Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 7:59:26 AM
His face was large and beefy, and his pudgy stomach jutted so far out that it sagged below his waistline. Whenever he walked, he would waddle forward inch by inch, like a duckling, and pant along the way. His flabby arms and belly jiggled and shook whenever he moved, as if he were a giant, wandering ball of Jell-O.
In contrast, most of the kids at my middle school, including myself, were considered physically fit. We were all fairly tall for our age, and we played multiple sports. These differences unfortunately isolated the obese sixth grade boy, and caused him to be ridiculed by most of my peers. Even I poked fun at him; I felt that I had a right to joke about his obesity, because it was his fault for not eating healthy and exercising consistently. I believed it was ultimately up to the individual to determine their path of diet and fitness, and those who chose the route towards corpulence only had themselves to blame.
This was before I discovered the boy lived in a poverty-stricken neighborhood with no nearby parks or open land to run around and play. This was before I realized that it was more economically practical for his impoverished family to purchase food at their local fast food restaurants. This was before I recognized that the boy did not have a family that encouraged him to exercise and eat healthy, that his parents were too busy trying to sustain a living to drive him to a teen fitness center, and lacked the money to pay for him to join a basketball or soccer league.
We live in a world where not everyone has the same resources, and where many times circumstances are out of one’s control. For the overweight boy, his destitute environment contributed to his terrible eating habits and lack of exercise. Socioeconomic disparity hinders not only this boy, but many of the poor around the world from achieving an ideally healthy life.
We need to promote and raise awareness about healthy living. But our advocacy of a healthy lifestyle should not be limited to “get up and exercise” or “eat your green vegetables.” It must also expand to helping people realize that while some of us plainly choose not to live healthy lives, many of us our restricted by disadvantaged circumstances in which healthful eating and physical fitness are simply out of our reach. However, when we work together towards publicizing and acting on this issue, we can extend the rope of healthy living to be within the grasp of the unfortunate. We must convince governments to make organic food more affordable and accessible, and fund for more public parks in poorer areas. Currently some schools are holding “fun run” fundraisers, where students are sponsored to run laps, and the money raised pays for public fitness centers and parks. Through these active, united community efforts, a healthy lifestyle can be possible for people of all social standings.