Too Much of A Good Thing by Greg Crister: A Critique
- Pages: 8
- Word count: 1756
- Category: Obesity
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The notion of health is essential to life because a healthy person can perform or function well in its environment and freely pursue the things the can make one happy or fulfilled. Obesity, which is a condition in which the body builds up unnecessary fat ensuing to a gain in weight is a danger to one’s health because it posses or makes a fat person prone to grave health risks both physically and psychologically. Obesity is principally caused by overeating because it is only through eating food that we accumulate fat. On the corollary side of it, laziness is not a direct cause of obesity yet is a crucial factor that contributes to obesity because it impedes in the performance of activities necessary to burn fat. These two major factors of obesity all boils down to self discipline. And Greg Crister all too bluntly simplified the issue of obesity as an issue of discipline. His rather simplified solution had its flaws on approaching the issue by further exploring other factors that contribute to behavior to come up with a more realistic and comprehensive way of addressing obesity.
In this short editorial piece, “Too Much of a Good Thing,” Crister investigated the issue of childhood obesity and described it as an epidemic for the medical consequences that entail expensive health care costs for their treatment and health impact that obesity has for the children and the future of the world. Crister ultimately blamed the media and the government’s apathy in creating necessary measures to regulate its unwholesome promotion of wrongful diet and proactive establishment of policies that will set food parameters for the guidance of families especially parents in monitoring and controlling the food intake of their children.
Crister also provided simplistic solutions to address the problem. First, he recognized the need to stigmatize unhealthful behaviors like overeating and sedentary behaviors (i.e. laziness) to promote conformity to effective health messages. He also suggested the need to change the eating habits of children to which parents specifically play a central role by providing them with proper dietary advice. Adult intervention to restrain or regulate eating can be implemented by educating children on proper diet. In pursuit to this suggestion, Crister incidentally refuted the predicaments that parents have to face in dieting their children.
On the age-old medical maxim: never put a kid on a diet, he presented a study of over a thousand kids who undertook a supervised diet, and never experienced any nuance of under-nutrition or stunted growth. On the issue of allowing children to have “the right to make bad nutrition decisions”, Crister rebutted the inapplicability of this rather obsolete dictum considering the current prevalence of obesity and pervasiveness of fast-food chain in modern society. Finally, Crister presented the French puericulture movement as a benchmark that America and other nations can emulate in campaigning against over-consumption and advocating restraint. At the core of this campaign is adult supervision and moderation of meals and discouragement ‘seconds’ treat.
Crister’s treatment of childhood obesity as an epidemic that highlighted the growing concern for its health and financial impact in modern society is used to stress the need for a sense of urgency and alarm in addressing the issue. This was supported by the fact that a U.N. health convention was specifically scheduled to discuss obesity and its impact on children.
Crister’s approach to childhood obesity as to its cause is too simplistic which led to his overly simplistic solutions. He simply focused on overeating and erroneous nutrition and neglects other important and relevant causes of obesity. Diet is an important factor in shaping health because you are what you eat. Eating too much of one thing is unhealthy especially fatty foods which are dense in calories such as burgers, French fries, soft drinks, candy and desserts. Calorie intake is the direct cause for gaining weight because they are stored as fat if the person is unable to or burn them (Dalton, 1997). Crister thus, overlooks the second equally important factor in controlling obesity which is the need to burn calorie through exercise.
Following his focus on food intake as the principal cause of obesity, Crister proceeded to blame fast food stores (e.g. McDonalds) to contribute in the prevalence of obesity. Fast food stores emerged and proliferate in response to the changing food consumption trends of society. Fast food means food and service that is fast. (Jakle and Sculle, 2002) And to meet for this kind of service entailed food with high caloric content. To facilitate quick food preparation, fast food restaurants needed to use ingredients that are saturated in fat and salt for preservation and extensively relies on flavor additives to ensure good taste. Frying is also the main method for cooking that adds up oil to the food. This makes food prepared in fast food restaurants generally unhealthy.
While the most apparent and indubitable cause of obesity is overeating or improper diet, there are other important issues that Crister have missed in discussing childhood obesity. For one, research studies suggested hereditary and hormonal factors of childhood obesity such as Prader-Willi and Cushing’s syndromes (Kopelman, et al, 2005). Using a biological approach to discovering the cause of obesity, Kolata (1985) suggested the presence of “fat cells” that prompt the body to overeat, which accounts for a high rate of recidivism among obese patients to overeat again. These are issues surrounding obesity that further complicates the problem than just a matter of instilling discipline by regulating or supervising food intake of children.
