The other night, a group of friends and I were conversing with a Belgian student who lives in our dorm. He openly asked us why Americans are so fat. We all laughed and reminded him that he is living in the healthiest state in the nation. I wonder if he could even imagine what it would feel like to live in a state like Alabama, where over one-fourth of the adult population is obese. That figure doesn't even include the amount of people who are simply overweight.
I used a little math to experiment and see what my life would be like if I were obese. By definition, someone who is obese has a body mass index of more than 30. At 5'2", I'm not very tall. In order to be obese, I would have to weigh at least 164 pounds, meaning that I'd have to gain close to 50 pounds. I'm pretty sure I couldn't even carry that much weight for a long distance. But an alarming percentage of Americans live their lives like this. So now I'm desperately asking: Why are Americans so fat?
I'm sure the answer lies in a variety of reasons. For many people, obesity began at childhood, a time when lifelong eating and exercise habits are supposed to be formed. But the busier families get, the more fast food everyone eats. Busy parents also like to use TV and video games to baby-sit their children instead of playing sports with them. Thus begins a journey down the long road of a sedentary lifestyle. The adage "old habits die hard" rings true here.
Sure, McDonald's is doing its part to motivate the masses by advertising salads and other healthful choices. But the nature of our culture will never allow McDonald's to become famous for anything other than the Big Mac. It's cheap, delicious and it will kill you. A Big Mac is something fat people should avoid like the plague. Try a vegetarian Subway sandwich instead.
What upsets me about fat people is the government spends millions of dollars trying to educate the public and control obesity. But the situation is just getting worse, and obesity rates are increasing. Americans spend more than a trillion dollars on healthcare every year, and most of those costs are a result of self-inflicted chronic illnesses brought on by lifestyle choices. Did I mention the government spends half of all health care dollars? I'm overjoyed at the fact my taxes are supporting fat people's lifestyles.
I get a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I see a morbidly obese person struggling to walk just a few steps. They've sentenced themselves to an unhealthy life that not only makes them miserable, but affects the rest of us, too. The most powerful country in the world is still somehow being restrained in the most noticeable way. Other countries can just stand by and laugh at us.
No socio-economic class is immune. When it comes to poverty, obesity is more of a health problem than starvation, when shouldn't it be the other way around? Try as it might, it seems as though there is nothing the government can do to beat this rising epidemic.
I've thought about it, and the only solution I came up with is that obese people shouldn't be allowed to depend on the government, so the government should stop paying for health procedures meant to correct a self-inflicted disease. I'm not talking about genetically obese people who cannot lower their weight no matter what they do. I'm talking about people who are fat just because, and do nothing about it.
Challenge yourself and think about a solution the next time you see a fat person. It shouldn't be long after you read this column, given their prevalence in this country.
Megan Schulz is a sophomore technical journalism major. Her column runs every Tuesday in the Collegian.