Obesity Isn’t a Personal Choice. It's a Cultural Decision.
Obesity isn't about an individual's choices. It's about the choices of a whole culture.
Overeating — and subsequent obesity — has become a national issue. Michelle Obama spent most of the last eight years publicly addressing the topics of fitness and nutrition, serving as a benchmark of nutrition (where are we as a culture if the First Lady had to tell us to eat our vegetables?). However, it's wrong to assume that the obesity epidemic is due to a lack of willpower or personal failure, as is often the narrative. Johanna Ahola-Launonen of the University of Helsinki thinks the food environment is to blame.
[M]ost eating decisions are made habitually and not consciously.
The modern food environment is a gluttonous smorgasbord of fat, sugar, and convenience. Comedian Patton Oswalt got poignant laughs for his bit about KFC’s Famous Bowls calling them “a failure pile in a sadness bowl.” He did what great comedians do by shedding a light on that thing no one wants to talk about. In this case, it’s our food culture, which encourages us to be one of the 1 billion served by McDonald’s and eat our feelings because I bet you can’t have just one. We love failure piles, sadness bowls, Lean Cuisines, and hating ourselves for loving those things. And why not? Everyone else is doing it.
Fat shaming and guilt tripping won’t make people eat less.
Ahola-Launonen argues that most eating decisions are made habitually and not consciously. Humans tend to behave like those around them — if someone yawns or crosses their arms, we do the same. If the same is true for eating habits, then it makes sense we would overeat if everyone around us was doing the same. If we want to effect change in the obesity epidemic, it has to come from an environmental and cultural change. Fat shaming and guilt tripping won’t make people eat less.
There’s not an easy answer to ending the epidemic, but it could start with possibly taxing high-sugar foods, as Ahola-Launonen suggests, or curbing how we advertise food that will kill you, the way we have done with cigarettes. By making it a cultural issue instead of an individual one, we spread the responsibility. That may be a heavier weight than we were prepared for.
Chef Dan Barber says America actually lacks a cuisine that constrains people's diets:
Lori Chandler is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, NY, which is the most unoriginal sentence she has ever written. You can look at her silly drawings on Tumblr, Rad Drawings, or read her silly tweets @LilBoodleChild. Enough about her, she says: how are you?
PHOTO CREDIT: iStock
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?
A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.
- The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
- Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
- Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.
- It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
- Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.