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OPINION: Understanding the obesity epidemic

burger-and-fries
Creative Commons | The Daily Wildcat

As the obesity crisis in America gets complicated by COVID-19, we examine fast food's place in this epidemic.  "Veggie burger and fries"  by  barnimages.com/Creative Commons ( CC BY 2.0 )

Obesity has been a long-standing problem in the United States for decades now. I even remember the constant nutritionists coming to my elementary school to educate the children each year on a balanced diet. If anything, it has only gotten worse as I have grown older. 

In 2016, the U.S. was ranked in 12th place in obesity with 36.20% of American adults considered obese. This high percentage is mostly caused by the large quantities of cheap fast-food restaurants that can be found around every block. It has become a convenience here in the U.S.

College students often live in dorms and cannot always cook for themselves. This causes many students to search for food that is tasty and cheap. This can be said for many working adults who may only have an hour for a lunch break, or they are too tired after work to go home and cook some food. 

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Not only is fast-food convenient, it is also addicting. Many of the food that can be ordered at McDonald’s or Wendy’s contain a high amount of sugar and salt, such as soda and fries. These addictive properties cause consumers to keep coming back for both the convenience and satisfaction. Mix this chemical craving with cheap prices and almost no wait time: the perfect addiction.

People of a lower socioeconomic standing are at a higher risk of becoming obese due to the low prices of fast-food restaurants, and less time for healthy eating and exercise. Many people with socioeconomic trouble find themselves working, constantly focused on their job and often have trouble finding the time or will to cook at home. Due to COVID-19, many people find themselves affected economically by the virus. Many people have lost their jobs, others had to take on low-paying ones and medical bills can be expensive. This increase of economic trouble during the pandemic has many more people at a lower socioeconomic standing. This means that they are now put at a higher risk of malnutrition and obesity. 

Many of these people affected find themselves something to eat that is quick, cheap and easily available by pick-up or drive-through on the way home. They might also be sick of cooking food everyday since many people have started to work from home or may have lost their jobs and may find themselves ordering takeout from other restaurants which can also cause and increase in obesity. 

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Although the numbers have not been fully calculated since we are still suffering from COVID-19, these outcomes are not just a projection. The percentages of obese adults in the U.S. in 2020 have already been rising. The adult obesity rate currently stands at 42.4%. That is a 26% increase from 2008 when an American recession had been taking place. 


Many times, it is not the individual’s fault that they may be obese. If it is not caused by another health problem, it is most likely caused by an economic problem. Fast-food joints can be addicting, and many people start this addiction by going for their cheap prices and quick serving time. 

Many fast-food restaurants have a dollar menu which continue to cater towards people who simply look for convenience, who can then justify the purchase with the price. Working a full-time job or multiple part-time jobs make it hard to find a convenient time to cook, let alone to exercise. Many of these instances and problems together all contribute to the rising obesity rate. 

I wish I could say that the solution was simple, we all just need to workout and eat healthier. It isn’t that easy; however, it is something that we need to work toward. It is possible to start making small changes though. There are many restaurants that sell healthier options at low prices. There are even restaurants that are dedicated to just being healthy. By going to one of these on a night you do not want to cook, you may feel better about eating take-out. If you can’t afford a gym membership or you do not have time to go to one, at-home 10-15 minute workouts can be found free on YouTube. Getting in a few minutes of exercise can also be just as great as an hour-long workout. 



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Opinions columnist Andrea Moreno

Andrea is a freshman law major. She likes to listen to audio books and game in her free time. 


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (1/15)
1,226 23 %
Total (8/4)
124,667 3,598 %
Includes tests since August 4, 2020
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated January 15, 2021