English Version of “Vorurteile: Warum Amerikaner so dick sind” (Prejudice: Why Americans are so fat)

04/04/2013

We’ve been discussing stereotypes and prejudice over the past few weeks. We asked ourselves why Americans might think a German is being rude and what kinds of stereotypes Germans have against Americans. Today we’ll continue by focusing upon the latter, specifically by informing ourselves about the obesity epidemic in America.

Why, you ask?

Because although reportedly two-thirds of the adult population in America is overweight, it are preconceived notions such as Americans are fat because they are lazy or because they eat McDonalds every day that both support American stereotypes and create stigma towards obese persons. The obesity epidemic in America, however, is a fairly complex situation. By making more information on the subject available to non-American audiences, we can help to reduce the spread of American stereotypes worldwide.   

The aim of this video is to provide a comprehensive, yet concise overview of the contributing factors to the obesity epidemic in the US. Due to the complexity of the subject matter and taking into account the intended audience (non-American, German-speakers), this Video does not explore the role that public schools, the fast food and farming industries, American food politics and other societal/economic factors play in the obesity epidemic.

So why are Americans so fat?

To quote Kelly D. Brownell, Phd., expert on obesity and Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, “Bad food is cheap, heavily promoted, and engineered to taste good. Healthy food is hard to get, not promoted, and expensive.”

Bad food is cheap. Healthy food is hard to get?

One first has to come to terms with the idea that in America, the land of opportunity, food could be difficult to come by.

In America there’s what’s known as “Food Deserts” (“Esswüsten” in German).

“Food deserts,” according to information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “are areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.” -Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website

Americans living in food deserts can still buy food; however, the food availably is high in calories and low in nutritional value, particularly prepackaged and fast food. In such areas the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese is elevated.

It is also important to not forget two important things when it comes to prepackaged and fast food: you get the most for your buck. Portion sizes have increased over time and people have incentive to buy such inexpensive, high-cal, nutrient-poor foods as chips and soda. Healthy food, fresh meat, and organic products can be quite expensive.

It’s no surprise that the prevalence of obesity is much higher in low-income households than  high-income ones. Remember, wealth gap in the US can be quite extreme, a topic that I cannot go into in this video for sake of time.

You may ask why Americans who cannot easily access healthy food due to food deserts or socioeconomic status simply don’t exercise more to prevent themselves from gaining weight. The thing is: not all areas are safe for children to simply go outside and play. With crime rates quite high in the US, the vandalized park down the street may not be a family-friendly place to take a walk, and gym isn’t always mandatory on school rosters.

There has also been a fight against the American glorification of thinness and it is encouraged that people always feel comfortable with their appearance. For more than 40 years there has also been a Fat Acceptance Movement, a movement that occasionally found controversial, the aim of which is to reduce the stereotypes and stigma surrounding obesity.

It should also not be forgotten that Bing Eating Disorder (BED) is the most prevalent eating disorder in the US, and the two-thirds of sufferers are obese, while not all obese persons suffer from the disorder. In addition, some obese individuals may suffer from an underlying condition that affects weight.

More detailed information is available here:

https://mywordsarelikespears.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/literature-and-film-on-obesity-in-america/.

If you have a serious question about prejudice or stereotypes, be courageous and ask. I will gladly concern myself with controversial topics, act as mitigator, and lead an open, academically-minded discussion on the topic.

Quotation Sources:

Newman, Cathy. “Why Are We So Fat?” Republished from the pages of National Geogaphic magazine to science.nationalgeographic.com/science/ under the subheading ‘Health and Human Body’. http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-body/fat-costs/

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP). “A Look Inside Food Deserts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website www.cdc.gov under CDC Features. http://www.cdc.gov/features/fooddeserts/

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