Obesity in the United States – How much should the government be involved?

Since this blog is about fitness and my essay was already corrected over the weekend (I got an A+ on this work). Here is the essay I wrote according to my last module of my homework. It is based on actual research and the question was, “Should the government be involved in trying to control the increase in obesity in the United States?” So I am sharing what I wrote, because it has very important information. I have to say that I am truly thankful for a company like Beach Body who is working with the American Diabetes Association in trying to control some of the problems involved with weight and bad diet.

In 2004 the Center for Disease Control released the results of a study on the leading causes of preventable death. The study indicated that in the year 2000, 435,000 deaths or 18.1% of total deaths were linked to tobacco use and could have been prevented. What was alarming however, was the second cause of preventable deaths. According to the study, poor diet and inactivity claimed 400,000 deaths or 16.6% of total deaths that year. The study concluded that in a few years, it is estimated that poor diet and physical inactivity will replace tobacco use as the leading cause of death.

The increase in weight problems in the United States is alarming. It is estimated that 34% of Americans are overweight, while an additional 31% are obese. As more and more studies confirm the health problems linked to being overweight, the question now is, “how much should the government be involved in controlling the obesity epidemic?”

To try to decipher why it is that there is such an increase in weight in the United States, we must first take a look at the past twenty years and see the differences, we use technology for almost everything, from cooking with microwaves, to playing. Today, it is easier to pop something in the microwave and two minutes later, our food is ready, it is easier to have some new electronic gadget and push buttons to “pretend” we’re playing a sport instead of actually playing it. We hardly ever have a real home-cooked meal with fresh vegetables and fresh fruits. Everything is handed to us pre-made, pre-packaged, pre-served.

So how much should the government be involved in fighting this epidemic? Isn’t the government doing enough already? We hear over and over again from our doctors, our health departments and the different institutions that “being overweight is not healthy, it can kill you.” Awareness has really not done much. Should there be a “soda tax” or a “fast food tax?” What difference would that make? Should the government also do something against the technology industry as well? The problem with the United States is that as a society, we are used to blaming the government for our problems. It is much easier to do that than to take responsibility for our own lives. We hardly ever ask ourselves, who buys the fast food? Who uses the technology? Who is allowing our lifestyle to control our lives? We are.

Realistically, there is a limitation on how much the government can do to control the epidemic, although there have been some important steps taken by the government already. A ban on trans-fat foods in New York and California restaurants has shown some positive health effects according to researchers; and in 2006, sodas were removed from public schools and replaced with healthier alternatives.

While we all point fingers at each other, the health industry, the government, the food industry, the soda companies and even our genetics, the problem continues. People continue to try to get their weight under control and continue to fail. We all have a level of responsibility for the epidemic. Our lifestyle seems to be the biggest problem.

A clear example of this is the Pima tribe in Arizona and in Mexico. On the Arizona border, the Pima tribe suffers from type-2 diabetes, heart disease and other weight-related issues. A state-of-the art hospital in that community, treats members for diseases linked to obesity: high blood pressure, hypertension, certain cancers of the bone and joint, muscle strains, diabetes and sleep apnea. An alarming sixty percent of Pima adults are diabetic. A dialysis clinic, which is open fourteen hours a day, six days a week, treats 18 patients at a time. The Pima community is proud of their hospital; they pay for their own healthcare and have even volunteered for the U.S. government to use their hospital as a human laboratory to monitor their health. Thousands have volunteered.

Five hundred miles south of the border, high in the Sierra Madre, there is another Pima community. This community separated from the main tribe thousands of years ago and migrated to the south. These individuals are an average of 60 pounds lighter than the Pima in Arizona, diabetes and obesity are virtually unknown here. The only thing that is different from these two communities is their lifestyle. The Pima in Mexico live like their ancestors did, they farm, use no labor saving devices, not even electricity or piped water. Their diet consists of fruit, vegetables and corn tortillas, foods high in fiber and low in animal fat. They walk, they ride and if they’re running late for school, they run three miles to get there. While the Mexican Pima spend 22 hours a week doing physical labor, the U.S. Pima spend less than 2. To scientists, the differences in this tribe on both sides of the border show the impact of modern life on health and weight.

As a society, we need to change our focus and realize that our goal should be to live healthier lives. Professor Kelly Brownell, Dir. Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders suggests that if we “don’t overdo, don’t restrict ourselves too much” and stop “focusing on the number on the scale” we can attain a reasonable weight loss.

America is a society obsessed with food. We use food as comfort such as an alcoholic would use alcohol. Like with any addiction, no changes can take place until we take the first step. While the government can take certain actions to help, we must also take responsibility for our own health and not expect anyone else to take charge for us.


Facts on File, Issues & Controversies: Obesity, Issue date: June 19, 2007. Web. 20 June, 2010 < click here for the link

Restaurants comply with Trans-Fat Ban in NYC, By Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage today. Published July 20, 2009. Web. 20 June, 2010 <http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/DietNutrition/15161>

Frontline 1708 “Fat” Air date November 3, 1998. Written, produced and directed by Anthony Thomas. Narrated by Anthony Thomas. Web. 20 June 2010 <http://www.pbs.org/