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By Susan Laub
Obesity Epidemic in America
Nathan, Thanks for posting your thoughts about the problem of obesity in America…and I will repeat that morbid obesity is a serious health problem in our country. Being overweight is a condition that I can personally attest to as I was 40 pounds overweight in high school. Fortunately, for me, I was able to reach my ideal weight in college. But the psychological problems with being “fat” (not a politically-correct term) remain fresh in my mind. The low self esteem, feeling of being mocked, social isolation, depression – these are just a few of the problems that can occur, to say nothing about the health risks associated with the problem. I think that obesity is an illness, a problem that needs to be identified by the person who is overweight. Otherwise, we remain in a constant state of denial.
Perhaps the present efforts to “normalize” this problem (and even to exalt it) is a reaction to all the media that says, in order to be beautiful, you must be thin. Research has shown that the epidemic of anorexia in teenage girls is ostensibly due to the pressure felt during these years of “fitting in”, being “normal”. It is an attempt to also be beautiful and desirable. We have subsequently learned that the serious problems with anorexia have mostly to do with being in control and remaining small (a dependent child).
The pendulum has swung to the other end of saying and thinking that obesity is OK…it is not. All efforts to the contrary keeps the problem entrenched. There are two issues with the “normal” American diet, I believe, that perpetuate the problem. The first is our craving of sugar…carbohydrates that have little nutritional value and lots of calories. I’m not saying no carbs, I’m saying smaller portions. Our craving of sweets is like an addiction to anything…drugs, alcohol, cigarettes (another drug), gambling, sex, etc. When we experience pleasure, that pleasure-center in our brain is stimulated and we then want more, much more, of that same pleasure. Consequently, in order to achieve a healthy diet and pattern of eating, we must go through a period of “withdrawal”. This can be done…it just requires some patience and resolve.
The second problem has to do with our “normal” portions of food. We have successfully super-sized practically everything we eat; e.g., “all you can eat” diners and restaurants, 20 oz. sodas (with free refills) and carbs, carbs and carbs! A traveler from England was commenting on the things she liked and didn’t like about Chicago. She had heard about our larger portions before she arrived, but she couldn’t believe her eyes when she actually saw it. I think the food industry is also at fault for putting corn syrup in practically everything we eat. And, finally, I believe our problem with obesity must be addressed through education, poking at the denial we use to justify our bad habits and by closing our mouths!
About the author.
I went off to college and, for the first time in my life, I felt that I was in control of my life. My mom, bless her heart, always tried to help me lose weight. But her methods enraged me…she would restrict me from eating what my sisters could eat, usually sweets and desserts. My family would have pie or ice cream for dessert and I would be served canned fruit cocktail. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate fruit cocktail…I hated being the only one who was different restricted, all the time.So in college, I decided to impose my own restrictions when eating and I began to exercise. I did lose weight and I think subconsciously, I wanted to show my mother how I succeeded where she failed. My self-esteem and body image were the reason I chose to lose weight and clearly I wanted to manage it myself. I learned something that helped me when I became a parent…you can’t control the behavior of your children…all you can do is to help mold it and provide some direction. Susie.