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The Fattening of America Blames Obesity on the Economy

Speak Up: Is Obesity a Lifestyle Choice?

A controversial new book called The Fattening of America ($17.79) is making claims that being overweight is becoming less of a health hazard and more of a lifestyle choice. It suggests that in the future, many people will likely continue to choose a diet and exercise regimen that leads to excess weight, since losing weight requires too much work and too many lifestyle sacrifices. Here's an exerpt from inside the cover:

"The issue is not that Americans don't care about their increasing waistlines — quite the opposite, in fact. But the reality is that in America's (and increasingly the world's) obesity-inducing environment, the sustained changes in behavior required to lose the weight and keep it off are simply too difficult — and becoming more difficult all the time. Moreover, generous insurance coverage and vastly improved medical treatments have lowered the health costs, if not the monetary costs, of excess weight. So carrying a few extra pounds is not as bad for one's health as it used to be."

So what do you guys think about all this? Do you agree with the author's point of view? Speak up and share your thoughts in the comments section below. As always with sensitive topics, let's keep it respectful.

Join The Conversation
iamvictorious iamvictorious 9 years
In America, obesity should be attributed to the economic of the food trade. Eating healthy costs money thus a family that is trying to survive its more economical for them to eat fresh and healthy. Its a shame to live in a country where its cheaper to by a combo meal at meal at a fast food chain than a salad.
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
And like some posters above mentioned, staying healthy doesn't have to cost you anything! Try taking the stairs whenever you can or doing jumping jacks or running in place when you're tired of sitting at a desk all day. Try switching from soda to flavored water or orange juice(or apple juice or some healthy drink). Portion sizes are the key. I suppose that I am fortunate that growing up my mother always told me 'everything is fine in moderation'. You don't have to belong to a gym or live in a safe neighborhood or buy organic food or any of that. Just try the little things and you'll be surprised at the results.
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
I posted this as a Fit Find or sugarloving link a while ago. I think that the author's hypothesis that obesity is not dangerous is dangerous in and of itself. Why should people just be eating junk food and not exercising and then depending on health care to bail them out. Those surgeries and medications are costing the average Joe taxpayer and its grossly unfair to those citizens that take care of themselves and take a proactive approach to their health. It's even worse than smokers, because there are more obesity-related conditions. The majority of obese people are that way because they choose not to eat healthfully and stay active for whatever reason. They make the few people who are truly obese due to medical conditions look bad. The two groups are not the same and unfortunately there is no way to tell the difference. And as for losing weight requiring lifestyle sacrifices and work-- hello??? How old are we here? The author seems to be targeting older Americans-- as in not kids. Has this man(and the people who actually justify their obesity by it being too hard) never heard of hard work? There are things in life that we just have to do even if we don't feel like it or it's hard. Many people don't want to go to work in the mornings, but they have to do it to support their family and put bread on the table. Life is not about me, me, me and what you feel like doing. Sometimes you just have to do things because its the right/necessary thing to do.
cvandoorn cvandoorn 9 years
Having lived in Europe and Asia, I can definitely see why Americans are so obese. Portions are huge, everything seems to be processed; flavors, vitamins, and what not is added to food. Of course after your tongue gets used to these fake flavors, real food doesn't taste as good. For some strange reason I always find that real food here just doesn't have any taste - salads taste rubbery, fruits aren't as sweet. Leave the country, and you'll be wowed by all the flavors out there - real, natural flavors. Isn't it also funny that every time I go home to Indonesia, I lose on average 10 lbs, but when i'm back here in the the US, I gain it all back within the first month? And I don't even eat that unhealthy. I'm telling you, its all the unnecessary additives they put in food here. Restaurants also need to limit their portion sizes. That being said...I do find that people make too many excuses such as: I don't have time or money. There are plenty of people who live below the poverty line in Asia, work more hours and than the average American for less than minimum wage, yet they are skinny. YOU have a choice of what you put into your body. Wake up earlier to go for a run around the neighborhood. Prepare your meals the night before so you don't rush out of the house with a twinkie in your hand. I see obese people at the food court eating french fries and hot dogs...come on, there are better choices out there.
