see new gyms pop up in every neighborhood, but to analyze and breakdown the cost of facilities, they are quite expensive. An average gym with proper equipment and classes to help make a gym experience more desirable on average can range anywhere from thirty five to fifty dollars per a month. This additional expense can add on extra burdens to the unemployed population, and many are not willing to make this investment. Which goes back to the main point, obesity is becoming a social problem due to our society judging appearance instead of personality or knowledge.
“Restrictions in access to food determine two simultaneous phenomena that are two sides of the same coin: poor people are malnourished because they do not have enough to feed themselves, and they are obese because they eat poorly, with an important energy imbalance… The food they can afford is often cheap, industrialized, mass produced, and inexpensive” (Shah).
It is more likely to see the lower class of society to be obese in the United States because of how poorly they eat due to their economic standing. The most common excuse for hearing why society is becoming obese is “the genes they were given from mom and dad” which is not true. “Genes don’t make us obese. They allow us to be obese”(Ferguson). The lifestyle and routines that are chosen by an individual is what determines obesity. “Studies have shown there is a correlation between stress and fat involving growth hormones”(Ferguson). The more stress that occurs through ones emotions decreases your amount of growth hormones present in the body resulting in weight gain. Lower social classes are more likely to be obese than the higher classes in society simply due to the stress of life at low educational and socioeconomic levels.
Obesity is becoming a social problem right before the eyes of society and they do not even realize. Some people think of obesity as a personal issue still but it is affecting aspects in individual lives such as jobs, recreational activities and socioeconomic status. Money is spent everyday to aid in the prevention and diagnosing of obesity. Our sedentary society does not even realize how physically unactive they actually are because they do not know any different. Our generation is growing into one of the laziest generations yet, which will slowly but surely affect many individuals social status in a negative way. A lazy generation going out into the real world will do nothing but negatively impact our society.
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