We are an overweight nation.
With all the political talk surrounding healthcare, it’s hard to ignore the fact that many of our problems stem from an epidemic of obesity in the country. The CDC’s latest statistics state that over 35% of adults in the US qualify as obese.
Ifyou watch the slide show on the CDC website you can see the upward trend over time; 20 years ago no single state had a prevalence higher than 15%. Today no state has a prevalence lower than 20%.
These would all just be interesting numbers to bat around if it weren’t for the hefty health cost. The majority of the leading causes of death are linked to obesity and the healthcare costs of dealing with chronic disorders like heart disease and diabetes are much of the reason the health care debates are so heated these days. The estimated cost of care for obesity related diseases is in the billions.
I was scanning my Facebook news feed the other day, and a particular picture kept making an appearance. A young woman, nude, heavy-set and artistically photographed holding a piece of cardboard in front of her that read. “If a size ‘2’ is beautiful, then my size ‘22’ must be glorious.”
The trouble is that our society and our media are never fond of middle ground. Sure there are articles out there promoting the idea of maintaining a healthy weight and a realistic body image, but they are seldom as exciting as reading a vitriolic article about the impossible standards of beauty that bombard us every day. Nor is it as gut-wrenching as a reality TV show where overweight kids are shown crying big blubbery tears as they are forced to diet and exercise for the first time in their lives.
Whatever your stance there is the media item to support it. Anorexics and exercise fanatics will never lack for evidence that if they give up on their lifestyles for even a moment they could become part of the leagues of overweight Americans making the news. And for individuals whose health might someday be at risk, it is not small thing to roll ones eyes at the twig-thin runway models and pronounce the whole of society overly judgmental and wrong-headed.
For those of us in the middle we’re left with the question of how to judge. With all the fingers on the scales, it’s hard to gauge where middle is anymore.
Not too long ago The National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD because otherwise it’s quite a mouthful) condemned the efforts of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for their campaign against childhood obesity Stop Sugarcoating. ANAD pointed out that a lot of their tactics used negative attention and shaming to encourage kids to eat better and exercise. ANAD makes the case that promoting positive self-image along with healthy habits is a better approach toward long-term well-being for these kids.
In other words, let’s compromise.