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Cultural Factors And America’s Obesity Epidemic

922 words - 4 pages

Cultural factors are a contributing factor in the cause of the obesity epidemic in America as it continues to be a reoccurring topic of conversation due to a high prevalence of overweight individuals. Culture, the learned values, beliefs, attitudes and practices in which are well accepted by society, is looked upon as a fast-paced lifestyle in the U.S. compared to other cultures. This expeditious lifestyle where convenience, easiness, and quick fixes seem to be right for any situation supports America’s obesigenic society, leading to increased health problems in the future. In addition, social and physical norms are also components of culture that tend to exude pressure on individuals, constituting a somewhat stereotypical reflection of oneself. Due to the composition of the fast-paced American lifestyle and unrealistic expectations for physical appearance, culture has become a compelling force in the expanding obesity community.
In Food & Nutrition: Customs & Culture written by Paul Fieldhouse1, Fieldhouse summarizes many of the issues that coincide with growing rates of obesity. After great evaluation of the psychological aspects of food choice, Fieldhouse recognizes the affect social norms within American culture have on imperfect eating practices. It appears that physicality is utilized to make judgments of one’s eating habits rather than overall health status. He believes the nation’s mission to lower occurrences of obesity is mainly to decrease future health problems, but this also underscores the cultural norm of thinness in the U.S. “Although the considerable effort which is devoted to treatment and prevention of obesity is predicated largely on the desirability of preventing physical health problems, it is at least partly a reflection of the current norms of slimness in society” 1. This perceived notion that being skinny is correct greatly divides society. Individuals who appear to be larger are no longer “culturally acceptable” which leads to feelings of discomfort and rejection. Coincidentally, while health professionals try to help alleviate these feelings and promote a solution featuring healthier options, pop culture continues to campaign for quick fixes like surgery and diet pills.
Furthermore, Fieldhouse examines the cause of obesity, which he claims to be simpler than most studies suggest. He enforces his idea of simplicity by exploring common justifications of the origin of obesity, such as heredities, theories based on society’s beliefs, and psychological and personal reasons. Theories that suggest obesity is hereditary can cause a person to feel trapped and hopeless based on genetic make-up alone. This can also lead to excuses for being obese. Secondly, society’s belief that fat is not beautiful could lead obese individuals to a dark, emotional place as well. Lastly, psychological and personal reasons may be a cause of obesity that stems from traumatic life events. All things considered, Paul Fieldhouse concludes the...

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