America’s Deadly Diet

We all love to eat. From salty french fries to sweet and savory desserts, Americans tend give our taste buds quite the delight. Our indulgences, however, often do not stop at one innocent snack but continue on to several guilty pleasures.

These so-called “treats” may be rewarding and satisfying at first, but in the long run they will do substantially more harm than good. Though many people tend to think that when they are young they can outrun any health hazard and do as they please, they are regrettably mistaken.

Often times, as a nation, we are not aware of what we put into our mouths. We don’t pay attention to what is printed on the nutrition labels such as the calories, trans fat, saturated fat, or the cholesterol level. This is a mistake in itself.

With improper nutrition, not to mention the growth and convenience of fast food places, America is and will continue to be the unhealthiest nation across the globe.
Obesity has become an alarming issue nationwide and one that is not likely going to be resolved. According to a survey by the Endocrine Society, about 60 million adults in the United States are obese and 127 million are currently overweight. With this comes the estimation of about 400,000 deaths per year, from poor diet habits alone.

Though a few people may be genetically prone to becoming overweight at a rapid pace, most others are merely prone to unhealthy eating habits. Several of these unhealthy habits are linked to the particular lifestyle one leads as well as family teachings.

The American society is always rushing and trying to multitask due to a fast paced lifestyle. This rush and go routine has influenced the fast food markets and restaurant businesses in the sense that cheap food is used to make the provisions faster and more effectively.

The nutritional make-up of fast food encourages people to gorge on it unintentionally and in turn, “tricks” people into eating more calories than they need to, which essentially ensures obesity. Fast food dangerously packs more calories into a smaller space than most other food. This “energy dense” fast food confuses the brain’s appetite control system and encourages people to eat too many calories at once.

Since a typical fast food meal has a very high energy density, it has been concluded that a diet high in fast foods will cause rapid weight gain and increase the risk of obesity– even though they you are eating no more than you would if you ate an average meal.

For example, a meal consisting of a Big Mac, large French fries, and a ranch salad at your local McDonald’s amounts to an astounding 1,300 calories. Such a calorie sum is the average calorie intake for a young adult for an entire day!

Though junk food and fast food are the guilty party in overweight issues, there are also other causes that play a role, such as eating while watching television. Studies say that one will consume an increased amount of food while watching television than when one eats with friends or family at the table.

The reason for this is that while watching television, one is subjected to commercials that glorify food as well as the constant need to snack on something. Other unhealthy eating habits consist of skipping breakfast, eating before going to bed, starving oneself, eating too fast, and not drinking enough H2O.

College students are very likely to develop unhealthy habits because of the tight time schedules and limited budgets that characterize the college lifestyle.

Unhealthy diet choices usually begin when adolescents leave home to live on their own at school, triggering gradual weight gain over the college years which leads to long-term health problems well into adulthood. It also subjects you to diabetes, heart attacks, hypertension, high blood pressure, and even death.

However, you can prevent such fatal circumstances from taking place by simply eating right and exercising. You can start by supplementing with a multivitamin and beginning to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet, while cutting back on junk food. Instead of snacking on Doritos or going for the Easy Mac at lunchtime, a better choice would be a combination of a hefty salad and fruit or a tasty granola bar. You should also eliminate processed foods, like frozen dinners, in favor of foods that are baked, steamed or grilled. Read the labels on the backs of packaged foods! The fat content and amount of calories can be shockingly high, even in seemingly innocent foods like graham crackers. Partially hydrogenated oil, which is cheap and doesn’t spoil (wonderful for the manufacturer that is making a profit off the public’s ignorance), is present in almost all packaged food. The creation of trans-fat occurs when liquid oils solidify by partial hydrogenation, a process that stretches food shelf life and changes “safe” unsaturated fat into extremely dangerous fat. These oils act as poisons to crucial cellular reactions and wind up in cell membranes and other places they shouldn’t be. The protective structure and function of cell membranes is weakened when trans fatty acids are present, allowing toxic chemicals to get into the cell more easily.

Pretty scary side effect of snacking on potato chips, huh?

For those living at school, have fresh fruit with breakfast, go to the dining hall at least once a day and get a hot meal with vegetables, and keep healthy snacks on hand, such as popcorn and baby carrots. Everyone should be drinking 8-10 8 oz. glasses of non-caffeine fluids each day, such as water and milk. Stay away from artificially sweetened juices and soda, which have no nutritional content and are wasted calories. Women especially should consume 3-4 servings of dairy a day, for calcium. Eating several times a day but in smaller portions is an important aspect of maintaining a healthy diet.

Another important way to stay healthy and reduce stress is to get enough exercise. You should be engaging in some type of cardiovascular exercise (biking, running, fast walking, swimming, and aerobics) at least three times a week, for twenty to sixty minutes. You can also supplement this with strengthening exercises (sit-ups, push-ups, leg lifts, weight training) which will build up your muscles and keep bones healthy.

St. John’s University offers many opportunities to begin a healthy routine, such as joining a sports team, running track, or utilizing the campus gym. Find a workout partner to keep you motivated and make an agreement to do something active together a few times a week. You can also get exercise by making simple choices, such as walking instead of riding the bus, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

The key factor is to remember not to overeat or “inhale” your food but rather chew on it slowly, which will give your stomach enough time to process it. We may live in a crazy and hectic society but eating does not have to be that way.

However, if cravings come to haunt you once in a while, do not fear them. We only live once and a small splurge from time to time never hurt anyone! Reward yourself occasionally, so you don’t feel tempted to binge on a box of Oreos at 2 a.m. Just don’t make it a habit.