Why Are We So Fat? That’s the question asked in the cover story of the August 2004 issue of National Geographic magazine.
“Americans enjoy one of the most luxurious lifestyles on Earth: Our food is plentiful. Our work is automated. Our leisure is effortless. And it’s killing us,” says Geographic senior writer Cathy Newman.
Some of the latest facts and statistics revealed in the article are chilling:
* One out of three Americans is obese, twice as many as three decades ago
* The Center for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) has declared obesity an “epidemic”
* 15% of children and teens are overweight, a nearly three fold jump since 1980
* Other countries are catching up to the United States, especially newly industrialized nations. KFC opened a drive through restaurant in Beijing in 2002 with more on the way. UK snack food consumption rose 25% in the last five years. Sales of processed food rose 20% in Latin America between 1980 and 2000.
* Being overweight is now associated with over 400,000 deaths per year
* Obesity is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, stroke, and colon, breast and endometrial cancers
* Next year, Obesity is expected to surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the United States
* The Puget Sound Ferries increased their seat width from 18 to 20 inches to allow room for bigger bottoms
* An ambulance company in Colorado retrofitted its vehicles with a winch and a plus size compartment to accommodate patients up to a half a ton in weight
* A casket maker in Indiana now offers double-sized models
* One in four Americans gets ZERO exercise, one-third of Americans don’t get the minimum amount the government suggests we need just to avoid chronic disease
* The average child will watch 10,000 commercials per year touting food or beverages, nearly all of them for junk and fast food
So what’s the answer to the question? What does this article reveal? Has a new hormone been discovered that is secreted excessively in overweight people? Was the obesity gene discovered and isolated, confirming that your genetics determine whether fat is fate? Does blood sugar and insulin go haywire in certain people regardless of how they eat or how they exercise? Has it finally been proven that carbohydrates make us fat? Is the appetite mechanism in the brains of overweight people out of kilter?
Nope, none of the above. The conclusions made in the article are refreshing because they are the right ones, and the most obvious ones: The reason we are so fat is because we eat too much and exercise too little. Surprise, surprise!
“For all the Americans who’ve blamed bulging bellies on a slow metabolism, the jig is up,” says Newman. “A report earlier this year by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) finally confirms what many of us didn’t want to admit: We’re fat because we eat a lot – a whole lot more than we used to, and most of the increase comes from refined carbohydrates (sugar).”
Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University is quoted in the article as saying, "How about some common sense? It’s a simple matter of eating fewer calories. But nobody wants to talk about calories because doing so does not sell books."
Truer words have never been spoken. Unfortunately, few people want to listen to that simple message, “Eat less, exercise more,” because everyone is too busy looking for the latest breakthrough or the “next big thing in fat loss.” Besides, fat loss couldn’t be that simple, could it?
Well, maybe fat loss isn't "easy", and certainly "eat less, exercise more" is an OVER-simplification, but the fundamental cause of obesity really IS that simple and the facts confirming it are now in:
According to the CDC report, we ate 1775 pounds of food per year per person in 2000, up from 1497 pounds in 1970.
In the 70’s we ate 136 pounds of flour and cereal products and now it’s up to 200 pounds per person – and the increase is almost all from processed, white flour, high sugar foods. Not to mention, everything has been Super-sized. Example: 1955 McDonald’s French fries – 2.4 ounces, 210 calories. 2004 Super size Fries – 7 ounces, 610 calories.
When you add this increased food intake (mostly refined food) on top of the lack of exercise encouraged by technology, cars, video games, television, washing machines, riding lawnmowers, elevators and other modern conveniences, you have the recipe for obesity on a global scale.
In all our searching and waiting for the latest scientific discovery, the newest pill, or the next breakthrough supplement that will free us from the shackles of body fat, most people have continued to overlook or ignore that simple and obvious advice: “Eat less, exercise more.”
Is it really that simple? Isn’t there a lot more to it? Well, yes, of course. There’s how much less do you eat, what do you eat, how much you exercise, what kind of exercise and so on. But those are just details. Often what we must do, in order to see the big picture clearly, is to reduce the problem to its most basic level FIRST before worrying about any details.
A principle called Occam’s Razor was put forth by English philosopher and theologian William Occam in the 14th century. It said, “Entities should not be multiplied beyond what is necessary.” Differently stated, it says, “The simplest and most obvious solution to a problem is usually the best one and the correct one.”
Does accepting this simple answer to the obesity epidemic make the process of losing the weight any easier? Perhaps not, at least not physically. Permanent fat loss will always require sweat, discipline and effort, and will often be a greater challenge for some than for others.
However, if we would stop allowing ourselves to be so caught up and immobilized by the myriad of different weight loss methods and theories today and just acknowledge, accept and practice the simple advice given to us in Newman's article – which we’ve all heard a thousand times before – “Eat less, exercise more,” we would not only be rewarded with results, we would also see the fog of confusion that seems to shroud the whole “weight loss thing” begin to lift. Certainty would take its place, and that would at least give us the confidence to continue to forge ahead towards our goals