By Daniel Shin and Eric Song
In 2007, Andrew Stanton envisioned a world full of big babies “because there was no reason for them to grow up any more.” Based on this imagination, he directed and released “Wall-E,” a harsh, yet thought-provoking film depicting obese and hapless humans confined to hover chairs, victims of their own indolent lifestyles. It is now 2015, and while hover chairs have yet to be invented, rampant obesity has become a reality.
With rapid commercialization and industrialization associated with contemporary society, the classic “sit down, nutritious and healthy meal” has become a norm of the past. Often stuck in rush hour traffic or running late to work, the modern working class simply cannot afford the time to reward themselves a proper meal. Rather, many are forced to indulge themselves with fast food meals, laden with saturated fats and an overwhelming amount of cholesterol and salt. But really, who has the time these days to look through the ingredients and count the calories of a McDonalds Happy Meal, let alone make their own lunches? In a society where practicality is prioritized over health adverse effects can be found not only on our waistlines, but also on our overall health, performance, and mood. According to American Diabetes Association, victims of obesity—now a startling third of the US population, are at a greater risk of depression and related complications. Over the past 35 years, obesity has doubled in adults and tripled in children. This problem is one of increasing ubiquity, and must be combated.
This is not to say that there haven’t been attempts to curb the increasing rates of obesity. On the contrary, governmental and non-governmental organizations alike have previously attempted to pass fat taxes or incorporate more physical education in school curriculums. However, such solutions are proven themselves ineffective, primarily because they oversimplify the problem of obesity, taking a “one size fits all approach”. While taxes on sodas may decrease soda consumption, one could simply walk a few aisles down the supermarket to purchase a box of Iced Tea to alternatively satisfy their sugar cravings. Governmental intervention policies like these are not targeting the problem, but are simply avoiding it.
Obesity is not caused in a day; obesity is caused in a lifetime. It is in fact, often a cumulative result of multiple factors including depression, social anxiety, and most prominently, the shifting cultural mindset that being overweight is acceptable. A direct byproduct of the increasingly popular Fat Activism movement, this mindset is well intentioned, but misguided, as it serves as a leeway for many corpulent individuals to avoid changing their unhealthy ways. While its activists claim an individual has the rightful choice to be obese, when this “choice” interferes with the lives of others, as is this case for children raised by overweight parents, something must be done. A recent study from Stanford posited obese parents as the leading cause behind rising rates of corpulence among children, many of who have no choice but to indulge in unhealthy snacks from a young age. Why actively promote a lifestyle not only destructive to yourself, but also to the loved ones around you?
It is important to note, however, that the fat activism movement is a direct byproduct of those who take a different, but an equally extreme approach to this pressing contemporary issue. Such are those who support “fat shaming”, or the deliberate humiliation of the obese as the method to cure these people of their unhealthy ways. This is not only ineffective but also counterproductive. Depression and self-consciousness often set individuals vulnerable to obesity in the first place. Fat shaming only plays on to the vicious cycle that victims of obesity find themselves entangled in. Rather, society needs a more moderate and considerate solution, one that encourages, not disparages, obese individuals to embrace healthier lifestyles.
The middle ground between these two polar extremities is education. We must change the social stigma of where obesity stands and how it is dealt with. Overweight individuals should not be humiliated, but educated in a reassuring and comforting way that not only warns/informs them of their unhealthy lifestyles but also assures them that there is still a possibility for them to lose weight. Doing so will likely prevent drastic consequences like depression and binge eating from occurring. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, education and counseling sessions are all sound and proven methods helpful for obese victims to overcome the psychological roots most responsible for their unhealthful eating practices.
Although the problem of obesity is well known, the extreme solutions of fat shaming and fat activism simply fail to remedy this issue at hand. Evidently, the middle ground of education is the way to go.