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If you take a look around, or even look into the mirror, it is likely that you know America has a weight problem. Why is that? How is it that such a high percentage of Americans could be overweight? And of those that are overweight, how is that such a large percentage could be categorized as obese? Well it turns out that the reason is not as complex as is the case of so many other epidemics. This one is less a matter of surrounding circumstances and much or a matter of our chosen lifestyles and collective American culture. If anecdotal evidence weren’t enough, 67% of Americans are classified as overweight with some states having obesity as high as 33% of the population.

You have probably seen on the back of packages of food the text “based on a 2000 calorie diet”. Well as it turns out, this diet is in no way representative of the population’s actual consumption but rather a healthy value that doctors have come up with as guideline. But this guideline is in no way prevalent since Americans actually consume 3,767 calories a day on average a number almost twice as big as recommended for human health. This double proportion of calories is unsustainable for humans bodies because the average person only burns 1850 calories a day functioning normally. It doesn’t take a scientist to tell you that consuming double the amount of food that you can burn leads to a surplus of calories with nowhere to go.

People that exercise often burn more calories. While it is hard to burn double daily value it does have a positive impact on the food overconsumption problem. But only 3 of 10 Americans even get the recommended amount of physical activity, let alone the additional activity needed to burn off the caloric excess. This is of course unsurprising as at least a 1/4th of our children watch more than 4 hours of television a day with over $25 million spent a day advertizing unhealthy foods to them.

This imposes many costs to society. But what is so interesting is that it is healthy people who bear the weight of the overweight. Fully $39 Billion dollars have been spent in tax revenue to pay for Medicare and Medicaid being distributed to people for obesity attributed health problems. But it is also the fast food industry that creates so much of that tax revenue in the first place as a $110 billion dollar a year industry. What could replace it if people started eating the recommended daily values? Health clubs? Parks? Soccer fields? Clearly there are no easy answers.

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