- Posted September 26, 2011 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Boot camp: Headline writing & story building
Final - Cultural Obesity
(3) Headline options:
The challenges of Culture Obesity
Culture Obesity and its long term effect amongst Hispanics
The legacy of Culture Obesity
Culture Obesity is a health phenomenon you will find along the Texas-Mexican border. It’s a mix of two cultures that traditionally gather for events, consume lots of food but never take exercise into consideration; at least not as much as they should. That’s what I first thought when I began this story. I thought my community was obese because of the things we eat combined with a lack of education on leading a healthy lifestyle, but I was wrong. I had the opportunity the last few weeks to go out and connect with those who battle obesity every day. I asked questions from their past and learned many new things that make up culture obesity.
Every culture has its habits while some are healthier than others. In my community, we make the mistake of over-feeding children at our local buffets and we also make the mistake of giving babies sugared soft drinks instead of milk. Those are key factors that we can be blamed for. We can also admit that consuming lots of food and not focusing on exercise plays a huge role in culture obesity. We literally teach our kids to eat until they blow up.
While developing this story, I had the opportunity to meet a young woman by the name of Olivia de la Garza who was willing to share with us her experience growing up obese. The first thing she mentioned was that in our culture, children are brought up with the mind set that they should eat everything on their plate even though they can no longer eat. It is something that we have adopted because of hard times back in the day. People were so afraid of going hungry that they would tell their children to eat more and more in order to stay full longer.
“My parents always would say…you should clean your plate every time you eat, because somebody else is crying for the food that you are throwing away,” said Olivia de la Garza.
Her response prompted me ask, at what age did you start battling obesity?
“Around age eight, that’s when my doctor started to tell me that I needed to lose weight. My parents put a lot of pressure on me to lose weight. They would make up the excuse that I needed to lose weight for my Quinceañera (similar to having a sweet sixteen birthday party). They also told me to lose weight to look well for my recitals. I was always put on the spotlight because I was the chubbiest, the chunkiest one of my group”.
Olivia at that age was a ballet student and she was involved in many other activities, but for some reason, she could never lose the weight. Olivia shared the fact that everyone in her family was obese including her siblings and parents. I asked her, “what do you think is the reason for everyone being obese?” She paused and referred back to the first thing she mentioned. She explained how her parents were always poor so for them, it was better to have lots of food left over than to not have any food at all. She also feels that she was obese at an early age because her parents never acknowledged the problem. To them, Olivia was just chubby; she was carrying baby fat. Her parents felt that she would eventually shred the fat as she got older. But it never happened.
“The only time we came together as a family was during cooking time or meal time, but activities that we would use to burn off the fat, we never got together as a family. We never went on walks, running or activities that would promote health. That was the biggest problem for us,” expressed Olivia.
This common mindset definitely hurt Olivia in the long run because her battle with obesity started to worsen. By the time she was 16 years old, she went from a size 12 to a size 18 and closer to 180 lbs.
Being very obese at an early age is something common in my community. Every day, no matter where I am or what time of the day it is, I witness many obese children who can barely walk. When I take a closer look at their parents, it seems as if the children are growing up to be exactly what their parents show. That is, very obese and unhealthy people.
Similar to what Olivia said, “ the cultural perception that being chubby is not being unhealthy. They say esta gordito, esta sanito. That’s fine. Its just baby fat, we tend to sugar coat things!”
That quote is a perfect example of the way we think. Almost everyone in my community sees their children being unhealthy but no one acknowledges it. It is something that we completely brush off and we ignore as a major problem that could potentially be fatal or shorten a person’s life.
As we continued our interview, I asked her “do you feel that Brownsville has enough parks to exercise?”
“No, and they do not have bike trails, skateboarding trails. I know now a days, there exists a bike trail, but where it is located, how to get there, I have no idea” said Olivia.
As I started to think about it, I realized that she was right. Our city does not have enough parks for people to exercise and they barely have sidewalks for people.
Not having sufficient outside outlets was something I started to focus on and when I interviewed Dr. Wittenburg and Dr. Montoya, college professors at our local university they made me realize that not having enough parks was a major factor of culture obesity.
“We have many neighborhoods that have no sidewalks, no local parks, there’s really no place for the kids and families to be physically active and enjoy it in the evenings” said Dr. Wittenburg.
Even though we do lack the parks to encourage people to go out and exercise, it still does not change the fact that our culture ignores obesity. We continue to over feed our kids, serve them plenty of sugared soft drinks and we continue to invent foods that are stuffed with hundreds of calories.
Obesity is a silent killer that is taking over my community and unfortunately people are now turning to surgery as a solution for weight loss. Olivia De La Garza turned to her last option and had surgery a year ago in which it helped her lose over 120 lbs. She concludes her interview by saying “It’s a shame people like me have to do this as a last resource. This should be the last thing they turn too”.