Obesity is defined as an excessively high amount of body fat or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass. According to data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), during the years between1988 and 1994, 45.3% of American white males and females, 60.1% of black males and females, and 64.5% of Hispanic males and females were obese. Since obesity has been rising at an epidemic rate during the past 20 years in the United States, reducing its prevalence among adults to less than 15% has become one of our country's national health objectives for the year 2020.
This recent epidemic of obesity has created many health problems nationwide, such as increased rates of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke, among others. Clearly, trying to attack this problem just on the individual level will not yield satisfactory results. Approximately 280,000 adult deaths in the United States each year are related to obesity, and obesity is also related to the causes of some cancers, such as colon, rectum, ovary and prostate. Given the increasing prevalence of these diseases and the enormous growing social and economic costs of obesity, a part of the national budget needs to be set aside to provide educational and advocacy programs to help people and communities deal with this problem.
The diet industries participate actively in reducing obesity by promoting the use of diet pills, low-fat recipes, surgical treatments to reduce fat, and topically applied creams. Even though obesity is often the result of an unhealthy lifestyle, the media have chosen to tackle the problem by promoting the quick fixes mentioned above, instead of by challenging the exercise and food choice habits that promote obesity. Advertising campaings about weight reduction send messages to the public through the media. To fully convince the public of the value of modern quick fixes, the media help shape our culture in a way that, over time, seeps through every layer of society: only a thin body is acceptable, people should work for thinness whether through surgery or exercise, thin models or body builders should be our heroes, and people should welcome ready-made lifestyles-fixing magic such as therapy.
To analyze how the media help to shape the values of our culture, I chose advertisements and articles on weight reduction which appeared in the magazines People Weekly, Working Woman, and Prevention. The ad in Working Woman entitled "Now, I Believe in Miracles!" focuses on the diet pill called Xenadrine. The ad features a young woman who lost 84 pounds in 12 weeks using Xenadrine. She is pictured both before and after using the drug. The ad claims that Xenadrine, the #1 diet supplement in America, is clinically proven to increase fat loss an extraordinary 38.6 times more than will diet and exercise alone; it also claims that one can feel the results immediately. The second work I examined is People Magazine's article on a surgical...