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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The problem with pudge

    Breaking news: Americans are still fat and lazy. Despite the media frenzy over an oncoming “”obesity armageddon,”” American waistlines keep growing girthier, according to a report issued this week by the Trust for America’s Health. In fact, over the last two years, every state in our great Union got a little bit fatter – and none of them saw a decrease in obesity rates.

    For some, obesity is bulging out of control. Mississippi was the first state to reach a hefty status. Thirty percent of its population is considered obese. Several other states in the so-called Southern “”fat belt”” aren’t too far behind.

    So how does Arizona weigh in? Actually, as a state, we’re surprisingly slender. Go ahead and congratulate yourself with a box of Twinkies and a pint of Chunky Monkey, because Arizona, ranked 43rd overall, is one of the 10 least obese states. Unfortunately, even our svelte bellies are swelling – according to the report, Arizona’s obesity rate climbed about 0.9 percent over the last two years, in line with increases across the nation.

    Public health experts call the fattening of America an obesity “”epidemic,”” a term usually reserved for the sort of devastating diseases like AIDS and malaria that still regularly ravage corners of the globe. Although the rhetoric may be extreme, they have a point: The obese face a much greater risk of developing heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Plus, as enjoyable as it may be to live a sedentary, sybaritic life, obesity is not merely a personal lifestyle choice. Like secondhand smoke, the costs of obesity fall on others and are beginning to burden an already troubled health care system.

    For some, the recent rise in obesity can be easily explained. Food prices – especially the prices of greasy McFood, corn-syrup laden sodas and processed junk food – have dropped significantly over the last decade, while American incomes have increased. The result? Richer, happier and fatter Americans. In a way, our flabby love handles are perverse symbols of American affluence. And according to many, the solution to the problem should be just as simple as the explanation: eat less and exercise more.

    But obesity isn’t all about economics. The poor have a much higher likelihood of becoming obese, bucking the historic cultural trend of signifying wealth with width. Many are genetically predisposed to putting on extra pounds. A study earlier this year even found that obesity is “”socially contagious,”” spreading even among friends and family members hundreds of miles apart. The obesity problem is a complex interaction of economic incentives, social norms and human biology – which makes developing meaningful policy solutions a difficult task.

    Case in point: Swedish schools. Youth obesity is rising even in Sweden, where the combination of public-policy tools available to fight obesity – an embargo on advertising junk food to kids, bans on vending machines in schools, subsidized exercise – would make many American weight warriors drool like fat kids in a candy store.

    We shouldn’t give up hope on finding effective policy solutions to fight obesity. There’s no need to peddle fatty snacks and candy bars in public schools, or to allow children to spend hours sitting like zombies in front of glowing screens. But it’s important to keep in mind that no matter what flab-fighting policies we may adopt, one effective way to fight obesity is to put down the Cheetos, get off the couch and take some personal responsibility.

    Editorials are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Allison Hornick, Sarah Keeler, Connor Mendenhall and Allison Dumka.

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