Why we won’t live as long as our parents.

Medicine and technology constantly improve to ensure that each generation lives longer than the previous. However, the benefits of these advancements are now being overpowered by obesity, meaning that our generation, on average, will be the first to experience a lifespan shorter than our parents’. Obesity, known to shave off years of life, has been on a great rise since the late 20th century. In 1985, the CDC reported only mild percentages of obesity (<10% to 14%) in less than 40% of America. Today, all states are at least 20%-24% obese. A quarter of those states are more than 30% obese. This rapid, shocking change was brought on by the nation’s problems with fast food, which most often ensnare people of lower income. For instance, health foods take a long time to prepare. Poorer people in particular may work multiple jobs, be caring for family members, or not have any help cooking meals, meaning they have an easier time getting their hands on McDonalds. Not everyone even knows how to cook elaborate meals either. They might not have access to the internet or TV, or their parents were too busy working to teach them as children. This also emphasizes the importance of education for poorer working parents, because their choices have lasting impact on their children. Finally, very few methods of weight loss work for people of low income. They need a lot of calories to keep them going throughout the day because they’re more likely to work in manual labor than in an office. If they don’t eat enough and become tired and hungry, it can have dire effects on their job performance. They may be demoted or fired as a result.

The government takes on small role in combating poverty-borne obesity. Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign makes an effort to raise the availability of healthy foods in schools and stores in poorer communities while advocating that kids themselves engage in regular exercise. However, her good intentions have become problematic over the years. This November, the First Lady will again be a guest star on The Biggest Loser, a fatphobic, mentally and emotionally harmful show that only propagates weight stigma throughout media. She will be implicitly condoning, rather than gently encouraging people to be at healthy body weight, bullying them into weight loss.

Schools, like government, make a sad effort to reduce child obesity. Schools have tighter budgets and don’t always have the means of providing healthy, delicious lunches to hundreds of children daily. Thus, it is understandable that they cannot serve health foods, but not excusable. More funds need to be pooled into this area because many still consume school lunches as one of their three meals five days a week, and eating an unhealthy meal five times a week is an obesity trap for children. Students eating healthy school lunches were proven to enjoy a 12.3% chance of reduced obesity, as compared to students who ate only the offered unhealthy meals.

As evident, our generation is suffering from an epidemic that neither parents, the government, or schools can fully eradicate. However, while we might be done for, our kids are not. The knowledge this generation is paying for with our lives will be used to pull our children on track and provide the care for the upcoming generation that we missed out on.

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