My “EDIOTRIAL” On The Export Of Obesity

Yesterday, I tweeted about an editorial written by a student at Kansas State for their school newspaper.  My tweet, though a bit harsh, had a typo error in it.

This “ediotrial” about Americans exporting obesity is full of dumb, par for a KS. State Student http://www.kstatecollegian.com/2013/03/25/americans-exporting-obesity-must-take-responsibility/ …

Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about Kansas State, though in reading this editorial, it reminded me of my old alma mater, Montclair State, and how The Clarion (the newspaper of Montclair State) at times “forced” garbage articles and editorials from their staff in an effort to give their paper more substance than how the football team did last weekend.  I felt this editorial was contrived, contained a lot of misinformation, and called them out on it.

Their response?

@PhilVarlese could you tell us what you mean by “ediotrial?”

First, let me apologize for the typo error.  I truly know how to spell, I just get carried away at times when my bullshit meter goes up, and typing on my smart phone causes me to appear not as smart.  Such was the case here, and to the spelling/grammar police at the Collegian, I truly apologize.  What bullshit would cause such anger on my part?  To make it easy, I’ll post the entire editorial (though you can read it on their site, http://www.kstatecollegian.com/2013/03/25/americans-exporting-obesity-must-take-responsibility/)

Every country has its own problems with diseases, and the prime problem for America is obesity. Unfortunately, America is exporting its problem and it is starting to affect other countries. Why is this happening, and how should we change our food habits? It’s not too hard if we just follow the proper steps.

Obesity is the foremost health issue in America, and obesity rates have been rising every year. It is mainly caused by lack of physical exercise combined with the intake of too many calories, especially from foods with higher fat content, such as pizza, fries and burgers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity is also influenced by genetics and behaviors—for example, children who watch television for long periods tend to have a higher risk for obesity.

The CDC projects that 44 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030. In addition, according to an article by reuters.com, there will be as many as 7.9 million new cases of diabetes per year (compared to 1.9 million new cases in recent years). The increasing burden of illness will go right to the bottom line, adding $66 billion in annual obesity-related medical costs. According to the National Institutes of Health, being overweight also leads to complex health issues such as strokes, cancers, dyslipidemia, liver and gallbladder disease and menstrual problems.

Often we think obesity is a problem that “America” has and Manhattan doesn’t, so let’s talk about what’s right here at K-State. I have seen many students drive to campus even though they live right next to it. It makes sense to use a car in the winter season, but they are otherwise unnecessary. You don’t need a car to go to the Rec or to campus.

Apparently, students are also too lazy to bother walking up a flight of stairs. I’ve observed many students use elevators to go up just one or two floors. Watch when you’re next in Hale Library, Fairchild or Throckmorton. While we’re young, such habits might not affect us, but they will in the long run. If I were you, whether I had money or not, I would prefer bikes and staircases to laziness and poor health.

Americans eat more than they should. According to the USDA in a Jan. 2011 article on livestrong.com, the average American daily calorie intake was 2,234 in 1970 and 2,757 in 2003. This is an increase of 523 calories consumed per day. If Americans don’t change their everyday food habits, it could be very dangerous not only for them but also for the generations for whom they are setting an example.

In my opinion, it’s not just Americans who have been dealing with obesity—the rest of the world struggles as well. However, America is exporting obesity to many countries through food companies like McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King. Other countries are starting to take a liking to fast foods and to show the same habits of laziness, lack of self-control, and lack of health-consciousness that led to America’s obesity problem. The government needs to take steps to control obesity because it’s not just America that’s being affected anymore.

I’m pretty certain that no one who is obese likes being so, but it takes a lot of effort to get rid of this disease. It may not affect you now, but obesity in the long-run means there are bad times ahead. Do something about it now. It’s time to take the stairs, tie up your laces and climb.

To the author, I’m assuming that since you’re in college, you’re there for an education.  Prepare to be educated, because I don’t want your parents to think that they’re wasting money on your college education.

Let’s start with your opening paragraph.  Let me ask you this.  If WE (Americans) change our eating habits, as you suggested, would obesity in other countries come to an end?  If WE changed our eating habits, would all the fast food restaurants close?  More important, if WE changed our eating habits, would obesity be eliminated in the United States?

In your own editorial, you indicate that the CDC has acknowledged that genetics plays a part in obesity, yet you glossed over that point to focus on lack of exercise and overeating as the major culprits.  With that said, can you explain WHY there are thin people whose dietary & fitness habits are similar to those you’ve described, and why some people who eat properly and exercise regularly remain fat?  I’m betting you can’t, though you come off as on obesity “expert”.

That is not to say that I disagree with proper nutrition and a trend towards health.  I grew up fat.  My path towards overall health was similar to what you’ve described.  In looking at others who were on the same path I was on however, I came to learn that obesity is not as simple as calories in > calories expended.  My fat friends who engaged in similar dietary habits that I subscribed to, and exercised even more than I did remained fat, causing me to come to the conclusion that there’s more to obesity than sitting around all day playing x-box, and stuffing Taco Bell down your pie hole.

You say that the USDA indicates that the average American daily calorie intake was 2,234 in 1970 and 2,757 in 2003.  Are you aware of the fact that in 1977 there was a huge rise in the production of high fructose corn syrup?  Did you know that in 1984  soft drink makers began using it in Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and other soft drinks?  Why is this important?  It’s often said that the replacement of sugar in our diet with high fructose corn syrup has contributed more to obesity than actual intake of food, because this man made sweetener has an addictive quality to it not contained in its equally sweet & natural counterpart.  As a result, beverages made with HFCS cause you to drink more & more, causing the rise in caloric intake you’ve described here, and while a calorie is a calorie no matter where it comes from, there are some inherent dangers to ingesting large amounts of HFCS, obesity being the least of them (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/high-fructose-corn-syrup-dangers_b_861913.html).

My concern with this editorial isn’t the request that America focus on overall health.  I don’t think there’s anyone who would enjoy being unhealthy.  As stated, “no one who is obese likes being so”,  but then state “It’s not too hard if we just follow the proper steps.”

I believe you’ve fallen into the trap of buying into the traditional thinking that everyone who engages in “proper” diet and exercise will conquer obesity, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  It will also set many people up for failure, trying to live up to a standard that they will never achieve.  While that doesn’t mean they should give up on trying to live a healthy lifestyle, it shifts the focus from health to appearance.  In other words, if you look fat, you can’t be healthy.  That also couldn’t be further from the truth, as I can direct you to countless articles that debunk that myth as well.

The writer engages in a little fat shaming when she writes “Other countries are starting to take a liking to fast foods and to show the same habits of laziness, lack of self-control, and lack of health-consciousness that led to America’s obesity problem.”  The assumption that those characteristics have been unique to Americans, especially fat Americans, manifests a prejudice about obesity that is more at the root of the problem in the US than obesity could ever be.

That prejudice is ignorance, and until Americans take the time to learn the real causes of obesity and drop the notion that fat people are fat in America by choice, the ignorance & prejudice will continue.  No different than the ignorance expressed about college in the demotive pic below.

THAT is my ediotrial.

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2 thoughts on “My “EDIOTRIAL” On The Export Of Obesity

  1. If you want to take a hit at the spelling/grammar police, you could point out that they should have written “compared with 1.9 million new cases” and not “compared to”. 🙂

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