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Consumerism: How it fosters unhealthy lifestyles and what we can do to live differently

Consumerism: How it fosters unhealthy lifestyles and what we can do to live differently

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One of the research findings from Wellness IN the Rockies (WIN the Rockies) is that contemporary society encourages lifestyles that make it hard to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. WIN the Rockies research also identified consumerism as the source of many obstacles to healthy, enjoyable lifestyles. Consumerism (see definition at left) is a dominant aspect of American society and other contemporary cultures.
One of the research findings from Wellness IN the Rockies (WIN the Rockies) is that contemporary society encourages lifestyles that make it hard to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. WIN the Rockies research also identified consumerism as the source of many obstacles to healthy, enjoyable lifestyles. Consumerism (see definition at left) is a dominant aspect of American society and other contemporary cultures.

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Published by: University of Wyoming Extension on Feb 04, 2010
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02/04/2010

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Consumerism
= An approachto lie in which buying goodsand services and cultivatingthe image associated withthose goods and services areprimary sources o our identity or our way o experiencingthe world. Tis way o living requires considerabletime and eort be directedtoward making purchasingchoices (buying “the brand”),achieving “the look,” usingand being seen using the latesttechnology, etc. In turn, thesepreoccupations decrease thetime and energy available orsel-reection, sel-care, andother important aspects o lie such as those related toobligations and responsibilitiesin the areas o citizenship,amily lie, and community involvement.
How it fosters unhealthy lifestylesand what we can do to live differently 
Suzanne Pelican
, MS, RD, ood and nutrition specialist, Department o Family and Consumer Sciences, University o  Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service
 Fred Vanden Heede
, MA, consultant, WIN the Rockies
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, Laramie, WY 
Many people o all ages have developed unhealthy liestyle habits and are notachieving and maintaining a healthy weight
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. Given these serious concerns,it’s important to ask,
Is it possible our culture is part o the problem? 
 Said another way,
Does our society encourage us – maybe even push us – to have unhealthy liestyles? 
One o the research ndings rom Wellness IN the Rockies (WIN the Rockies) isthat contemporary society encourages liestyles that make it hard to achieve andmaintain a healthy weight
3
. WIN the Rockies researchalso identied consumerism as the source o many obstacles to healthy, enjoyable liestyles
3
. Consumerism(see denition at let) is a dominant aspect o  American society and other contemporary cultures.Tis publication discusses some o the actors that discourage healthy liestyles related to ood, physicalactivity, and body image in aconsumer-oriented society. It alsooers suggestions about what we cando about these negative inuences.Liestyles based on healthy attitudesand behaviors associated withphysical activity, ood and eating,and body image oer many benets,including improved psychological well-being andreduced risk or problems such as heart disease, highblood pressure, and osteoporosis. Tese healthy liestylesalso can help people achieve a healthy weight.
MP 112.6
 
November 2008
 
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Pressures All Around
Media.
Te mass media include V,radio, magazines, movies, newspapers,and, now, the Internet. Tese methodso communication reach ar into American households. Teir messagesexert a proound inuence on what wevalue, what we think we need and want,and how we live our lie. Each day weare conronted with countless mediaimages that show and tell us how weshould look, what we should buy, andhow our lives should appear to ourselvesand others.
 Advertising 
. o uel a culture o consumption, advertisers bombard us with commercial messages. Estimateso the exposure to ads range as high as3,000 per person per day 
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. Advertisers want to convince us that, in order toeel happy and successul, we needthe latest products, gadgets, ashions,“looks,” etc. Tese all seem new, butthey are the ever-changing new thatare, in reality, always the same
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. Among their many tactics, advertisersseek to make us eel insecure aboutour appearance. Tey then providea range o products and services,supposedly to help us rid ourselves o those unwanted eelings. Ensuring thatconsumers eel a sense o inadequacy is essential to the process. Nowhere are
 Example o critiquing real-lie experiences in terms o virtual models instead o vice-versa 
 
“I’d love to look like Cindy Craword. It is not going tohappen … Basic training wasa huge thing or me becausebeore I always thought, ‘I canlose more weight, I can losemore weight.’ And I was very,very physically active … . Icame out o [basic training] weighing like 180 pounds … I[was] in really, really good shapeand my body at percentage was down pretty low and Ithought, ‘Okay … I’m just notgoing to be a real tiny petiteperson. Tat’s all there is to it’All this time I thought Icould just keep losing … [but]I was in really good shapeand elt really good … [eventhough] I was way heavierthan I thought I was supposedto be [My mother] says i [my sister and I] would havebeen in a dierent time period,[men] would have really wentater us because we’re good athaving babies and all that stu,and I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.I’d still rather look like Cindy Craword.’”
WIN the Rockies interviewee, emale, mid-30s 
  
 More on societal pressure:Tin at any cost 
“My riend is like a chimney … because she’s so araid o gaining weight. I keep tryingto get her to quit smoking. Shesays, ‘I would rather be dying o lung cancer and be skinny.’
WIN the Rockies interviewee, emale, mid-30s 
 Values
= Principles, standards, orqualities considered worthwhile ordesirable.
 
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these ways o thinking more pronounced than in the area o body image, wheremarketing or the beauty industry cultivates powerul eelings o not measuringup to an arbitrary ideal. As noted by artist and culture critic Larry Kirkwood,“Encouraging body hatred is an extremely lucrative business.” Advertisers also prey on people’s deep longings to live meaningul and morally upstanding lives. Tey inundate us with promises that our lives will be good andhappy and ullling i we look or live a certain way, which, again, the productsand services supposedly ensure.
Te need to eel lled up
. As a consequence, many people turn to consumeritems to try to ll an emptiness they eel – a lack o meaning or signicance intheir lives. Despite these attempts to ll voids with things like chocolate, a new car, the latest cell phone, a new outt, or the vision o having a so-called idealbody – all o which may oer immediate pleasure or satisaction – consumeritems are not capable o providing lasting ulllment and meaning in lie.Unortunately, this is precisely the illusion marketing and advertising sell toconsumers.
 More on media pressure:Unhealthy eating habits and sel-image 
“Growing up, I just likedeating. And it went along with watching V. Tey go together,you know Just sitting athome watching V – that’s how I spent most o my adolescentyears … For me, the V … just made overeating worse. Itbecame such an important parto my lie … It’s a bizarre ormo human contact. You eel likeyou are a part o something. You’re not, o course, but youeel like you are.”
WIN the Rockies interviewee,male, late 30s 
  
 More on sel-refection: Food and eating 
“I denitely view ooddierently than I used to. Ipay more attention to when Iam ull. I don’t worry as muchabout not eating certain things.I don’t worry about cravingsomething and not being ableto eat it. I just know when tostop.”
Steps to A New You participant 

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