Obesity: Addressing the Causes and Health Costs Associated with Rising Rates of Disease Associated with Our Diet

The United States population is currently facing the worst health crisis that it has ever seen. The obesity epidemic now directly affects at least one-third of our population, with the average American now carrying roughly twenty-three extra pounds of weight (Fulkerson, 2011). Yet, the discomfort suffered by carrying around these extra pounds is not the only negative side effect associated with this drastic increase in weight gain. Exponential increases in a variety of chronic, life threatening disease have also occurred in the past twenty years, with the most alarming statistics being seen in our children. Children as young as the age of four are now being classified as obese and diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension, diseases that traditionally have only ever affected aging adults. These facts clearly prove that something drastic needs to be done to save our citizens (Moss, 2).

The main causes of obesity can be directly tied to the food that we eat. Since the 1950s, food corporations have greatly increased the amount of refined and highly processed foods used in their products. These ingredients, while being highly toxic for your health, masks themselves by being highly enjoyable to one’s sense of taste, as well as tricking our brain into thinking that we need to eat more of them in order to become satisfied. However, it is not only our reliance on these highly processed foods that is causing our health problems. An increased consumption of animal based products can also be linked to this rise in disease. Overall, it cannot be denied that it is our diet that is the primary culprit behind our failing health.

The only way to fix this problem is by educating our population. Many individuals have no idea that the ingredients in their favorite foods are actually toxic to them. There also needs to be an increase in physician nutrition education, as most physicians today receive barely any nutritional training in medical school, a key tool that could be used in the prevention of disease. While it would be beneficial if such ingredients were banned from the food market all together, realistically this is unlikely to occur. Therefore, it is crucial that we focus on the low cost alternative of educating our population in order to solve this epidemic.

Aim Higher

Hmmm, where will I be in 10 years?  Gosh, that’s a scary question.  As of this moment ten years is equivalent to half of my lifetime, and A LOT has changed since I was 12.  I guess my hope would be that I am either living in NYC or LA, with a family, and a career in fashion merchandising.  The following is a response to the question: Who are you now in comparison to who you were when you graduated college?


It’s 6:30am and I have just been jolted from my peaceful slumber by the loud siren that is my alarm clock.  Groggily I turn it off, although I would like to throw it across the room.  What ever happened to the days of “Mom, just five more minutes…”.  I guess that’s what happens when you grow up.  I am now (and have been for the last ten years) a real, live grown-up.  Yes, I was “technically” a grown-up in college, but not really.  Missing class isn’t like missing a day at work and now I have to juggle all of my own responsibilities on top of the responsibilities of my family.  Don’t get me wrong, it has been an incredibly empowering experience; however, I was shaking in my boots when I first took the reins that May of 2013.

Looking back on my life during that period I would have to say that my most significant accomplishment has been the creation of my own boutique retail business.  I have always been interested in fashion and attended a master’s program for design and strategic management just out of college before venturing into the professional world on my own.  While those two years of school were definitely challenging the experiences that I gained by interning at Valentino and Chanel were invaluable.  Armed  with this knowledge I was able to get a buying assistant position for a small line of boutiques located in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and London.  For those first couple of years, I, like most young professionals just starting out, did not have the most glamorous job.  Yes, I helped pick out clothing that was to be sold in the store, but I also mastered the art of ordering coffee and scheduling appointments.  Hey, everyone’s got to start somewhere right?

Although, after a five at this company I was promoted to head buyer.  This was an enormous accomplishment.  I now had people running my errands (who would’ve thought!) and I was actually able to focus on the more interesting and creative sides of the business.  This is exactly what I had always wanted, to be able to pick out clothes for a living.  However, my ambitious appetite was not yet satiated.  I still longed to do more.  Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs I had always been told that I could do anything as long as I put my mind to it.  When I was a young girl I dreamed of owning my own line of boutiques, just like the one I was working for.  Yes, I was basically doing the same thing types of tasks at my current job but the company wasn’t mine.  It had not been built on my vision.  I found myself feeling stifled and as though there was something missing from my life.  This is when I decided to take my seven years of experience and start my own retail business.

