The Outside View: Stigmatized Obesity in the United States

by AnnabelleBoland on March 4, 2016 - 3:10pm

With the start of the 21st century, Americans found themselves targets of negative stereotypical depictions regarding their weight struggles. The arrival of the technological era has drastically modified people’s lifestyles and daily physical activity (Cha), especially of those who live in a country whose economy is thriving. Furthermore, in 2012, a study was conducted and found that over 67.6 millions of Americans were living with obesity, in addition to many more who were defined as overweight (Cha). Overall, as of recently, it has left more than two-thirds of Americans with a variety of physical health problems and emotional issues (Cha). However, Americans lifestyle and eating habits are very different from the rest of the world, which creates a lot of controversy because foreigners have not yet grown accustomed to eating big portions.

The clash of these two world views is pushing individuals, mostly females in their teens or early adulthood, to be overly self-conscious of themselves (‘‘Obesity, Bias, and Stigmatization’’) . With foreigners not fully grasping the factors regarding the vicious cycle that many Americans are trapped in, the lack of sensitivity towards weight gain is one of the triggers of bullying in the United States (‘‘Obesity, Bias, and Stigmatization’’). In addition, major causes are in effect when the subject of weight gain rises, such as the affordability of products, fewer jobs requiring manual labour, and the increase of ‘‘screen time’’ on electronic devices (‘‘Understanding the American Obesity Epidemic’’).

Certainly, the world’s richest and, most powerful country, which holds a 17.4B GDP, according to World Bank, has to compromise its lifestyles in many ways (‘‘GDP at market prices (current US$)’’). Furthermore, workers of huge American companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google and others try to keep up with, the technological advancements and competitions, its workers’ sleep time and eating time are being compromised in order to maximize all their profits. However, should people’s jobs interfere with their lifestyle choices, compromising their sleep and the adequate amount of nutrients in meals, which are crucial elements for their survival?

As Ashley Grullon, a 17-year old teenager who lives in New York City, says "there is a fast-food outlet on almost every corner" and "it's the cheapest way to eat". In comparison, 15-year old Mia Lennon, Yorktown Heights suburban resident, encounters "more fast-food in shopping malls". Thankfully, the American governments has started to take matters into their own hands by promoting programs such as ‘‘Lets Move’’, led first lady Michelle Obama (Cha).

Still, people struggle with self-esteem issues because ads mostly portray an unrealistic image of the ideal female and male. Featured on the cover of the February issue of Time magazine, Mattel Inc’s new Barbie, has a more realistic portrayal of females, now offering a wider variety of shapes, sizes, skin colour, and heights (Dockterman). This huge milestone, and transformation, directed to young American girls can help sensitize others to the acceptance of various body forms and help educate the young generation about body image.

Mainly, the foreigners negative view towards American weight comes from the franchises in their countries that promote bigger portions of foods filled with sugar and fats (‘‘Understanding the American Obesity Epidemic’’). With a burger at McDonalds in the States costing a minimum of $3.57 , and others in Denmark at $7.18, no wonder Americans opt to eat daily fast-food meals (Malm). In the meantime, corporations such as McDonalds continue to make large amounts of profit with their European franchises, whose food portions are a lot smaller and significantly more expensive than the States, giving many customers a run for their money. On that note, cities such as Bologna, whose meals go up to 97 % the normal American cost, and others like Rome with an interest rate of 68%, are just a few of the many locations where big American companies have establish themselves (Di Ascenzo, Gaudioso, and Longo). However, others, like Portuguese Margarida Costa , claims that "the fast-food hangouts are not as nice as Americans ones".

To add, regarding the negative portrayal of Americans, UK 15-year old resident Ruth Marley explains that "we are taught in school by our teachers that Americans tend to eat more than the average individual". Furthermore, as this is now being institutionalized outside of the US, European and Asians are developing a very negative view of the average American.

In conclusion, as the views of foreigners regarding Americans’ eating habits and Americans lifestyle choices remain conflictual, the topic of obesity is now becoming a global issue, affecting countries like the UK. Nowadays, people are not only trying to manage their professional and personal lives, but their digital lives. Sites like Facebook and Instagram are social media that have unfortunately made teens and young adults become overly self-conscious about their bodies, leading to negative self-esteem and other damaging psychological states. Obesity and weight levels remain personal and sensitive topics, but raising awareness on them can help Americans become more accepting and less judgmental towards others and themselves.

Reference :

Cha, Ariana Eunjung. ‘‘America’s getting even fatter: Startling growth in obesity over past 20
years.’’ The Washington Post.The Washington Post, 22 June. 2015. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.

Costa, Margarida. Personal Interview. 31 Jan. 2016.

Di Ascenzo, Gianluca, Gaudioso, Antonio, and Longo, Antonio. ‘‘How McDonald's Is Ripping Off
Consumers in Europe.’’ Huffpost Business. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 14 Jan. 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.

Dockterman, Eliana. ‘‘Barbie’s got a new Body.’’ Time.Time.Inc. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.

‘‘GDP at market prices (current US $).’’The World Bank. The World Bank Group, nd. Web. 31 Jan.
2016.

Grullon, Ashley. Personal Interview. 31 Jan. 2016.

Lennon, Mia. Personal Interview. 31 Jan. 2016.

Malm, Sara. ‘‘The world explained: Maps revealing everything you need to know, from the longest
straight line you can possibly sail, to where rubber ducks wash up if you dump them in the sea.’’ Mail Online.Associated Newspapers Ltd., Nov 15. 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.

Marley, Ruth. Personal Interview. 31 Jan. 2016.

‘‘Obesity, Bias, and Stigmatization.’’The Obesity Society.The Obesity Society, nd. Web. 31 Jan.
2016.

‘‘Understanding the American Obesity Epidemic.’’American Heart Association.American Heart
Association, Inc. , 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 31 Jan. 2016.

Comments

Very informative article. It demonstrates well both views on the subject. What is mostly the case in the U.S. is that the majority of people who are obese, and even the ones who are not, aren’t aware of the negative side effects of eating junk food and any food with added sugars. They tend to go towards these foods because it tastes good, it’s cheap, and they are not informed about what it might do to their health in the long run. Stating that foreigners have a negative perception towards Americans should be a wake-up call to them. Your article is a good base of information for everyone to be conscious of what they put into their bodies.