SublimeChica SublimeChica 9 years
I most certainly agree that (with the exception of those with thyroid problems or other disorders) maintaining an unhealthy, excessive weight is a choice; but at no point can someone argue that it's less unhealthy. If it was good for you, we'd all be slurping down bacon cheeseburgers, greasy fries and milkshakes for lunch. There is just no basis for that argument.
Kristinh1012 Kristinh1012 9 years
I am so sick of this obestiy, weight and bad food crap. Seriously, it just seems like the overly controlling and pushy people, who think they are perfect, in the world all got together and decided they were going to force this on people. I am not over weight and I eat healthy most of the time, and eat bad when I want. But I think that if I was over weight and had a hard time controlling it, this new found obsession of Americas would probably make me feel like Sh*t. This topic is EVERY WHERE you go. I for one think it's scary. I have two daughters. What are they going to be tell them when they get older? We are creating a generation of eating disorders going BOTH ways. They have already banned cup cakes and things of this sort from my daughters school. She had to take Fat free cookies to school for her birthday! It just seems insane to me.
XSofieX XSofieX 9 years
well the cause of obesity is without a doubt always a choice - people have to abuse their bodies with way too much food for a long time to consistently gain weight, its not a disease in that way since it is a part of their daily lifestyle. What (I think) is often underestimated by inactive people is the difficulty of changing a habit such as eating too much junk food. All behaviour is a conscious choice (even though most people live on auto-pilot) unless a person is willing to believe that his/her life is pre-determined by biology or environmnet. There is such a thing as free will!
behemoth_the_cat behemoth_the_cat 9 years
I think this book is ridiculous. Being obese isn't as unhealthy as it used to be?? No further comment.
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 9 years
I think some people just accept the fact their overweight and I see that as a form of not wanting to keep yourself alive. I don't exercise as much as I should however I refuse to just pig out on everything and I never eat two servings of something; I always have one. I believe that there are people that really do want to lose the weight and others that just give up, which I hate since they are killing themselves by doing that. I don't know what the future generation is going to weigh however all I can do is when I have kids to teach them how to eat healthy and treat yourself in moderation and to make sure my family/kids have an active lifestyle. I also tell people about the You:On a diet series so maybe it will help others too.
shamsham shamsham 9 years
This is a tricky issue, obviously. One reason why is that while people largely understand the consequences of their actions, there are environmental factors that influence their choices that have nothing to do with going out to eat with a lucky glutonous boyfriend. Neighborhoods are no longer places where a person is comfortable or even safe to walk. This is due to crime as well as police persecution of certain demographics that just so happen to have disproportionately high numbers of obesity. America as a society has a schizophrenic attitude towards physical labor. We look down on those who physically work for a living in favor of those that use their brains (as if seperating them were even possible). Think of our degradation of family farms in the last 50 years (and try to seperate reality from the rhetoric) compared to the respect that CEOs get. Another issue is that, truly, people don't know how to cook for themselves. There are tons of cheap and healthy options available (not necessarily for everyone though - think of food deserts) for food that does not involve fucking white bread and meat. The disparity between economic classes is rather apparent when considering the food revolution that is occurring alongside this ignorance. So the short answer is yes, people make choices. But it isn't as if they are equipt with a proper scale to do so.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
While I don't necessarily agree with everything that the author says, I do agree that being overweight and unhealthy is a lifestyle choice. Honestly, it's not that hard to be fit, to eat healthy (not even organic everything, just better choices), and exercise. It costs nothing to walk, to take the stairs every one in a while, or to go for a run. You can blame it on your sedentary job all you want, but you know what, I sit during the day too, and then I go home and go for a run, or do it before work and classes in the morning. Honestly, it really pisses me off when people blame everything and everyone else for their poor habits and the consequences of those choices. Yes, there are some medical causes for obesity, but they don't affect that many people. I also tend to agree with those commenters who blame the health care crisis in this country partly on completely preventable health problems.
