Simultaneously Eating and Starving to Death: Obesity in America

According to the CDC, around 72.5 million Americans are obese. And there isn’t a single state in the U.S. that has obesity rates below 15 percent. Since 2000, the number of states with obesity rates at, or over, 30 percent of the population has increased from zero states to nine.

With these figures, no one would ever guess that these obese Americans were actually starving.

Diets that contribute to obesity are high in calories, grains, starches, trans-fats and modified fats, and cholesterol. But these diets are lacking in vitamins, minerals, monounsaturated fats and micronutrients. Unhealthy food leaves people feeling less full, making one inclined to eat more of it. Diets that contribute to obesity leave us overfed and undernourished. But bad food is hard to say no to when it’s so cheap and easy.

Healthier, lower calorie foods are more expensive than their sugary or fatty higher calorie counterparts, making it even more difficult to choose healthy eating. Researchers found that, based on a standard 2,000-calorie diet, eating a high-calorie, low-nutrient diet would cost on average $3.52 a day, whereas a low-calorie, high nutrient diet would cost you on average $36.32 a day. Junk foods also are less likely to rise as a result of inflation, making them more appealing to buy when you’ve got to stretch your dollars.

This vast price differential becomes an even greater problem when poverty and race are factored in. Low income groups run a higher risk for obesity, and Black and Hispanic populations run a higher risk of having a low income.

Blacks and Hispanics have significantly higher populations in poverty than whites, with 25.8 percent of blacks and 25.3 percent of Hispanics in poverty, compared to 9.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

While blacks have the highest prevalence of obesity, both blacks and Hispanics outweigh white populations. Obesity is 51 percent more common in black populations and 21 percent more common in Hispanic populations than in white populations. 

A study by the CDC reveals there are several factors which contribute to obesity in these minority populations, one being less access to affordable and healthful foods. Neighborhoods with large minority populations have fewer chain supermarkets and produce stores. While healthy foods are relatively more expensive than energy-dense foods in general, this becomes painfully true in minority and low income-communities. Communities that have little access to fresh and healthy food, but plenty of access to unhealthy fast food are called ‘food deserts’.

Of course, food deserts are just one of the causes of obesity in urban populations. There is no single cause of obesity, no matter what race. There is no single solution, either. But with nearly one in three young people overweight or at risk for becoming obese, we can’t keep putting the problem of obesity off while our children keep packing on the pounds. This disturbing statistic could make today’s youth the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents. The problem of obesity is something we need to approach from all economic and racial perspectives, and it’s something we need to address within all age groups.


Photo Credit: thanks to VirtualErn via flickr


Deborah L.
Deborah Lashever6 years ago

East good food that costs less.You must prepare it and it won't taste like Fruit Loops. Decide. It will take time and thought to do it right. Your health--and your children's life and quality of life--depends on your choices. Be aware! It is always up to you what you eat. Indulge yourself in NUTRITION and you will not go wrong. This is nutritional education. It needs to be in school systems, in Homeless programs, IN ALL MEDIA! Really, you are what you eat. Eat well and you can be SOMEBODY. Eat in a crappy way and you will feel crappy and have no energy to make a difference in the world. It is your personal decsion. Be lazy and feel crappy. Do yourself a favor and prepare good, solid food and your life will improve ten thousand fold!

Anne H.
Anne H6 years ago

The documentary Food, Inc explains the food issues in America. There are still things we can do on an individual level. If all of us held the FDA accountable they'd start to worry. Right now it's the companies manipulating them who have the power.

You can be skinny and unhealthy or fat and unhealthy...either is unhealthy. We need to eat right to be healthy. Our bad health habits cost the whole nation.

Sarah D.
Sarah D7 years ago

It's so funny to see all the fat-phobes and overweight person bashers show their true colors on these forums. And when the people are dying from eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia or because they went under the knife you all go "People need to stop bashing people for their appearence." Y'all are hilarious!

Sarah D.
Sarah D7 years ago

I wonder what percent of obese/overweight persons are vegan.

rita b.
Rita B7 years ago

There are solutions to this problem. People should be educated in high school and at health clinics on how to eat cheaply and healthy.

I do not belive that it costs close to 40 dollars a day to eat healthy. Buying in bulk is key. Whole grain, dry beans, nuts, whole grain flour even spices can be bought in bulk. Then add some veggies and fruit, usually in season are cheapest.

Farmers markets, food co-ops, etc can all be sources of these items if the stores do not provide them. If people have yards they can grow some of their own food and veggies.

The government has to do their part by removing substities from cheap corn based foods like HFC and meat and start supporting healthy food instead.

Elise Lanciault-Breton
Elise L7 years ago

I do not think obesity means rich people.

Rich people are mostly slim because they are eating healthy food.

Obesity means more a bad habit in food with things that are not costing a lot, but not healthy. It is dangerous.

Even when it's not fast food but home cooked, people are not always educated enough to know how to cook healthy meals. A lot of food that looks attractive and healthy is NOT.

Obesity is a way to eat when you are not wealthy, this is pretty much ironic.

Tori W.
Past Member 7 years ago

again, another study spending all kinds of money to tell us what we already know...thanks a time, spend the money on the "expensive, good for you foods" that you can give to the poor and just ask our opinions...we can tell you whats going on...see, we really live in the world not in some scientific lab or test tube version of the world...

Lika S.
Lika P7 years ago

A study needed to find this out? Geesh, I could have done the number crunching a long time ago. I've been saying this for years, that it's more expensive to eat healthy. A large loaf of store brand white bread with little nutrients - $1.10-1.25 compared to multigrain bread using whole grains and whole grain flour, for a half loaf - $3.99-4.59 - so for the price of one healthy half loaf of bread, you can get 3 or 4 full loaves of generic bread. When you only have $50 to go to the store to feed a family of 3 for the week, what are you going to buy?

Mark M.
Mark M7 years ago

It's not just the multitude of junk/fast food outlets, or the avalanche of advertising for them, or even that in tight or downturn times or depressed neighborhoods, people will eat like they're depressed and poor. It's also the food distribution system. I've been in upstate New York, in rural Maine, in little towns of Pennsylvania, and even bodegas in the Bronx. Go ahead, try to find one item that's both healthful and inexpensive, be it solid or liquid: a nutrition/energy bar, fresh fruit or vegetables, cereal not loaded with sugar. People will find it hard to resist what is offered when the predictable impulse of depressed, unmotivated humans to seek gross gratification for as little money as possible meets in the middle with food makers and distributors, government and retail businesses, and even the medical establishment, to conspire, wittingly or not, to induce people to eat and act against their own best interests, and poisons them in the guise of feeding them. There is almost always a way to beat the System as it is, but it takes a reordering of priorities, an adjustment of lifestyle and planning, strong discipline and a clear understanding that in order to live a decent life in the barrio or in the boondocks, one has to think way outside the pizza box.

kenneth m.
kenneth m7 years ago

Money is the root of the problem. Take away the money from the fat people and they can not buy the fast food