It’s Not Your Fault!

Frustrated woman with scale, isolated on whiteIf you have a weight problem, you likely feel that it is all your fault. You feel wholly responsible for your predicament. You are gluttonous, inactive and lack willpower.  That would mean that you and half of the country (who is unfortunately overweight) all share these serious shortcomings.  Really?  In this newsletter, I dare to turn that notion on its head.  It’s not your fault!  Before making my case, here are the facts:

  • More than half of Americans are overweight and one third of Americans are obese.
  • More than 9 million adolescents are overweight, with 60,000 cases of Type 2 Diabetes.
  • In 2 decades 95% of Americans will be overweight or obese (if current trends continue).
  • This is the first generation whose children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. 

For the past 30 years, conventional wisdom and the media have been telling us that we are the masters of our own destiny where our health is concerned.  With a little restraint, by enrolling in a gym membership, by partaking in the latest diet fad and by buying diet food X, supplement Y or special smoothie Z we can lick this problem. Really?  Gym memberships have doubled since 1980; more diet foods, books, plans and programs have been manufactured, promulgated to the public and infused in our culture. Yet we keep getting fatter and are eating ourselves to death.  Since we’ve been told that all calories are equal and it’s merely an equation of intake versus output, we can direct ourselves to eat less and move more. Sounds elementary, right?  Wrong!  If only the solution was that simple.  We are in fact NOT the masters of our own fate.  Rather this health crisis is a result of the promotion by the food industry to the American public, particularly its children, to consume processed foods – in other words – huge amounts of SUGAR.  So how has the food industry targeted our kids?

A few more facts:

  • 2 billion dollars per year is spent by the food industry marketing to kids.  
  • Children watch 4000 food related commercials per year.  Food placement in the media and in stores is everywhere!  TV, print, every kind of store, everywhere you look!  
  • Even with current improvements, 97% of foods directed to kids at top chain restaurants are unhealthy.  With cartoon characters on cereal boxes and toys in happy meals, kids’ perceptions of food are so corrupted that they don’t even know the difference between an apple and Apple Jacks!  
  • The other determining factor is the poor quality of food in our schools.  Dr. Mark Hyman has recently stated that 80% of child obesity could be eliminated by cleaning up our school cafeterias and vending machines of junk food and instead serving only whole, healthful foods to our school children.

Margo Wootan, a food policy expert maintains that the only way to stop this insanity and start to correct the problem is to change public policy.  How?  STOP MARKETING TO CHILDREN!  Some European companies and Quebec, Canada have made some changes.  17 American major food corporations and some media companies have made some improvements, but the majority have not.

I hope you have found my argument that being overweight is not your fault, interesting, if not provocative. Check back for more details on this blog in the days to come.