How Long Has America Been Obese?

Nobody needs to tell you that obesity is a problem in the USA. However, when did it really become such as ‘big’ problem? Obesity in and of itself doesn’t kill people, but it does lead to various lethal diseases. In 2004, Medicare announced that obesity was classified as a disease. This move led to people being able to receive cover for various forms of treatment to help address the issue. But obesity has been an epidemic for much longer, and has now reached pandemic proportions, affecting Canada, the UK, Australia, China, and many other countries.

Some people say that the problem is not as bad as what it is made out to be. They feel that the only thing truly under threat is our social norms and values. They feel that, because it is seen as a national rather than individual problem, governments and medical professionals are actually only concerned about how it impacts society. Indeed, there has even been a suggestion that obesity was a disease not unlike AIDS, something that became a popular belief in 1997. By 2007, scientists new this wasn’t the case, but they now suggest the cause is actually ‘social infection’, meaning people who overeat and are obese encourage others to do the same.

We know that social norms do not like obesity. Consider, for instance, that in the writings of Charles Dickens, those who were obese were also seen as lazy, stupid, and lacking of morals. Indeed, this stigmatization is nothing new. The great Shakespeare wrote about Falstaff, who was looking to cure his weight because it made him feel so anxious. In World War II Germany, Jews were labeled as a ‘diabetic race’, believing that Jews would overindulge, leading them to be obese and to develop diabetes. And by 1950, Hilde Bruch, a German Jewish doctor, suggested that people became obese as a result of family dysfunction, more specifically bad mothering.

Today, we are pointing the finger of blame somewhere else. We know that it is not linked to race anymore, but we blame fast food and consumerists societies. We are told it is part of modernization, but we still feel stigmatized and anxious about obesity. Of course, feeling anxious about obesity is important. It is the cause of various deadly diseases, leaves people unable to properly contribute to society, and costs the overall health care system millions.

Unfortunately, in medical science, it seems that solutions can only be found when causes have been discovered as well. While it is a known fact that preventative medicine is better than curative, it seems that obesity is no longer preventable and curing it is therefore the only solution out there. Luckily, clinics such as are available to help people who are in that situation. They don’t need to know why they are obese, whether it is the fault of society, their genetic heritage, their parenting, or anything else. They simply want to know that help is out there so that they can live happy, healthy lives.

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