America is the wealthiest nation in the world. Although wealth is associated with “silver spoons” that feed hungry mouths, all over America, people are eating off of plastic spoons at cheap dining, and it effects all Americans in some way or another. Cheap dining is an American specialty which is contributing to large waistlines and inactive lifestyles that puts America to shame. In capitalist societies like America, cheap labor and product advertisements set the foundation for an economic system that is geared for profit. In addition, Americans have a busy lifestyle and make more income than in most countries. But they go for the most advertised and affordable food products, even if the cheap food isn’t healthy and makes America the most obese nation in the world.
With the debate of obesity being a matter of more than just guilty pleasure, it also revolves around a debate about Americans’ obesity being an economic one, where capitalism is at fault for America’s weight problems. Karl Marx theorized that in a capitalist society, the best labor would be the cheapest labor (qtd. in Ritzer 42). This doesn’t just mean the production of certain commodities, but also the material that the product is made out of. The cheaper the better, according to big corporations. It means they profit, and Americans can pocket their savings. Being the home of cheap distribution, many look for sales and savings instead of a holistic investment into their health. Over the years in America, food has been getting cheaper and easier to make. All American’s are affected by these recent trends, and less money out of American pockets, not just corporation, is being spent as a result.
A new study at the University of Illinois found that Americans spend a smaller share of their paychecks on food than any other nation in history (Preidt). The study found that in the 1930s the average American spent one-fourth of their income feeding themselves. In the 1950s, that fell to one-fifth. Now, one-tenth of people’s disposable income is on food (Preidt). Consumerism is one of the great things that capitalism has to offer. People would rather spend money on technology or entertainment, funneling their money into whatever suits their preference. Food has become less of a priority, which is paradoxical because although Americans spend less money on food, they are actually gaining weight. As a consequence, the cheap food that Americans consume is very bad for the health. Processed food is hard to digest, because it is not organic. Therefore, all that junk food stays inside the body and becomes stored as fat. It should be considered that the rich people, the people profiting off the food, keeps getting richer because there is a greater demand for more food for the obese people. Living in a free world though, we still have options, but some are better than others.
Just like how cigarette ads have been banned, public health advocates say that advertisements for unhealthy food should be regulated for the same reasons (Barclay). Hedy Kober, a doctor who runs the Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at Yale University, found that out of the 45 publications that they reviewed and the of 3,300 participants they surveyed, they found “a very strong” relationships between cues and eating (Qtd. in Barclay). If food regulation was the solution, then it’s pretty far out of reach, says Robert Paarlberg, a food and agricultural policy scholar affiliated with the Harvard Kennedy School and Welleley College. He says that food advertisement is protected under the freedom of speech amendment. He says the supreme court would weigh in to overthrow any attempts to regulate ads for fast food or other products that are regularly advertised (Barclay). It’s unfortunate, really. People see these and they act as subliminal ques to go out and eat. It is almost like hypnosis for the stomach not just the mind, but what is going to happen to help stop it?
Since regulating ads isn’t an option, Americans are forced to settle for the culture that they have, and it has made two out of three Americans to be obese (Aalai). In a thoughtful Psychology Today article, Azadeh Aalia Ph.D. points out that American culture is contributing the issue of obesity, and busy lifestyle are a part of the problem. Access has a lot to do with why people can’t get food, not only do we deal with food deserts in certain places, but also, as Aalai describes, Americans are “assaulted” by the overabundance of it in most places. Technology is the second reason described. She says that we don’t work out as much as we used to because life is easier. There has been increase of a lack of portion control, which is the third reason (Aalai). Mindless eating is the next big issue, and the final one listed. These five attributes make up a big part of the issue, and they are not exactly in the locus of control of Americans while considering busy lifestyles, which stems back to the economic and capitalist points.
America certainly does have an obesity problem, and it doesn’t look like it will go away so easily. Although capitalism is a part of the problem, American businesses and consumers could make things better by not settling for processed food if they work up some discipline and relinquish the obsessions for bargains. Although regulation has been proposed, regulation is not an option considering the American Constitution. With processed foods and additives being toxic to the people, it’s nothing that we of a culture would be powerless against if Americans quit taking the fastest and cheapest track to satisfying their hunger. Certain measures have been taken to improve our diets, but a big part of the issue is that people are socio-economically deprived and overworked, so they have no choice but to grab that plastic spoon and eat off it, while the silver spooned, privileged people take home the grass-fed bacon.
Aalai, Azadeh. “Psychology Today.” Top Five Ways American Culture is Making You Fat: U.S. Growing (and no, I don’t mean the economy,” October 21st, 2012.
Barclay, Eliza. “Scientists Are Building a Case For How Food Ads Make Us Overeat.” National Public Radio, January 29th, 2016. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/29/462838153/food-ads-make-us-eat-more-and-should-be-regulated
Preidt, Robert. “Cheaper Food May Be Fueling U.S. Obesity Epidemic.” MedicineNet.com,
HealthDay News, 05/22/2014, https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=178630
Ritzer, George. Essentials of Sociology. Chapter 2, third edition, 42, 2016.