Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thank You, Nike.

Watching wave after wave of Coca Cola and McDonalds commercials throughout the Olympics coverage has been, to say the least, distressing. More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. Not overweight. Obese. In 2008 alone, medical expenditures associated with obesity cost us somewhere on the order of $150 billion dollars. This gargantuan price tag continues to rise yearly.

Our childhood obesity rates reveal an even greater tragedy. In the past three decades, obesity rates have tripled. Somewhere between 16 to 33 percent of kids under the age of 18 are now obese. Not overweight. Obese. That's before they enter adulthood. That's before they begin the sedentary phase of their lives.

Diabetes is out of control, heart disease is out of control, and french fries are celebrated during the Olympics. I've seen enough toes fall off in the clinic. I've seen enough forty year olds die of massive heart attacks. We need a national discussion on this epidemic of obesity. We need to get a handle on it before an entire generation of Americans ends up spending half their lives in the hospital.

I know there will be no miracle cures, but there is certainly room for hope. Nathan in the above video is twelve years old. He is demonstrating how to turn this mess around: via sweat and patient struggle. The rewards of his struggle will be great. He will know the pride that comes from saying, "I did this. I built this. This is my body, and I have guarded it against harm."

But there are also some very easy things each and every one of us can do. We can have dialogues with our physicians. We can make battle plans for our futures. We can avoid drinking soda. We can simply ban sugar water from our homes. We can park at the far end of the parking lot. We can use that stairwell at the office. We can avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup. We can ask the waiter to prepare our food with less salt. We can giant food conglomerates that we will no longer tolerate them shoving poison into our mouths. We can demand that they do better by us—and refuse to hand them another cent until they do.

Or we can feel sick. And our backs can ache. And our ankles can swell. And we can never not be sweating. And a flight of stairs will look like a mountain top. And those that hoped to see us during Christmas will be lighting candles in our stead.

Me, I'm going to follow Nathan's lead. Greatness sounds pretty good.


Disclaimer: This is an advocacy piece, not medical advice. Always talk to your doctor before beginning a new diet or exercise regimen.


Anonymous said...


Commendable article on the obesity menace.

However until Nike stops lavishing more money than the GNP of some countries on irresponsible athletes (Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Ben Roethlisberger), and reforms their practices of running sweatshops overseas - they really do not have the high moral ground over Coke & McDonalds no matter what the seemingly noble message..

B. Justin Shier said...

I don't really know much about Nike's endorsement deals with athletes, but they have indeed been reforming their practices in regards to sweatshops.

I would be interested in hearing more, though.


Sebastian said...

I agree with your sentiment, but speaking as someone who used to be overweight, it is hard. I am currently training for a marathon, but it was a long journey. My point is: The majority of people who are obese are stuck with a certain mindset, one which is very hard to break.

Ethan said...

It also one of the major factors (if not THE major factor) that keeps health care costs for all of us sky high. The diseases that are linked to obesity are legion. We compensate for our deteriorating health with more and more medical procedures that would otherwise be unnecessary. There is no health reform/plan that can make health care costs reasonable in that type of environment. (That is something you will never hear a presidential candidate say, or any politician for that matter, yet it is the sad truth.)

On a related note, the Army has reported that obesity is now considered a threat to our national security. "As of 2005, at least 9 million young adults -- 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24 -- were too overweight to serve in the military... being overweight or obese has become the leading medical reason recruits are rejected for military service. "

B. Justin Shier said...

Sebastian, agreed. I see it every day in the hospital. There are few things more depressing than observing such fatalism in otherwise able-bodied individuals. That's why I'd love to seem more visuals of folks overcoming this burden portrayed in the US media.

Ethan, very true. I also wanted to compliment you on fitting the phrase "are legion" into that sentence. Bravo.


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