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NB's The Nyle Magazine

Monday, October 08, 2012



Published September 8, 2011-Updated October 18, 2011

“Regulating America’s Weight?”

by Nathan’ette Burdine-Follow on Twitter@nbnylemagazine

Regulating America’s weight has become a hot topic in recent years due to researchers using low income families as the pioneering population ushering America into the “big boned” country status.  Health Affairs reported in a 2010 article that 44% of children living below the poverty line are obese.  The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) have pointed to fast food restaurants and trans fat within the foods restaurants serve as leading causes of the high obesity rates within lower income individuals.  The argument put forth is that these individuals’ choices have been limited to fast foods.  In California, the South Los Angeles City Council took heed to what the PCRM was saying and voted to ban the expansion of fast food restaurants.  While in New York, the government banned trans fat in the food restaurants serve.  And in Chicago, a school board voted to ban students from bringing their lunches to school.  However, the group used to justify the war on fast foods is the group showing a flaw in the research. 

A sample research report would read as follows:  sampling group (low income), income (less than or equal to $24,000.00), and housing (Rent or Section 8).  The hypothesis would state that lower income individuals are more likely to be obese because they eat more fast foods than the middle and upper income individuals.  The solution would be to ban fast food restaurants so the U.S. can be a healthier place.  However, a question researchers haven’t answered is how can someone in the low-income bracket afford to eat fast food so much to the point that his weight increases?

Fast food is expensive and fast food restaurants’ doors do not remain open because lower income individuals are using them as their own personal grocery.  At McDonalds, the menu prices are in the range of $5.00-$8.00.  A person in the lower economic bracket would spend approximately $70-120 dollars per week if he bought McDonald’s food on a daily basis for two weeks.  This is a hefty amount for a lower income person especially when rent, water, lights, gas, and miscellaneous are added into the equation.  So a person in this income bracket will not be able to dine out as often at a fast food restaurant as a person in the middle or upper income bracket. 

Surely this is something the experts would know.  After all, PCRM pointed to the expensiveness of fast food restaurants.  If it is to be taken as a premise that what is causing the “big boned” status in America are the fast food restaurants and trans fat in the food restaurants serve, then it must be taken as true that the lower income individuals can afford to eat at these places, over a long duration of time, which will result in an increase in their waist band.  This also suggests that there is an underreporting of the amount of people within the middle and upper class who are also obese.  Because unlike the lower-income individuals, the middle and upper income individuals are able to afford eating at fast food restaurants or dining out at a longer duration of time than their lower-income counterparts.  Hence, the middle and upper income individuals have the means to eat out and will therefore have the same issue, unhealthy eating habits, as the lower income individuals.

The PCRM believes choosing healthier foods is the solution to decreasing the waistband of lower income individuals.  Yet, this raises another question concerning minimizing the competition to restaurants serving healthier foods.  There has been a healthy movement in this country that has coincided with the labeling of America as a “big boned” country.  The healthy movement brings in companies that sell healthy foods and provides direct competition to the fast food restaurants.  For instance, restaurants like McDonalds, Wendy’s, and Burger King are adapting to the new competition from healthy restaurants by adding healthy choices like salads, chicken sandwiches, and oatmeal bars as second options.  The PCRM, however, did not hesitate in discrediting just how healthy fast foods restaurants are.  In the Spring 2011 report “The Five Worst Supposedly Healthy Fast-Food Items,” PCRM stated that Wendy’s Baja Salad has 1990 mg of salt, which is more than a person will consume in a day’s setting.  As for McDonald’s, PCRM stated that its Fruit and Maple Oatmeal bar has “more sugar than a snickers bar.”  The report even went so far as to discredit Subway, the restaurant that has used the now famous Jarred commercials in order to market its self as a pioneer in weight loss.  According to the PCRM, the meats Subway uses can lead to an increase in colorectal cancer.  Basically, despite how healthy “fast food restaurants” claim to be, the foods served in these restaurants are always unhealthy.  And based upon these findings, a person should wonder if the healthy movement in America is as much about improving American’s health as it is about a dollar.

The definition of healthy and how to become healthy has changed over time.  It has gone from a person using the Scarsdale’s diet to become slimmer, to moderating what a person eats and exercising regularly.  These changes suggest that being healthy is something that is becoming socially and economically defined.  While in fact, health is something that is not limited to socio-economic.  If health was limited to socio-economic factors, then everybody in the lower-economic bracket would be plum and round while everyone in the middle and upper income bracket would be slimmed down.  However, this is not the case.








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