Combating American Obesity, What’s the Correct Way

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Are money-hungry corporate execs the people ruining the American diet, or is it Americans themselves? On the West Coast, you can find a wide range of the so-called perfect diet, and all of them seem to have the same enemy, fast-food. While I agree the current American diet needs to be changed, ostracizing some of the biggest food suppliers is not the way to go about it. Changing people’s diets is best done through the means of which they already get their food. A step in the right direction of solving the obesity crisis in the US is by first finding what needs to be cut out.

Many advocates for “healthier” diets say that the processed foods pushed by multinational fast food corporations are the problem with the American diet (Freedman 140). But, as David Freedman says throughout his piece called “How Junk Food Can End Obesity”, many of the trouble causing fats,sugars, and carbs can be found in “healthy alternatives”. When it comes down to it, I think these new-age diets do the exact same thing that fast-food does. Through deceptive advertising they pull customers into eating or doing what they think is right. It’s no wonder these “wholesome” restaurants find success in the places they do. Most business in this vain thrive in affluent circles (Freedman 146), where things like providing for a family on a tight budget aren’t the first worries. The people of these circles fill their minds with other things, such as the health of their bodies. These companies exploit who they can, much in the same way fast-food does.

I can agree with the motives of these health conscious people. Wanting to improve one's health and well-being are the first steps in actually doing so. But their thinking is severely misguided. Everyone can agree that McDonald’s French Fries aren’t a superfood, but turning around a saying that home-made potato chips containing nearly the same nutritional facts are good for health is only contributing to the problem (in a similar example, a powerful health speaker told an audience that potato chips are fine, because you can identify which vegetable it came from, but Cheetos are bad because what animal or vegetable is a Cheeto? (Freedman 145).

One problem with the current movement towards “cleaner” foods is the fact that upcoming technology is often ostracized. Genetically modified foods, often called GMO’s, have been made out as the devil’s fruit by the leaders of these groups. GMO foods can do something that the organic revolution could never. GMO’s may actually be able to drive down the cost of healthy fruits and vegetables to actually affordable levels in poor communities. These affluent circles aren’t even the ones who face the highest obesity rates. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the poor states of the South also have the highest obesity rates in the country (Ogden et al.). By reducing the cost to grow fruits, vegetables, and other nutritionally rich foods the cost of buying them is directly driven down as well. But much like other solutions that don’t align with the consensus of modern health groups, GMOs are seen as unhealthy and possibly dangerous. Science has proven that GMOs are safe to eat (Kuiper, Davies). Personally, I would compare the hate of GMOs to the hate of vaccines in other circles. Although the people in both circles don’t completely overlap the thoughts behind them seem to. Vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective time and time again, yet a small group of people see them as awful (with no real backing might I add). Groups against GMOs are the same in my mind. GMOs are proven to be safe and are a viable strategy towards reducing obesity in America, yet a minority of people feel that they only cause harm.

Another step in the process of reducing American obesity is changing fast food menus. Much like GMO’s, many of the current health influencers wish for the complete elimination of fast food companies. One problem with this thought is that it just isn’t realistic. In the US alone, the quick service restaurant industry (a.k.a fast food), made an estimated 256 billion dollars in revenue (Lock). The other problem with making fast food the scapegoat for American obesity is that it ignores a source of help towards combating the problem of obesity in this country. I think fast-food companies can play a major role in the change of the daily nutrients people intake. Habits are complex and very hard to change. Health influencers nag at their “students” to stop eating fast food, but habits are complex and very hard to change.

Tweaking menus toward improving the nutrients in foods would take the pressure off of the obese and puts onto to companies. A common complaint about this idea is that fast food companies are built to be addictive and using unhealthy ingredients are what makes them so effective. Basically, fast food companies have no incentive to work towards improving American’s health. I would argue that these companies have a few very valid reasons for improving their customers health. For one, these groups do influence some people to stop eating at these establishments. Obviously, this is bad not only for profit but also for public relations. Another, less obvious reason is that customers who are healthy live longer (Kitahara CM, et al). The supposed draw back of a healthier menu is reduced quality of taste. But, quite a few fast food restaurants are already making moves towards improving the quality of food on their menu. Take McDonalds for example, subtly they have been reducing salt in some items and adding healthier options (McWraps for example) (Freedman 148). An excellent point made by Freedman is that the advertising is actually the most important part towards the choices people make, not taste.

Almost everyone can agree that America has a problem. Some say that the problem is the commercialization of processed goods throughout the country. But this answer doesn’t hit the actual problem that is plaguing Americans. The contents (a.k.a nutritional values) of our foods, whether they be processed or not, is the problem. My strategy of tweaking habits rather than changing them would not only better impact everyone, but it helps those who especially need it, the poor communities with no other options.

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 Combating American Obesity, What’s the Correct Way. (2022, Feb 09). Retrieved February 29, 2024 , from

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