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Obesity Epidemic - Who's To Blame

Travel Forums Off Topic Obesity Epidemic - Who's To Blame

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21. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 9y

Quoting Purdy

Another side to this question is the fascination with body weight and size and when is enough enough, you read daily about the size 0 issue and how females are starving themselves to become this ideal shape and size - that has to be considered too. Remember Marilyn Monroe was a UK size 14 and looked amazing. Anyone any thoughts on this side of the debate?

I think whatever weight a person feels and looks good at is the right one.
According to the BMI things on the internet and weight watchers calculations I would be a couple of kilos underweight.
But this weight looks good on me and I have most energy at this weight. I suppose the skinny look does not suit everybody but it does suit me. I dont think we should look at women and men in the media as an example of our ideal weight. We should assess ourselves as individuals.

22. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7273 posts) 9y

I agree with you, James - and I also think that every time we lay the blame at other people's feet (even if they're terribly guilty), we have one more excuse to not take personal responsibility for what we eat. It takes time and effort and patience to eat properly - to shop at the market and not the grocery store, to cut up vegetables, to cook up fish, to not reach for the cookies (which I have a huuuuge weakness for!). But in the end, it's up to each of us to resist temptation and take care of ourselves - no matter how hard that may be.

Although that doesn't mean we can't simutaneously try to fight corporations who are exploiting our human weakness for fast, tasty food.

It's a kind of Catch-22 thing. When you see a grossly overweight family eating at McDonald's - who do we as a society point the finger at: the parents? McDonald's? And since most of us live in a socialistic society, we will each end up helping to pay for that family's upcoming medical bills, sick leave, etc. etc. - not because they fell ill out of nowhere, but because they chose not to take care of themselves and teach their children proper nutrition. Who do we hold responsible then? Do we make McDonald's pay - like big tabacco had to pay for people who suffered from cigarette-related cancers? Or do we consider that the family knew the risks and chose to ignore them? I don't know. I really don't.

23. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 9y

Quoting tway

Although that doesn't mean we can't simutaneously try to fight corporations who are exploiting our human weakness for fast, tasty food.

What is very annoying about this advertising is the influence it has on ones kids.
We dont even have a television and it is still very difficult to shield my daughter from blaring media telling her what will make life fun for her. And those unhealthy things are so colourfully wrapped and so well displayed to attract the attention of children. The first few years with the first child is easy enough but then they come in contact with other children.... I even had to ask the neighbours to stop giving my daughter junk food. Everyday she was getting 100 g bars of chocolate, several lollies per day etc etc. Then I had the horrible situation of the other kids being given these things in the playground and my daugher being left out. I would agree with Tway that we should fight the corporations about this advertising to make it easier for parents to keep children healthy. I also think there should be more advertising to counter the junk food advertising to discourage adults who want to be generous from keeping their pockets full of candy to hand out to every kid they see and to encourage all parents to only give out candy on very special days like Halloween.

I dont know how supermarkets are layed out in other countries but if they are like the ones here in Germany u will notice that on opposites sides of same aisle u will see baby food and childrens candy. Then parents take their 2 kids shopping. They go into that aisle to buy the baby food for the baby and the 3 year old sees the candy.....

24. Posted by james (Travel Guru 4136 posts) 9y

Quoting Mel.

I dont know how supermarkets are layed out in other countries but if they are like the ones here in Germany u will notice that on opposites sides of same aisle u will see baby food and childrens candy. Then parents take their 2 kids shopping. They go into that aisle to buy the baby food for the baby and the 3 year old sees the candy.....

There are similar layouts here in Australia.

When my kids grab junk food from the shelves I simply take it from their hands and drop it on the floor off the shop. Store workers have often had words to me about this, but I simply tell them that if they think it's okay to deliberately put junk food within reach of a 3 year old then I think it's okay to take it from them and drop it on the floor. Don't want it on the floor? Don't put it there.

25. Posted by lagered (Budding Member 230 posts) 9y

There are several factors at play here, some which have been discussed and one that has not.

