Swimming Into a Cultural Health Crisis

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Many people would say that we are becoming less and less healthy as a nation because we overindulge. On the surface, this appears to be a safe assumption. At present we have the distinction of being one of the top ten countries in the world for overweight adults! Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the population at large with a whopping 60% of all adults being overweight and one out of four being morbidly obese. Break out the numbers specifically for the aging Baby Boomers and the stats are even more distressing- practically three out of four mature U.S. adults are classified as overweight or obese. But the worst part is that obesity is increasing at such an alarming rate among U.S. children at present, that they will be the first generation in decades that are projected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents! So the future looks even worse than the present. Eating disorders are also proliferating, affecting new segments of the population that include younger and younger children, as well as older women and men.

The complications of obesity alone have wreaked havoc with our health care system as well as our national economy. For example, “Health care costs related to obesity- which is associated with conditions like hypertension and diabetes- would total $344 billion in 2018, or more than one of every five dollars spent on health care, if the trends continue. If the obesity rate were held to its current level, the country would save nearly $200 billion a year (or $1.4 Trillion) by 2018, according to the study.” (Sack 2008) In terms of Eating Disorder’s, Anorexia alone, kills more women between the ages of 15 and 24 than any other cause of death.

The question is why is this happening? The answer is that if you are a fish, you do not see the water. Because you are immersed in it, you take it for granted. In much the same way, we are immersed in a culture that we assume to be safe. This is our underlying assumption. The fish may remain in polluted water until it becomes so polluted that it is no longer life sustaining. By then, it is too late. Like the fish, we are oblivious to the forces surrounding us. To change our culture, we must first be able to identify the underlying assumptions that are driving the current epidemic of obesity and eating disorders in the U.S. We must each then act to change our lifestyle and advocate for our safety.  Stay tuned for Dr. Norton’s soon to be released book that details the problems, their causes and the solutions.

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