All of us, consciously or subconsciously, make some sort of New Year’s resolution in the hope of improving our lives and those of our loved ones.
Without a doubt, the most common New Year’s resolution is weight loss, which is not surprising, considering that 72 percent of all Americans — an astounding number — are either overweight or obese. Excess weight has been linked to just about every disease imaginable —- cancer, diabetes, and heart disease being among the most prominent. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, excess weight greatly increased the risk of death or serious complications from COVID-19 across all age groups.
We strongly condemn discrimination of any form against those who are overweight. Maintaining a healthy body weight is difficult for just about everyone (almost three-quarters of us, apparently) in our hurry-hurry world where the convenience of fast-food makes it all-too-easy to indulge in an unhealthy diet on a regular basis.
In addition, we are deluged with advertisements from the fast-food industry, who give us those full-screen shots of triple-bacon-cheeseburgers-with-fries-and a soft drink — a truly deadly combination that hits all of the “bad food” buttons for high calories, saturated fat, salt, and added sugar.
It is not a coincidence that the average American male today weighs 30 pounds more than the average American male did in 1960 and the average American female today weighs the same as that male in 1960 (and no, it’s not because we’re all taller than our grandparents) when you consider that in 1960, there were 248 locations of a certain fast-food franchise across America, but today there are 13,340 of them. (And that’s just one fast-food company!)
However, we do not subscribe to the belief that being overweight is the result of a “disease” that somehow uniquely affects Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender, compared to the rest of the world. (We rank as the most-overweight people among every industrialized nation.) To be sure, there are some individuals who genetically are pre-disposed to having an unhealthy body weight. But wherever American-style food is imported into countries across the globe, health issues that previously did not exist in those countries become epidemic.
There is no question that bad food can be addicting, whether it’s those triple-cheeseburgers, infinite varieties of snack foods, etc., etc., etc. in a society where bad food is cheap, available everywhere, and pushed on us by Madison Avenue — and where we associate overeating as a form of reward.
Our present overweight society increasingly makes the 2008 Disney sci-fi movie “Wall-E,” in which the humans of the future are grossly overweight, look prescient — except that the distant future already is here. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recently estimated that, based upon current trends, by 2030 86 percent of Americans will range from overweight to obese.
With the odds stacked against us to make our weight-loss New Year’s resolutions stick — which is why so few of us are successful — it would appear that our only hope is for those new weight loss drugs to become readily-available and covered by insurance for all Americans. Societal weight-loss would be the best thing we could do to improve our collective health, both physically and emotionally. The drugs may be expensive, but if that’s what it will take for Americans to shed our excess pounds, the upfront costs of those drugs will save us billions of dollars in health-care costs down the road.