Obesity in America

I am from a neighborhood with a high prevalence of obesity. Over time, I have learned that obesity has been a great health burden in our community. Having spent some time learning about obesity and its impacts, I have found out that my observations are consistent with what I found in the literature. For example, according to the CDC (2015), people who are obese have an increased risk of numerous diseases. Some of these health conditions include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, low quality of life, body pain, and mental illness. In my community, I have personally witnessed obese people who are being treated for type 2 diabetes. In some cases, I have heard them complain of body pain while some have succumbed to coronary heart diseases. During my childhood years, I observed that my friends who were obese lived a low quality of life because they could not participate in some of the activities that involved physical exercises. I observed they used to get breathless after a short time, developed increased sweating, and often felt tired within a short time.

As reported by Braet, Mervielde, and Vandereycken (1997), I can recall that during our childhood years, my obese friends had less positive perceptions about their physical competence. Some of them felt isolated, developed low confidence, and even displayed negative feelings in their expressions. Occasionally, I participate in raising funds to help people with obese-related diseases. When I visit health centers, I always encounter many people seeking healthcare services. All these imply that obesity has an overall social, economic, and health impacts in our community. My observations are consistent with the findings of an investigation carried out by Wellman and Friedberg (2002) who concluded that obesity is a national epidemic that has become an economic, social, and health burden to the country.

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According to the National Health Service (NHS), there are many causes of obesity, including the excess amount of calories, poor diet, lack of physical activity, genetics, and medical reasons (NHS, 2016).  NHS reported that a combination of lifestyle choices and poor diet is one of the contributing factors of an adult as well as childhood obesity. For example, eating large quantities of fast or processed food that is either high in fat or sugar contributes a lot to obesity. People who drink a large quantity of alcohol that contains a lot of calories are more likely to become obese. Further, NHS suggested that one of the likely habits that contribute to obesity is comfort eating, which implies eating to make oneself feel better especially when one is either feeling depressed or having low self-esteem.

Schuller (2011) argued that one of the social theories that contribute to obesity is the social learning theory. He said that in a world where food is used in social gatherings, food plays an important role in people’s life. She argued that children learn food habits as they grow. For example, children who grow up observing their parents or other family members with bad eating habits are likely also to develop them as well. Consequently, children are also likely to become engaged in reckless eating and eventually become obese. Additionally, children also get exposed to bad eating habits through commercial advertisements. If children observe advertisements for sugary drinks or fast food, they grow up thinking that it is the best food. Once they start taking sugary drinks or fast food, they might end up making it a habit, which will eventually cause them to be obese. Children also learn from other children who they socialize with in schools. For example, if a child sees a friend eating fast food or taking sugary drinks, they might also insist on doing it. If such a friend is obese, the other child may eventually become obese if they follow similar eating patterns.

 

References

Braet, C., Mervielde, I., & Vandereycken, W. (1997). Psychological aspects of childhood obesity: A controlled study in a clinical and nonclinical sample. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22(1), 59-71.

CDC (2015).  The health effects of overweight and obesity. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/.

National Health Service (NHS) (2016). Causes of obesity. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Obesity/Pages/Causes.aspx.

Schuller, M.J. (2011). Childhood obesity. http://www.personal.psu.edu/bfr3/blogs/applied_social_psychology/2011/11/childhood-obesity.html.

Wellman, N. S., & Friedberg, B. (2002). Causes and consequences of adult obesity: Health, social and economic impacts in the United States. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 11(s8), S705-S709.