The dawn of 2012 presidential election is just breaking the horizon; debates aside, and the cards of both candidates have been spread before America. At this point, there isn’t much more that the political parties, or the media, can say to sway voters left or right. As a feature writer, I prefer to keep my public content absent of controversy and of politics. However, while researching fitness in my home state of Texas, I discovered startling statistics that relate fitness directly to politics. I hardly need to voice my own opinion, as the numbers speak for themselves.
As a society, we have brought the problems of obesity into the public eye. Today, America weighs in at her heaviest; one third of our population is categorized as overweight, while another third is obese – and the statistics of heart disease and adult-onset diabetes are on the rise. Collectively, that is 68.8% of the American population. In addition, obesity related healthcare costs are also on the spike. By 2018, those numbers are expected to rise to $300 billion – which is double the 2008 report of $147 billion (pbs.org). What is happening to our community, and to our country? At what point is genetics no longer an excuse, and where does the lack of proper education play into the equation? Is this issue political? Absolutely.
Persons in the media – anyone with a high-profile career or persona – have always been a staple by which the American public mold their opinions, and lives. In more recent years, presidential candidates have been pairing themselves with running mates that have a more, how do you say, aesthetically pleasing image. In the 2008 election, GOP nominee John McCain selected former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate. While gender controversy erupted from McCain’s selection, it was no secret that his move was largely strategic. All press, bad or otherwise, is good press – no?
Fast forward four years to the 2012 elections. When this year’s GOP nominee announced his pick of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential co-pilot, America got curious. The chain of events that ensued is telling; at that time, the number two google search in relation to the candidate was, “Paul Ryan, shirtless”. Now, the images that surfaced are quite fabulous. But, one has to ask: was this US Representative selected on merit? Or, was he chosen to be Mitt Romney’s arm candy?
In an article written in Mens Health magazine, Purdue professor Markus Hayden Schafer states, “In this media saturated environment, people [have to] shake hands, kiss babies and look very good for the camera.” He continues, “It would be very tough to wage a campaign and get around the fact that someone’s obese. There would be a lot of scrutiny about them.” He is absolutely right. We live in a society where discrimination against the obese, or overweight, is hardly thought of as a hate crime. In fact, the public is more apt to show signs of aggression or judgmental biases against persons of that class (HealthDay/Harris, menshealth.com).
Now, within the past few years the Food and Drug Administration has started cracking down on “nutrition” as seen within the public eye. In 2011, McDonald’s was ordered to place this warning label on all products sold. Controversy, once again, sparked as consumers were (somewhat) educated on the malnourishment and awful nutrition practices that have become custom within fast food establishments. But is fast food alone the culprit to an overweight America? Or, is a lack of education the primary suspect?
Fitness and personal nutrition practices have become something to cling to. If Americans are taking interest in the physique and fitness of our potential leaders, then it only makes sense that our minds are easily impressionable by those in public and power. That shouldn’t be news. Further on that, while personal responsibility is crucial in maintaining a healthy lifestyle it is also important to ensure our fellow countrymen are endowed with a proper education. Government based programs, or government health care? Honestly, I am not sure which option is better for America. If we have the conviction to educate one another on foreign policy and federal budget – wouldn’t it make sense to also procure knowledge on personal health and nutrition? A better America is all of the above: a better America is an educated America, and that education shouldn’t be pick-pocketed by politicians.
As November sixth draws near, the heath concerns of this country are just going to continue rising. Until someone steps in and shows interest in the epidemic that is seizing this country, we will have a lot more than tax increases within our budget to worry about. Republicans: don’t just throw a marathoner into your political party and expect your flock to fall in line. Democrats: educate. The rest of America is counting on it.
© Lindsay Watson
You can find me here – on Twitter, Facebook or via email. Like what you read? Keep the beat with Austin style by clicking “subscribe”.