Today, we currently have two locations, one in my home city of NYC and one in Boston.  While both stores are still young they appear to be flourishing and I am hopeful about the future.  Within the next five years we hope to be able to open at least two more locations, one in Los Angeles and one abroad (hopefully Paris!).  This whole experience has been such a journey for me.  I feel so lucky to be able to pursue my passion at this level.

However, my career is not the only thing that has changed since graduation.  Four years ago I married the love of my life.  We currently live in downtown Manhattan with our two dogs, but hopefully we will begin expanding our family very soon.  Both he and I have very busy work lives at the moment, which makes it difficult to contemplate the possibility of adding more responsibility/craziness to our lives.  I also hope to move out of the city and into the suburbs.  Being raised in a small town myself I have always envisioned raising a family in the country.  Don’t get me wrong I LOVE New York, but I don’t think that it is the best environment to raise children.

Well, there you have it, my life current life in a brief blurb.  A lot has changed since I accepted my diploma on May 19, 2013, but at heart I am still the same girl that refuses to take no for an answer.

Photo Credit:

More Is Not Always Better

     One of the biggest issues facing the U.S. in 2013 is what to do about the public health care system.  In the current system doctors are paid on a per visit, per procedure basis, rewarding doctors that see more patients and those that perform more expensive procedures.  The problem with this system is that if doctors are making money based on how many patients they see and say they need to see a patient every six minutes, the doctor is not able to spend enough time with patients in order to adequately diagnose and educate them on proper care for a certain condition or preventative measures that could help them avoid further progression of their health problems.  Also because doctors are paid on a per procedure basis, they are encouraged to perform more dangerous procedures on patients that don’t need them.  This is a huge issue when one realizes that hospital error/illness is the third leading cause of death in the United States.  So how can we fix the care portion of the health care system so that both doctors and patients benefit?
      One solution would be to pay doctors on a salary basis, with the possibility of promotions and pay raises based on patient satisfaction and their effectiveness as a health care professional.  By making it so that doctors are paid on a salary basis there is no longer this need to see as many patients as humanly possible in a small window of time.  Instead doctors can spend more personalized time with each of their patients, providing thorough care that will ultimately result in better health for the patient in question.  This will also decrease the amount of unnecessary procedures that take place because there will no longer be a financial incentive/pressure to take this path.  Instead doctors will be able to look at the patient’s situation and come up with a solution that is the least invasive and most effective for them.  This will then decrease the amount of medical errors and deaths that occur because of unnecessary surgeries.  The main problem with the health care system is the way that it pays those involved.  We need to create a new system that focuses on quality instead of quantity.  If more patients are provided with better care and educated on disease prevention methods, it is likely that more patients will remain healthy and health care costs will decrease as a result.



Whole Foods: Changing the Way We Think About Food


The United States is currently facing one of the worst health crises the country has ever seen. Between 1996 and 2005 the number of Americans suffering from three or more chronic diseases increased by eighty-six percent, and the incidence of diabetes in the American population increased by ninety percent (Gene & Popper, 24). The source of this drastic increase in chronic illnesses can be directly tied to the lack of proper nutrition and the presence of dangerous chemicals found in the average American diet.  With two-thirds of the American adult population qualifying as either overweight or obese it is clear that the lack of government regulation in the food production industry has caused a nationwide epidemic (Gene & Popper, 24).