Bookish Bookish 9 years
I think it's more a society thing than a lifestyle. The majority of American cities are not pedestrian-friendly, making it unsafe to get out and walk to the store, walk to the post office, that sort of thing. I live four blocks from one grocery store and a mile from another and can't walk to either of them because there are no sidewalks, and the traffic is such that crossing the roads is out of the question (I have my kids with me all day). So since people have to drive, they spend more time inside. And inside is the tv, with commercials pushing sugary, fatty junk to every possible demographic, and people end up wanting it. It would be more effective for our governments (at all levels) to make the places we live conducive to healthy habits- more parks, sidewalks, crosswalks, that sort of thing. Fewer obese people without health insurance would mean less money spent on caring for preventable obesity-related diseases.
onabanana onabanana 9 years
Sometimes its not so much a life style choice as it is a lifestyle situation. Not all people have the luxury time to make their own meals, or have enough money to pay to go to the gym. Some people are just trying to do the best they can with what they've got. Others have obligations that don't allow them to put themselves first. Telling a mom or dad of 4 who has to work and take care of a family that their weight problem is a life style choice is kind of disrespectful. Certainly, there are those who make bad decisions that have lead to weight gain, but there is something awfully crass about the phrase "life style choice" that somewhat demonizes the over weight. I think we can all make healthy decisions, but I think people should keep in mind that sometimes, choice is luxury that a lot of people don't have.
mara_viajera mara_viajera 9 years
One thing that is still bothering me is the "if it matters" part of the title. I have severe heart disease in my family, and have exercised and eaten the way I do for years because I believe it REALLY matters how you take care of your body. I do believe that positive body image and good health care are important for a healthy lifestyle, but I think anyone I know, including those who are obese, would balk at the idea that being obese in this country doesn't matter.
sophia_HL sophia_HL 9 years
It's a choice in many ways... and I am referring to really obese people here- not just those that could stand to lose 20lbs. I think severely obese people often chose to live that way because it provides them with an excuse not to fully participate in life.
AMP AMP 9 years
I know some really overweight people (i used to be one). I know one guy who got gastric and looks great now but really hasn't changed his bad eating habits, he just throws up a lot now instead. And I have one female friend who is around 300 lbs and will happily eat out twice a day, refuses to work out and smokes like a chimney. She knows she's unhealthy, she doesn't care. I used to be obese and I've worked extremely hard to lose weight and be healthy. I work out, I eat healthy, I seriously have to think about it day in and day out to keep myself on track. Its hard work! But I have to say that my life now is a lot easier than it was when I was really heavy. I can walk around without being embarrassed, I can walk up stairs without being winded, I can go dance at nightclubs without worrying about getting all sweaty. I'd take the daily struggle of trying to maintain healthiness than the ease of being overweight.
crazy-minky crazy-minky 9 years
Obesity is a lifestyle choice. You consciously decide what you put in your mouth, you choose whether or not to exercise. And please for the love of god, I've had it with "But some people have medical reasons that stop them from losing weight". OH YEAH. I FORGOT THAT 2/3's OF AMERICANS ALL HAD THYROID CONDITIONS. Look, you don't accidentally eat twelve cookies a day and follow it up with a Big Mac and if you do, then you need help.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I definitely think it's a lifestyle choice; just as it's a lifestyle choice to be fit and active and healthy. When I was overweight, I KNEW I had weight issues, but the truth is, for a long time, I just didn't care. I liked not counting calories and not working out. I preferred to eat pizza and read books and watch TV and just not really care. When I wanted to lose weight in college, I knew it was going to involve a big change in my habits. I was going to have to go from a couch potato to someone who *gasp* EXERCISES and eats healthy foods. I could choose to stop working out and eat whatever I want again; it sure would be easier, I suppose. But then my health problems would return and I'd feel like crap. I'm also kind of dissappointed at how readily available gastric bypass surgeries are. I honestly think that type of surgery should be reserved for the very very obese who have no more options. Now, it seems like anyone over around 230 lbs or so can get it done no problem. It seems like kind of an abuse of the system to me.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 9 years
I agree with those that think obesity is a lifestyle choice. In contrast to the author, I also believe that the choice severely costs them their health, and subsequently, affects quality of life.