Secondly, while Crister is correct in highlighting diet in controlling obesity, which because of the prevalence of fast foods and media’s promotion of fast food becomes a more difficult task to pursue, he overlooked for the importance of exercise in combating obesity. People eat to have energy. That energy becomes fat if it is not used. And it is through exercise and other physical activities that we use energy or burn fat. Thus, lack of exercise has a direct impact to obesity. Extending the importance of physical activities or exercise, one can explore stationary leisure activities that hamper physical movement among children.
With the dominance of the television, children tend to spend their leisure watching television rather than engaging in physical activities such as sports. Another modern activity that hinders physical activity is the prevalence of game consoles and the Internet, which hooks children to spend their time in front of computers and gaming devices. Computer games like basketball, skate boarding, volleyball, are virtual and dissuades children to really engage in the real life physical sports. Sedentary behaviors such as watching television aggravate the incidence of obesity in two ways. Aside from being a form of sedentary behavior per se that do not facilitate the burning of calories, children also usually eat junk food while watching television, which contributes to the imbalance nutrition. Moreover, children are then exposed to television commercials on junk foods. Thus, sedentary activities exposes people to unhealthful food and eating habits further that shape their eating behavior. (Dietz and Gortmaker 2001)
Aside from the biological factors to obesity, there are also sociological factors that need to be considered. Crister recognize the responsibility of parents in controlling childhood obesity but was quite clear that they are not entirely to be blamed in their children’s obesity, to wit, “parents should (not) be blamed for the nation’s growing dietary permissiveness”. (Crister, 2001) Nevertheless, the parents serve a crucial role in their children’s diet because they are principally responsible for what the children eat. Children ultimately rely on their parents for food. Parents therefore have a direct influence on what food their children eat. In this regard, parents who mindful and conscious of their health (in terms of what they eat and in engaging in physical exercise) will raise children who will most likely tend be the same. The eating habits and physical activities of a person are also shaped by ones culture (e.g. attitudes and beliefs toward exercise, food and nutrition). (Ling, 2005) Asians for instance, with their strong fondness to Karate (as a form of exercise), the drinking of tea (for digestion), eating of fish products (like Sushi in Japan) and other similar cultural behaviors also affect the incidence of obesity.
Finally, there is also a psychological cause of obesity especially common among young adults. Adolescents suffering from emotions depression sometime resort to unhealthy practices to can lead to obesity. (Steptoe, 2006) This includes overeating or engaging in junk food to relieve stress or going in a state of latent activities such as sleeping, staying inside the house or watching TV to fight psychological depressions.
Obesity is indeed an alarming problem the plagues the world. Obesity among children is a major concern because of health risks involved, the economic consequences (healthcare costs) and psychological predisposition of the future generation. Proper nutrition and physical exercise remain as the two most important ways to address obesity. But this cannot be simplistically or easily addressed by regulating diet and instilling discipline as suggested by Crister. There is a need to further explore the different biological, psychological and sociological factors that surrounds obesity. Promoting proper nutrition, diet and exercise entails modifying the lifestyle and behavior of the children, which cannot be imposed by simply restricting diet through outright policies. Addressing obesity requires understanding the factors that affect the eating behaviors and patterns of the people to successfully approach the problem. Promoting health entails correcting the lifestyle and behavior of children which comprehensively involve all social institutions such as the family, school, the government and the general society.
Critser, G. (2001). Too Much of a Good Thing. Los Angeles Times. Opinion Section. July 22, 2001 Retrieved from: http://articles.latimes.com/2001/jul/22/opinion/op-25288
Dalton, S. (1997).Overweight and Weight Management: The Health Professional’s Guide. Jones & Bartlett Publishers
Dietz, W.H. and Gortmaker, S. (2001) “Preventing Obesity in Children and Adolescents.” Annual Review of Public Health
Jakle, J. and Sculle, K. (2002), Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age. JHU Press
Kolata, G. (1985) .“Obesity Declared a Disease.” Science “Why Do People Get Fat?” Science, 1985
Kopelman, P. Caterson, I, Stock, M and Dietz, W.(2005) Clinical Obesity in Adults and Children: In Adults and Children. Blackwell Publishing
Ling, P. (2005). Focus on Obesity Research. Nova Publishers
Steptoe, A. (2006). Depression and Physical Illness. Cambridge University Press