With drastic government reform of the food production industry unlikely to occur in the immediate future, there has become a societal need for alternative, healthy food options.  Current cultural trends show that American preferences are moving away from processed food and toward more healthy, sustainable food options.  This need has resulted in the creation of alternative grocery stores and restaurants with sustainable, nutritional focuses.  The most prominent example of one of these companies is Whole Foods Market.  Whole Foods Market was founded in 1980 by two individuals with the goal of transforming the way Americans eat and shop for groceries.  The aim of the founders was to create a shopping experience that encouraged nutritional education through the implementation of healthy eating habits and access to the highest quality foods available.  The company was formed in response to the processed food movement, as an alternative for individuals looking for healthy options (Whole Foods Website, 2013).  From a utilitarian viewpoint Whole Foods is an ethical company because every aspect of their business model from their food standards, to their educational programs, to their environmental policies result in positive benefits for all stakeholders that outweigh any societal costs.

Utilitarianism ethicists believe that it is the result of a particular business decision, not the decision itself that causes a particular situation to be ethical.  If the benefits of a certain decision outcome outweigh the costs of that same decision outcome then the consequences of that decision are ethical; if they do not, it is not ethical (Trevino, Nelson, 90).  The social costs incurred by society through the consumption of unhealthy, over processed foods found at standard grocery stores or in fast food restaurants have resulted in societal costs of roughly $40 to $100 billion dollars a year (Wolf, Colditz, 2013).  Not only is this practice unsustainable, but it is also unethical because the costs of these decisions to create unhealthy food options outweigh any potential benefits.  In this situation there is only one party that benefits from the consumption of processed food and that is the food corporations themselves.  Therefore from a purely sociological perspective the decision of using dangerous food producing practices is unethical and should be addressed immediately.

Whole Foods has been able to solve this ethical conundrum by implementing high product standards and offering a wide range of educational programming to customers, employees, and other potential stakeholders. Whole Foods has taken it upon themselves to eliminate dangerous and unnatural food additives from the products that they sell even though they are not required to by law. The list of prohibited food additives consists of roughly eighty different chemicals including BHA and BHT, two very commonly used preservatives made from petroleum, the same chemical used to make the gasoline that runs your car (Goyanes, 2013).  A full list of all prohibited food additives can be found at the end of this report (directly from the Whole Foods Website).  This is one example of how Whole Foods executives have created a company that is ethically responsible.  By eradicating all unnatural food additives in their products, Whole Foods has effectively eliminated any health costs associated with consuming food additives. While these foods options may cost a little more to purchase, the overall health benefits to the customer vastly outweighs any potential cost, which makes this policy ethical and beneficial to society as a whole (Heineman, Froemke, 2013).

Whole foods also has strict regulations for the production of its agricultural products.  Whole Foods prides itself on only selling the best organically grown produce available.  To be considered organic, the crop must be grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or ionizing radiation, all of which have been linked to health problems (Organic.org, 2013).  Whole Foods also tries to buy produce from local farmers in the community whenever possible.  These actions result in positive consequences for all involved (Whole Foods Website).  The customer is happy because they know that they are getting a quality product, and local farmers are happy because they are able to stay in business. The growth of the big agriculture industry has created an environment where it is difficult for small, family owned farms to compete.  Yes, it is valid that organic produce is more expensive than standard produce; however, the positive health benefits outweigh any of these costs, making this an ethical policy.

Whole Foods also employs strict standards for any meat or animal products sold in their stores.  One of the major problems the has surfaced since the industrialization of the food industry is the inhumane treatment and genetic modifications of farm animals.  Today, in an effort to make larger profits, meat producing corporations like Purdue and Tyson are creating genetically modified animals that live inhumane lifestyles (Kenner, 2013).  Take a look at the difference between a normal chicken and a genetically modified chicken shown in the photo below.             12785_368494776592533_415201850_n

As you can see the genetically modified bird is so large that it cannot stand upright on its own.  In an effort to create a chicken that provides larger portions of meat, genetic scientists have modified the chicken’s genes to create a super bird that cannot support its own bulk.  (Kenner, 2013).  This form of chicken farming is not only cruel because it significantly diminishing the bird’s way of life, but also unnatural.  Like GMOs in agriculture the human body is not meant to ingest scientifically created organisms.  Also it should be noted that some farms use hormones to achieve the same effect.  These hormones should be avoided at all costs as they have documented negative effects on humans that ingest them.  Based on the utilitarian theory of ethics it is unethical for a company to genetically modify and inhumanly house farm animals.  In doing this major costs are incurred for both the animals and the individuals that are consuming their products.  There does not appear to be any societal benefits from the use of these genetically modified animal products.

