After making the jump across the pond and living in Virginia, America for five months, what became increasingly apparent is the profound difference to Britain (and anywhere else I’d ever been) in average weight. Previously, I’d only ever seen rare quadruple XL sizes on Jacamo adverts and so believed it myth, nay; legend, that such sizes could ever become the norm. However, in my daily life, even in the very rural area of Emory, Virginia I found myself surrounded by a sea of obesity. The idea of people who are unable to support their own weight due to the cripplingly immense mass of fat crushing down on their knees was alien to me was what I believed could only be seen on the occasional episode of Jeremy Kyle. The reality I faced in America was different though; a simple trip to Wallmart and you are faced with line after line of mobility scooters and electronically-powered seated shopping trolleys. Almost half of the people you see are wedged into these scooters and proceed to zoom about the aisles searching for their favourite snacks. However, what becomes apparent is that it is not the sole fault of the people to why obesity is such an issue.
I fell down the trap of gluttony like many Americans do and it is this entrapment of calories that I want to discuss
Whilst adjusting to my new environment I found myself reaching for the Cheetos and washing it down with a sugary can of Mountain Dew more often than not. I supped cans of ‘SquEasy-Cheeze’ like fine bottles of Chardonnay and crunched on packs of un-microwaved Rahmen noodles like crispy croutons. I fell down the trap of gluttony like many Americans do and it is this entrapment of calories that I want to discuss. From my experience, it is not entirely the fault of the individual. I do accept that to reach such a size takes a lot of bad dietary decisions and a complete lack of any physical exercise, but it is the underlying structure of the American food system that is the crucial issue to why so many Americans are overweight.
From the offset, the complete lack of supermarkets in Virginia and wider America creates the issue of travel for the consumer. Potential shoppers have to travel miles to reach their nearest supermarket and with America’s significantly underwhelming options for public transport in Virginia and the wider country it makes it difficult to locate the food you need. Once you have completed your expedition, you now arrive and can proceed to venture through the aisles searching for the full range of nutrition and food fuel you need, right? Well, this is often not always the case. Although, Wallmart will stock all the processed sugary and salty foods you crave, its selection of everyday food stuffs like fruit, vegetables and milk will not be so appetising. For example, American milk is banned in Europe due to its dangerous chemical differences. The main problem, is that American cows are injected with a growth hormone called ‘rBGH’ so that they can produce 20 per cent more milk and this is linked to increased risks of cancer in consumers. This means that the cows get ill more easily and so along with the ‘rBGH’ you are indirectly consuming the anti-biotics they use to treat the cows which can make the milk taste like a chemistry experiment. Regarding fruit and vegetables the story is no more appetising. Due to the vast amounts and free use of pesticides the fruit and vegetables don’t taste fresh or natural and cause people to turn their nose up on the supposedly ‘healthier’ options. Here, we are left with two problems: the healthier and more natural options are not natural and not as healthy as they should be, and the good taste is taken away because of the chemical farming methods. Thus, from what I’ve seen Americans are straying from the lower calorie fruit and vegetable options in search of greater taste.
In a country where restraining orders are not unheard of it is a surprise that the Fast-food chains have not been reprimanded as serial offenders as they appear around every corner, on every form of media, and on billboards that dominate the landscape.
After ignoring the hydrochloric fruit and veg and buying your processed unhealthy foods instead; you decide to admit supermarket defeat and wheel yourself out the front entrance to reveal America’s greatest cause of obesity: Fast-Food. The main cause of America’s unhealthy lifestyle and its high percentage of the super-obese is undoubtedly the vast swarm of fast-food restaurants and drive-thrus that surround you everywhere you go. In a country where restraining orders are not unheard of it is a surprise that the Fast-food chains have not been reprimanded as serial offenders as they appear around every corner, on every form of media, and on billboards that dominate the landscape. There is no escape, and so the average American is harassed by the convenience and abundance of fast-food until they eventually give in. Crammed in their cars and wedged in their seats, American families find it much easier and tastier to order a Triple Chicken-Bacon Whopper-Deluxe with Mega-Fries and a Super-Quadruple Ultra-Chocolate Milkshake, and I must admit during my time here so have I! Why toil and lumber for hours around a supermarket for a balanced variety of food which then has to be prepared when you can immediately be given the food you desire. From Mexican joints like Taco Bell to fried chicken outlets like Bojangles, Americans have a wide variety of immediate Kentucky-Fried cuisine constantly crammed before their faces. Consequently, why would anyone take the hardest, least satisfying option every day of their life toiling the supermarkets? They wouldn’t, and this is why more Americans on average are heavier than in Europe or any other country. They have minimal options of natural healthy foods and the fruit, vegetables, and milk that are available are just as chemically modified and processed as the non-organic fatty foods that line the majority of the shelves. They have miles between the hidden endangered species that is the humble supermarket, and they are outnumbered by an army of fast-food chains that infiltrate and surround every town, village, or city and bombard them into submission with adverts.
I have another five months left before my time living and travelling in America is over, but after visiting New York, Washington D.C and staying in the humble dwelling of rural Emory, the casual acceptance of the obesity which is forced by the consumer structure at its base is something that is impossible to ignore and nothing short of a miracle near being fixed. Although, considering the pounds I have put on and my newfound enjoyment of pop-tarts and Chick-fill-a it might not be long before I join them.bookmark me