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 9 years
I think after a certain point (as in, when a person has reached the level of obesity), the prospect of weight loss can become not just daunting, but truly overwhelming and lead to a condition v. similar to depression. I was watching the same True Life program and also a program on Oprah where it talked about obese people trying to lose weight and I think that the amount of support you would need in that situation would have to be extremely significant in order for you to progress. It is ultimately a choice, but I don't think that people can make that decision on their own. ALSO, not to mention the cost of food in this country ... it is NOT cheap to eat heathily, to buy organic, or fruits, or vegetables ... cheap stuff = ground beef, pasta, fast food, etc. And not everyone has access to a health club, gym, etc. or even perhaps, a safe/convenient place to exercise/walk around in.
Greentea1203 Greentea1203 9 years
I think it's completely a lifestyle choice. You choose to go eat fast food and sit on your butt all day. I don't think you can blame office jobs and fast food, video games, etc. I work in an office and BECAUSE I sit all day, I make sure to fit in exercise and healthier foods. But there's overweight and obese people at my work that choose to eat bags of cheetos and cupcakes and never move at all. Of course, I've never been overweight in my life, but there's plenty of healthy food out there and exercise is free. Being slightly overweight due to slow metabolism, etc, might be genetics, but being obese is a choice in my opinion.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 9 years
Agym - "obesity surgery" whatever that would be at least the one I had was not as cheap as $12,000. And you didn't pay a penny of it. My bariatric surgery cost $65,000, paid for by me and my personal private insurance company. My health insurance actually reimburses people for gym memberships, though in ten years of having and using the gym I've never bothered to ask them for money back. The assumption that "you are paying" for a fat person's health care is like me as a non-smoker, non-drinker saying smoking and alcohol should be banned because I don't like having to pay for those people when they have health problems which they will from their poor lifestyle choice and they become indigent. I have never gotten a statement that says exactly where my tax funds are being spent. They treat who they treat.
onion-waffle onion-waffle 9 years
I agree with Kdupps. My family certainly has had its bouts with obesity, and the consecutive heart problems, diabetes, and cholesterol problems. My immediate family happens to live in a very health-conscious community where produce is abundant, organic is everywhere, and we can exercise year-round. It is a luxury! My reality check comes every time I see my family in another city and when I spend time with my boyfriend's family. They don't have the environment or the budget to have been mindful and conscious on a day to day basis to watch what they eat and exercise as much as I do. It most definitely is a choice to change your weight and to improve your health, but we have to be mindful that some people didn't ask to be fat or to not have access to better foods.
sweetpea22 sweetpea22 9 years
If a person is overweight, the thought of losing the weight can be intimidating, and most diets I have heard of do not sound appealing. They either require a lot of work keeping track of what you eat, counting calories, etc. or they sound like you will be starving yourself. Healthy eating is not about limiting your calorie intake, it is more about chosing nutritious and balanced meals and avoiding high-fat and processed foods. I wouldn't eat most of the "food" sold in a normal grocery store, so maybe what is available and accepted as "food" is also to blame. Dieting should not be about avoiding dessert, eating lots of boring salads, and taking diet pills. It should be about learning to enjoy healthy foods, learning delicious healthy recipes, etc. Even though I was luckily raised on healthy food, I had to learn to make those decisions on my own. I definitely went through a phase where I suddenly was chosing my own food instead of eating at home, and did not make the best choices, but I have learned over the years. Now I don't think about being strict with my diet, because the food I want to eat is healthy. I wish there wasn't this misconception that it is difficult to stay thin. It certainly can be harder to lose the weight in the first place, but if you lose it the right way, maintaining your weight will be easy because you have really changed your habits and actually like them more than your old habits. That's just my opinion.
melizzle melizzle 9 years
It is harder to stay fit and healthy nowadays... a large number of jobs are no longer labor intensive and we don't get our daily exercise simply by going to work. Plus, when you have families where both parents work full-time, fast food is an all too common, convenient option for meals. However, there's no excuse for giving up on your health. Being thin is not just about looking good, it's about extending your life and improving the quality of it.
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