Obesity is a problem that is growing throughout the world. Experts have many different theories on the causes and effects of obesity, and the issue is extremely complex from a socio-economic, sociological, and cultural context. However, there seem to be three contributing factors to obesity: diet, exercise, and education. These three factors heavily influence whether or not an individual is or will become obese, and lacking focus in any one of these categories is often enough to result in obesity.
Diet is the first thing that is often considered when discussing obesity. Diet does not necessarily mean restricting calories or caloric intake, although when an individual is already obese, caloric restriction is necessary (Freedman, 2009). Diet can also refer to whether or not an individual is getting enough of the vital nutrients in his or her diet. Many people who are obese do not, in fact, get the proper nutrients in their diet, because they eat so many processed foods and foods that have the nutrients stripped from them (Freedman, 2009). In the United States, the cheapest food available for purchase is food like fast food; this food is high in fat and high in refined carbohydrates, meaning that eating too much of food like this can cause obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease (Freedman, 2009). Instead of eating processed fast foods and other junk foods, people should be eating more freshly-cooked meals; however, this can be difficult when parents are working hard to support their families and they do not have time to cook fresh meals (Freedman, 2009).
Even if a parent or other individual does not have time to cook fresh meals for him or herself or his or her family, there are better options available than processed fast food. This, however, means that the individual must be properly educated on nutrition and the nutritional requirements of his or her body. According to Martinez (2000), one of the biggest problems facing Americans is the lack of education available regarding proper dietary intake. Many Americans, for instance, still cling to the old adage that any food that is a fat-free food is a healthy food; however, current research suggests that carbohydrates and refined sugars are much more likely to cause health problems for the individual that fats, even saturated fats (Freedman, 2009). However, these cultural memes and “common knowledge” about fitness and obesity are slow to change; there is still a lot of misinformation bandied about in regards to obesity and weight loss in the United States (Freedman, 2009).
The final piece of the obesity puzzle is exercise. Many people try to exercise to make up for their poor eating habits, but this is not a good way to address the problem of obesity or excess weight. It takes much longer and much more exercise than many people realize to burn off a single piece of cake or a large Coca-Cola; rather than indulging oneself regularly in this type of food and then trying to exercise the weight off, a properly-implemented diet should be used in conjunction with exercise. When an individual is morbidly obese, traditional methods of exercise may be difficult or impossible; the individual should consult a doctor or other expert for help regarding his or her obesity problem and the desire to lose weight. The doctor may help the individual by prescribing a set diet and workout plan that caters to his or her particular set of needs.
Obesity is an epidemic, and it has serious effects. Diabetes, reduced life expectancy, and heart problems are all symptoms of prolonged obesity; however, reduced earning potential as a result of severe obesity and a reduced quality of life overall are two effects that many people do not consider when thinking about obesity.
Freedman, J. (2009). Understanding obesity. New York: Rosen Pub.
Martinez, J. A. (2000). Body-weight regulation: causes of obesity. 59 (3), pp. 337--345.
Waine, C. (2002). Obesity and weight management in primary care. Malden, MA: Blackwell Science.