I do not need to discuss laziness etc because all of you have done such a nice job doing so already.

However, I would like to point out that in at least this country (USA) it is much more cost effective to stay fat. You'd think it would be the other way around but it is not. As the margin between the rich and poor continues to drive at an unprecendented level, more and more people of the lower classes which greatly comprise the obesity epidemic are being forced to make the economic decision on food.

Put yourself in their shoes, if you show them food that will make them healthy for a day or for the same price they could feed their family for a week on poor qualilty (low nutrient density), what do you think is going to happen?

Obviously education plays into this but keep in mind the decision will always come back to your economic base. As I said before, its cheaper to stay fat in this country. Just my $0.02.

26. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7273 posts) 9y

I had this discusion with a colleague yesterday, who pointed out that we don't blame alcohol companies for creating alcoholics. Alcoholism is considered a personal journey down a wrong path, and our society has efforts in place to help people overcome their addiction.

But that just raises more questions:

  • Is fast food an addiction?

  • Should we be starting up FFA (fast-food anonymous)? (Seriously!)

  • Where do we draw the line between personal responsibility and social responsibility (like the way we put warning messages on cigarette packs)?

  • Should we regulate the way we promote fast-food to kids? (in Canada, we're not allowed to advertise directly to kids, but those chocoate bars are still on the bottom shelf)? Happy Meals, for example, package the McDonald's message for children without violating avertising laws.

  • How much money are we, as a society, willing to fork out? Do we prefer to pay it upfront to promote healthy living, or do we pay out the nose when people get sick because of bad choices?

As for cost, lagared has a point: it's cheaper to buy a litre of Coke than a litre of milk. Should we be taxed on fast food and have good food subsidized?

More questions than answers.

27. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 9y

[quote=tway]

  • Is fast food an addiction?

  • Should we be starting up FFA (fast-food anonymous)? (Seriously!)
  • /quote
  • NO and NO!! I can not speak for other countries, but in the US once somethig is labeled an addiction, it takes the personal responsibility away from the person and hands it over to the medical community and society as a whole. Yes, I believe there are those who do have an addictive personality (I'm probably one of them). But, putting a label on a behavior and calling it a disease, condition, syndrome or addiction allows the majority to claim it's not their fault. "I just couldn't help myself from ordering that quarterpounder with cheese every day for lunch because I have McDonalds Malady." At that pont, it does become a social responsibility in that now the medical community will have to develop treatments and pharmaceutical companies will have to develop more diet pills to pop rather than focusing on legitimate diseases. There are individuals who are genetically pre-destined to be obese and there are those who have medical conditions where obesity is a symptom. Those are small in number compared to the general (obese) population which consumes the wrong types of foods and in large quantities. We use the word addiction way too easily and way too often.

  • quote
  • Where do we draw the line between personal responsibility and social responsibility (like the way we put warning messages on cigarette packs)?
  • /quote
  • Who's going to pay attention? Put warning labels on foods and basically the same people who read the cigarette warnings will also read the food warnings - that's about it. Yes, there will be some converts just as there have been those who heeded the cigarette labels and quit. The problem lies in the behavior. Those that really should be targeted by the warning labels will ignore them because they want that bag of chips. While more adults quit smoking, teenagers are the largest growing population of new smokers. They know how to read and probably have read the warnings but chose to smoke anyway. The same will be true of food labeling.

  • quote
  • Should we regulate the way we promote fast-food to kids? (in Canada, we're not allowed to advertise directly to kids, but those chocoate bars are still on the bottom shelf)? Happy Meals, for example, package the McDonald's message for children without violating avertising laws.
  • /quote
  • Yes, as the industry is not truly willing to regulate itself. Granted, each week there is a new story about some cereal company planning to market more responsibly but their cereals are still on the bottom shelf with the cute little iconic character staring out at the children. This question also brings me to James' statement about shopping with his children, dropping the packages on the floor and his "discussions" with the store personnel. It really shouldn't matter where the products are placed on the shelves but rather the responsibility of the parents to choose the foods they want their children to eat. Yes, I realize that kids can be whiny, persnickity and just plain pains in the ass when they want something and can't have it. Tough. I watch more parents give in to the kid's demands because they don't want a scene in the store. I know I am really old school here, but no matter what I saw on TV, my mom countered by making shopping a game. There were two types of candy (or any product) in the store - people candy or God's candy (hey, my mom was a serious Catholic). People candy was the chocolate and other items. God's candy - the good stuff - was apples, oranges, plums, etc. He made them special just for us. (Sorry to digress.)

