What if you found a lump on the side of your neck? What would you do? You’d probably go to the doctor and have it checked out. What if, like my mother, you got a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma? Let’s say that, with treatment, you could live a normal life. Without treatment, your quality of life would steadily decrease until you died prematurely. What would your next step be? Would you educate yourself about your disease, seek treatment and fight for your life? Or would you do nothing and die?
Last week, I saw a report stating that, although total US obesity rates are leveling off, extreme obesity levels are rising among both adults and children. Children. I found it interesting that the report discussed “extreme obesity.” We used to call that “morbid obesity” – morbid, like going to die. Now it’s “extreme” like some kind of gravity-defying snowboard or bike sport. I’m not going to use the new term. As a woman who was once a frog’s hair away from the classification, I’m going to stick with morbid. We are killing ourselves and calling it by another word doesn’t change that. Obesity is treatable. Why do we treat terminal cancer more aggressively than we treat curable obesity?
Why do we do nothing?
I went shopping this weekend and at one time had five pedestrians in my view. Four of them were a minimum of 60 pounds overweight. That’s not morbidly obese; but, it’s still obese and it was four out of the five. You can’t even get that percentage of dentists together to agree on recommending sugar-free chewing gum! I watched those pedestrians and I thought about our society’s cavalier attitude regarding our collective suicide by dinner fork. We don’t even think about it, do we?
Until I changed my eating habits, I certainly didn’t. Now, I cannot even go into all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants. I see people in those places that literally cannot fit into a single chair. They sit down with multiple plates of food and they eat it all. They feel like garbage and they believe that is just how it is. Perhaps that’s how it is, but it’s not how it has to be. As a society, we feel bad, we function poorly and we don’t even wonder about it. We don’t try to find a cause and we certainly don’t make the connection that it’s what’s we’re putting in our mouths. We just pop another pill and grab another burger.
According to the CDC, 35.7% of American adults are obese (having a BMI of 30 or higher). 17% of children are. That’s 78 million adults and 12.5 million children – and that’s not considering the number of us that are just straight up overweight – these are just the obese. By way of comparison, according to the American Cancer Society, cancer prevalence in the US is at 12.5 million.
We fear cancer. We insure against it. We raise money for research to cure it. And we should; but, what are we doing about obesity? We don’t have to research for a cure – we have one. Education! So, why are we not teaching ourselves and our children about nutrition? Why are we so unconcerned about a completely avoidable condition?
What if we were dying? 90.5 million of us are.
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