American culture and our dangerous glamorization of an unhealthy lifestyle- it’s (literally) killing us.
Perhaps it’s simply because I’m still in the “college bubble,” but lately I’ve become more aware of a disturbing trend. On all corners of the Internet, people gleefully crow about how much McDonald’s they eat, or mocking “healthy” people who exercise regularly, as though to abstain from habits that improve human health makes them more socially acceptable. Has fast food culture gone too far?
Allow me to be clear: I would not consider myself to be the model of human health, but I used to be worse. That is to say; my health habits have never been too bad and I have been naturally underweight all my life, but it wasn’t until my junior year that I started taking an active interest in my health and going to the gym regularly. However, my skepticism about the Western diet originated over a decade ago: I have been anti-fast food since I was about 9 years old. I cut out meat and fish around fall 2014, became fully vegan in late August 2015, and have never felt better.
Alas, these opinions have never been met with much enthusiasm.
Shortly after I declared my no-fast food vendetta, my class went on the customary day-long “gold rush” field trip, as is the rite of passage for fourth-graders in California. We wouldn’t return home until evening, so our bus stopped at a McDonald’s, as we had been promised it would. Out of 60 kids, I was the only one who had brought my own dinner on the trip. The second I pulled my Tupperware container of rice and vegetables out of my backpack, one boy shrieked, “YOU BROUGHT YOUR OWN DINNER?!”
The next thing I knew, a gaggle of classmates had formed a blockade, asking me why I would ever refuse a Happy Meal. Was I crazy? Did I not understand how tasty McNuggets were? My limited explanation was probably something along the lines of “because it’s bad,” but my classmates remained convinced that that didn’t matter. We had all heard the health facts about what fast food and lack of exercise did (Supersize Mecame out the same year), but it looked cooler to pretend we didn’t care. At the age of 10, I was already having to defend my choice not to eat a cancer-laiden concoction of chemicals and mystery entrails that would lead to cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Shouldn’t it have been the other way around?
Fast food culture is scarier than you think. McDonald’s has taken it beyond its competitors, finding a way to harness children at disturbingly young ages and turn them into lifetime customers. Fast food has been unavoidable for decades, popping up on every street corner, enslaving the masses of American Health. It’s a problem that cannot be overlooked.
The other side of this issue is a strange cultural resentment of people who dare to exercise and care about staying healthy. The photo above caused a minor Internet explosion, with people screaming that it was fat-shaming, preachy, etc. The general reaction was so violently negative, that I wondered, shouldn’t we be congratulating the woman in the photo? Shouldn’t we give positive words to this mother of three small children for managing to stay healthy despite her demanding everyday life, and ultimately promoting a healthy, active lifestyle to her kids?
In the end, our strange cultural mentality is causing American health to become worse and worse, costing billions every year. Perhaps I’m just paranoid, but I fail to understand why we praise a sedentary life and criticize those who dare to live a healthy one.