Monday, December 02, 2013

Why Brits Should Stop Giving Americans A Hard Time About Obesity

We've all heard the stereotypes: Americans eat too much; Americans have bigger portions; Americans are all overweight.

As someone who was born and raised in the United Kingdom, I've heard my fair share of these stereotypes; some Brits are very quick to formulate generalized opinions about a nation or its people based on sound bites, media representations or one-off personal experiences.

This seems to be borne out of a group mentality; the kind of mentality that says, "we're the underdogs, so it's okay to criticize the Yanks, even if our barbs are increasingly hypocritical."

Of course, there is a sizeable (excuse the pun) amount of truth to this stereotype. The United States ranks number 1 on the OECD's latest report on the world's most obese nations. Having lived, for five years, in the US, and specifically Indiana, the nation's 11th most obese state, I have seen numerous first hand accounts as to why.

But my fellow countrymen might be interested to know that the very same report ranked the United Kingdom in 5th place - with 25% of the adult population affected by obesity. Moreover, a separate study found that, if current trends continue, 26 million UK residents will be obese by the year 2030 - a rise of 73%.

Of course, just like in the United States, blame for rising obesity levels in the UK is usually aimed at the profiteering fast food industry, which has developed a growing influence on the national diet in this busy get-up-and-go world of the 21st Century.

Perhaps due to the aforementioned hustle and bustle of modern life, however, Brits and Americans alike often turn to the excuse that, because they're so exhausted after work, the thought of even basic exercise becomes overwhelming. Instead, the act of spending hours in front of the television, escaping from the stresses of day-to-day-life with the aid of what Americans call junk food, has become the norm for many people in both countries.

Ironically, as mentioned above, the British tend to develop a number of generalized opinions about Americans during those hours in front of the television (and possibly vice versa). So quick are we Brits to pass comment on the so-called most powerful nation on Earth - a label our own nation once possessed - that we forget to look in the mirror.

The truth is, obesity is linked to increased levels of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Along with the projected 73% increase in obesity, more than a million additional cases of all three afflictions are expected to hit the British populous over the next 17 years.


Laurence is a British expat living in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a contributor for BBC America and writes a weekly column for Anglotopia. Having graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English Language and Creative Writing, Laurence runs this blog, Lost In The Pond, charting the endless cultural and linguistic differences between Britain and The United States. 

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3 comments:

Melissa S. said...

"we're the underdogs, so it's okay to criticize the Yanks, even if our barbs are increasingly hypocritical."

Spot. On.

And isn't the U.K. the fattest nation in Europe? I guess it still consoles itself by saying "Well at least we're not number one in the world!" No, that trophy now belongs to Mexico.

It's like I always ask, which is dumber - being the first to make a mistake or do something stupid or to observe someone do it (criticize them) and then dp it yourself? First obesity and now Black Friday stupidity. As we say here, "Duh!"

Another good post Laurence. I appreciate your diplomatic take on expat life.

Melissa S. said...

*do* it yourself. Sorry!

RL Anderson said...

And every bit of my fat little genetic code is British.

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