It's an issue that hits home for me as well. My father is currently obese and trying to lose weight. He's making progress, but his weight has caused him innumerable health problems. He has bad knees and ankles, has a stint in his heart, and takes ridiculous amounts of medicine to keep his blood pressure and cholesterol down and to treat many other diet related problems. It pains me sometimes to see him struggle to move around and do his daily chores. It's especially disconcerting when I think that his dad died of a heart attack at roughly the same age.
With that in mind, I think the focus on obesity and the stigma associated with it is misguided. If we continue to focus on weight and appearance as a determinant of health, we risk swinging the pendulum in the other direction and ending up with an anorexia epidemic.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Obesity Epidemic - Amy Farrell|
Instead, the focus should be on providing access to quality, fresh foods and encouraging a healthy diet and physical activity. But the issue is complex - it's one of the most obvious examples of a biocultural disease (one that involves both biological and social-cultural factors). In his award winning TED talk, Jamie Oliver focuses on a triangle of causal factors - Main Street (i.e. big business), the home, and the school.
The subsidy system needs to be fixed so that we're not making unhealthy food cheap. Instead we should be subsidizing fresh, organic produce and ensuring that it is available to everyone. Currently there are places where people simply can't get fresh food (called "food deserts"). And for those who do have access, it's often more economical to buy the unhealthy processed foods than it is to buy quality fresh food.
Furthermore, schools need to provide healthy meals and should not provide unhealthy foods. I remember when I was an intern at the Connecticut General Assembly. The representative I was working for was sponsoring a bill to ban junk food from schools. It went through several committees and got watered down to the point where it was basically meaningless - it limited the sale of sugary milk drinks and eliminated some (but not all) vending machines. Nevertheless, the Republicans were vehemently opposed to it. They thought that it was an imposition on their ability to decide what's best for their own children. But there is not right to access junk food. If parents want to provide that, then they can pack a lunch. By default, schools should serve healthy meals and not provide unhealthy food as an alternative.