  • quote
  • How much money are we, as a society, willing to fork out? Do we prefer to pay it upfront to promote healthy living, or do we pay out the nose when people get sick because of bad choices?
  • /quote
  • It will all depend on if obesity becomes a disease state or just a behavioral issue.

I also agree with the economic and educational issues already covered several times here. It is easier to feed a family for less money when you can buy certain foods cheaply. I buy fresh produce and meats. Frequently, someone, either a cashier or a person in line, will comment on how expensive fresh food is and I could do better buying packaged products. I'm only feeding 2 people and can afford what I buy.

Recently, we saw a piece about a new documentary that has been released called King Corn and how corn is a major contributor to obesity. Either corn syrup or corn starch (or both) are in almost every packaged food product. Both consist of empty calories. This review describes the documentary more so than does the King Corn website.

[ Edit: Edited on Nov 21, 2007, at 11:26 AM by Isadora ]

28. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7273 posts) 9y

I like the way you think, Isa! We're too quick to point the finger of blame at everyone except ourselves. The bottom line is: if you let youreslf get obese, you're the only person who's going to suffer and die from it (apart of the people around you who'll have to take care of your sick self).

29. Posted by james (Travel Guru 4136 posts) 9y

A couple of points in relation to some of the recent comments.

OBESITY CLASSIFICATION

- in no way do I agree with classifying obesity as some sort of "condition, syndrome or addiction". I think that Isa summarised this point quite well and I don't need to elaborate on it.

FOOD LABELLING

- I think that putting an information table in the form of traffic lights on packaged foods (and beverages) is a good idea. For example, there could be 3 or 4 categories such as fat content, salt, sugar and a red, amber and green light next to each one. I know this is overly simple, but it beats reading through a list of ingredients and mentally performing percentage calculations on the contents and the servings sizes. It would also bring some reality to the claims written on some sugar-heavy foods as being "fat free" (of course sweets are free of fat, they are close to 100% sugar).

I've noticed these sorts of tables appearing on breakfast cereal boxes, together with the percentage of each item's daily requirement for an average adult. I've found these helpful and have often been surprised at the salt content in foods that I wouldn't necessarily associate as being salty.

- I've noticed a lot of the current labelling of food and serving sizes as being deliberately misleading. Some of the ingredients such as fat, salt and sugar don't look excessive in each serving size, but the serving sizes themselves are unrealistically small (eg. 1.8 servings in a can of Coke). This is deliberate manipulation and confusion on behalf of the manufacturer.

SUPERMARKET PRODUCT PLACEMENT

- this relates to Isa's comment that it "shouldn't matter where the products are placed".... "the responsibility of the parents to choose the foods", etc. Well, unfortunately it does matter where products are placed and supermarkets are aware of this and exploit it to its full potential. I don't deny the responsibility that parents should have in their food purchases, and pople should never try to absolve themselves of this responsibility. However, if parents are to be responsible, it would help if our children's senses were not bombarded with tempting, colourful packaging of junk food that is within easy reach. We are all responsible, and giving companies free reign to do what they like and then just lumping the responsibility on to parents is letting these companies off the hook way too easy.

- but there's more to this argument than kids and junk food. See, it's generally adults that are obese rather than children. I don't know of too many kids that were born obese, nor too many that were born addicted to nicotine for that matter. So it's not a strong argument to say that adults should not give in to their "persnickity and just plain pains in the ass" kids. Looking at the number of obese adults, it seems that adults can't even maintain a degree of self control in regards to their own consumption of junk food.

