Statistics on childhood obesity in the United States of America are startling indeed. When it comes to weight matters; anyone who is thirty percent heavier than their ideal weight is reckoned to be obese. Using data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Petrangelo observes that: “12.4 percent of 2-5-year-olds are obese; for 6-11 year-olds it’s 17.0 percent; and for the 12-19-year-old crowd, it’s a whopping 17.6 percent [!]” (2010).
Research on obesity; as commented in the article Obesity in America, reveals that “those who fall into the category of being obese due to ‘glandular problem’ makeup 1% of the population”(2009) Quoting a pediatrics’ supplement in answer to a question on how genes affect obesity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) article Overweight and Obesity asserts that: “Despite obesity having strong genetic determinants, the genetic composition of the population does not change rapidly. Therefore, the large increase in …[obesity] must reflect major changes in non-genetic factors.” (2010)
The writer’s thesis is that: the two major culprits for the growing problem of childhood obesity in America are the fast food industry and busy parents. The research question for this position is: Is the fast food industry; as well as parents responsible for childhood obesity in America?
To help shed light on this important matter, the following supporting questions are answered in this paper: What are the national statistics on obese children? What is the link between fast foods and obesity? Is it the responsibility of parents to ensure proper nutrition for their children? How does the fast food industry persuade children and parents into buying and eating fast foods? What can be done to ensure that parents and children become aware of the offensive ingredients in most fast foods?
In his book: Fast Food Nation: the dark side of the all-American meal; Schlosser writes that: “Over the last three decades, fast food has infiltrated every nook and cranny of [the] American society” (3). In agreement with Schlosser’s observations, it’s now clear to anyone who cares, that there is more to fast food than meets the eye.
This paper can now reveal that the ‘non-genetic factors’ mentioned earlier, that greatly contribute to the American weight problem seem to stem from the typical American lifestyle. To survive in a fast-paced economy, adults find very little time to spend with their children; leave alone spare time to cook a proper meal. Tantalizingly beckoning, are clean, and customer friendly fast food outlets around every corner, serving what one observer called mouth-watering “over-sized burgers, extra-large servings for fries, and buckets of soda, all at low prices.”
When these families realize that they can have more ready food with less than what they can spend on homemade food, they fall into the habit of eating out. What does this result to? Reporting in a CBS health-related article Holguin reported that “a study of 6,212 youngsters found that …every day, nearly one-third of U.S. children aged 4 to 19 eat fast food, which likely packs on about six extra pounds per child per year and increases the risk of obesity” (2010).
Although American households are aware that the main source of the weight problem is junk food; many people seem to be fighting a losing battle. Businesses in the fast-food industry have perfected the art of advertising. They know exactly what to do to attract new junk food eaters as well as to retain old obese customers. Only the very strong can resist the lure of well-processed food, a good eating environment, and the constant din of adverts meant to brainwash everyone against taking up healthful habits.
Schlosser wrote that as early as thirty years ago founding members of Mcdonald’s knew that directing adverts at children can yield huge dividends. Companies in the fast-food business spend heavily on advertising. As Schlosser observes:
“TV advertising aimed at kids is now broadcast twenty-four hours a day …the typical American child now spends about twenty-one hours a week watching television – roughly one and a half months of TV every year. During the year, he or she watches more than thirty thousand TV commercials. About one-quarter of American children between the ages of two and five have a TV in their room.” (46)
As Bordo in her article Unbearable Weight observes, advertizing experts use “subtext,” and “sublime coding” to create in the minds of those who view the advert the notion that “this is the way to live” (2003). Adverts are not merely harmless fun. Professional advert designers put a lot of energy into researching kid behavior. The adverts deviously lead the children into demanding and getting whatever they desire from their parents at all cost. Soft-headed parents who have grown in the system have no power to resist the persistent demands from their children asking for cholesterol-laden fries or chemical-laced ice cream. The adults blame ‘genes’ as the culprit behind the bloated shapes of their children. This is a flimsy excuse.
The terrible diseases that come with obesity are the bane for sly advertisers. Those who oppose the airing of adverts aimed at children, lobby for “children [to] be shielded from advertizing that preys upon their immaturity [because they cannot]…comprehend the real purpose of commercials and [these hapless children trust] that advertizing claims [are] true” (Schlosser 2005)
Due to their impressionable nature, children need the attention of their parents. It is therefore the responsibility of each parent to ensure that their children eat the right kinds of food and get enough exercise. Pietrangelo says in her article that: “we must accept responsibility for maintaining a healthy lifestyle” (2010).
As Murphy (2000) observes; if cigarette companies “have been made to pay the price for selling a product that is dangerous to the health of their customers.” [It is possible to press charges against fast food companies because they] “…do not alert their customers to the hazardously high calorie and fat content of the food they offer. They, therefore, stand to share a large portion …of the blame for the epidemic of obesity.” It looks like nothing else can bring the fast industry to its senses other than “lawsuits brought by victims of their toxic food.” Trial lawyers looking into this matter are to be commended because they have the potential of forcing “these companies to take some responsibility for their dangerous products” (2000).
Bordo, Susan. “Hunger as an Ideology.” Unbearable Weight, (2003) University of California Press
Holguin, Jaime. “Fast Food Linked to Child Obesity”: CBS News. 2003. Web.
Murphy, Jenny. “The Super-sizing of America: Are Fast Food Chains to Blame for the Nation’s Obesity?” 2000, Web.
Pietrangelo, Ann. “Childhood Obesity and Parental Responsibility”: Reform Health Policy. 2010. Web.
“Obesity in America,” 2009, Web.
“Overweight and Obesity”: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2010. Web.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation; New York: Harper Perennial, 2005