In an effort to eliminate animal cruelty from our food chain, Whole Foods has partnered with the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals, to establish their own meat standards.  All meat sold in Whole Foods stores must pass GAP’s strict six-step test.  This test requires that any animals used in the production of animal products are not to be confined to a crate or a cage, but instead allowed to roam free, outdoors, on dedicated pastureland.  They also encourage farmers to provide animals with an environment that encourages normal animal behavior, such as providing chickens with straw to peck at.  All physical alterations of these animals are strictly prohibited, and finally the animal must spend its entire life at the same farm (Whole Foods Website).  Farming practices such as these are ethical because they provide the most benefits to all the organisms involved.  The animals benefit because they have a higher quality of life, and we benefit because we are getting better quality meats.  Overall, while raising animals under these conditions may be more expensive for producers and consumers, these costs are offset by the massive health benefits provided for both the animals and consumers.

Whole Foods has also become the leader in providing sustainable seafood options.  With events such as the BP oil spill, Americans are becoming increasingly concerned with where their fish are coming from.  Also many of the country’s most popular fish species have become overfished, which has negative consequences for both the fish population and their natural habitat. In an effort to provide sustainable seafood options for its customers, Whole Foods became the first retailer to team up with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a non-profit organization dedicated to the implementation of sustainable fishing practices.  Whenever possible Whole Foods tries to sell MSC certified fish that come from MSC certified fisheries.  However, there are certain fish that cannot be farmed and when this is the case the company uses a sustainability rating program to separate fish into three categories–red, yellow and green–to guide customers.  The green rated fish are the best in terms of sustainability and quality.  Yellow fish species are a step below green rated species, and red labeled species are the least sustainable species (Whole Foods Website).

In an effort to further their sustainability goals, Whole Foods announced last year that it will no longer be carrying red rated fish. While this was a difficult decision for the company to make–as it did have the potential to cut profits and cause customers to look elsewhere for these fish–they decided to go ahead with the policy as a way to maintain their reputation by making the most ethical decision possible.  This example particularly exemplifies Whole Foods’ commitment to socially responsible decision making (Whole Foods Website).  In the food production industry it is rare to see a company pass up an opportunity to make more money, even if the decision does create negative consequences for other stakeholders.  Whole Foods, however, decided to forgo this opportunity in the interest of doing what was right.  The video below is from the Whole Foods website and explains in detail the reasoning behind their decision to eliminate red rated fish from their stores.

Whole Foods takes pride in everything they sell.  The use of humane and sustainable business practices is what sets them apart from other grocers.  Every single one of their business policies was created with stakeholder well being in mind.  This is a drastic departure from the traditional attitude commonly found in the food industry. It is this concern for  stakeholders rights, as opposed to making the most revenue, that guides their decision making processes and results in the many societal benefits that their business practices provide.  These benefits include a cleaner environment, humane treatment of all living beings, and overall stakeholder health.  All of their actions as a business can be considered ethical based on the utilitarian view of ethics.  The reason for this is because of the consistently positive net benefits that arise as consequences of their business decisions.  Every decision Whole Foods makes must benefit their customers without causing harm to any additional external stakeholders.  The Whole Foods sustainable business model is revolutionary and signifies a revolutionary shift in the way we look at food.

