The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

March 4th, 2015:

Is the U.S. Government Causing & Perpetuating the Obesity Epidemic?

I recently re-watched the documentary Fed Up about how the U.S. government has basically subsidized the obesity epidemic in this country. It continues to perpetuate the problem through policies and regulation that enhance the financial success of certain food industries at the expense of public health.

In the 1970s, we were told to decrease the amount of fat in our diets. This resulted in the creation of low-fat and fat free products where a fat was replaced with sugar. And it’s sugar that is largely responsible for our problems with obesity, diabetes, and other related problems according to this film. We have our society of people who don’t understand what proper nutrition is and it doesn’t help that our school system is feeding them junk food and tells them that French fries and pizza are vegetables.

Exercise is not enough to combat the problems caused by our horrific diets. This problem is not to be resolved unless we drastically reduce the amount of processed food that we eat.

After watching this film again, I scrutinized the labels on foods in my pantry. Now, I have a pretty healthy diet. Besides putting sugar in my coffee, I didn’t think I had that much extra sugar in my diet besides the sugar in my morning coffee. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, baked chicken, cottage cheese, and I thought most of my processed foods were on the healthier side. I was surprised that the second ingredient in my rice squares cereal was sugar and the first ingredient in my gluten-free barbecue sauce was high fructose corn syrup. (I’ve been more mindful about avoiding gluten in the last few years because I think I’m sensitive to gluten.)

Sugar by Moyan Brenn from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Sugar by Moyan Brenn from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Now that I’ve seen this movie again, I want to be more mindful about avoiding sugar (with the exception of my morning coffee). I want to limit my portion sizes of certain foods that contain excess sugar and eliminate others altogether – like protein bars. When it comes to sweet foods like jam, barbecue sauce, and desserts, I can at least use brands that don’t use high fructose corn syrup and use these foods as something to have on a special occasion.

In my gymnast days, my teammates and I avoided fat like the plague while we were indulging in sugar filled foods like Snackwell cookies and artificially-sweetened diet sodas. Based on the information in this movie, we would have been better off having an apple and a glass of water.

I’ve asked my friend who is a bariatric surgeon about what I should eat to manage my appetite. He suggested that every meal should contain fiber, protein, and fat; and there should be no limit on the number of fruits and vegetables you can have. In his experience, one of the best things a person can do for themselves is learn to cook. His patients that learn to cook instead of eating processed foods are the ones who have the most long-term success with weight loss. And when you cook you understand what you’re eating and I think you take more pride in what you make for yourself.

Some people may say that it’s their right to fill their body would junk food, and would agree with that. However, just like with cigarettes, I would endorse the government imposing taxes on unhealthy foods. These funds could be used to offset the government’s cost of health care and/or providing healthy lunches to children in school. I would support this, even though it would mean I would have to pay more for some of my favorite treats that I still occasionally indulge in.

If you haven’t seen Fed Up, see it and decide for yourself what role you want the government to play when it comes to your food.