Monthly Archives: November 2010

why corn subsidies make obesity look like poverty

When you’re overweight, you console yourself by saying, “it’s not me, it’s the standards of our society.” Which, to be fair, it can be. We’ve certainly grown to value a thinner woman over the past century, and have a very different standard of attractive female physiques than other cultures do. But the question is – when does it go beyond how attractive – or not attractive – your size makes you, and go into actually detracting from how much respect you receive as a member of society?

I think, in this country, we associate being fat with being poor. The cheapest foods are the least nutritious, and the lowest income population has the greatest obesity problem. Diabetes and other nutritional related diseases are most rampant among low-income Americans. This is because, in part, the corn subsidies keep high-fructose corn syrup flowing freely into pretty much every cheap food there is. The foods and beverages most readily available to a low income population are high in calories because agricultural subsidies keep them cheap. Therefore, instead of the standard of a hundred years ago, when you had to have the money for food to gain weight, now, the poorest people are now most likely to become obese.

On the flip side, you also have a wealthy population who is obsessed with being thin and/or fit. The upper middle class (and up into the rich) can afford a better level of food, with more nutritional value. They’re better educated, so they work to recognize the value of food. Additionally, they can afford a healthier lifestyle in terms of exercise – neighborhoods with parks and yards, money for gym memberships and exercise classes. The wealthier population of America has the money to buy themselves better overall health and beauty, including maintaining a level of fitness and nutrition that lines them up with the current standard of beauty.

So, the question is – does being overweight immediately make you look less wealthy? And does being overweight make one look as if they are less likely to be successful? Do America’s Puritan roots come into play here, and does this country’s Protestant history mean that, if one is poor, one is assumed to deserve to be poor? Because, if so, then a lower-income American may be assumed to be such because they have failed to work hard enough. And an overweight individual may be assumed to be poor. And not only would an overweight person then be subject to assumptions made about their material wealth, but also to the imposed cultural standards of being (a) too lazy and self indulgent to be thin and (b) poor because they have failed to work hard enough.

Then there’s the flip side – does appearing successful mean that one has to meet a set of physical standards? Aside from displaying wealth in clothes, does one have to display it by showing a certain level of health and fitness? Does being thin – and, to an extent, fit – mean that one has demonstrated the ability to self-sacrifice and work hard to achieve a physical appearance? I think it does, and in order to truly appear wealthy, you have to display that you not only have the money to put into your body, but also the dedication and discipline and work ethic that will make you a successful wage earner.

I’m sitting here counting up the calories I consumed today, most of which were from nutritionally dense foods (spinach, mushrooms, omega-3 enhanced egg, flax oil, fresh fruit, etc).