America's Expanding Belt
America the bold. America the beautiful. America the proud. What about America the land of big belts? In the early 1980's and certainly the years before then, issues of weight were rarely ever talked about. It simply wasn't a major concern. However, in the 21st century, it is one of the most prominent matters walking America's sidewalks and sitting in her office chairs. Some might blame this epidemic on not enough time to exercise or control what is eaten or not enough money to purchase healthy food; but the real problem is America's attitude towards food. America is fixated on food- all food - of every sort. "The more the better, the bigger the better", is the motto. The two biggest problems that have contributed to America's Expanding Belt and have become a "norm" in our society are:
1. Portion Sizes. The truth is, American's eat too much in one sitting. These portion sizes have gotten out of control in the last few decades. Between 1962 and the year 2000, the number of obese Americans grew from 13% to an alarming 31% of the population. Walk into a fast food restaurant and order just a hamburger, and the cashier suggests getting a "meal deal", including a hamburger, a large fry, and a large fountain drink, for a cheaper price than just a hamburger. That would sound like a good deal to anyone looking to save some change. However, the bonus of more food for less money becomes a snag, as you must loosen your belt. Even top-notch restaurants dish out more than a fair share. Look on the menu and you will find an individual size, a lunch size, and family/dinner size. The restaurant gives you the choice of a 8 oz. steak or a 24 oz steak. A study from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity shows that the frequency of eating out, particularly at fast-food restaurants, is associated with an increase in energy and fat intake. Even eating at home requires portion control. It is easy to overeat when one's attention is focused on something else, like the TV.
Human bodies are not designed to sift through five pounds of food, digest it, and find a place to store the extra goodies for later – in one sitting. If America could eat more like some Europeans, who eat five to six times a day with petite portions, we might be able to slim down and save our bodies the burden of overhauling.
2. We do not move enough. The 21st century is the time of technology. Every home has at least one TV and maybe a computer. These pieces of technology have become such a huge part of our lives, along with remote controls and video games. According to statistics, 20% of Americans are completely sedentary, 60% get no regular exercise, and 64% of school age children have no daily exercise. How are these results possible when there are numerous public gyms in every city and/or town, athletic stores that sell exercise machines, and the entire outside world of grass, sidewalks, and trails that are available to our use? People gain more weight if they eat more calories than they expend. So by not moving around every day, the hundreds of calories consumed within an hour sit in the gut.
Obesity, while it is encouraged by genetic factors out of one's control, is mostly a result of one's behavior and environment. Thus, it can be treated fairly easily. Secondly, the obesity problem is a new one that mushroomed in just twenty years. This means that it is a problem that can be fixed, perhaps in the same, short period of time that it took hold of the country. If children can learn to eat well and incorporate exercise into their daily routine, then the rates of obesity may just start to decline as they grow up and become adults. Educational programs, good parenting, and nutritious cafeteria food can make a big difference for kids. All it takes to reform the number of obese people is a simple change in diet - eat less in one sitting and eat healthier foods- and make time to exercise at least once day. Take care of your lifestyle and make sensible choices. In other words, alter the body and alter the environment to slim down America's belt.