the Consequences of the Standard American Diet
Chris Woolston, a health and medical writer and editor, has been published in several reputable periodicals, like Nature, the Los Angeles Times, Reader's Digest, and Via. While he may not have a Ph.D. after his name or the credentials of a registered dietitian, based on his writing experience, I believe that he has a depth of knowledge on the subject matter, as well as his neutral stance as a writer, makes him a credible and unbiased resource. Woolston quotes several nutrition field experts to assert that the quantity of calories is the key to "what's wrong with the typical American Diet?"(2017). Woolston further delineates that it is also the quality, in addition to the number of calories consumed, that has exacerbated American obesity. The author's belief is that "Americans must focus on eating nutritious foods in the right proportions" to address the obesity "health crisis", is the driving force for this article. Overall, I found the article to be effective for audiences like myself who believe the root of excess weight is seated with food. However, I also feel that the piece can be ineffective for some audiences who argue that obesity is driven by genetics and not necessarily diet.
Woolston's argument on the detriment of the excess and poorly chosen caloric intake in today's typical "Western" diet follows a classical Toulmin style. He opens aggressively, and like pointing a finger he comments," perhaps it's time to stop talking about fatty foods and admit that we simply eat too many calories." He delivers well-developed paragraphs that provide the reader with the juxtaposition between what nutritionists consider a healthy diet and the not so optimal typical American fare, the evolution of portion sizes, and studies that implicate convenience with excess consumption. In the final paragraph, Woolston identifies the components of a healthy diet and how accessible healthy eating can be. The entire article is a journey that leads you to the conclusion (warrant) "moderation" and food choice is the answer to controlling weight and creating a healthier you.
Blended appeals and inductive reasoning are used in this article to reach a wide birth of readers. The assertions made by several qualified nutrition experts, and the author's insertion of other reputable resources, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, throughout his piece, help build the ethos appeal. The statistics sprinkled throughout the paragraphs speak to a logos appeal and to the more resistant audience. Finally, the pathos appeal is used in the paragraph about obesity in children. The emotional connection to an epidemic that impacts children speaks to a very broad audience, as both parents and those without children care about the welfare of our youth. Using inductive reasoning, the author shows a link between food and obesity by presenting evidence that imbalanced calorie-rich diets, super-sized portions, and food accessibility have led to weight gain and other health-related issues, which leads to the conclusion that changing eating habits will prevent the related outcomes.
Unfortunately, I feel that the logos appeal is lacking depth. It is my opinion that Woolston's article would benefit from more targeted statistics, like the "68 percent of all Americans are considered overweight or obese", and less of the claims that utilize verbiage like "significant" or "likelihood". To drive home the adverse impact of excessive and poor eating choices, hard facts correlating the causality and relationship of food with adverse effects, like heart disease and obesity, would increase the author's credibility and reinforce the need for action (change in eating patterns). Furthermore, the author could lose some audience members by presenting the narrow idea that food alone can alter one's health and well-being. The author barely skims over the impact of sedentary habits and genetic disposition on the health-related issues identified, like heart disease and obesity.
When it comes to these health-related issues, the viewpoints on cause vary. For instance, this article would be ineffective for readers like Virginia Hughes. Hughes, who was published in the National Geographic in 2013, stands behind the viewpoint that it is not just about personal food choices, but genetics that drives eating habits and the proclivity toward obesity. This viewpoint is also shared in an article written in 2019 by Bill Sullivan, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Indiana. Sullivan asserts that hormonal imbalance impacts the neural transmitters that tell the stomach it is full. In this argument, overeating is not as easy as choosing to not overeat, but it is a mental uphill battle to battle the body's internal chemistry. He also notes that other external factors, like medication, can alter the way the body processes fat. To increase his audience reception, Woolston's article could benefit from a bigger dose of hard facts and the inclusion of the other related factors, like sedentary lifestyle, environmental contributors, and genetic disposition.
It is clear in the diverse and conflicting views that the jury is still deliberating on the cause and how to address the growing waistline of Americans. Given that many of the articles do identify food choice as one of the leading factors in healthy living, I believe that Woolston does an effective job of identifying the relationship the American weight inflation has with food. On the other hand, he is not as effective in his argument that modification of eating habits will promote good health. Ultimately, it is my opinion that everyone's body is different, as are their dietary needs.
Woolston, Chris. "Americans Must Focus on Eating Nutritious Foods in the Right Proportions." Originally published as "What's Wrong with the American Diet?" Health Day, 20 Jan. 2017.
Hughes, Virginia. "The War on Obesity Is Unjustified and a Waste of Money." Obesity, edited by Sylvia Engdahl, Greenhaven Press, 2015. Originally published as "The Obesity Apologists," National Geographic, 22 May 2013.
Sullivan, Bill. "Why Bill Maher is wrong about fat-shaming." Originally published as "Why Bill Maher is wrong about fat-shaming," The Conversation, 17 Sept. 2019.