Cited Sources:

  1. “Organic.org – Organic FAQ.” Organic.org – Organic FAQ. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.
  2. Wolf, Anne M., and Graham A. Colditz. “Current Estimates of the Economic Cost of Obesity in the United States.” Obesity 6.2 (2012): n. pag. Print.
  3. “Whole Foods Market.”  Wholefoods.com – Home Page.  N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.
  4. “Fortune 500 2009: Top Performers.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.
  5. “13 Banned Foods Still Allowed in the U.S.” Shape Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.
  6. Stone, Gene, and Pamela Popper. Forks over Knives: The Plant-based Way to Health. New York: Experiment, 2011. Print.
  7. Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.
  8. Food, INC. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Magnolia Pictures, 2009. DVD.
  9. Escape Fire. Dir. Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke. Lionsgate, 2012.
  10. Treviño, Linda Klebe., and Katherine A. Nelson. Managing Business Ethics. New York: Wiley, 2006. Print.
  11. Photo: “Welcome to Raw for Beauty.” Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. http://www.rawforbeauty.com/blog.html
  12. Youtube Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JEyy4fbOEz4




Have We All Become Virtual Slaves?

Slave To Your cell Phone-Mobile Phone Addiction-Cell phone slaves-Technology slaves

So I decided to go a slightly different route with this blog post and instead of talking about one particular program I couldn’t live without, I will describe one particular device I cannot live without…

Growing up in the millennial generation, I, like most other members of society who are not stuck in the Stone Age, have become reliant on technology.  Everyday. I find myself glued to two of my possessions, my computer and my cell phone.  It is frightening to think what would happen if I suddenly was without either one of these devices.  However, out of the two I would have to say that my cell phone is slightly more important to me.

Everyday I use my cell phone to send text messages to individuals I have business with or to friends, with whom I would like to make plans.  Besides texting and calling, I also use my phone to check my email and even search the web if I am in a bind and cannot easily access my computer.  While I would rather not admit this, I am definitely 100% reliant on my phone in order to conduct my everyday life.  I almost feel naked without my cell phone (and I am sure I am not alone here).  It makes all forms of communication—email, text, phone calls—so easy to access and all in one place.  My phone keeps me informed and up to date in all areas of my life.  Whether I am emailing a professor, calling my parents, texting friends, or looking up an answer to a simple question using Google, all I have to do is whip out my cell phone and voilà problem solved.  So what would happen if cell phones were suddenly taken off the market?  The world would fall apart…okay, well, maybe not fall apart but it would certainly make accomplishing tasks much more difficult.  Individuals would also have to learn to use other forms of technology to accomplish the same tasks, and who has time for that anymore?

If I did not have a cell phone—a misfortune I have experienced before when I have either lost or broken a phone—I would feel completely cut off from the inner going-ons of my life.  Yes, I could use my computer to email people and search the web, but I would no longer have the convenience of being able to do such tasks on one device, wherever I am.  I would also be unable to call anyone, unless I used a landline (and goodluck finding one of those in the home of anyone under 25 now-a-days).  I would also be completely cut off from texting, as there is no other easy way, as far as I am aware of, to text from another device.  My normal lines of communication would be severed.

The average social life of a person in the 21st century has become dependent on texting.  I mean let’s be real here, when was the last time you called a friend of yours to ask a simple question or just to have a chat? While talking on the phone still happens, it is undeniable that most communication between members of my generation happens via text message.  I remember when I lost my phone for 4 days; it was like I had dropped off the face of the planet.  When I finally got a new phone and informed my friends, I was surprised at how many people responded with statements like “how has it been living in a hole?”  The sad fact is that this statement is actually pretty accurate.  Without my phone I had missed out on a lot of different events.  While I was lucky and had friends that I lived with that could keep me in the loop, not having my phone for those few days was a main hindrance to my social life.  Imagine what would have happened if I lived alone, then it really would have felt like I was living under a rock.

So I want to end this blog post with a couple of questions:  How much do you depend on your cell phone?  Do you agree that if you no longer had that device you would feel isolated, or would you be just fine?  The answers to this question will no doubt depend on whether or not the answerer is a millennial or not.  For example my mother still doesn’t really understand texting.  But for our generation, have we become so dependent on texting that without it we would feel cut off from the rest of our world?  What potential danger does this pose for the future of human relationships?

