Obesity in America

The culture-bound syndrome I chose to examine was obesity. Obesity, by definition, is when the body mass index (BMI) is 30 or more. It is the cause of various health conditions, some of which include: high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and more. Obesity is the most prevalent condition in the United States with at least two in every three American adults being overweight or obese. In the I found discussing the obesity epidemic in America they discuss some causes of obesity which include genetics and lifestyle choices which include physical activity, eating habits and portion control. The article continues to discuss ways to lower the risk of obesity and being overweight.

From a biological standpoint, obesity could be caused by various genetic factors causing some people to have a predisposition for obesity. These factors would include metabolic and hormonal factors that could slow down the digestion of food and the metabolism of fats. Research on this aspect of obesity is still being conducted. When observing obesity from a cultural standpoint, it becomes evident why Americans are so susceptible to obesity; most of us live a sedentary lifestyle and consume more calories than we expend leading to weight gain. According to the article, the average American spends 55 percent of their waking hours sitting down. Experts are contributing this fact to the internet and the various options available for entertainment that do not involve physical activity (Netflix, TV, the internet, smartphones, etc.). During this time, Americans are subjected to advertisements for junk food and other snacks.

Another aspect contributing to obesity are the eating habits of Americans. Portions of food served in most restaurants and fast food chains are larger than the recommended daily caloric intake. Portions at your local Applebee’s or Olive Garden are often more than one person can eat. With the rise in food portions the caloric intake also rises. All of these factors, however, depend on the individual. It depends on whether they are physically active, their eating habits, their environment, and also how they feel. Some people eat more due to stressful situations that occur in their everyday life or because of mental illnesses like depression.

There are medical practices that can “fix” obesity that involves invasive surgery and sketchy diet pills. However, the best way to prevent obesity is to change one’s lifestyle. More exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes a day, could greatly help lower the risk of obesity. This idea, long with healthier food choices and education to help teach people the correct amounts of food they should consume, can go a long way in preventing what has become a crisis in our country.


Harvard Health Publications. “Obesity in America: What’s Driving the Epidemic?” MSN Healthy Living. 2014. Web. 18 July 2014. http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/obesity-in-america-whats-driving-the-epidemic-1?pageart=2

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Shelby Brewington says:

    I believe that culture is a set of beliefs, ideals, traits, and values carried out by a particular group of people. In my opinion, I do believe that this illness discussed above, obesity is in fact a cultural bound syndrome. I do not feel at though it is necessarily a cultural bound syndrome in the United States though however. This is because although obesity is an ongoing problem in westernized society, it is not promoted through our culture. Instead this is a problem that is being caused by the daily lifestyle choices of many Americans. This is not how it is everywhere though, in some cultures many found in african villages being obese is correlated to ones beauty. Being over weight is a sign of good health, and even wealth. Thinness in that culture is a sign of poverty, weakness, or illness. I guess the advantage of looking at obesity in a cultural bound syndrome is helpful in understanding why people make the lifestyle choice they do, and this can form a foundation of how to proceed forward in decreasing the numbers of obese people. However, it poses a problem when trying to combat obesity because instead of just trying to change a persons lifestyle you could be potentially insulting their deep cultural beliefs and practices. This is because in every culture obesity can be handled differently, in places where it is a culturally desirable attribute doctors do not warn of all the problems associated with obesity, and look at medical problems stemming from a different health issue.

  2. Nia Franklin says:

    Culture is the differences amongst people. Culture isn’t necessarily defined by race but where someone lives or where they originated from. America is full of different races and ethnicities but general “Americans” have their own culture. There are also many different cultures within America. Culture is what makes the world so interesting and each culture is unique.
    Obesity in other cultures is not seen as so terrible. In some other cultures being heavier is a symbol of being healthy and wealthy. In other cultures someone who is thin is thought to be sick and/ or poor. It’s thought that if someone is thin they can’t afford to eat well when it reality they might just be thin by nature and very much healthy.
    I do think obesity in America is a culturally based but I don’t think it is a disease because it could very much be avoided and controlled. Part of America’s culture is large eating portions and fast foods which leads to obesity. It’s also very ironic because another part of America’s culture is the fascination with being thin. America holds the record for the highest level of obese individuals. There is obesity in other places and cultures but America is associated with obesity more.

  3. Alisyn Korpela says:

    I would define the word “culture” as a group of individuals who carry out common beliefs, values and practices or rituals. Being a part of a culture can define the type of person an individual may be. I believe that obesity is a cultural bound syndrome of the United States. Obesity is the most prevalent health condition in the United States according to this post and many other sources. The disadvantage of having a cultural bound syndrome of obesity is that the American culture tends to reflect poor eating habits and lifestyle choices with these statistics on the health of the population. Obesity and/or being overweight can be viewed negatively in some areas of the world and positively in others. One’s weight can be a determinant of their wealth or social status in their particular culture. For example, the heavier the individual, the more money they must obtain in order to have the resources available to them to reach that point. One’s weight can also be a reflection of their genes or daily life choices. Obesity can sometimes run in the family, or it can simply be a result of the abundance of fast, cheap, processed food options lining their city’s main streets.

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