Rhetorical Analysis on Obesity

1 January 2017

The obesity epidemic is rapidly spreading throughout America, reeking havoc on the nation. I have chosen two articles that discuss this issue and use different rhetorical strategies to convince the reader of the causes of this deadly epidemic as well as different aspects of the disease that should be focused on when researching treatments options. Examining the different rhetorical strategies used in the articles proves that, although logos arguments can be a good way to convince an audience of your point, use of ethos and pathos arguments is a much more powerful strategy to inform and convince the reader to take action.

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Peggy Ward-Smith’s article entitled Obesity – America’s Health Crisis discusses of the obesity epidemic in America and the consequences of America’s lackadaisical approach to pursuing a cure to this deadly disease. She explains the devastating health affects that obesity has on the body and brings to light the severe financial burden that this disease has had on the American economy and the American people. After significantly describing facts and figures regarding the monetary costs associated with obesity, she goes on the explain the emotional hardships obese people undergo due to the prejudices that still exist against obese people.

She describes the strain obesity has caused on our healthcare system and declares that not enough is being done to prevent this disease. After addressing both the health and socio economic affects of obesity, voices her opinion on the best treatment plan for overcoming obesity such as, “an initial exercise program should consist of a short, low-intensity program, which gradually increases to 30 minutes/day as strength and fitness improve” (Ward-Smith 244).

She also addresses the importance of acknowledging the affects of behavioral therapy on obesity, for health and socio economic benefits saying, “behavioral therapy involves changing diet and physical activity patterns and habits toward behaviors that promote weight loss” (Ward-Smtih 244). This will not only benefit the health of those suffering from obesity, but makes her point more enticing by pointing out that, “for every $1 invested in these programs, the return on that investment is estimated to be between $0 and $5”, which shows that the potential economic return could be incredibly beneficial to the economy.

She then explains how medications and surgeries can also greatly assist those dealing with this issue. The main objective of the article is to show that America should be taking greater action to combat this disease to benefit, not only the health of obese Americans, but to also relieve some of the pressure that obesity has caused on the American economy. Levitan and Davis’ article Emotion and Eating Behaviors: Implications for the Current Obesity Epidemic also discusses issues related to obesity, but takes a different approach both in subject matter as well as stylistically.

They begin by using a case study of a lady named Jane who has a problem with binge eating that has caused her to become obese. They discuss how an emotional relationship with food causes many people to overeat and how this factor has greatly contributed to the obesity epidemic. They describe the addictive qualities of food and say that an “emotional relationship with food…brings with it long-term consequences, most commonly obesity” (Levitan and Davis 784).

They also reveal that there are genetic factors and chemical imbalances in the brain that should be focused on in future research. Although both articles discuss the problem of obesity in America and its devastating affects, they disagree on the approach to solve the problem as well as their approaches at convincing their audience of their beliefs. Peggy Ward-Smith’s article focuses heavily on logos arguments, but also features subtle hints of ethos and pathos arguments as well. The first page uses a combination of logos, ethos, and pathos arguments to strengthen its case.

The article begins with using tables to show how to calculate your body mass index to help put obesity in perspective. Beginning the argument by using percentages such as the fact that, in 2003, “obesity rates grew 74%” (Ward-Smtih 242) is a powerful example of a logos argument because you cannot easily argue with statistical proof and mathematical calculations. Ward-Smith then peppers in more facts about the exorbitant amount of money that has been spent on obesity in recent history.

Using a phrase like “overweight and obese Americans cost the American economy over $117 billion” brings an ethos argument into play by addressing a sense of patriotism involved in fighting this thing that is sucking money out of your economy. Directly after, she also adds a pathos argument, discussing the prejudices facing obese people today stating that, “weight bias was significantly greater than biases against both gays and Muslims” (Ward-Smith 242). She explains that, “bias, prejudice, and discrimination have been associated with obesity explains and that “safeguards from weight bias do not exist” (Ward-Smith 242).

This seems to be the only real pathos argument used, which leaves the reader with little emotional connection to the issue. Although using all three types of arguments may seem like a powerful way to drive a point home, I found it made the article seem inconsistent and ineffective. The majority of the rest of the article is rich in logos based arguments, stating percentages of people affected by obesity related diseases and offers various medical approaches to solve the problem, such as diet, exercise, medication, and surgery.

Although the arguments were somewhat convincing, they did not have much emotional appeal that would drive the reader to really want to make solving this issue a high priority if they are not directly affected by the issue of obesity. Levitan and Davis’ article uses a different rhetorical strategy to convince the reader of their point-of-view. Using a combination of logos, ethos, and pathos arguments make the reader identify heavily with the issue of obesity and give the reader a desire to stand up to make a change because of this.

Starting the article with a case study instantly draws the reader in through the use of ethos and logos rhetorical strategies. The case study is an example of appealing to ethos because it brings a high level of credibility to the argument and also draws the reader in through pathos through a sense of feeling compassion for the subject that automatically leads the reader into a mind frame of desire to understand more about Jane’s condition and help her situation.

It brings a particular story to the table rather than, well, tables, and percentages, and allows the reader to instantly feel a deep connection to the subject. Rather than focusing on the medical and health affects of obesity like the Ward-Smith article, the Levitan and Davis article exposes a less popular subject of “an emotional relationship with food” involving “rituals” and “addictive qualities” all to “temporarily suppress negative emotions” (Levitan and Davis 784) that lead to obesity.

They further their pathos argument by associating obesity with “negative mental health outcomes that markedly decrease one’s quality of life” (Levitan and Davis 785) and strengths this argument by adding a logos argument stating later in that same paragraph, “current strategies to prevent and treat obesity are currently unable to override the basic evolutionary processes that have protected humans from starvation over millions of years by making high-caloric foods a rich source of pleasure and reward” (Levitan and Davis 785).

The later remarks linking obesity to a need to increase serotonin levels and genetic abnormalities also offer a compelling argument that also appeals to pathos by causing the reader to understand that obesity may be out of one’s control due to these physical factors that with current knowledge and science, we cannot cure. Bringing light to this aspect of the disease further supports this pathos argument, “recent evidence suggests that the brain reward circuits can be activated with natural rewards like food, just as with drugs of abuse” (Levitan and Davis 789).

All in all, both articles have elements that make them powerful arguments, however the Ward-Smith article Obesity-America’s Health Crisis heavy emphasis on logos and ethos arguments with little appeal to pathos subtracts from its ability to provide the reader with a real sense of connection to the issue, leaving the reader with little impetus to actively combat the issue.

The Levitan and Davis article Emotions and Eating Behavior: Implications for the Current Obesity Epidemic, on the other hand appeals heavily to both logos and pathos. The article causes the reader to feel a personal connection to the issue and appeals to the reader’s emotions to deepen this connection. Use of logos and ethos arguments strengthen the argument by bringing credibility to the article, which all work together to give the reader more of a desire to actively pursue their desired solution to the problem.

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