Did the Obesity Epidemic Predict the Economic Crisis?
For the past decade, pundits have obsessed over our increasing waistlines. An understandable concern given that, as our nation grew more obese, significant health issues -- diabetes, heart disease, cancer -- snowballed. Meanwhile, we heard far less about the dangers of increased (non-edible) consumption in the form of SUVs, homes, and high-tech goods. One is now left wondering how things might have gone differently for the economy had the press spent as much time analyzing our collective pocketbooks as they did our grocery carts.
Similar to the commercials for Coke that promised us giddy joy in each can of soda (never mind the high-fructose corn syrup content), we were made to believe that owning more things was our ticket to happiness, our American-earned right. Unfortunately, as with any decadent treat -- be it cookies or beach homes -- moderation is key. This is not to say that the complex issues of obesity or the current economic crisis can be reduced to a simple matter of gluttony. It is equally about misinformation -- people lacking adequate information to act in their best interests, long-term. Both the obesity and economic crises were exacerbated by industries that profited enormously by misleading individuals ... or at least not giving them all of the facts. Food manufacturers made hefty profits by promoting high-caloric foods in huge quantities. And banks made staggering sums by extending credit for real estate transactions that were beyond the means of their buyers. Whether we've overextended ourselves calorically or financially, we can relate to wanting to have our cake and eat it too ... but since that's no longer an option, many of us may be left feeling like we are on a globally-imposed diet.