Many think of obesity as a disease that may need medication to retract, may be genetic in origin and, thus, not the fault of the individual, and, therefore, may be biologically rather than culturally deteremined. However, as this essay intends to show, people with genetic predisposition to obesity can still prevent their obesity from occuring, or can control it, by followign the guidelines of a healthy diet and regular physical activity. It is the American culture, far more than biology, that has created the prevelant tendency to obesity by presenting an environment that promotes obesity and discourages a healthy lifestyle. In essence, while obesity is a disease, it is one of the most easily preventable diseases for those who approach it proactively, though this may require certain departures from the American lifestyle.
Obesity increases the risk for many fatal diseases, including cardiovascular disease, and recorded in the United States, as being the second preventable leading cause of death (smoking is the first) (e.g., Must & Strauss, 1999; World Health Organization, 2000). In fact, Surgeon General Richard Carmona has called obesity a greater threat to Americans than terrorism (Oliver, 2006), whilst the immenisty of the problem has caused former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to refer to obesity as a public health "crisis" (Oliver, 2006).
Obesity in America has more than doubled during the 1990s and has since then levelled, but no decline has occurred (Brannon, & Feist, 2007). Numbers reveal that an estimated 1 in 4 Americans are considered obese (Oliver, 2006), whilst an estimated further 400,000 Americans die annually from obesity-related diseases (Obesity in America). Obesity-related diseases cost the national economy nearly $123 billion every year (Obesity in America).
Even children are not immune. According to certain projections, America's teens are at risk of becoming the first generation in history to live a shorter lifespan than their parents (Oliver, 2006), whilst nnumerous studies (e.g., Wang, Monteiro, & Popkin, 2002; World Health Organization (WHO), 2000) reveal that child obesity has become a global epidemic, more prevalent in America than in many other countries, both developed and developing, with child obesity having tripled here during the last three decades (Wang & Lobenstein, 2006).
II. The Difference Between Obesity and Overweight
A person is obese if they weigh at 30% more than their recommended weight and have a BMI of 30 or greater (Obesity in America). A person is considered overweight if they have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater and weigh at least 10% more than the recommended weight for their height and body type (Obesity in America).
According to Hill and Peters (1998), an estimated 25% of America's children are overweight or obese, while approximately 54% of American adults are obese, and another 22% are overweight.
Other measures used for assessing obesity are -- in a clinical setting - technologies for imaging the body (such as MRI), and simpler, less costly techniques such as measuring the thickness of a pinch of skin, and, more accurately, transmitting benign levels of electrical current through the body to measure levels of fat in various parts of the body.
One final measure in assessing overweight is fat distribution measure as the ratio of waist to hip size, although, regardless of the definitions that researchers have used to study obesity overweight is often defined by the fads of the current socio-historical fashions and has little to so with health.
Contributing Factors to Obesity in America
Researchers have proposed various reasons for the dramatic increase in obesity in America over the last few decades (since the early 1980s). Some of the reasons given include an over-abundance of food availability in America's supermarkets and restaurants, particularly fast-food restaurants (Hill and Peters, 1998); the uncontrolled or unreasonable portion-sizes in America's restaurants (Hill and Peters, 1998); an increase in consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas and sweetend food (Bray, 2004); and an over-abundance of high-fat food choices paired with a lack of palpable low-fat choices. Studies show that a diet of 35% fat or higher contributes to obesity in sedentary animals (Hill and Peters, 1998).
Although many overweight people claim that they eat less than others, studies consistantly indicate that they usually eat more than normal weight people do (Wing &…