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Governmental Directives

On July 16, 1956, the President’s Council on Youth Fitness was created after physical fitness tests showed that American youths were in poorer shape than European youth.  John F. Kennedy changed the title to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness in 1960 and in 1968; President Lyndon Johnson added sports to the Council’s name.  Also, in 1966, President Johnson created the Presidential Physical Fitness Award that was given to the kids who tested in the 85th percentile or higher on physical fitness tests.  Congress declared May “National Physical Fitness and Sports Month” in 1983.  The government’s influence on health is not limited to physical fitness.  The Food and Drug Administration has passed legislation to allow people to know the nutritional values of their food in 1990 and the safety of diet pills in 1994.  The USDA also created the nutrition pyramid that explained all the facets of a healthy diet.

Related Readings for Governmental Directives: Pyramid, President's Council, & President's Challenge

Fitness Archives Paragraph

 Intimately connected with the rise in health consciousness is the increase in the desire for and awareness of fitness in the United States.  The beginning of the “fitness craze” can be traced to roughly the end of the 1970s.  It was marked by the increase in home fitness equipment sales from $604 million in 1980 to $1.728 billion in 1989.  Studies by experts at the National Institute of Health and other agencies fueled the fitness boom through studies that confirmed a link between exercise and health, including reducing the risk of heart disease.  Nevertheless, Americans’ love affair with fitness has been paradoxical.  While we are spending more and more money and buying newer and more innovative gadgets and the latest fads, Americans are leaving the equipment sitting in the corner while they become more obese.

Related Readings for Fitness: Health & Fitness, Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, Article 4, & Article 5

The Evolution of Diet Programs

 Dieting is not an issue unique to the latter half of the 20th century, as we tend to think.  Nonetheless, two changes have resulted in an increased preoccupation with losing weight.  First, because of medical advancements, thinness is no longer associated with sickliness, hunger, and poverty.  Second, due to drastic changes in clothing, women had to worry for the first time about their bodies being seen—un-corseted, no less—by  people other than their husbands.  The 1950s were an anomaly as usual, being the only decade in which it was fashionable to be plump.  But the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe figure was replaced in the 60s by the skinny (and almost androgenous) frame of the model Twiggy.  In the desperate race to look skinny like Twiggy, women of the 60s and 70s searched for miracle diets and special formulas.  But as knowledge about nutrition became available in the 80s and 90s, more and more people turned away from fad diets toward low-calorie, low-fat eating, and a lifestyle of exercise.  Especially because so many diets (starvation dieting and yo-yo dieting) have been shown to be unhealthy, there is an increasing emphasis on health rather than weight.  The Marilyn Monroe-esque plus-models represent an effort to steer away from the Twiggy-look and the fad diets.

Related Readings for Diet Programs: Dieting Timeline , Twiggy, & Marilyn Monroe

Body Image and Eating Disorders

Since 1945, it is apparent that the ideal body image for both women and men has undergone significant changes. There has been a rise in health consciousness over this same period, but is health really the motivation for these changing bodies? For women, the change can be examined by looking at the bodies of actresses and models over time. It is apparent that over the past 5 decades, there has been an increase in pressure on women to achieve thinner, more “sculpted” bodies. The source of this pressure may come from men, but it also seems to take on a life of its own within the fashion industry. For men, athletes provide a source of information on the changes in ideal body image. Lifting weights has become a necessary part of not just sports like football, but all sports. Today, the average athlete is far more bulked up than his 50s and 60s counterpart, and must be in order to compete. Because there is great pressure on males to participate in sports, the need to achieve these bulked up bodies often starts with adolescent boys. The need to have a cosmetically appealing body also serves as the motivation for many males to tone themselves up. Looking at the evolution of action figures such as the G.I. Joe also provides a window into the changes in the male ideal. Whether or not health is the motivation for changing body types, it is often not the result. People today will try almost anything to achieve the body that society tells them is appealing. Many of these people fall victim to eating disorders, psychiatric illnesses that are now known to be life threatening among other harmful side effects. Recent studies claim that eating disorders have been on the rise in America, for both women and men, for most of the 20th century. The illnesses also seem to be affecting children at increasingly younger ages. It is important to note, however, that an increase in awareness and media attention on these illnesses may account for a percentage of the projected increases.

Related Readings for Body Image and Eating Disorders: Assorted Body Images

Medical Technology

Studies over the last two decades by the Nation Center for Health Statistics show that obesity in the United States is on the rise; approximately 35 percent of women and 31 percent of men age 20 and older are considered obese. Thus it is understandable why so many Americans want to lose weight and desire immediate weight loss. There are many proposed “quick fixes” to weight loss. The earliest introduction of diet pills started in 1959 with the FDA approval of Phentermine. In 1973, Pondimin was approved to fight obesity for “single drug, short term” use. However, both of these drugs did not sell well because of their side effects. Other diet pills were introduced over the years, however, some were found to cause severe medical problems and were promptly pulled off shelves. As people seek alternatives to exercise, surgery has been another “quick fix” solution. Liposuction and tummy tucks have been growing in popularity. However, it is an expensive and often quite painful procedure. Overall with the issue of losing weight, Lori Love, M.D., P.H.D. of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food and Safety and Applied Nutrition says it best, “There are no shortcuts—no magic pills.”

Related Readings for Medical Technology: FDA & PR Newswire, Weight Loss Drugs, Liposuction, Liposuction Timeline, Heart Valve, Redux settlement

McDonaldization and Obesity

While throughout the last century health consciousness has been on the rise there remains a disheartening paradox - America is now the most obese nation in the world. McDonald’s and the vast grip it has on society, along with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, prove to be the major culprits that are undermining the positive effects of healthy trends and causing this surge in obesity. The term that is now used to describe our new fast food society is McDonaldization which describes the manipulation of modern society to believe that the best way is also the most efficient, predictable, calculable and controlling. In the health arena, McDonaldization has changed the way we view eating from family oriented, home-cooked, nutritious meals into a diet that is microwaveable in seconds and super-sized full of saturated fat and carbohydrates. According to the Journal of American Medical Association some 58 million people in the United States are clinically obese and McDonald's lies at the heart of this problem. If this rate continues obesity will soon overtake smoking as the leading cause of underage death in the our nation. Excerpts from Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation illustrate the ill effects of fast food in dramatic fashion, yet a brighter and more healthy fast food future might be headed our way. Wendy's menu includes a salad bar and offers baked potatoes and Subway has glorified its new low fat diet while remaining fast and cheap. Even McDonald's is doing its best to change in the wake of a plethora of class action suits that claim they are responsible for overweight kids. They now offer McShakers, a lean salad, vegetarian hamburgers, and have recently announced that they will introduce a healthier oil in which to fry their French fries.

Related Readings for McDonaldization and Obesity:  Lawsuit , New Oil, Schlosser1, Schlosser2


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