From: Truth Out
Saturday, 04 May 2013 00:00
The term obesity is defined as a count of 30 or above on a mathematical scale (called BMI,
or Body Mass Index) that combines weight
and height measurements of individuals. The term overweight is used to describe the BMI of people who fall in between obese and normal.
Over the past three decades, the obesity rate in America has by all accounts climbed to astronomical proportions. Over a third of Americans are officially overweight and another 35.7 percent are obese, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Conventional experts blame the "wrong food," bad genes, lack of exercise, chemicals in food, and this or that hormone for the problem.
If these factors play any role at all in stoking the epidemic of fat in American, they are themselves only transmission agents and facilitators for the deeper causes. Over the past 30 years, the standard prescription of diet, exercise and increased nutritional education haven't solved the problem. In fact, it hasn't even slowed it down and could even be contributing to the difficulties.
To really beat it, we have to ask why and when. To discern the fundamental causes of the obesity epidemic in the United States, we will need to go back in history and unearth its beginnings, to find out exactly when it all started. Then we can ask it why.
When we do, we will discover that the obesity epidemic in America is essentially a mental health problem, whose underlying causes are economic and political.
Let us begin by examining the chart below, which was compiled in 2006 by the US Center for Disease Control.
Overweight and Obesity, by Age: United States, 1960-2004
Back when it all started
The chart shows that the obesity and overweight numbers held steady until the period 1976-1980. Something important changed between the Carter administration and the Reagan administration, something that drove American adults and children to dramatically increase their calorie intake and consequent body fat. Whatever that change was, it's still with us because American waistlines since that time have continuously grown bigger.
Remember when Reagan was elected in 1980? He came in just at the beginning of the recession of 1981, when thousands of Americans suddenly found their incomes slashed or eliminated. His administration soon took on the unions, with the aim of breaking them. The first famous victim was PATCO - the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization.
On August 3, 1981, the union declared a strike, seeking better working conditions, better pay and a 32-hour workweek. On August 5, following the PATCO workers' refusal to return to work, Reagan fired the 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored the order and banned them from federal service for life. PATCO was decertified from its right to represent workers by the Federal Labor Relations Authority on October 22, 1981.
From that time onwards, American unions have taken a savage beating to the point where only 7 percent of private enterprises are unionized today, and public service union employees - teachers, nurses, office workers, firefighters - are fighting everywhere to keep their jobs and unions.
It was during Reagan's first term that the phrase bean counter came into prominent usage. These were the efficiency experts whose job it was to increase profits for the major corporations, mainly by introducing speedups, job consolidations, forced overtime, the hiring of part-time workers - along with artful and ruthless union-busting.
This was also the beginning of the "War on Iran," the "War on Drugs," the war against the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador (all of them Marxists doubtless bent on rampaging through the streets of US cities) and a dangerous escalation of threats against the Soviet Union/Evil Empire.
As social fear and insecurity rise, mental health declines.
Apparently, so does physical health. According to a new study from Rice University and the University Colorado at Boulder in Social Science Quarterly, despite modest gains in lifespan over the past century, the United States still trails many of the world's countries when it comes to life expectancy, and its poorest citizens live approximately five years less than more affluent people. The United States, which spends far more money on medical care than other advanced industrialized countries, has the sickest residents in every category of unwellness.
The American Syndrome - A Mental Health Problem
The result of all of this hysteria and whip-cracking on the backs of the American workforce is that we feel harried and harassed, with little reward to show for it. Mental health has been worsening for a long time in the United States, and this mental decline has been the culprit behind so many - probably the majority - of physical health problems as well. One of them, as we shall see later, is obesity.
Chinese medicine can help to make sense of most mental and physical problems in the United States and organize them into three main categories: those of chronic tension, excessive interior heat and excess weight. Together, they form a super-syndrome some would call the American Syndrome, since it seems to be a universal phenomenon.
Chronic tension is caused by worrying, and all its avatars - anxiety, fear, guilt, remorse, dread. Excessive interior heat results from the friction caused by it hurrying and worrying, while excess weight - which can manifest as obesity - is the result of habitual overeating.
These three inappropriate and harmful activities - worrying, hurrying, and overeating - are daily choices that Americans make, and these choices are driving them crazy. Mental health in the country is going to hell in a hand basket.
Given the rapid changes in diagnosis and treatment methods in the last two decades, reliable statistical evidence on the increased incidence of mental disorders is difficult to ascertain. With that caveat, we do know the following to be true.
- US spending on mental illness is soaring at a faster pace than spending on any other health care category.
- One in five American adults aged 18 or older, or 45.6 million people, had mental illness (as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in the past year, according to a November 2012 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- According to the American Psychological Association, the use of psychotropic drugs by adult Americans increased 22 percent from 2001 to 2010, with one in five adults now taking at least one psychotropic medication. In 2010, Americans spent more than $16 billion on anti-psychotics, $11 billion on antidepressants and $7 billion for drugs to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The rapid growth of all three classes of drugs has reportedly alarmed many mental health professionals.
- The use of illicit drugs and alcohol for the purpose of mood control continues to enjoy enormous popularity, in spite of the US government's decades-long "War on Drugs" and a high number of incarcerated drug offenders. Witness the recent legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington State. And according to CNNMoney in 2012, alcohol sales climbed with little interruption throughout the Crash of 2008 and continued to expand in 2011. "These numbers grew almost in spite of the recession," said Sageworks analyst Sam Zippin, noting medical care was the only other industry to maintain growth through the recession.
- According to the NAACP, the United States holds the world record for number of miserable residents locked up behind bars, in terms both of imprisoned per capita and total numbers. From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people. Today, the United States contains 5 percent of the world population and 25 percent of the world's prisoners. One in every 31 American adults is under some form of correctional control (prison, parole or probation).
- From a study covering 2004 through 2009, suicide passed motor vehicle traffic crashes as the leading cause of injury deaths in the United States.
As we shall see, the use of food and stored body fat as mood enhancers, especially among politically and economically disadvantaged groups, is widespread in obesity-plagued America.
Americans worry a lot. Many admit to worrying all the time.
Analyzing the past and planning for the future are useful activities, but worrying about them is neither helpful nor healthy. Worry causes people to tighten specific muscles in the body and keep them tight, leading to a long list of physical and mental disorders, referred to as "liver qi stagnation" in Chinese medicine.
Chronic fear, worry, anxiety, stress, insecurity, guilt, obsessive thinking and all forms of neurosis are behavioral choices. American culture, even more than Western Europe's, promotes the desire to control everything, including the uncontrollable, especially the past, the future and the actions and opinions of other people.
As American workers have lost more and more control over their worsening material existence, their fear and insecurity have risen. This fear reveals itself physically as a conscious, and in most cases unconscious, tightening or a constricting of muscles - a continuous decrease in circulation - as part of a fight or flight response to a perceived emergency. Literally any organ or tissue can become strangled and diseased in this manner.
A sample list of fear-based disorders in America would include colitis, Crohn's disease, urinary incontinence, sexual impotence, painful intercourse, irritated bowel syndrome, asthma, gastro-intestinal ulcers, heart attacks, growths, fibromyalgia, headaches and any disorder that responds well to the trust imparted by placebo treatments and faith healing.
While fear-based disorders do occur in other parts of the world, most international health practitioners will affirm the fact that fear-based disorders manifest at the highest levels in war zones and in the cities and towns of the United States.