February 22, 2006

This is a letter I wrote to the author of this article at the San Francisco newspaper’s website.

Obesity isn’t an American problem, it’s becoming a more global problem by the day in the western nations, as I’m sure you’re aware of. I think the root cause of all of this isn’t what we’re eating, or how lazy we’re becoming, but mass confusion.

I’m 26 years old, part of this MTV generation that everyone talks about. I grew up having access to 30, 50, then 75+ channels to watch. Then there were all the sports activities, social groups, extra classes in junior high and high school, etc. The internet, cellphones, mainstream video games, and so on. What has happened to a lot of people my age is being overwhelmed with choice. Go talk to the students on campus and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if a strong majority of them aren’t even 50% sure of their career choice. They probably chose that field out of 5 other things they had strong interests in. We’re bombarded with images of who we should be, things we should do, books to read, knowledge and skills to know, that we’re not even sure of who we are anymore. This creates a mentality of being nervous and scared to get out there and do things, experiment, because X magazine said it was wrong, while Y magazine said it was okay, and Z magazine said we should absolutely do it. We don’t know which direction to turn, so we don’t go anywhere. We sit on the fork of the road and wait for the ultimate answer to appear.

I believe a lot of that nervousness is extending to the older generations too. There are so many fad diets (what happened to Atkins and South Beach already?), exercises (remember Tae-Bo, or Richard Simmons?), and lifestyle choices (Jeff Foxworthy saying it’s okay to be a redneck, Queer Eye saying you can’t even wear clothes you wore two years ago). Do we know we should be eating better? Sure, but which diet, recipes, websites to get advice from? Do we know we should be exercising? Absolutely, but how to afford expensive gym rates, or running shoes, or how much exercise, etc? I don’t know the solution to all that for my generation and up (a unified vision of lifestyle and health will be seen as an attack on the freedoms of the human mind, I’m sure), but for the younger generations, it’s stressing the importance of a healthy life. Cleaning up the cafeterias, putting emphasis on physical education and intramural sports, encouraging activity outside of classtime.

There’s a more morbid way of looking at this though. If we treat obesity and laziness as a disease, then it’s the great equalizing force to the human advancement in medicine. It’s population control. If the baby boomers who were thin in their 20s are bloating up and dying younger than their parents, just imagine what’s going to happen to these kids who are obese at 10 growing up. They’ll have fertility problems and won’t live as long, while the healthier kids push forward. Natural selection at its cruelest.

But that’s just my opinion.

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