Promotion of Obesity: A Harsh Reality

by Hanafian on February 10, 2015 - 12:14pm

***Disclaimer: I am, in no shape or form, promoting the bashing of people who suffer from obesity, or those who have insecurities about their bodies. My aim is to provide a factual and ethical view of what needs to be done in order to reduce and prevent obesity. ***

Obesity is a problem that is unfortunately faced by much of North America. Firstly, one must define obesity – according to the Harvard School of Public Health, obesity is described as having an extremely large amount of excess body fat that can cause serious health problems (2012). Though obesity itself is not so much a topic of controversy, it is what “promotes” obesity that causes much debate.

One of the most common topics that heavily relates to the promotion of obesity is the fast food industry, which is growing alarmingly quickly. There are so many advertisements for restaurants such as McDonalds – whether it is from billboards, radio advertisements, television commercials or in magazines, McDonalds is essentially promoting their food which is known to be extremely unhealthy. Would banning the advertisement of fast-food ads be effective? From a teleological perspective, it would definitely make a difference. This type of ethical analysis preaches that actions should produce the greatest amount of happiness and the smallest amount of displeasure.  In the long-run, if these fast-food ads were to be banned, people would be happier with not being overweight, and have successfully avoided the literal pain that comes with the health-issues related to obesity. Teleology also looks at results that came about from past-experiences. A major example of this would be the removal of cigarette advertisements, especially in corner-stores. This was done in order to reduce the amount of people who smoke cigarettes, and from a macro-perspective, the amount of people who will suffer from diseases in the lungs. Perhaps, just like cigarette boxes that advertise the negative effects of smoking cigarettes, Happy Meal and Big Mac cartons could have advertisements of the negative side-effects of eating too much McDonalds. It may seem farfetched, but it is just a thought.

Another topic that perhaps would cause more controversy (and I apologize in advance) is that the ads that teach people to “accept their image”, despite being obese, should be altered. Before you get extremely frustrated, hear me out. I do believe that people should not hate themselves and their bodies – however, I do not agree that they should simply “accept” it either. Yes, you should be able to accept that everyone is different, that one may be bigger than other people, but you should also accept that there may be room for starting a healthier lifestyle. From a teleological perspective, the greatest happiness that can be achieved in this scenario is weight-loss and a healthy lifestyle. The pain that will be reduced is the pain associated with being obese and having severe health issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. My solution to this problem would be to have advertisements that promote active lifestyle, which includes but is not limited to a healthy diet and regular physical activity. These commercials could replace the ones that essentially promote that people should continue with their lifestyle, regardless of how unhealthy it may be. In the long-run, everyone wants sustainable happiness – how can this be done when you are more at risk to have health issues?

Works Cited

"Obesity Definition." Harvard School of Public Health. 20 Oct. 2012. Web. 09 Feb. 2015.


While I was reading your post, it seemed to me that you were able to make the distinction between the problem that our society has regarding obesity, and an individual who is experiencing difficulties to have a healthy weight. Therefore, you showed that obesity is an issue that concerns every Canadians, and not only over-weighted people. Even if there are pros and cons about banning fast food ads and ads that teach people to accept themselves the way they are, I think those two suggestions would raise awareness regarding obesity. However, it seems to me that you did not mention a big piece of this puzzle: the education of children. Indeed, parents have a big role to play to influence their children to eat healthy while feeling contented. For example, when I was young, I remember that every time that I wanted to go to McDonald, I was eating my 'happy meal' very quickly because I wanted to go to play to the amusement park. To recreate the same feeling, my opinion is that parents should take the time to plant a garden or cook with them. By doing that, children and parents would eat healthy because they would be making their own food, and they will spend quality time in family. While, in comparison, with McDonald, the only benefit is that they will have an impression of having fun.

I think that it's pretty clear that obesity is at its peak affecting more people then ever before. The teleological argument of banning ads is not a bad idea. It would get the reoccurring idea of these foods out of people's faces which could lead to helping the obesity rate decrease (and save these companies billions of dollars in marketing costs... just putting it out there). However, we can argue, discuss and go back and forth regarding the fact that they should make and promote "healthier" food to try and help to situation but that's not the real solution. In my opinion, no matter who sells whatever product, it comes down to the consumer. The consumer has to be disciplined enough to walk/drive by and not stop because they know that the food is not healthy. I know this may seem as harsh but, unfortunately, it's just factual... When a person looks at themselves in the mirror in the morning and finally says "ITS ENOUGH!" or "I AM TOO BIG!", that's when the person will make a change in their lifestyle for the better. A companies job is to sell their product to make a profit and they achieve these through spending billions of dollars on advertising, which will not stop happening. People have to be taught about healthier ways of eating and what they are doing to their bodies by consistently eating this food. The discipline will come with the education which will lead people to be healthier and better off.

I enjoyed the fact that you were actually able to give solutions to all the problems you pointed out in your article. Although I agree with you that physical image is greatly influenced by the media, education plays an important role as well. What they teach kids in school and at home can make a difference.
What most people forget is that there are many children and adults that cannot necessarily protect themselves from the many influences, such as media. For example, children with special needs do not necessarily understand that what the media is advertising is harmful to their health, which is why education and support are quite important. Special needs children are also one of the groups of people who are the most targeted by obesity.
When you think about it, anyone can make a change if they really wanted to. All one has to do is volunteer. Last week, I volunteered with a group of special needs children just to encourage them to do more physical activity. It made my day when I saw that they actually enjoyed running around and moving; all they needed was some encouragement!
Here’s the link to my volunteering post:

Hello, Hanafian!

I enjoyed reading your article, and it was really interesting to me to see the negative sides of "promoting" obesity.
However, although your article is well-detailed and clear, there are two details I would like to address that made me hesitant towards the quality of your argumentation.

First of all, I believe that one of your premises is a "Red Herring", meaning that it is not completely related to the topic, driving the reader away from the actual issue. In fact, when you say: "Perhaps, just like cigarette boxes that advertise the negative effects of smoking cigarettes, Happy Meal and Big Mac cartons could have advertisements of the negative side-effects of eating too much McDonalds.", it is not completely related to the topic of obesity and malnutrition. Comparing fast food with cigarettes does seem very interesting, but a Big Mac is very different from a pack of cigarette, making it hard to find a reasonable connection between the two. Yes, both products have negative impacts on health, but while eating one Big Mac from time to time might have no considerable effect on health, smoking one pack of cigarette might develop an addiction that could lead to serious diseases. In brief, your argumentation is pretty strong, but that particular comparison might drive the attention of the reader away from the actual topic of your article, which makes it weak.

Second of all, in your second paragraph, it seems like you use a "False dilemma". This means that you only present two possibilities, while there could be way more. You mention that advertisements that promote the acceptance of your body image, are negative because they promote physical inactivity and malnutrition. You precise that these advertisements should be replaced by advertisements that would motivate the population to have a physically active life and healthy diet. However, I believe that you are assuming that people are either physically active and healthy or overweight, which is not the case. Some people might be very active, but are simply genetically bigger and gain weight without necessarily being unhealthy. In addition, I believe that you assumed that advertisements with the objective to promote self-acceptance only targetted obese, people, which is not the case, in my opinion. Many people are healthy but have a bit of fat and are very concerned about their appearance. These people do not need to work on their lifestyles since they do not actually have a medical problem concerning their weight. In summary, this premise suggests that everyone is either obese and "lazy"or skinny and healthy, wich is not always the case.