December 07, 2012 by Op-Ed
In less than a month, it will be time to propose New Year’s resolutions. Unsurprisingly, the New Year’s resolution that finds itself at the top of Americans’ lists, year after year, is to lose weight. However, for many, weight loss is an insurmountable task. The mindset many seem to possess is a roadblock that inhibits them from reaching their weight loss goals.
Many Americans immediately point accusing fingers at fast food restaurants and junk food advertisements, but they have no one to blame but themselves for their dissatisfactory health or less-than-optimal weight.
There seems to be a fundamental problem in many Americans’ mindsets, and it is echoed in a statement by Mindy Greenfield, a certified family life educator at Sanford Health. She suggested setting “a limit for total daily screen time, including television and Internet,” in order to reduce exposure to junk food marketing. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health echoed Greenfield’s logic, asserting that “exposure to food ads, rather than watching television itself, contributes to obesity.” Greenfield’s solution to the problem actually generates more problems. She implied that Americans are not strong-willed enough to resist advertisements. Therefore, Americans must limit their exposure to advertisements as much as possible. Greenfield was essentially encouraging people to run away from the problem rather than to confront it. She essentially placed Americans at the mercy of marketing by implying that they are not strong-minded enough to resist the lure of Pizza Hut’s tempting advertisements. Though Americans may be under the impression that they are powerful because of their incessant blaming of others for their own problems, they actually have made themselves more vulnerable to advertisements because it is evident they do not possess personal responsibility. By shifting the blame from themselves to other factors, Americans have adopted an unacceptably complacent attitude when it comes to weight loss.
It is clear that the problem lies not in junk food marketing but in the consumer’s susceptibility to flashy advertisements. Likewise, the problem lies not in the existence of fast food; the problem lies in the consumer’s demand for fast food. One may be under the impression that the demand for fast food is high because of its inexpensive prices. However, it has been proven that healthy food is equally affordable. Mark Bittman from The New York Times compared a typical McDonald’s meal, which consists of “two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas,” to a healthy, unprocessed meal consisting of “a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk.” The healthy meal, which can feed a family of four, costs $14, while the typical McDonald’s meal for a family of four costs $28. For double the price, possibly more than the double the calories, and the great risk of arteriosclerosis, diabetes and heart attacks in the (near) future, a family can eat at McDonald’s. It may initially seem like the practical, rational choice to purchase cheap fast food, but in-depth analysis says otherwise. Even if many fail to understand that healthy food is, in many cases, more affordable than unhealthy food, a multitude of Americans failed to realize that the net cost of buying healthy food is lower. In other words, the net cost of buying healthy food is lower because they will not have to pay for a triple bypass surgery or diabetes treatment years (or months) later. The demand for fast food is driven by the misconception that affordable healthy food is a rarity and that trying to find inexpensive healthy food is an insurmountable task.
The overarching problem of the United States is the refusal of many Americans to take personal responsibility in their health choices and their unfortunate obliviousness to the fact that healthy food can be cheaper than fast food. Americans need to stop accusing others and hold themselves accountable for their own choices.
Olivia Deng is a freshman political science major at Drexel University. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org