We all know by now that Americans are too fat. For whatever reason, we are tipping the scales at an alarming rate. In addition to all the health problems and health care costs associated with American obesity, we now have to deal with a new wrinkle.
Americans are so fat that airlines are having to remove life vests from planes to accommodate. That’s a good sign. So I guess if we crash, I’ll have to use the guy next to me for buoyancy since I won’t have a vest. Already Southwest Airlines is requiring extra large flyers to purchase two seats to compensate.
The problem is not just in the room needed to fit XXL folks onto the plane, but the added weight is causing all sorts of havoc with the plane physics by throwing off the weight differential and several other weight based calculations.
Passenger weight is most important on small planes where the weight can produce a much bigger strain on engines. A 2003 small plane crash in North Carolina that killed all 21 people aboard was blamed on excess passenger weight.
I realize that this is just another in a long string of stories and complications based on American weight. Everybody and their brother is coming out with explanations and ideas for slimming folks down – but I honestly don’t think anything will make a significant or lasting difference in our current culture.
The other day some soda producers group announced a plan to limit or remove the selling of sodas to schools (well actually it’s only to grammar schools and middle schools – high schools can have all the soda they like). Most consider this little more than a token gesture, but it highlights what I believe is the true issue; our culture is killing us.
The culture operates in a way that is completely counterproductive to health. We spend most of our lives at our desks, the rest of the time we spend eating or watching television or sitting at our desks surfing the internet. We drive everywhere (even from one store to the next in the same parking lot). We get very little exercise, very little sleep and everything is rushed and hurried – we don’t even have time to sit back and enjoy a meal, let alone prepare one. So as a result, most of our food is fast too AND it’s all pre-packaged so it’s loaded with sugar and salt. Want to have some fun? Next time you are in the grocery store (a regular one, not a health food store) try and find a loaf of bread that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup as one of the ingredients. Even if you go out to a restaurant, the portion sizes are ginormous and you still don’t know what’s in your food.
But what’s the alternative – you can’t walk anywhere unless you live in a few select cities, you can’t work less hours, you don’t have the time to prepare healthful and nutritious meals – either because you don’t have time to shop, prep, cook and clean OR you don’t really want to have to go through all that everyday because you have so little free time and such high stress as it is.
Half the time you can’t even get anything healthy for lunch even if you wanted to. Where I work, I’d have to drive more than 30 minutes to find a restaurant that offered any variety of healthy choices – and then by the time I got there I wouldn’t have time to eat anyway.
Nothing in our current culture makes it easy to be healthy and it’s only getting worse. Everyday people have less and less time and fewer and fewer options. The only way we are ever going to change is if we completely change our approach to culture, work and food. And as radical an upheaval as that may be, it is not unlike the lifestyle in many parts of the world. Unfortunately our culture is corrupting other cultures and turning them into ours. Now all the people in these other countries are starting to get as fat as we are.
Since I don’t think we are going to change as a culture the only thing you can really do is change yourself and your life, which unfortunately is not easy. Until then you might want to pack your own life vest along with your own lunch next time you are on a plane somewhere.