Fatness: nature or nurture?

“”I want an extra-large, caramel blended frappe with extra whipped cream and extra, extra caramel,”” says the woman ordering her drink at the counter of the coffee shop where I work.

I turn toward the blenders and begin to ooze the caramel into the cup. Behind me, I hear her say, “”Ohmigosh, I walk to class every day and look how fat I am still.””

I pretend to ignore her statement and finish making her drink. When I call out the drink, the woman gives me a cold stare.

“”Uh … I need more caramel in this,”” she says. With my fake smile, I lather more caramel into her drink, which has more calories and saturated fat than a Big Mac, even without the extra whipped cream and caramel. Her boyfriend comes up and says, “”Is that good?””

“”Well, it’s not really sweet enough,”” she replies, and they walk out the door.

She will be back tomorrow. She comes in every day. The next customer gets the exact same drink. There are dozens each day, and this is a coffee shop. Obviously, this reckless abandonment of a healthy lifestyle extends far beyond coffee.

Our society, which endorses sickening diets and lazy habits, has allowed excessive weight to become an epidemic. Every year, the average weight of Americans nears obesity. Here are a few statistics to wrap your mind around.

It is no secret that the United States is very close to the top of the “”World’s Most Overweight”” list in every category, from age to race to gender. The most recent study conducted by the World Health Organization states that 27 percent of children in the United States age 10 and under are obese. The Institute of Medicine announced that in 1995, 59 percent of U.S. adults were obese, and the numbers have climbed since then. Nearly 300,000 deaths each year in the United States are caused by complications due to obesity.

And while most geneticists say there is a strong connection between an individual’s genes and his or her propensity to gain weight, they all agree that obesity is largely a repercussion of our society’s tendency to maintain appalling eating habits and spend hours in front of the television. The National Health Institute declared that the rise in time spent in front of the television is nearly proportional to the rise in percentage of obese adults.

The saddest truth is that while geneticists and pharmaceutical companies crank out new ideas for medicinal treatments, our society looks more and more for the quick answer to excessive weight. Americans spend $33 billion every year on diets, health clubs and surgical procedures to reduce their weight quickly. The NIH reports that only 15 percent of U.S. adults engage in strenuous activity for at least half an hour, three days per week. The amount of strenuous activity recommended is less than the time spent in lectures for one course per week.

It is true that many people are prone to obesity. It is largely considered a form of disease that can come upon people against their will. For them, it is extremely difficult to maintain fitness. Their condition, like other inherited conditions, is unfortunate, and I do not suggest that these people are at fault for their situation.

Their condition, however, is less common than most people think. The number of people incapable of physical fitness is a tiny fraction compared to those who are perfectly capable of physical fitness but refuse to try. It has come to the point that people will attribute a slight weight gain entirely to genetics, while they refuse to do any serious exercise. When treated as such, obesity slowly loses its potency as an inherited disease, and more people cross into the obese category who aren’t genetically prone to it.

It is these people who give rise to such alarming statistics: Those fortunate enough to be able to lose fat, but do nothing about it — and then complain.

It seems as if most Americans have given in to the idea that excessive weight is unavoidable and have refused to take any action against it. Not only is this idea largely unfounded, but also very dangerous to one’s health. To ignore obesity is the same as refusing treatment for an illness. The longer the problem lasts, the less likely you are to defeat it.

I am disgusted by how many people complain that they do not have a “”nice body,”” but do nothing about it. It is true that our culture idolizes emaciated models and muscle-bound athletes, but those who are unwilling to commit 90 minutes per week to maintaining fitness should not complain if they look nothing like their idols. Most people will never achieve the “”perfect”” body, but when they aren’t willing to maintain the minimal of health standards, they should not be surprised if they are categorized as overweight.

Admittedly, maintaining fitness is not an easy chore. Fitness requires a commitment and a lot of conscious decisions. It requires the diligence of a healthy diet. It requires aerobic exercise and even weight training. It demands leaving the television and demands riding a bike every so often to travel. It can be time-consuming and may never result in abs of steel or firm buttocks, but physical fitness is undoubtedly achievable.

In the end, fitness is not a requirement for happiness in life. In no way is our population forced to keep fit. However, it is unwise to refuse an attempt at physical fitness. Excessive weight is dangerous to health. Furthermore, people could keep in shape if they worked out for the amount of time they spend complaining about it: If anyone is unwilling to at least attempt physical fitness, then he must admit that his condition is a logical conclusion, if not desired.

There are many avenues scientists will use to fight obesity on a genetic level. While they do that, I suggest that we consider switching to nonfat products and going light on the caramel.