Poverty Makes You Fat?


By: Michael Lent

This last food unit has been really interesting for me. Food has been a big concern for me personally some time between when I turned 18 and 20. I stopped drinking soda at 18 and swore off fast food around the same time. Weight has never really been an issue for me but I've seen how it affects America. It is such an important issue regarding health care and a not-so-distant energy concern I've come to realize thanks to the readings and class discussion.

Critser's "Let Them Eat Fat" really made me more cognizant of how poverty is such a contributing factor to obesity. In cases of extreme poverty, without access to basic, healthy food and/or a kitchen, fast food quickly can become the only alternative. However, I don't think that is a large percentage of those who are obese in America. Low income cannot just be disregarded, however; it cannot be ignored because education of what is healthy food and eating habits at early ages in life shape what one enjoys eating.

That is the larger problem: one's eating habits. America is a nation of
go-go-go. We need to get to soccer practice; we need to get to school and now; however, what we don't need to do is eat right apparently. Apparently, there is no time for that. This self-imposed need to economize time such an extent has reached unhealthy proportions.

The reason it affects the lower class is because time becomes scarcer for those who make bad choices. Bad choices like not wearing a condom and having a kid out of high school or in college and not being able to either attend or finish college. Then, one has to work multiple minimum wage jobs and has no time to cook. Time becomes economized by not cooking and in turn, not eating right. Ones health declines. It's an all too common occurrence; maybe, not this particular situation but similar bad choices ending up in one having to economize their time leading to poor health in the long-run from eating fast food and such all the time.

America needs to make healthier choices. Should it start at the dinner table or the other choices surrounding it? What about those with parents who make bad choices? I'm not sure.


I agree with you whole heartedly that we do have a problem. And this section of class has been really interesting. I haven't been over weight or out of shape and I dont drink pop and dont eat junk food. So the question is why do others. While we are in college chances are that we dont have a lot of money, so why is low income an excuse to eat poorly. Obviously parents can help students and other situations.

I think one of the main things is that we dont have a set a culture like we had discussed. Other countries are very productive, but still take time out ot rest and eat well. Is it possible for the United States to make a change in this direction? Who knows, but it wouldn't be a bad decision to try.

And also education would make the largest difference. Not everyone knows how to eat well, so it starts with a good foundation.

I agree with you that our on the go lifestyle has created some of the problem with weight. The American society is the essence of on the go constantly. We must always be doing something rather than sitting still to enjoy our food or simply make food for ourselves.

I agree that everyone needs to make healthy choices but how can we when we don't completely understand it? There are journals that say HFCS affects hormone levels and make you eat more than sugar does. However, there are others that state HFCS and sugar affect the same hormone levels. Who should we believe?

I also thought the topic about obesity in low-income communities in the article, "Let Them Eat Fat" was interesting. Especially, the statement by the physician, "No one wants to overemphasize the problems of being fat to these girls, for fear of creating body-image problems that might lead to anorexia and bulimia." I didn't quite notice the alternative effect that would result from educating the public about eating healthy and balancing their meals and activities.

It’s true; the poor are more likely to pay for cheap unhealthy food. Like teacher Kim said in class, organic options are a luxury, particularly here in the United States. Where I come from however, healthy fresh food is everywhere and accessible to the majority of the population. Traditionally, it is expected that food be cooked and well prepared before consumption. A lot of times, Kenyan fast food is expensive and not as appetizing as a home-cooked meal.

- lili

I agree with a lot of things you said. Because fast food is convient, cheap, okay tasting most people generally don't care if its healthy they just want to feed there stomachs. In the United States we don't think about nutrition, healthy food we just want to go to the next place we're going to. All too often a meal is no longer about about socializng, about getting togethor its about spending the least amount of time on eating food and going to do something else.

I believe that people in situations of poverty have fewer choices when it comes to the luxuries of life, and so although obesity may stem from bad choices on what to eat, what if the choices that they're given are all not healthy. Yet, I agree with you even the poor people in America are considered fairly rich in other areas of the world, and many obese people are not poor to begin with in this country. The feeling of convenience is such a tempting feeling, that we ward of caution or restraint and I think as unhealthy foods become more accessible, people want to do less things that seem inconvenient, such as taking the time to make healthy foods. You have brought up many interesting questions, very nice.

