Blaming Obesity On Food Cost?

So I saw this meme circulating on Facebook. It shows a picture of a salad and a picture of a hamburger. The price underneath the burger is $1, and the price underneath the salad is $7. The meme then states, “Please, don’t write another article on obesity in America until you explain why salads are $7 and hamburgers are $1”. Of course the poster of the meme gets lots of “likes” and “anger” clicks… Hoo Ah!!
 
Except the meme is wrong. For a moment let’s get on board with the righteous anger over the alleged cost disparity between a burger and a salad. I say this sincerely as of course I would like healthier food to be less costly. However:
 
  • Does that mean articles about exercise, sleep, and medical/genetic conditions and how they can affect obesity should not be written?
  • Does it mean that articles about how to budget and eat healthier, or articles about maybe holding the mayo and the cheese from the “dollar” burger shouldn’t be written?
  • Does it mean that articles on the psychology of eating and or eating disorders, such as binge eating, should not be written?
No. No. And No.
 
Further, should people who are currently obese, and those vulnerable to becoming so, be encouraged or emboldened to boycott information and abdicate responsibility for their choices, or trying to become more informed, in some sort of protest because of the alleged cost disparity between a burger and a salad? Yeah, that would help them. #Sarcasm.
 
The meme infers cost of food is thee reason/cause of obesity.  While there is some evidence to suggest there is some validity to a connection between poverty and obesity, according to Pew Research: Obesity and poverty don’t always go together.  It can’t explain it all away.  
 
In addition, education also impacts obesity. Meaning in some instances, poor an uneducated translates to higher obesity rates than poor and educated. (See here and here.) This highlights the need for more articles/education on obesity, not less.
 
To imply that ALL obesity is because of food cost is wrong.  And to imply that low-income earners can only eat burgers is also wrong.
 
As an aside, I work with a homeless and a low-income population that get food stamps from the department of social services, or SSI and or SSDI from the social security administration… I know it is anecdotal… but I see many of them spend a lot more that a $1 on the fast food burgers they buy, not to mention the soda, candy and other poor food choices that add up and cost more than a salad.

Generally, f
ast food burgers for a buck are usually pretty small. Calorie wise, a junior cheeseburger for a $1 from Wendy’s has 280 calories. Three or four of those a day, on their own, will not make you obese. In other words, what are $1 cheeseburger eating people eating in addition? Fries? Sodas? Milkshakes? Just eliminating soda can lead to reduced weight and risk of diabetes.  Also, what are their exercise habits?  Are there metabolic issues?  Etc..
 
Other FYI considerations:
  1. You can make your own salads for far less than $7 bucks. 
  2. Healthy eating now could mean better health and less disease and medical bills later.
  3. It could also mean improved mood, self-esteem, and productivity. All of which could possibly lead to… wait for it… more income! 
  4. The burger/ salad question has no bearing on whether or not you exercise or have a medical condition or are taking medications for another medical condition that could lead to weight gain.

A moment ago I spoke anecdotally.  What is not anecdotal is over 2 billion people suffer from obesity.  Over 4 million people died from obesity related illness in 2015.  According to Dr Christopher Murray, from the University of Washington: “People who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk – risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions.” 

Obesity needs to be covered from every aspect.  From causes, or contributing factors already mentioned such as: Cost, the psychology of eating, genetics, and medical conditions. Too other issues not discussed here: Such as access to healthy food, the media’s and Hollywood’s role, and a big one, advertising. (Think billions spent on advertising unhealthy food vs. the last time you saw a vegetable commercial.)  

They all (as well as issues I may have missed) need to continue to be explored. Given the complexity and myriad of factors involved in obesity, solutions may vary from person to person and involve a combination of lifestyle and or medicinal changes. 

Please don’t write another blog about obesity in America? Given the number of people effected by obesity and the potential health consequences… We’re not writing, or doing, enough.

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