Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Healthy Living: A Choice?

In America, the obesity rates have been going up. It has gotten to the point where, according to Judith Warner, two-thirds of American adults are considered obese. The solution to this “crisis” has been heavily debated in many different arenas, including the White House. Some suggest that it is the fault of the food industry, with help from fast food chains. These fast food chains are extremely popular in America. You can find a McDonald’s practically everywhere. The food that they serve is cheap in price yet rich in calories. Some argue that these companies need to label their products better, showing everyone exactly what they are eating. They claim that measures like these will lead to the end of the crisis. The obesity crisis in America has been blamed on the food industry while in reality it is the responsibility of individual consumers to know what they are eating and to utilize this knowledge when deciding whether or not to add healthier alternatives to their daily diet.

A typical day in the life of an American consumer is filled with choices: paper or plastic, stairs or the elevator, credit or debit, fast food or store bought. Each of these decisions has its own sets of pros and cons. When deciding what to eat, though, the consumer may not know all of the pros and cons. This is why it is up to the consumer, if they so choose, to educate themselves on what is going into their body. Not all consumers may care what they eat or about their level of health. This is their decision. But in the case of those that care about their health, educating themselves is pertinent. Proof of the need for educating oneself can be seen at any fast food chain in America. For instance, David Zinczenko, the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health magazine, states that while researching the calories in the food at a local fast food chain, he found that their salad was listed as only 150 calories. However, by digging deeper he found that the after adding in the full packet of dressing that is served with the salad along with the noodles and almonds, the calorie count soared to 1,040 calories for the meal. While it may seem like the fast food company is concealing the actual calories that would be consumed by someone that eats this salad, the information is in fact available. All one would have to do is go to the restaurant’s website or use a simple Google search. The consumer can educate themself, and with the help of the multitude of resources on the internet, it’s easy. Educating oneself on what is going into one’s body is one of the best decisions a consumer can make when it comes to eating healthy.

Deciding to educate themselves on what they are eating is not the only decision that a consumer must make. Once they know the calorie count of the foods that they are eating, they must decide whether or not to substitute some of these foods with healthier alternatives. For some people, this may be the most difficult part of living a healthy lifestyle. Rather than going out for lunch every day during work, for example, the consumer can instead pack their lunch. Also, parents can teach their children to pick healthier foods when given the choice. In Will Haygood’s article, “Kentucky Town of Manchester Illustrates National Obesity Crisis,” a small town in Kentucky is highlighted as an example of the obesity crisis in America. In this town, about half of the population is overweight. Haygood argues that this is because of all of the fast food restaurants in the town. However, the people in the town of Manchester, Kentucky, have choices in their meals. They could eat at home rather than eating out for at least one meal every day. They can educate themselves on what is in their food, and then decide to make a change. Charlie Rawlins, a 20-year-old in that town made the decision to change, and has lost over 65 pounds because of it. Change is possible. It does not require “bringing [the] government between you and your waistline” as Balko puts it in his article, “What You Eat is Your Business.” In this case, regulation should be done by the consumer rather than the government. It does not take much to pick an apple over French fries, or making a sandwich over eating out. It is up to the consumer, not the government, to regulate what they eat and make healthy decisions.

Today, obesity is a rising problem in children and adults alike. Consumers have been deciding to make fast food a staple in their diet. As a result, people have been taking in calories that they didn’t know that they were taking in. Some argue that the government needs to intervene to fix this crisis, while still others argue that it is up to the individual. Many blame the food industry for the high calorie counts in their foods. While the food industry may produce unhealthy food more and more, they do this to make money. If there was less of a demand, the industry would change to whatever society was willing to buy. As it stands right now, much of society is okay with these high calorie foods. However, the availability of healthy food alternatives is there. All a person has to do to eat healthily is research what is in the food that they are eating, and then replace some of the unhealthier parts with something better. With the help of the internet or calorie counting applications that many consumers can download on their smart phones, this is easy. It is the responsibility of the consumer to regulate what they eat and make healthy food choices.


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