Are you addicted to your cell phone?  Here is a short 2 minute clip I found from ABC News that talks about cell phone addiction and how it can be just as bad as an addiction to drugs…


http://www.standard.co.uk/incoming/article8502604.ece/ALTERNATES/w620/ecsImgphone-and-chain-65501.jpg (featured image)

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-EUpfz6GMkB8/UOpGNpd1B_I/AAAAAAAAAUU/VhxF9bHT66Q/s1600/Slave+To+Your+cell+Phone-Mobile+Phone+Addiction-Cell+phone+slaves-Technology+slaves.jpg (image in post)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvFc7bcaBMk (video)

Deepwater Disaster


            Let’s face it the World is dependent on oil.  We use it for so many purposes in everyday life that I am sure this is not news to most of you.  From heating our homes, to fueling our cars, even the pavement we drive on consists of 2% petroleum.  Oil is arguably the most valuable natural resource in the world, and many countries will do whatever they can to get their hands on as much of this resource as they can.

The demand for oil related products are staunchly inelastic.   This is why companies can get away with charging exorbitant prices and why the purchase of these products is so heavily taxed.  People rely on oil; therefore they will buy it, period.  Unfortunately, oil is also a very volatile substance that can be toxic to both the environment and humans if handled incorrectly.  An example of the damage that poor safety management can cause can easily be seen in the BP oil spill case in 2010.

The BP oil spill; also known as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the BP disaster, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and the Macondo blowout; was arguably the largest and most detrimental oil spill to ever occur in the oil industry.  The Deepwater Horizon was a semi-submersible Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) that drilled oil for the British company, BP, just off the Gulf Coast.  However, on April 20, 2010 disaster struck when this massive ship exploded killing 11 crewmembers and leaving the wellhead it was drilling from uncapped.  Because the wellhead was left uncapped oil began to immediately flow into the ocean itself.  Overall, it is estimated that 4.9 million barrels of oil was spilled into the ocean, which is equivalent to roughly 210 million gallons.  210 million gallons…how could BP let this happen?

The reason for this astonishing number is due to the fact that it took BP 87 days to recap the oil well (and there is still debate that the well may still be leaking).  87 days…that seems like an unusually long period of time needed to fix this problem.  In the course of these 87 days there was massive devastation to the ecological environment and the organisms that inhabited these areas.  I am sure you all remember the photographs of birds covered in oil.  The devastation was unreal.

So why is it that it took BP so long to respond to this devastating crisis, and more importantly what caused this crisis to occur in the first place?  While numerous sources have investigated the spill and come to a variety of conclusions, it is clear that the spill was caused by unethical decision making on the part of BP’s executives.  The BP executives, like the CEOs of most companies, wanted to make money (and in the oil industry you can make a lot of it) but at what cost?  The executives were well aware of the volatility of oil and the dangers offshore drilling, yet, they still chose to cut corners when it came to safety to make those extra bucks.

So what makes this case different from the Lehman Brothers case or the Enron case?  I would argue that due to the physical damage inflicted on both people and property, the decisions that lead to this event were even more reckless than what those that led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Enron—and the funny thing is BP is the only company out of those three that still exists. Yes, I will agree, it sucks to lose all your money, but at least you can still live/function physically.  The immense amount of physical damage is what sets the BP oil spill apart from other business disasters caused by poor decision-making.  This is your personal safety we are talking about here.  One can recover from a financial crisis, but what do you do if all of a sudden you contract a disease due to oil exposure.  Life threatening physical problems that are out of your control are much harder to recover from.  So I will end with this question:  Do you think that the BP oil spill was “more” unethical because it caused so much physical damage?  Or is it in the same league as the financial crisis?  Obviously these are two very different fields, but they can be compared because both occurred due to poor upper level management.





Picture: www.socialnomics.net