By: Chris Zimmer – Columnist
If you follow politics, you’ve probably heard the phrase “concerned about the future of our country” from many potential presidential candidates. If you lean to the right, politically, these anxieties usually concern religious freedom, illegal immigration and of course, taxes. If you lean to the left, growing income inequality and minority rights are usually what’s talked about. While these are all important issues, there is one crisis that threatens our entire nation: obesity.
It’s a subject that’s hard to talk about, quite frankly, because you can’t call someone out on it while being politically correct. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34.9 percent of adults and 17 percent of children are obese, that is, having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or over. The National League of Cities estimates $190.2 billion is spent annually to treat obesity and related illnesses, and project another $549.5 billion in expenses over the next two decades if obesity rates were to continue the current trend. Obesity, according to Maj. Gen. Allen Batschelet, the head of army recruitment, is now a national security issue.
“We think by 2020 it [the obesity rate] could be as high as 50 percent, which means only 2 in 10 would qualify to join the military,” Batschelet said in an interview on CNN. “It’s a sad testament of our society right now.”
I echo Maj. Gen. Batschelet’s opinion of our fat nation, but I can’t be on a high horse. I came into college standing at 5-feet-9-inches, with a normal weight of 165 pounds. By midterm break, I was pushing 185 pounds and was only three BMI points away from being considered obese. I wish I could say my weight increase was due to eating lots of protein and lifting weights, but it was the result of gluttony and lack of physical activity. I was back to normal by the end of the semester and haven’t returned to that state since, thankfully.
According to Kidshealth.org, college students on average gain 3-10 pounds during their first two years of college with a majority of that weight gain happening during their first semester. High-calorie meals from the dining halls and weekends filled with booze and late night pizzas did it to me, and I am sure many other students on-campus and across the country can relate. It’s the status quo in our culture.
With the growing obesity problem comes a rise in “fat shaming”. I hear “fat shaming” words from my peers, and even my own mouth from time to time, with the reasoning of “if you don’t call someone fat, they are not going to know they are” or “if they just stopped stuffing their face with food, they wouldn’t be fat.” However, this logic isn’t just rude, it contains multiple fallacies. Do you really think that person doesn’t know they are overweight? Maybe they are eating less now in their life, but maybe they just don’t have access to healthy food or have the time to exercise.
Yes, obesity is bad, but so is disrespecting the dignity of another human being. So many factors are involved when it comes to rating one’s personal health, but I say let’s leave it to the medical professionals. Many saw the Food and Drug Administration’s move to ban hydrogenated oils—the primary ingredient of trans-fat in processed food—by 2018 as authoritarian, or even illegal. But, hey, at least someone is trying to do something about it. It’s an issue I hope comes up in the presidential debates and campaigns.
For the students afraid of gaining weight, don’t be. It’s probably going to happen. Deciding what to eat when you move out of the house is a learning process. So is learning how to manage time and your own personal health. I hope our community can tackle this issue and be an example to the rest of the country.