A Causal Analysis – Why is Obesity Increasing in Sweden?

Our second assignment in the essay writing course was to write a casual analysis. A casual analysis is, quoting from the text book, “a type of text that aims at finding the underlying reasons for certain trends or phenomena . . . Your casual analysis should establish a trend or a phenomenon based on the author’s personal experiences and raise the question ‘why’ which will be the core of the analysis”(freely adapted from Academic Writing by Lennart Björk and Christine Räisänen). We were given the choice of two topics: Why is Obesity increasing in Sweden? Or, Why is Cosmetic Surgery becoming more popular? I choose the first one, since I have had battles myself dealing with overweight in recent years. Anyway, this is what I submitted:

Why is obesity increasing in Sweden?

The problem of increasing obesity in Sweden should not come as a surprise, at least not at a first glance. Our standards of living have increased continuously for the last hundred years, work and leisure-time activities are no longer as labour-intensive as they used to be, and our food is becoming more processed and enriched in calories. Moreover, sugar-rich and fat-rich products are in abundance, they are at arm’s length and at virtually no cost.

Vending machines eager to provide you with a little treat can be found almost everywhere. If you choose to live a life without physical training or labour-intensive work and at the same time eat crisps, sweets, and junk food every day you are free to do so and it will cost you marginally more than living a healthy life. Thus the short answer to the obesity problem is, there is an abundance of food, it cost marginally more to eat energy-rich food compared to energy-poor food products, and you do not have to work labour-intensive jobs or even be prepared to do so. If you want to pour full-fat cream into you food every day, you can do that.

But that line of reasoning does not explain why everyone then is not overweight, nor does it provide any solutions other than aiming at reversing time. Put a ban on sugar? Inform people of the dangers of being overweight? Tax candy manufacturers more than other businesses, thus making candy once again something you buy instead of something else? Finding the answer to why obesity is increasing must reach beyond this line of reasoning, and instead answer the question of why some people choose not to do something about their life styles or food consumption. Why do people keep eating pizzas for lunch if you work at a desk? It is like smoking – it is most certainly bad for you, and if you agree to that, and if you want to give it up, then why not just quit?

In our opinion, there are three explanations for the increasing obesity. One is that the level of mental stress in today’s society is increasing. There are numerous studies that show that most people think of problems related to their work after office hours. Numerous studies show that many people cannot mentally leave their jobs or studies at the work-place or school. Pupils worry about their exams. Managers worry about not meeting budget. In other words, eating pizza for lunch is one way of coping with the daily stress that comes with working in a stressful environment. In the 19th century it was drinking, today it is eating.

The second explanation is more sinister. People are reluctant to exposing themselves to physical strains. If losing weight entails one month of enduring hunger or eating salad for everyone’s amusement, then it is just not worth it. Or – putting it even more sinister – people have lost the mental capability to deal with things unpleasant, difficult or plain hard. Why study maths or physics, when you can study soft subjects such as language or literature? This is not making an argument for increased advanced maths in schools or an attempt of adding fuel to the ongoing debate whether the youngsters of today are unspeakably lazy or not, it is just a general feeling that we have. People in general avoid difficult things. We believe that this is the reason for the immensely popular diet called LCHF, a diet low in carbohydrates but high in fats and proteins. By this, you can eat as much fat and meat and of course as much béarnaise sauce as you like, as long as you avoid the chips.

Naturally, there is a third reason also, which may be the most plausible: People do not care. So I am fat, what is the problem?

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About Take the Fifth

Fortysomething accountant currently back at the university, cramming English... contact: takethefifth(atsign)live.com
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