Grossly Gargantuan and Piteously Poor:
To what extent do societal structures contribute to obesity among those living in poverty?
Frail, thin, emaciated, feeble; these are some words that come to mind when poverty is mentioned. One that doesn’t however is obesity, but in many cases it should. Historically, fat people were associated with affluence, power and beauty, but times are changing. Not only is there a growing socio-behavioral stigmatism associated with obesity, but overweight people are no longer associated with wealth or influence either. All over the world it is not uncommon to find a person who is both paunchy and penniless. Fast-food is taking the world by storm. It seems as though there is a McDonald’s, Burger King or KFC on every street corner and it’s people’s health, not their pockets, that are taking the blow. Even someone who is well-off can go bankrupt from the outrageous medical bills that go hand in hand with obesity. And in developing countries, the economy isn’t the only thing that’s growing. The shift from rural to urban lifestyle sends obesity rates through the roof. This dense web of interconnected causes has tied a knot between obesity and poverty that will be almost impossible to untie.
The movement of American fast-food chains into developed Asian countries has significantly impacted the people living there, especially the poor. Americanization has not only affected aspects like culture, economics, politics, but illness as well. In a single generation, Asia has gone from having one of the lowest rates of heart disease and obesity and diabetes to one of the highest (Dean Ornish, 2006). That in itself is astonishing, made even worse when the cause is considered. The traditional Asian diet has been found to be one of the healthiest in the world.(Jason Bussell, 2009). The problem is people in Asia are not eating a traditional Asian diet anymore (Eric Schlosser, 2002). The introduction of American fast-food chains, most notably McDonald’s, into foreign countries has completely transformed the food culture there. By eating like Americans, people all over the world are beginning to look more like Americans (Eric Schlosser, 2002), and by extension, die like Americans. Since 1970, fresh fruit and rice consumption in Japan have been slashed in half and beef consumption has risen 40 percent (Rena Singer, 2009). Fast-food is cheap, convenient and copious and this has been especially detrimental to the poor. People living in poverty often work long hours and do not have time or money to cook for themselves or participate in physical activity. Fast-food provides a quick solution to their lack of time and money, but creates longterm and deadly health problems.
Obesity, poverty and sickness operate in a simple cycle with complex effects. “Anyone who's fat is more likely to be poor and sick. Anyone who's poor is more likely to be fat and sick. And anyone who's sick is more likely to be poor and fat.” (Daniel Engber, 2009). The...