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Health Issue: Obesity

When someone consumes more calories than they use as energy, their body will store the extra calories as fat and over time this can lead to obesity.


We are what we eat

We are what we eat


Discuss the following statement: "What you eat will to a large extent define your life quality."

It is a well established fact that the average weight of people in the western world is higher than ever, and is still rising; that also goes for Norway. Even though most of us may have a fairly healthy and well-balanced diet we seem to gain weight. This may be accounted for by some simple facts, the most important being lack of exercise, and, in fact, the way we eat.

There is no doubt that children are less active today than they were, say, 20 years ago. Instead of playing outdoors, they prefer to sit by their computer, playing games or chatting with friends. As they get older this habit is hard to break, and their diet often consists of unhealthy fast-food and sugary soft drinks.

Eating Habits

Obesity is the number one health problem in the USA. Overweight causes other conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disorder. If we compare the regular American diet and eating habits with, for example, those of France, Italy or Japan, we come up with an interesting result. The Japanese and the French have the lowest average weight among people in industrialized countries. Still, these countries are famous for their food culture; enjoying good food and wine seems to be the number one cultural activity in France.

The obvious conclusion is that it all depends not only on what we eat, but also how we eat. It is important to sit down, relax and enjoy a meal with friends, and to do so at regular times during the day. A meal in France or Italy is a social event, and it takes its time. Grabbing a lunch bite on the way to a meeting, to eat on the street or in the elevator is not the way to do it. The body and digestion make a fine piece of machinery and should be well looked after. American eating habits may explain some of the critical health situation in the country.

A well-balanced diet consisting of a variety of vitamins and nutrients is essential for our body to function well. It is also more important than we may think that we eat regularly and enjoy the meal. This combined with regular activity or exercise will be some of the basic conditions for a healthy, happy and long life.

Tasks and Activities


  1. Which two factors could account for our gaining weight despite eating a fairly well-balanced diet?
  2. What do children and teenagers often have too much of in their diet?
  3. Which other health problems can be a result of being overweight?
  4. Where do you find the people with the lowest average weight of people in industrialized countries?
  5. How does the author explain the fact that in some countries where eating good food and wine is an important activity, the people there are not as overweight as Americans?
  6. What does the author say we should do to have a long and healthy life?

Topics for Discussion

  • What can be done to increase physical activity for children?
  • Why do you think the body responds to the way we eat?
  • Exercise and healthy food are mentioned - which other factors do you think are important for good health?
  • Mention some examples of healthy and unhealthy food.
  • The English are on top in Europe when it comes to obesity. What do you know about English food and eating habits that may account for this?