Americans are apparently fatter than ever and getting more so with each super sized meal they consume. This raises the question as to why people are getting fatter.
The stock answers are easy and obvious: people face less physical demands, there is more high calorie food, junk food is more accessible and cheaper, people have less time and so on. However, the causes can also be looked at in terms of values.
First, people seem to not value exercise and eating correctly. While people do claim that they do not have the time or cannot afford to eat properly, these are both mere excuses and also expressions of value. In most cases, people can fit in some exercise time, if only by cutting back on things like TV and internet activities (or mixing the two by exercising while watching TV or surfing the web). What people do is generally chose not to exercise and this is a value choice. As far as cost, eating well can be more expensive than eating junk, but not vastly more so. Also, the payback from healthy eating exceeds the cost of the foods in terms of health and also, ultimately, in costs. After all, being unhealthy can be expensive. It as also a matter of value: with some notable exceptions, people could elect to spend less in other areas so as to eat healthier.
Second, companies generally prefer to sell highly appealing, but high calorie and low nutrient, foods. These are what are typically called “junk” and “fast” foods. Companies could, of course, improve their foods but this would require a change of values on their part-and also on the part of the consumers. True, there are companies that make a business out of selling healthy foods, but they are often seen as catering to a limited (and high end) market. The folks in congress also contribute to the high calorie problem by heavily subsidizing things like corn. Using this specific example, this subsidy of corn allows high fructose corn syrup to be really cheap and hence end up in many foods, thus increasing their caloric content.
As it stands, most people’s values are such that they want to sell and consume unhealthy, high calorie food. People are also loath to exercise, thus leading to an ever expanding expansion of Americans.