We've all heard the saying that you get what you pay for, but should that be the saying for our food system in the United States? I believe that good old saying is very close to the situation we have here in the U.S. I have to agree with Michael Pollan when he stated in his "Six Rules For Eating Wisely" that we often have to focus on the general rule of "eating less, and spending more". I know it's a saying no one likes to hear about for the food choices in the U.S., but I believe that general rule will stand true for a considerable amount time the way we have our food system set up today. I do believe we need to make adjustments in our food supply, but who is going to make those so-called needed changes. Our food system is directed heavily on cheap food that isn't very nutritionally beneficial for us, and often we don't think about healthier choices until after the fact of something negatively happening to us. A change must be made, and people must be more open to the idea of decreasing the amount of fast food items they consume.

I agree that there is a lot more to look at than just what we eat when it comes to the problems with the American diet. There are a lot of different factors playing a role in deciding which foods are supposed to be good for us. In the end it all comes back to the choices we make.

A large concern I have is the lack of families eating together regularly. Sitting down for a 20 or 30 minutes a few times a week brings families closer, it keeps the parents and kids connected, but another important part of the family meal is that it isn't fast food. Instead it should be a well balanced nutritious meal. I come from a very big family and which makes it hard to get everyone together and coordinate all the schedules. But we were always able to come together almost every night (when we lived at home) and have dinner with each other. We knew that dinner time was a family affair and always made time for it. Taking the time to make a great meal or doing something simple was all it took. I think at least part of the problem with obesity in our country lies in our culture of go go go, we need to stop for at least 30 minutes a day and eat with the ones we love.

Social issues are tricky things. Like any we have discussed this semester, they are complex and varied. I'm not sure how we would begin to resolve this problem. Government regulation can only go so far, the rest is personal choice and personal motivation.

Your post actually reminded me of the film "Precious," it just came out a few weeks ago, but it is only in select theaters. It is a really heavy film, but it addresses much of what you discuss. Here is a link to the trailer:


I agree completely with the concepts discussed in the post. Firstly, I believe education is by far the most important, educating individuals on teaching what is and what is not healthy is the primary factor that leads to those 'good decisions'. I also agree with the 'time' factor that people do not have the time to sit down and eat a well balanced meal together, the “go go go” perspective playing three sports and all played year round, my brothers were also and a couple still are very active in sports. I can say it was unusual for my family to eat together, Wednesday, family dinner before church, and Sunday night is when my mom's side of the family has a big dinner at my grandparents estate home in Excelsior, any other week day, we would be home at different times, sometimes eating the same thing but using the microwave to reheat it. now I might seem bias however after health problems arose my senior year of high school I was ordered to stop playing sports and seize all exercise (besides walking), I ate the same diet not making the 'right' decisions and gained a large amount of weight, this weight gain would have been prevented if 'I' had made the right decisions adjusting to a new physical lifestyle so again the ultimate factor is the 'decisions we make'.

Dan Leach

I like how you mentioned that you gave up soda and fast food. When I first came to America, I drank soda non stop since we could never afford that in Ukraine. Then when I turned about 13 I had a cavity, and after that I gave up soda for good. Now I just drink water, and only sometimes have juice. Also, we tend to cook meals at home, and I only had fast food such as McDonald's or Taco Bell about 3 times throughout these 8 years that I have lived in America. I am very scared to be obese or overweight, therefore I only drink water, eat meat, but not everyday, avoid beef, since Ukrainians mostly eat pork anyway, and finally avoid fast food, and instead pay more for organic and natural fruits and vegetables.

I agree with the idea of not having any time for healthy eating. One thing I don't like though is the idea that cheap fast food makes you fat. I believe that you can eat fast food in healthy proportions to maintain a healthy weight. Most people who eat fast food eat proportions that are much larger than they need. Advertising and clever marketing make people think that they need more. Poverty I don't believe is the reason for obesity.

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This page contains a single entry by lent0061 published on December 7, 2009 10:12 PM.

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