I’m currently taking a course called Obesity Economics– actually Principles of- the 4 week version of an 8 week course taught by a professor at John’s Hopkins. It’s about just that- the economics of obesity. Its about both micro and macro factors that govern obesity. My interest was-amidst an indulgent society, why are we so fat, particularly when not all cultures are.
Economics is about opportunity cost. It’s about what we are willing to invest in order to get what we want. That’s the key word-what we want. At the end of the day it’s about what’s important to us at what cost. Its about what we value. Do we value health, body image, exercise, good nutrition, sleep, money, time, career, relationships . . . these are some of the elements that come into play when making a decision to engage in any of the behaviors that influence our body/weight/health.
Think of it like this. You work 80 hours/week, eat take out, exercise none and are 50 pounds overweight with impending adult onset diabetes. You value money-it dominates your time. You have full health insurance through work such that medical care has no extra cost to you, although when you have to sacrifice work to go to the doctor that poses a challenge. To date you have not really been challenged with negative consequences so where’s the motivation for self care?
At another extreme-you value your shape and fitness. As a student you pick your classes around your exercise schedule. There is excess time focused on food selection and cooking, so much so it interferes with completing homework assignments. Yet the scale takes priority. Family and social functions are at a minimum as are vacations outside of fitness events.
Its all about what we value-what’s important to us and what we are willing to do to get what we want.
It’s a constant trade-off – giving up what we value least for what we value most.
This not only holds true in the arena of taking care of our bodies but in all the choices we make in our life. We are constantly in a position of making choices-choices how to spend our time and money to care for our health, relationships, education/career, spirituality and others.
Now that doesn’t answer the original question because these rules that govern behavior apply to all societies, or at least most. So the question still remains-why are we, the US, along with some other cultures, so fat?