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ISSUE 121 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/26/2007

United Kingdom misinterprets cellulite problem

By Lindsey Myers
Staff Writer


Friday, October 26, 2007

The British Parliament was presented with startling figures this past Thursday in a report announcing that one in five adults in England are obese. The report's statistics raise many questions, but two seem to resound the loudest amidst BBC and international pundits: who or what is responsible for these alarming trends, and what can or should be done to halt the spread of obesity before it becomes even more prevalent?

The lexicon employed for this current health trend is sensational and severe; terms like "epidemic" and "crisis" take the forefront in both the United Kingdom and the United States' most recent articles, and one BBC journalist even referred to the situation as "a tidal wave."

Maybe there is a symbolic tsunami of cellulite slowly but deliberately approaching lean shorelines, oozing its way into individual Body Mass Indexes and leaving behind nothing but cholesterol and triceps that ripple with only the slightest provocation.

On the other hand, maybe everyone would do well to remember that obesity is not an epidemic. It does not fly in on an international flight and put four passersby in the hospital because somebody doesn't know how to cover their mouth.

Using references to plagues, pandemics and natural disasters to describe the high occurrence of obesity is not only inappropriate and inaccurate, but it is destructive.

These references, in their own linguistic way, embody and strengthen the true "culprit" behind obesity: a lack of personal and cultural accountability.

I do not in any way mean to suggest that obesity results from laziness or ignorance, or that those struggling with obesity are simply a product of their own making.

I recognize that for many, genetic heritage and other health difficulties pose unavoidable and often unresolvable obstacles. Therefore, when I say that personal and cultural accountability is to blame, I'm not referring to people whose diseases, injuries or genetics have brought with them the consequence of excess weight.

Instead, I'm referring to the thousands of other individuals who gradually progress from overweight to morbidly obese through lifestyle choices and a defeatist attitude towards dietary responsibility.

It is this cultural sense of laziness and excess that I find to be most severely at fault, and these very vices are fed into by sensationalists who characterize obesity as if it is a force that overtakes rather than a force that is invited in.

Conveniently, such a take on weight gain fits snugly into many contemporary Western ideologies of entitlement. It's not my fault that I am obese; McDonald's didn't tell me their foods were unhealthy!

Accompanying the report's debut in the U.K. were policy and ethical questions: is it the government's duty to react to the increasing health costs that are accumulating because of obesity-related health care needs by increasing taxes on fatty foods or mandating a warning label like those that adorn cigarettes?

Certainly an argument could be made that the current state of food pricing forces the impoverished to buy cheaper and often unhealthier food while others can afford the luxury of pricier, fresh produces and meats, but would an increased tax on unhealthy foods resolve this? If anything, it will force those on an impossible budget to turn to even cheaper alternatives.

Whatever is decided, the dialogue will doubtlessly inspire strong feelings on either side of the issue: the passionate family members of those individuals who were "victims" of obesity that was brought on by a product designed to be unhealthy and then the doctors who witness middle-aged adults facing accelerated degeneration on a daily basis. And both parties will have quite a case. Then again, so will the millions of people who have gone through the same nutritional education, the same public schools, the same grocery stores and the same city streets lined with fast food restaurants, and in spite of all of this, emerged with no such "affliction."

If we have really become so collectively weakened to temptation as to not be able to know that a carrot stick is healthier than a french fry and that Starbuck's delicious coffee drinks have hundreds of hidden sugars and calories, then we probably shouldn't be given a choice on what we eat at all.

People need to determine for themselves that no matter how many ads Coca-Cola runs depicting athletes refreshing themselves with Coke, soda will never, ever be a "healthy" choice, and people need to make purchases accordingly rather than binging as youths and then bemoaning its result in adulthood. It is high time that humanity's collective waistband be brought in by strides towards self-awareness, equitable distribution and intelligent consumerism and not by enabling policies that could eventually lead to warning labels on birthday cakes.


Lindsey Myers is a senior from Colorado Springs, Colo. She majors in history, English and Hispanic studies




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