Jewish World Review July 20, 2001 / 29 Tamuz, 5761
While we were busy becoming the world's sole superpower, the United States was supersizing itself to superporker status. In "Fast Food Nation," author Eric Schlosser brilliantly chronicles how the growth of our Extra-Crispy-Double-Whopper-Curly-Q- Fried-Happy-Meal food industry transformed the way Americans eat and live. It is undeniable that it also helped us get to our current XXXL condition. This means sharp increases in our susceptibility to arthritis, heart disease, asthma and diabetes and makes our ability to carry out even life's simplest tasks more difficult.
Other recent studies paint a more ominous picture. Children who are excessively overweight may be creating permanent heart damage, according to doctors at the University of Cincinnati. This is especially alarming because experts today estimate that 30% of U.S. children are seriously overweight; in the 1960s that figure was about 3%.
NEWS ISN'T PRETTY
There is, of course, no shortage of breathless commentary on our obsession with being thin. Columnist Ellen Goodman recently reminded us that "women have lost their lives in pursuit of thinner thighs." And spending a week in Los Angeles can make even a full-time aerobics instructor feel like a blob. After a few days, I found myself pinching the side of my stomach — a self-administered BMI test! Eventually, I came to my senses and had a Baskin-Robbins mint-chip cone.
To be sure, anorexia and bulimia are serious medical disorders, but they also tend to be an affliction of the upper class. Obesity or being overweight is a condition that crosses socioeconomic lines.
STOP OVERLOOKING ISSUE
In Washington these days, talk of trimming the fat from the federal budget is considered smart politics. But how many politicians have the stomach, literally, to speak credibly about the perils of having a big gut?
Of course, studies on the health costs of obesity will lead some to call for
more government regulation or even class-action litigation against the food
industry's fat peddlers. Neither route would get to the heart of the matter.
Like so many of our social pathologies, this one was created one day at a
time, one family at a time, by individuals who repeatedly make bad choices. If
we don't wake up soon, we'll see drive-through funeral services popping up in
the same strip malls as our drive-through food