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In
order to determine whether one is obese, the BMI scale or body mass index is
used. If an individual’s BMI is 25 to 29.9 they are considered overweight. If
their BMI is within the range of 30 to 39.9, they are considered obese. The
body mass index is the most common method used to screen for obesity in adults
and children. To use it, an individual’s weight in kilograms is divided by their
height in meters squared. However, the BMI can also be calculated by using pounds
and inches squared. The reason why this method is widely used is because it is
a mathematical calculation that involves height and weight, and disregards
other factors such as one’s family history, gender, age and race (What is
Obesity, 2017).

In general, there are many causes of
obesity that range from genetic, environmental, and emotional factors (Rosenthal,
2017).
For example, it is known that genes can
contribute to weight gain among adults and youth. This is because obesity tends to run in families,
and families are likely to share diet and lifestyle habits that can affect
weight (Overweight & Obesity Statistics, 2017).  On the other hand, emotional factors can lead
to the development of obesity as well. Some examples of emotional factors that
could cause obesity includes depression, low self-esteem, poor body image, and
other psychiatric disorders. If one is simply already overweight, weight bias can lower their self-esteem. This in
return leads to the individual comforting him or herself by adopting unhealthy
eating behaviors like binge-eating. The individual then can become depressed
with how they look and feel, and avoid physical activity altogether. The
combination of this can then lead to weight gain and obesity (Puhl, 2009).

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In
addition, there are also environmental factors that can lead to obesity. For example, it is a fact that more people
drive now rather than walk when compared to previous decades. This is due to
convenience and laziness. By not walking, they are adding on a couple of
pounds. It is also true that many people eat out or get takeout instead of
cooking themselves, which can lead to eating more calories and not obeying
portion control (Overweight & Obesity
Statistics, 2017). Also, social media and TV have been linked to obesity since children are no
longer going outside and getting exercise but are rather staying inside and playing
video games. All of these factors have led to a study which revealed that
less than half of U.S. adults meet the national guidelines for physical fitness
(Obesity Rates, 2017).

Furthermore, another cause of obesity is due to an
individual’s socioeconomic status. Researchers found that those who
have a lower status have higher rates of illnesses and have more risk factors
such as obesity, higher levels of stress, and lower levels of physical activity
(Conley, 2017).  A lower socioeconomic
status also correlates with a lower income. Therefore, people who have a lower
income face even greater barriers to eating healthy foods and being active. This
is because high-calorie processed foods cost less than healthier options like fruits
and vegetables. Also, if an individual has a low income, they most likely do
not live in a safe neighborhood. Therefore, going out at night after work for a
walk may not be the safest option (Overweight & Obesity Statistics, 2017). In addition, low-income neighborhoods are 5 times more
likely not to have pools, tracks, fields or other recreational facilities. And
because low-income neighborhoods do not have access to such resources, they are
at a higher risk for obesity. Therefore, low-income individuals are more likely
to be obese than higher-income individuals (Obesity Rates, 2017).

Additionally,
not only does having a low income contribute to obesity
in adults, but it also affects children. In many low-income neighborhoods,
children have few safe outdoor spaces to play and walk around. Because of this,
they mostly stay inside and don’t get the exercise that they need. Also, their
neighborhoods mostly consist of fast-food restaurants that sell and advertise
unhealthy food and beverages rather than supermarkets that provide healthy and
fresh foods. Therefore, due to the location of their homes, children are forced
to eat cheap and unhealthy foods. It is not surprising that children who live
in low-income neighborhoods are 20%-60% percent more likely to be obese than
children who live in high-income neighborhoods (Obesity Rates, 2017).

Individuals
who are obese can face increased health risks. For example, being obese is a risk
factor for many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure,
joint problems, gallstones, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, certain
cancers, dementia, arthritis, high cholesterol and other conditions (Overweight & Obesity Statistics,
2017).
A study showed that obese men are more likely than other men at a normal weight
to develop colon, rectum, or prostate cancer and that obese women are more
likely than other women at a normal weight to develop breast, gallbladder,
uterus, or cervix cancer. In addition, other diseases and health problems
linked to excess weight include sleep apnea, asthma, fatty liver disease, gestational
diabetes during pregnancy, preeclampsia, and an increased risk for cesarean
section or stillbirth. Similarly, overweight or obese children are at greater
risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. And the longer
children are overweight or obese, the more likely they are to remain so into
adulthood (Obesity Rates, 2017).

