Obesity affects people from all social classes, but it is clear that where there is poverty, obesity rates tend to be higher. In deprived areas there is a greater concentration of fast food restaurants than in more affluent areas. Plus, individuals may not have the money or education to choose the right kinds of food to eat and so those who are parents may pass on poor dietary habits to their children. Lack of exercise is also a problem, with lack of motivation, prohibitively expensive gym membership fees and nowhere safe to exercise outdoors contributing to this.
It used to be the case that those who were less well-off would have the opposite problem of obesity, becoming too thin due to lack of food. This is still the case in the developing world where a significant proportion of people’s wages go towards food. In the West, though, food prices have tumbled over the years. However, it seems that it is largely the unhealthiest foods that are the best value. It is possible to pick up large quantities of junk food, including chocolate, sweets and cakes, as well as fast food such as burgers and fries, for relatively money.
Those who live in deprived areas and who don’t have much money coming in are hardly likely to spend significant sums of money on slightly more expensive fruits and vegetables. They want to eat something they’re going to enjoy and which is cheap and quick to prepare. Sometimes, they may not know what constitutes a balanced diet, which affects what they feed themselves and their children.
Although parents know that some foods are not as healthy as others, they may ignore the impact of a high-calorie diet on their weight, so that they can quite easily end up with a weight problem. This not only affects them, but also their children.
For people who live in deprived areas, obesity may be perceived as the norm, anyway, so that there is no incentive for individuals to change their lifestyle. When being obese is what people consider to be normal, they may not even realise their weight is an issue. Besides, for people struggling to make ends meet, weight is often the least of their problems. Individuals who are living on the breadline may not be able to afford luxuries that others take for granted and so eating chocolate or going to a fast food restaurant becomes their treat.
There is an expectation that people should take responsibility for their own health and that if they’re obese, they should lose weight. However, it is clear that for some individuals dealing with a weight problem is much more of challenge. Poverty limits the choices people have when it comes to diet and exercise and, often, individuals have no inclination to change when they feel they have nothing to gain from doing so.