Today? The statistics say 15% of adolescents ages 13-19 are overweight. So in the 80's it was about 2%. Twenty years later? 15%. And it seems to be increasing exponentially.
What's wrong with this picture?
I know there's been a lot of attention focused on this topic. Every other television or radio show talks about the obesity epidemic. Kids are getting diabetes and have high cholesterol and all sorts of ailments doctors didn't see starting until mid-life. There have been lots and lots of theories about why we're getting fatter, as an entire culture. Most of them, I think, hit the tree, but miss the target. And I think most of them miss the target intentionally - because they're afraid of what it might mean in terms of changing our world, if we really looked at the underlying cause.
Queen B's theory on why we're so fat, so young?
Obesity is the direct result and cost of consumerism.
As the gap keeps growing between the poorest and richest in the Western world... so does the gap between fattest and thinnest. Why? Because it's all about quantity rather than quality, from our houses to our consumer goods to our food. We're outsourcing labor to places like India and China - because they can produce large quantities of goods at cheaper prices. We're growing food on industrialized "farms" - big agri-business it's called - and turning most of it into processed foods full of artificial flavors, chemicals, fats and sugar. Those foods we don't process, we breed to produce bigger fruits and veggies that are full of harsh pesticides and chemicals, and the meat that's sold which isn't processed is full of antiobiotics and hormones.
And we wonder why we're fat?
According to the statistics, "The world’s underfed population has declined slightly since 1980 to 1.1 billion, the number of overweight people has surged to 1.1 billion."*
Just the other day, I was wondering about my tendency to go to extremes. But it clearly isn't just me. It's a whole culture. While I was one of the only fat kids in my class at one time, I'm actually not the only fat girl anymore. Lots of people are walking around like I am - wondering what the hell happened? There's no moderation anymore. We have a nation going to extremes - either ballooning up to morbid obesity or depriving themselves to starvation. Both of them are the direct result of consumerism.
Because some part of me believes that my consumption - in this case, of food - is going to make me happy. We've been sold - literally sold - on the idea that it is the consumption of goods, food, services - those are the things that make us happy. We only give lip service to the notion of "You can't buy happiness" - but we don't really believe it, and we especially don't live it.
I saw an interview with an actor this morning who spent time on the streets with the homeless as an exercise for a role he was playing. He said something that opened my eyes. "People seem to think that life ends when you lose all your stuff - but that isn't true. Life isn't stuff. Life is life. And it goes on. People continue to be hungry, people continue to feel, to fall in love. Life still happens, no matter what."
No matter what. Whether I can walk into a store, like I did today, and afford to buy two bags of salt and vinegar potato chips and a half gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Or whether I'm living in a van down by the river and eating out of garbage cans and going to soup kitchens every morning. Life goes on. Until it doesn't anymore - at least, for me. It will go on long after me, too - god willing.
The one with the most toys when they die - doesn't win. In fact, winning doesn't have anything to do with the stuff, with the food, with the consumption of anything at all. The only way to win this game - if you want to use that metaphor at all - is not to play. Because playing the consumerism game is nothing but a race against death, and it ironically gives you the life of the living-dead instead of the life of someone who is truly alive. You become a consumer zombie. It means burying yourself, your feelings, your entire life, under the stuff, the food, whatever your consumer-good of choice might be.
Remember that 80's movie, War Games, with Matthew Broderick? They're trying to teach the computer why nuclear war is a game you can't win, and to do that, they make it play tic-tac-toe over and over all by itself, until finally, finally the logic and light dawns. "The only winning move is not to play."
I'm really getting tired of this game. Aren't you?