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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Obesity: A Problem That is Getting Worse


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A recent report from Harvard suggests that the obesity epidemic may be worse than originally thought. It seems that the statistics were generated from an epidemiological telephone survey asking people their height and weight. Really? The geniuses at Harvard have discovered that women tend to underestimate their weight and men tend to overestimate their height. I NEVER would have guessed that. The result is that more people are obese (>=30 BMI) than originally thought...up to 37% in some states, mostly states in the deep South. Where can some of the blame be placed?

More cheap calories available

People are consuming hundreds of calories per day more than Americans in previous generations. More money is spent eating out at restaurants, than is spent on groceries. Portion sizes are many multiples above and beyond what they should be. We simply eat more and we eat more calorie dense foods. It isn't some mystical change. When McDonald's started serving hamburgers and fries in 1955, the only sizes on the menu were regular hamburgers and small fries; what we would consider a "kid's meal" today.

Movement systematically engineered out of our lives

Since the majority of the population moved to the 'burbs, most walking has been eliminated from our daily lives. To walk even a block to go somewhere is considered strange. We drive everywhere. Few people choose to take the stairs as opposed to using an escalator or an elevator. The only way to get enough activity into your day is to set aside time to do it...or consciously choose to take stairs, park further away from stores, etc.

Over-reliance on processed foods

We've outsourced a large portion of our health to companies that exist to make money. I don't want to sound like I'm a conspiracy theorist, because I'm not, but food producers stand to make the most money by producing food using the least expensive, least healthy components, not by providing healthy food. It's not a conspiracy...it's good business. It just happens to benefit the companies more than you or I. These foods are higher in fat, calories, and highly refined carbohydrates than home cooked meals. By relying on these foods, you are eliminating healthy variety from meals and replacing with homogeneous components that originate in large part from only 2 plants...corn and soybeans.

Poor choices

Even with all of the above, consumers still have the responsibility to make better choices. No one forces the 60% of Americans who are overweight or obese to eat junk food and sit around and watch television.

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