ECONOMICS

- I struggle with the concept that it is cheaper to eat badly than it is to eat healthily. In fact, I personally don't believe this to be true. To take a family of four to a fast food "restaurant" (I use that term loosely) must cost at least $20.00. I doubt whether the average home cooked meal would cost this much. Granted, it could cost more if you wanted it to (eg. choice cuts of meat, etc), but eating out could also cost more if you wanted it to. You certainly don't have to eat a meal of rice and mungbeans everynight for it to be cheaper than eating out.

Calculating/believing that eating out (badly) is cheaper than eating at home is just mental laziness coupled with an inappropriate comparison. For instance, someone goes grocery shopping and spends $300 per week and mistakenly calculates that this equates to the cost of 7 lunches and 7 dinners, being $21.42 per meal ($300 / 14). Yet they conveniently leave out the fact that some of the contents of their shopping basket is non-food related (eg. cleaning products), and some of it is long term goods that may be consumed over a few weeks or months. This is simply mental laziness or stupidity. More importantly, this is where personal responsibility comes in to play.

- but just looking at food costs is only part of the equation. Society will be paying a huge cost in years to come to treat every second or third person that has diabetes, etc. It's going to mean a massive investment in medical infrastructure, and someone's going to have to pay for that.

RESPONSIBILITY

- certain goods and services are regulated, in some way, when it comes to supply and demand. For instance, you cannot sell a packet of cigarettes to a person under the age of 18. Nor can someone under 18 years of age purchase a packet of cigarettes. A perfect example of restrictions in supply and demand, that generally work, as well as being politically and socially palatable. There are a raft of other examples relating to alcohol, gambling, film and game classifications, the purchase and sale of guns, and many others. In some instnaces, these regulations are what you might call "controlled" or "tiered" regulations. For instance, you have to be over 18 years of age to gamble, and to do so you must go to a small number of specific venues, which are only open between the hours of x and y. So "tiered" regulations allow a more controlled environment for the sale and purchase or certain goods and services.

You may agree or disagree with these regulations, but they are supposedly in place for the "good of society" as an umbrella statement. eg. as a member of society it is your right to purchase x-rated videos should you choose. But at the same time, it might not be a good idea to have them on the shelves of every suburban video shop.

- people need to take responsibility with their consumption of junk food. Society needs to take responsibility to provide some balance on the sale and marketing of junk food. It is as simple as that, and it is in everyone's interest.

30. Posted by Erik85 (Respected Member 274 posts) 9y

Quoting james

When my kids grab junk food from the shelves I simply take it from their hands and drop it on the floor off the shop. Store workers have often had words to me about this, but I simply tell them that if they think it's okay to deliberately put junk food within reach of a 3 year old then I think it's okay to take it from them and drop it on the floor. Don't want it on the floor? Don't put it there.

I work in a supermarket on a casual basis and this would be extremely annoying, lol.
The chain of comunication within such large organisations heavily top-down. I don't think annoying the typical casual shop filler will do much to solve the issue, but rather from make them resent customers more, make their work more frustrating and make it dangerous for other customers by leaving things on the floor! It'd be better to support lobbyist groups in this area, communicate to high levels of management, or boycott the store/company.

I can't speak for other stores/companies, but I don't necessarily find that junk foods targeting children are down low where I work. I doubt this is a conscious effort as small children aren't the primary people that generate revenue, and a lot of the stuff marketed to these people also appeals to adolescents and teenagers who are taller anyway (eg. about 90% of confectionary aside from things like Kinder surprise, warheads, etc). The items that sell well (often mass-marketed) are the items that are towards the middle of the shelf within easy reach and at eye level. So I guess if it is primarily junk food that is mass marketed then it will be at this level, so through this angle I can see what you're saying. If popular items are out of reach then older people and people with disabilities may complain.

Not trying to be an ass but I guess I'm just saying that there's different perspectives and we all have to work together to find a solution. I DO strongly agree however that junk food shouldn't be marketed to children. I think adults have a lot to account for as well, as the prevalence of obesity is higher in them and they set an example for our children.