When it comes to the battle between obesity among Americans and fast food chain companies, fast food falls hard for the one to blame. For many years, big food companies have been constantly under attack from health advocates and consumers for the contribution of growing waistlines, chronic diseases and lack of exercise in the United States. Of course, it is easy to blame fast food corporations given the ubiquity, proximity convenience and low cost of food options available. But who really is the one to point the finger at? We, the consumers, are fully responsible for what enters our mouths. No individual should sue any restaurant company from getting fat from eating their food. A decline in physical activity and a rise in more sedentary lifestyles have made it more difficult to balance food intake with energy spending in the last generation, leading to overweight people. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if the problem were simply aesthetic.
But excess weight takes a terrible toll on the human body, significantly increasing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, gall-bladder disease, osteoarthritis and many forms of cancer. The total medical tab for illnesses related to obesity is $117 billion a year. According to the Surgeon General, and the Journal of the American Medical Association reported in March, poor diet and physical inactivity could soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
And again, Americans recognize the problem but do not seem to want to change. In the TIME/ABC poll they rated obesity alongside heart disease, cancer, AIDS and drug abuse as among the nation’s most pressing public health problems. Consumers’ attitude toward fast food has changed since there is a wide assortment of factors at work ranging from fewer sit-down meals, much more snacking, more latchkey kids who make their own food decisions without supervision. Consumers, as well as parents (kids are also falling victim to the obesity rates), need to engage in personal responsibility when it comes to consuming an abundant amount of fast food instead of putting the obesity blame on fast food franchises.
Obesity and fast food chains were never an issue back in the day; Americans seem to have taken advantage of the easy availability and cheap prices of many unhealthy foods. The human lifestyle and diet 4,000 years ago seem to have changed dramatically over the years where our ancestors ate and drank in the healthiest way possible as nomadic hunter-gatherers. 50%-80% of food came from plants, and 20%-50% came from animals (The World is Fat 18). Chronic disease, diabetics, obesity, heart disease and even cancer were unknown. In the 1950s, less than 100 million Americans were overweight and obese individuals. People used to have to do daily activities that were extensive just to live their everyday lives like cooking food from scratch, walking most places and doing most things by hand rather than using technological machines to do it for them. Food wasn’t easy to get if you were poor.
Walking somewhere was still common regardless of appliances such as dishwashers and ovens, and in 1960, only about 13.3 percent of people in America were obese, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. And things haven’t been moving in a promising direction. Just two decades ago, the incidence of overweight in adults was well under 50%, while the rate for kids was only a third what it is today. From 1996 to 2001, 2 million teenagers and young adults joined the ranks of the obese. People are clearly worried. A TIME/ABC News poll released June 2004 shows that 58% of Americans would like to lose weight, nearly twice the percentage that felt that way in 1951. But only 27% say they are trying to slim down and two-thirds of those aren’t following any specific plan to do so. Americans love and strive for flavor and bigger portioned sized foods that’s fast and easy to attain, that is where fast food corporations come in place. Americans now are taking advantage of the bigger, cheaper and faster foods that it has become a national problem. So, where do we draw the line between self-control and responsible business practice? For the past 10 years, McDonald’s and other fast foods chains have been victimized with numerous lawsuits because they either “got consumers fat, hypnotized kids or bribed with deals and promos” (Fast Food 19).
In 2003, the United States district court for the Southern District of New York responded to a complaint filed against McDonald’s by a class of obese costumers (Fast Food 18). In 2011, sixty-four year old Martin Kessman filed a lawsuit against the fast food company, White Castle and was seeking unspecified financial damages against the fast-food chain, claiming that his local White Castle is in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act because the seating could not accommodate a customer of his size, keep in mind this man ate at White Castle on a regular basis. These frivolous and unnecessary lawsuits against corporations show the ignorance of many irresponsible Americans who cannot control their eating habits. It is not right to sue a fast food company based on the fact that consumers knowingly and voluntarily consumed the foods from McDonald’s knowing that the foods McDonald’s serves were in fact high in cholesterol, fat, salt and sugar.
Consumers voluntarily spend over $100 billion annually on fast food per year. (Fast Food 8). The famous documentary, Supersize Me, shows Morgan Spurlock consuming McDonalds every day, 3 days a week. This of course led him to gain a significant amount of weight and develop some health complications. Spurlock makes his point by a way of exaggeration, he tells us something that we already know, fast food is bad. Of course it will be bad because he ONLY consumed fast food and nothing else, he did not eat anything healthy and did not exercise, all of this was done voluntarily. Should consumers eat fast food on a daily or even a weekly basis? The answer is simply no. Today Americans eat an extra 300 calories per day than in 1985 (Buzzle). When this trend occurs we get overweight Americans, and that is exactly what we are dealing with. 500 million Americans are now obese and an additional 6 or 7 million are “morbidly obese” (Chew on This 209).
