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Obesity

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Obesity is a problem that affects virtually every person on the planet. Everyone knows someone who is overweight or they themselves are overweight. In this research paper we will be looking at the topic of obesity and the social ramifications that it holds. We will first look at obesity in a broad way. Then we will focus on obesity and its effects on children. And finally, obesity and adulthood will be covered. The topic of obesity is important to the field of sociology because obese people make up a significant portion of the world's population. In addition, the manner in which obese people are treated has a significant effect on society as a whole.

Before going into too much detail, it is first necessary that we have a good understanding of what exactly obesity is and its prominence in society. "Obesity is understood to be a complex disease requiring multi-faceted treatment. Obesity can contribute to many adverse health outcomes, called co-morbidities. These include diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease" (Atkinson 1999). According to the American Medical Association, being obese means that 30% of your ideal body weight is constituted by fat. Obesity is determined by measurement of body fat, not merely body weight. People might be over the weight limit for normal standards, but if they are very muscular with low body fat, they are not obese. Others might be normal or underweight, but still have excessive body fat. Different measurements and factors are used to determine whether or not a person is overweight to the degree that it threatens health. Some of these are body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, and anthropometrics (Grayson 1998). Some symptoms of being obese include a body fat percentage greater than thirty percent for women and twenty-five percent for men or weighing more than twenty percent more than your ideal body weight (Simon 2000). One would need to visit their physician in order to accurately determine their body fat percentage or their ideal weight.

Now that we have a better understanding of what obesity is, we will look at exactly how widespread it is and whom it affects. Being overweight and obesity are serious health problems. "In 1993, obesity was identified as a key contributor to at least 300,000 deaths each year in America," according to former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health, J. Michael McGinnis, MD, and the former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), William Foege (Klein 2000). More than half of American adults 20 years old or older are overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity are especially prevalent in some minority groups in addition to those with lower incomes and less education. An estimated 97 million adults in the United States are overweight or obese (Klein 2000). ""Affecting one in five Americans - or more than 22 percent of the U.S. population - obesity is one of the most pervasive health problems in our nation right now," said George L. Blackburn, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of surgery and associate director of the Division of Nutrition at Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. "We need to implement steps to slow the progression of this national epidemic" (NAASO 1999). But the problem of obesity does not only affect the United States. "We now know that the growing prevalence of obesity is creating major health problems worldwide," said Dr. James O. Hill, president of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO) and Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Obesity was once regarded as unique to Americans, but it is now seen as a global health risk affecting developing and underdeveloped countries (AOA 2000). Obesity is increasing at an epidemic rate in the United States - 1.3% a year for women over 20. Rates of obesity among minority populations, including African-Americans and Hispanic Americans are especially high (AOA 2000). There is also a marked increase in obesity among children.

The early years of a person's life are arguably the most important part of a person's life. The majority of critical development occurs during the childhood and adolescent years. If there is a factor or factors present that would ostracize a person from their peers, then there is a much higher risk of said person not developing correctly. Obesity can and does act in this way. Fat children are constantly barraged with the pressure to become thin during the time that they are most concerned with fitting in wit their peers. People seem to think it necessary to offer their judgment and advice to fat children. Fat children are often berated with insults from strangers. It is as though people think that because they are fat that they have no feelings. When obese kids are not dealing with the insults and nasty looks of strangers and classmates, they have to manage the "friendly fire" from well meaning families, peers and teachers. For example;

"Birthdays were not usually a big deal in my family, but this one was different. I knew it would be good. I was about to turn sixteen. I had been looking forward to it for months, hoping my parents would give me a bike or a puppy. When I saw my present, I was crushed. They gave me a Weight Watchers cookbook and a scale. It was devastating to me.

"Years later, when I was in college, my mother acknowledged how terrible it had made me feel. She explained to me that, at the time, she was very depressed about my weight. I was getting fatter and she did not know what to do. The irony is that I was in the best shape of my life then. I could run two miles. At sixteen I was 5'4", weighed 145 pounds and had a 32-inch waist" (Solovay 2000, 31).

Sometimes it is the people that are closest to a person that hurt them the most.

The medical profession focuses heavily on the elimination of fat despite the fact that numerous studies have shown that weight-loss efforts during childhood are largely unsuccessful and can be harmful both physically and psychologically (Solovay 200, 38). Children often replace their childhood goals with the improbable aim of lasting weight loss. Success rates for childhood dieting with long lasting weight loss have been determined to be around two to five percent (Solovay 2000, 38). Parents are often urged by medical professionals to put their children on low-calorie or very low-calorie diets with the good intention of long lasting weight loss. Unfortunately reduced calorie diets often open the gateway to disordered eating. Altering metabolism and affecting normal satiety signals are common repercussions of childhood dieting (Solovay 2000, 39). According to Bill Fabrey,

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