Research Paper: Overeating Poor Eating Habits

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Overeating and Poor Eating Habits: Learning to Make Healthy Choices

Obesity has reached near epidemic levels in many Western nations, including the United States, and increasingly sedentary lifestyles are further contributing to the incidence of poor eating habits. Young people in particular are at high risk of becoming obese due in part to poor eating habits. To determine the extent of the problem and what can be done, this paper provides a review of the relevant literature concerning a general and personal definition of health and how consumer health behavior relates to these definitions. An examination of the implications of obesity and poor eating habits is followed by a comprehensive plan for behavior change for healthcare consumers to address these problems. Finally, a summary of the research and important findings are presented in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Definition of Health

The World Health Organization's (WHO's) general definition of health indicates this is "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity" (quoted in Schneider & Stokols 425). From a personal perspective, this general definition should also include a happiness level indicator as well, making the definition of health "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being the contribute to an overall sense of happiness & #8230; ." This personalized definition of health is discussed further below with respect to how it relates to consumer health behavior.

How Consumer Health Behavior Relates to the Definition of Health

The expanded definition of health described above suggests that in order for people to become and stay healthy, they must make healthy choices in their diet and remain physically active. In this regard, Maeta and Murata (2006) report that, "An increase in poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles in the United States has reduced physical activity and increased the prevalence of obesity and overweight, which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other negative effects on one's health" (42). The results of the study by Maeta and Murata, though, underscore the cultural aspects of consumer health, and what may be regarded as being healthy choices in one venue may be viewed with disdain in another. For instance, Maeta and Murata report that, "In Hawaii, for example, the average level of obesity in children is higher than the national average" (42). These authors suggest that the high representation of Asian cultures in Hawaii reflects cultural preferences for foods as well as physical body image (Maeta and Murata 42).

Moreover, consumer health behavior is highly influenced in other ways, including aggressive marketing efforts by the food, beverage, and restaurant industries (Lee, Choi and Quilliam 130). In fact, these industries combined spend more than $1.6 billion each year to promote their products to young consumers, with overall marketing expenditures for brands targeting children and adolescents amounting to almost $10 billion annually (Lee et al. 130). In response to the dual trends involved increasingly sedentary lifestyles together with poor eating habits has caused researchers and policymakers alike to debate the precise role of food, beverage and restaurant advertising in the childhood obesity epidemic (Lee et al. 130). Taken together, it is clear that a personal definition of health is influence by the larger culture as well as targeted marketing efforts by the food, beverage and restaurant industry and the implications of these trends is discussed further below.

Implications of Overeating/Poor Eating Habits

Overeating and poor eating habits have lifelong implications, and young children are especially at risk of developing weight-related problems later in life when they are obese or exercise poor eating habits. Indeed, over the past 25 years or so, the United States alone has experienced a staggering increase in childhood obesity levels (Benavides and David 292). The results of the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 17% of U.S. children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years are currently overweight and these young people have an 80% increased chance of remaining overweight into adulthood, with a corresponding higher rate of morbidity and mortality (Benavides and David 292).

These trends are troubling enough, but the harsh realities facing policymakers and researchers also include their enormous economic implications. For example, the Centers for Disease Control report that obesity has a huge impact on employer healthcare costs, including medical expenditures and absenteeism, from $460 to $2,500 per individual obese employee every year (Benavides and David 292). The implications of obesity also include the manner in which the condition contributes to comorbidity in other diseases that have life-threatening potential. For example, Benavides and David report that, "The leading cause of death in the United States today is heart disease. A major contributor to this disease is the sedentary life style and poor eating habits of a majority of the people." (292) the National Center for Health Statistics likewise report the nearly a third (30%) of U.S. adults aged 20 years and older are obese, a population consisting of more than 60 million people (Benavides and David 292). These authorities define obesity as "having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. An estimated 65% of U.S. adults aged 20 years and older are either overweight or obese, defined as having a BMI of 25 or higher" (Benavides and David 292).

During the period from 1995 to 2005, there was an increased prevalence of obesity experienced in all states in the United States. At the public health level, the implications of these trends include the increased drain on already scarce healthcare resources and the deleterious effect that being overweight or obese has on a wide range of other healthcare problems. In this regard, Benavides and David emphasize that, "The cause for concern in these statistics is that being overweight or obese increases the risk of many diseases including: hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, and some cancers. All of these diseases contribute to lower productivity and decrease efficiency for cities" (292).

Moreover, obesity and poor eating habits are among the most destructive individual behaviors that can be changed through a commitment to healthier choices and physical fitness. In this regard, O'Flaherty, Martin, Flores-Mateo et al. (2012) emphasize that, "Apart from smoking, the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease are elevated blood cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, all related to poor eating habits" (522). Likewise, the U.S. Surgeon General has cited obesity as being inextricably related to poor eating habits and a dearth of physical exercise, and these conditions have even been identified as a national health risk (ACEI Resolutions 37). Taken together, these implications mean that young consumers are on a very slippery healthcare slope and they are faced with a bombardment of marketing that complicate making health nutritional choices. In this regard, Lee (1999) emphasizes that, "With so many influences encouraging poor eating habits, it is important for children to learn about good nutrition. Children are notoriously difficult to influence towards measures which might protect future health; by and large they are healthy and have difficulty considering the future effects of their actions" (249). Indeed, young people believe they are immortal and having an energy drink instead of juice or French fries instead of a piece of fruit may seem inconsequential. Nevertheless, the implications of these trends in developed nations as well as emerging nations are clear. According to Lee (1999), "The problems of hunger, of obesity, and of malnutrition are among the world's most serious concerns. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases owe much of their prevalence to poor eating habits" (3). Given the enormity of the problem, identifying timely and efficacious plans for behavior change has assumed new relevance and importance, and these issues are discussed further below.

Plan for Behavior Change

Human behavior is notoriously difficult to change, and once people become accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle, effecting substantive changes can be challenging. Nevertheless, it is in this area that public health authorities can help address the fundamental problems of poor eating habits and obesity. For example, according to Eaton, Marx and Bowie (2007), around two-thirds of adult deaths among those aged 25 years and older in the United States can be attributed to preventable healthcare risk factors, including poor eating habits and inadequate physical activity.

Because resources are by definition scarce, it is vitally important for public health administrators to use their resources to their maximum advantage, the Eaton and his associates suggest that the public schools are an ideal setting in which to implement behavior modification regimens that promote healthy nutritional choices and increased physical fitness among young people as well as adults. According to Eaton et al., "U.S. schools employ an estimated 6.7 million workers, or nearly 4.5% of the nation's workforce, and are ideal settings for promoting adult health through employee wellness programs. Moreover, many schools already have key facilities (e.g., gymnasiums, swimming pools, fitness centers, and athletic fields) and staff (e.g., health and mental health professionals, health and physical education teachers, classroom teachers, and nutrition… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Overeating Poor Eating Habits.  (2013, January 19).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from

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"Overeating Poor Eating Habits."  19 January 2013.  Web.  25 May 2019. <>.

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"Overeating Poor Eating Habits."  January 19, 2013.  Accessed May 25, 2019.