Here in the U.S., we are obsessed with weight. It’s hard to even go one day without seeing an advertisement for the latest diet or a news story about a celebrity who shed some pounds or put on a few too many. While this obsession is due in part to our focus on physical appearance, many of us link obesity with poor health outcomes, including death. However, a recent social epidemiological study highlighted in Miller-McCune examined the factors that lead to early death; and obesity did not make the list. Instead, those eager to prevent early death should avoid cigarettes, sedentary lifestyles, and even living in poverty.
This does not mean the lead author of the aforementioned study, Paula Lantz, is proposing we all relax and pig out. The University of Michigan social epidemiologist fully recognizes obesity as a national health problem. But her research suggests our current focus on weight is a bit (ahem) narrow and at least somewhat misleading.
Instead, we should look to what causes and exacerbates obesity, such as sugary sodas and our reliance on cars. And, while personal choices factor in, social class also plays a role.
It’s hard to take personal responsibility if you don’t have the money to join a gym and you have no access to healthy food in your immediate neighborhood. The place where you can get the most calories for the least money is McDonald’s. Their food is dirt cheap on a per-calorie basis.
In other words, being poor is hazardous to your health.
Stress processes probably play a role. Chronic stress is not good for immune function. [Difficulties with] housing, transportation, income security — all those factors can produce stress. Do you have friends and family — people who can actually help you get to the doctor? Is your community organized in such a way that it provides the resources you need?
So, while a focus on obesity is important, we should start focusing on less prominent culprits like poverty. And, in the meantime, exercise!
hepfat — August 21, 2010
Where in this study did it say that it's important to focus on obesity?
Furthermore, the attitudes regarding smoking have always been that it's a personal choice - if you want to screw up your own health, that's your right. If I'm allowed to smoke with very little harassment (and I do), how come the size of my ass is a public health crisis when this study, along with many more, suggest that fat doesn't really make you unhealthy at all - if you're fat and active, studies have shown that you're probably going to have much better health outcomes than a thin sedentary person.
I have an idea for how to deal with the obesity epidemic - leave an individual's health up to an individual, and stop promoting the idea that fat people are universally drains on health care. Fat people deal with enough discrimination and negative stereotyping as it is. Thanks for adding your little teaspoon of negativity to an already massively hostile world.
HEPFAT — August 23, 2010
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