Living Large

Living Large

Adrienne BoettingerMonday,27 October 2014

The Snap

In addition to insane panic, America’s faux Ebola crisis has inspired the identification of things more likely to happen to you in the United States than getting Ebola. Like dying from bee stings, plane crashes or lightning strikes. And then there are the diseases we’re far more likely to drop from like the flu, cancer, and obesity. So as we haul our sizable asses toward the holiday season of nonstop gluttony (followed by temporary remorse come New Year’s Day), let us pause and ponder our proliferating paunch. And let’s stop losing our damn minds over a disease we stand a 1 in 13.3 million chance of contracting over the next year  — as opposed to the actual Ebola crisis in West Africa, where in Liberia’s capital alone this week, 1 in 5,000 will contract the disease.

The Download

Like most women I know, I’m obsessed with my weight. I think about how much weight I’d like to lose between 5 and 50 times a day (more in swimsuit season). And the stats say I’m right to be concerned. Since 1980, worldwide obesity has nearly doubled. One-third of the country is overweight and another 35% are obese. A somewhat controversial study indicates 18% of all deaths in the United States are caused by obesity. Why?

We eat way more than we used to; portion sizes have drastically increased over the past 30 years. I recently had a “salad” at The Cheesecake Factory that could have fed a family of 5. And that was considered a “healthy” option.

We’re chock full of antibiotics; we demand them every time we or our kids have a sniffle. Unfortunately studies have concluded that people on antibiotics gain weight more quickly than those who aren’t. Those saying, “Oh, I never do that!” don’t get too cocky; you’re still pretty screwed. That’s because we pump our feed animals full of antibiotics to fatten them up and when we ingest them, we get fatter too.

We’re a nation of Zeros, Frees, and sugar substitutes. That has to be better than guzzling down full calorie soda, right? Except when you have too much of the substitutes, it makes you crave even more sweets. Although you may have tricked your brain into thinking it likes diet versions better, your stomach isn’t fooled; it doesn’t get full until you eat something with actual calories. Which you will do as soon as you put down that ginormous skinny pumpkin latte.

And what does this all lead to? Illnesses and deaths are obviously the most dangerous side effects but wait! There’s more! If you’re an overweight woman, you’ll make less money than your slimmer colleagues (who are still only making 82% of median men’s weekly earnings). Oh, and you’re more likely to be convicted by male jurors if you’re an overweight woman. But that’s just probably because you’re guilty of letting yourself go after you roped your man.

So what’s the answer? Shame people into losing weight? Nope. Doesn’t work and usually makes things worse. Don’t do anything because it’s people’s personal choice what to eat? That doesn’t work too well either. Maybe it would help if we taught children and adults about actual nutrition, required manufacturers to be more precise and detailed in the nutritional information they include (and how many servings something actually is), and encouraged healthier ways of eating and exercising. And not just for the middle class and well-to-do peeps; we need to make it easier for those living near, at or below the poverty level to choose healthy options.

Or we can ignore this actual crisis and reconcile ourselves to needing bigger chairs, airline seats, hospital beds, and eventually coffins.


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Hat Tips:

Centers for Disease ControlNPRForbesWorld Health OrganizationNational Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney DiseasesSalonHuffington PostNBC NewsPolitifactSlate, Image Credit: Flickr

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