Is Bigger Really Better?

Americans have always thought that bigger is better. As a result, everything around us got bigger. The plate size grew. The restaurant portion size grew. The big gulp was introduced. Banks grew. Family homes became sprawling mansions. Family cars grew up to become SUVs.

Where did this get us? Our financial system collapsed. We found ourselves in homes we couldn't afford. Our cars spewed enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment, and our healthcare system became overrun with a yearly tab of $150 billion to treat health issues related to obesity.

We must rethink what growth and success mean. Clearly, bigger is not always better. In fact, moderation and temperance, though not much loved by Americans, may be the answer to many of our problems.

I will not pretend to know how to fix all of these issues, but I do have a few ideas about the current obesity epidemic.
Many Americans would benefit from making lifestyle changes that improve their diets and increase physical activity. It seems simple, but for some it is not enough. This week the FDA announced it will review 3 new drugs designed to fight obesity. If approved will they work? Who knows. I tend to believe that lifestyle changes are so beneficial to health that they cannot be ignored, but there are too many people out there who just do not succeed by making these changes.

Over the past few years, childhood obesity has also increased at a shocking rate. According to the CDC, the childhood obesity rate tripled over the last decade. Lifestyle changes for our children are needed, and making those changes is not easy, because barriers to physical activity are everywhere. Urban sprawl and concerns about safety have made playing outside a thing of the past. Add in schools squeezed for money that are cutting gym and recess, and our children are left with a day devoid of physical activity. Parents need to take the lead, deliberately working activity into our children's daily lives.

We are all busy and stressed these days. I know it is hard to think about becoming your child's gym teacher when you come home from work, exhausted. But there is one bonus to taking on this role: it is likely to make you healthier and more active yourself. Then you won't have to fight your insurance company to cover that diet drug.

Photo by Clara Natoli

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