With this ridiculous amount of unhealthy people, you would think there would be a solution. And there is, lawsuits. Americans decide to turn to their lawyers for their ignorance and blame corporations for something that is obviously done by their own will. Consumers are too ignorant and blind to understand what it’s their mouth. We cannot deny that people are eating more and are getting fat, but that does not prove that fast food franchises are the culprit. Kids today are suffering severely and falling victim to obesity because of many unhealthy diets that are being practiced in their own home. Parents bring home the importance of food safety, quality and nutrition. When this habit continues to occur it leads to kids becoming teens who make poor choices who in turn leads to obese adults and a lifetime of health problems. Children in the United States are gaining more weight than ever before. They’re eating too much high-fat, high-sugar food and are spending less time being physically active.
In 1989-1996 kids caloric intake became 80-230 extra calories per day (Food Inc. 225). The diets of American children don’t meet nutritional recommendations. In 1997, American children obtained about 50% of their calories from added fat and sugar while 1% of them resemble portions of food pyramid (Fast Food 29). At this early age kids can show early signs of health problems and of course obesity. A quarter of kids age 5-10 show premature warning signs for heart disease such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure with unhealthy eating habits, physical inactivity and obesity (Food Inc. 229). Weight problems that develop during childhood can lead to weight-related illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. So, is parent’s lack of responsibility for their children’s food habits the one to blame? Of course, one thing kids will unfortunately experience is variety. With all the fast food chains serving the same stuff no matter where in the US.
Parents with obese kids are struggling with a horde of problems when it comes to their child’s weight. They range from a lack of education about nutritional food, not knowing how to cook and limited money to buy healthier food, to longer working hours and marketing campaigns for junk food aimed at kids. But the more sedentary and lazy lives children now have are also creating huge problems. Type 2 diabetics actually increased in children when a study conducted in Cincinnati should that type 2 diabetics went up tenfold from 1982 to 1994. 75% of junior school children preferred to stay at home than go to their nearby park (Child obesity: Why do parents let their kids get fat). Watching TV was one of the most popular activities, with 89% saying it was how they liked best to spend their time away from school, according to researchers Lightspeed. In July, scientists from University of Montreal claimed that by the age of ten, toddlers had added inches to their waistlines each week they spend an extra hour in front of the television. Parents need to, from the start, control the eating and overall lifestyle of their children.
It is dangerous for the future of the children to get used to such a risky addiction. Not only are we and our children eating more, but we are also exercising less. Lack of exercise is another factor to lack of responsibility. Fewer American adults today work in jobs that require physical labor. People drive to work in cars, rather than walking or biking; they take elevators instead of stairs; they use vacuum cleaners rather than brooms; and they cut the lawn with riding rather than push mowers. All of these simple changes reduce the amount of energy used to perform the tasks of daily living. A typical office worker today walks only about 3000 to 5000 steps in their daily activities. In contrast, in the Amish community where driving automobiles and using electrical appliances and other modern conveniences are not allowed, a typical adult takes 14000 to 18000 steps a day.
The overall incidence of obesity in the group is only 4%. With 46.9% of the population meeting Physical Guidelines for aerobic/cardio physical activity (Exercise and Physical Activity). The problem for individuals is that willpower is not enough. We live in an environment where there’s food every half mile. It’s tasty, cheap, convenient, and you can eat it with one hand. We, the consumers, need not only to cut back on calories and fast food, we need to get active in any possible way we can to increase our health. Although simpler sounding on words then it is to actually pursue, exercise is Americans biggest challenge. Imagine a 7-year-old boy named John who, his whole has been given to-go fast food meals as his daily dinner at home. John has always been overweight for his age. As John has entered his teen’s years, he has become a hectic straight A student who studies constantly but never has time to make his own meals at home.
John drives to local fast food joints and spends about $70 per week on his in-between-studies meals. Although, he has never worried about the way he looked and no matter what it has never occurred to him to want to change his eating habits, he continues to eat fast food on a regular basis. He consumes about 1,200 calories more than he is suppose to. Now being a grown adult with a settled job and cozy suburban home, he continues to eat unhealthy. No exercise is ever incorporated into his daily routines. He enters a McDonalds and stares blankly at the menu and clearly sees the sign that McDonalds has introduced a new Premium Caesar Salad with Crispy Chicken Strips but John chooses to ignore it because he thinks going to McDonald’s for a salad is like asking a prostitute for a hug. It just doesn’t make sense. He orders a Big Mac meal that costs him around $9.25 and around 1,130 calories (including drink), this does not bother John because this simple meal tastes great and satisfies his hunger and appetite (keep in mind John ate this meal in-between lunch and dinner so he has eaten more calories with breakfast, lunch and dinner).
