The obesity crisis has my wife very upset, but I’m not sure why. She’s a nutritional consultant, takes care of herself, and is in great shape. You’d think she’d be happy. Guess not.
The reason, I suspect, is that, as more and more companies portray being overweight or even obese in a positive light – like Sports Illustrated, which is owned by Time Inc., for example – it encourages unhealthy behavior. And we’re already way past the danger zone as far as that goes.
If that’s her beef, I can certainly understand. The media pendulum has swung from worshipping super-skinny supermodels that look like crack addicts to the euphemistically labeled plus-size curvy models. The obvious question is what about all the normal women? What are they, chopped liver?
The real problem is that neither weight extreme is healthy. On the one hand, humans do need to eat to survive. But Ashley Graham, recently chosen to grace the cover of the SI’s wildly popular Swimsuit issue, is definitely overweight and possibly obese.
Her weight apparently fluctuates quite a bit – not a good thing in itself – but toward the top end of reports, Graham’s BMI is right on the borderline between overweight and obese. And her dress size is 16 while the average woman in America is between 12 and 14.
Skinny models may have damaged the self-esteem of generations of women – definitely not a good thing – but neither is the opposite extreme. We face a health epidemic of humongous proportions, and this massive movement toward plus size being cool sends the wrong message at the worst possible time.
The growing waistline and declining health of Americans of every demographic and gender across the board is bad enough, but the real problem is so much bigger than that. It affects every single one of us in countless ways.
It’s about big business. We all talk about how much the obesity problem costs American companies, but there’s a flipside to that. Retrofitting everything from our wardrobes, furniture, and automobiles to airplane seats, wheelchairs, and MRI machines is huge business. It’s a boon for lots of industries and countless companies.
It’s about selling Americans a ton of BS. One market research firm says the weight management industry will reach $41.8 billion by 2017. But here’s the thing. The more Americans spend on quick fixes, club memberships, miracle diets, supplements, and all sorts of weight loss systems, the more obese they become. None of that stuff works.
It’s about our politicians trying to grab the limelight with typical overzealous, overreaching, over-regulation. The Federal Trade Commission has issued sweeping guidelines on how food companies advertise and sell to kids. San Francisco banned Happy Meals. Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban large sugary drinks. As if any of that will help solve the problem.
The solution to this rapidly growing trend is two words: Personal responsibility. Each and every day we make choices about what we put in our bodies. How we treat our bodies. What we do with our recreational time. Every day we make health and lifestyle choices for ourselves and our children.
We say there’s a childhood obesity problem in America but, in reality, children don’t make those choices, parents do. Last time I checked, kids don’t drive themselves to McDonald’s or the supermarket to buy crappy processed foods full of sugar and fat. Kids don’t decide how much time they’re allowed to veg indoors glued to gadgets.
Our children don’t have a health problem. We do. And while big business and politicians are clearly capitalizing on the obesity epidemic, they can’t solve it. Only you and I can by the choices we make every day.
Portions of this post originally appeared in my Fox Business Critical Thinking column.
Image credit swimsuitsforall