            Obesity in America is a problem that
we don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, thus leading to an increasing
rate over time. The reason why obesity isn’t
talked about as much as it should be is because obese individuals are
stigmatized and face prejudice and discrimination because of their weight. This
is often due to negative stereotypes that portray obese people as lazy,
unmotivated, lacking in self-discipline, less competent, noncompliant, and
sloppy. And because these stereotypes aren’t challenged in society, obese
people are left feeling vulnerable to unfair treatment as a result of the
stigma. Therefore, obese patients who experience stigma in health-care settings
such as at the hands of a physician may delay essential preventive care due to disrespectful
treatment and negative attitudes from their provider. If obese people do not
feel safe to talk to their doctors, they will never get help early on, which
can affect our country in the long run (Puhl, 2009).

            Due
to the rise in the obesity rate, the U.S. economy has also been affected. It
was found that obesity’s annual medical cost was estimated to be $149.4 billion (Rosenthal, 2017).  It was also discovered that the medical costs
for people who have obesity were $1,429 higher than the medical costs of
individuals at a normal weight (Overweight & Obesity, 2017). In
addition, obesity in the workplace has not been ideal.
This is because obesity is often associated with job absenteeism, which costs
approximately $4.3 billion annually. This means that there is lower productivity
at work, costing employers $506 per obese worker per year. As a person’s BMI
increases, the number of sick days, medical claims and healthcare costs also increases.
This leads to obese individuals spending 42% more on healthcare costs than adults
who are a healthy weight (What is Obesity, 2017).

            A sociological theory that applies
to obesity is conflict theory. Conflict theory by Karl Marx explains obesity by
emphasizing the inequality in the quality of food between the proletariats and
the bourgeoisie. In this case, the proletariats are the low-income individuals
and the bourgeoisie are the high-income individuals. The conflict theory also
explains inequality in social class, race and ethnicity, and gender. Therefore,
individuals from low-income families are more likely to become obese, and once
they do become obese, their limited access to health care makes it difficult
for them to overcome it. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie or high-income
families have access to better quality food and medical care (Conley, 2017).

            Some
solutions to prevent the obesity rate from increasing in the future is to
lessen media coverage on crash diets and extreme exercise regimens. This is
because these programs are unhealthy, unrealistic, and unsustainable for long
term weight loss. It has been deemed that diet and exercise alone are often ineffective as methods for
adults with obesity to achieve long-term weight loss (Rosenthal, 2017). Another
way to prevent the obesity rate from increasing is to train physicians to be
more sensitive about weight. If physicians can eliminate their weight bias, more
obese people will feel comfortable to talk to them about their weight and will
possibly go through with weight loss surgery (Puhl, 2009).

Other solutions include improving school nutrition and
extending recess/physical education class. If more nutritional programs are
implemented in schools such as the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010
where children are fed healthier lunches in portioned sizes, the obesity rate
in children will decrease. Also, extending physical education hours could also
prevent children from becoming obese, as they will have more time to run around
and burn off calories. Another strategy is to make healthy food options more
accessible, especially to those who come from lower-income families. This can
be done through nutrition assistance programs funded by the government.
Spending money on preventative care will save us money in the long run.

            Overall, obesity is a significant
issue that is easily preventable but difficult to fix. In order to make a
difference in the climbing obesity rate, the U.S. population needs to become
more educated on the topic and trade in their unhealthy lifestyles for
healthier ones. The major idea is to not let our kids become obese, because when
they do it is not easily reversible and becomes very hard to lose the weight
after. In addition, to prevent the obesity rate from going up, we need to
target the group that is the most obese. Because blacks are considered to be
the most obese race, and usually have lower economic status and lower income,
this confirms that obesity is not due to one factor but many. If all races
share the same economic status, we can all afford healthy food and join the
fight against obesity. However, this is not a perfect world. There are many
issues to tackle before this one, but starting in your home can be the first
step to a healthier, risk-free life.

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