Oh, and why not make it supersized for 2 dollars more, he won’t be hungry till 2 hours later. John continues this routine for about two more months; he feels extremely tired and out of breathe just walking down the stairs of his home. He also has major pains in his hips and knees only to think this is due to age. As the shortness of breath and joint pains begin to intensify, John finally decides to go to the doctor to get a check-up. His result, John is morbidly obese and has developed osteoarthritis, which is the reason for the joint pains. He also has a respiratory problem that causes his shortness of breath. John is outraged at how he could develop such a health problem. He blames McDonalds for giving him such a horrible and negative effect on his health. He plans to sue the fast food company. Does John win his case? No, he does not. With his irresponsible lack of a healthy diet or exercise, he does not have a fair case against McDonald’s. His overweight and health issues are due to his irresponsible lack of awareness to his body and his lifestyle. McDonald’s is not the one to blame; he had the choice to eat unhealthy.
No one is forcing him to consume fattening foods. The real culprits in his obesity problems (as well as many other obese Americans) are lack of personal responsibility and its henchmen, gluttony and sloth. What really causes obesity besides the overconsumption of food? Genetics is one factor. Some common forms of obesity are probably the result of variations within a large number of heritable genes between families. Obesity risk is 2-3x higher for a person with a history of obesity as oppose to someone with no family history. Genetic studies have shown that the “particular set of weight-regulating genes that a person has is by far the most important factor in determining how much that person will weigh” (The Real Cause of Obesity).
The heritability of obesity, which shows how, many genes is a factor to obesity versus other factors is the same as the heritability of height. Also, many psychological disorders can lead to obesity as well. The basis of eating disorders and obesity usually lies with mixtures of psychosocial and environmental attributes. Individuals who suffer from psychological disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety, and eating disorders) may have a tough time managing control of their consumption of food, exercising an adequate amount, and maintaining a healthy weight. Those with weight problems can use food as a relieving mechanism, particularly when they are sad, anxious, stressed, lonely, and frustrated. In many obese individuals there appears to be a random cycle of mood disturbance, overeating, and weight gain. When they feel distressed, they turn to food to help them feel better which in turn leads to obesity (Psychological Risk Factors of Obesity).
The culprits responsible for America’s progressively expanding waistline have little to do with the usual suspects popularized by the media. Many Americans believe Fast Food is the main culprits for obesity because of the clever tactics and unknown ingredients they use to get costumers to buy and their food and make them wanting more later. Fast food companies outnumber actual restaurants because it is affordable, easy to attain, big portioned and delicious. With the United States being the most obese nation, it has also become the nation that craves flavor and variety. Many turn away from greens because of its unappealing taste and lack of flavor. Fast Food companies produce food with flavor and hunger satisfying taste. Many become angry because of the effective advertising done on TV, ads, giveaways and deals. But what really angers consumers most are the chemicals they put in their food that makes it so delicious and irresistible.
Polyfluoroalkyl phosphate pesters, PAPs, are chemicals that line fast-food packaging to make it grease- and waterproof, this leads to a number of health problems including cancer and liver disease. Dimethylpolysiloxane, a type of silicone, is added as an anti-foaming agent to McDonald’s chicken nuggets. This is the same ingredient that is used in breast implants and silly putty. Sodium Phosphate, which acts like a foam agent to many types of meat, is constantly used in many fast food joints. Dyes (red and yellow) behavioral attributes. Along with the mystery chemicals that go into fast food for its flavor, companies also supersize or increase the portions of their meals. During 1970s, marketing director of McDonalds corporations, David Wallerstein, determined that consumers would by more of a food item if sold in larger sizes and costs weren’t high. Portions increased from since 1980s to about 5x larger, which includes the drinks and side orders (Buzzle).
A supersized coke, big mac and fries takes about 7 hours to burn with walking, now imagine people actually eating this without any exercise. We’ve been supersizing what we eat and that’s what consumers can’t get enough of. Many blame fast food for numerous health problems as well; asthma, strokes, type 2 diabetics, cancer, and cardio vascular disease. I myself have fallen victim to fast food, for example when I go on road trips with the family, we have no time to sit down and have a proper breakfast since we have to get on the road right away. We stop by a McDonalds because their breakfast is cheap and quick since we can eat it in the car. Also, it is no coincidence that fast food chains are everywhere where there are colleges and schools as well. College educated people or not poorly educated Americans are the most rapid growth in BMI between 1970 and 1990 (Fast Food 20). Obesity in college students in 1970 increased to 163% with many students claiming that with so much hectic studying and no time to eat, fast food is close by and quick to eat.
So, it is no joke as to why people would blame fast food for their health troubles, since it is easy to attain and delicious but with many deadly ingredients. Personal responsibility is all it takes to decrease obesity. We live in a supersized world but as they say bigger is not always better. Fast food companies should not be blamed for obesity and instead be blamed on the consumers for lack of self-control. Fast food may look delicious but if people are aware of the health problems that are in the food, why do some continue to consume it regularly. Many need to take responsibility for their actions instead of taking it out on the companies by filing ridiculous lawsuits. No one forces us to eat a burger. It is not fast food that kills it is lack of responsibility that kills.
Courtney from Study Moose
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