weight gain

The Staircase of Obesity- Why We Are Fat

Obesity

Obesity among Americans has skyrocketed over the past few decades. Recent studies show that over 2/3 of adults in the United States are either obese or overweight. This wasn’t always an issue in the United States. Between 1962 and 2014, the among of overweight Americans stayed constant. A new trend emerged. While 40% of men and 25% of women were considered overweight, the percentage of obese American’s skyrocketed. Obesity in men exponentially grew from approximately 10% in 1962 to around 35% in 2014. Similarly, women ranged from mid-teens in 1962 to over 40% in 2014.¹

Why do we have vast growth of obesity in the United States over the last 40+ years?  This is the staircase of obesity, Why are we fat.

Genetics

More often than not you have heard someone say, “I can’t lose weight, it’s in my genes!” An article by Harvard University proves that there is some merit to this claim. Over 400 genes have been identified that cause fat accumulation. There are also some Americans who have “thrifty genes”. Scientist believe these these genes allowed some early man to store fat easier and made them superior to others. Early men could survive longer without food, however, these genes are still present in some of us today, causing an undesired trait.²

Genetics definitely play a factor in the development of fat accumulation, however, it is just a stair in our staircase of obesity. The issue with genetics is that although there is some proof that genetics play a role in obesity, the exponential incline in overweight and obese American’s can’t blame genetics for this growth. Genetics can make weight harder to lose, however with proper nutrition and exercise, you can lose weight (Note, if you try dieting and exercising and can’t lose weight, you should talk to a doctor).

Outside Forces

If what’s inside our DNA doesn’t explain the rise in obesity and overweight Americans, it must come from an external factor. These external factors can be food, chemicals, lack of free time, stress, and other factors.

Food Portions

Between 1971 and 2000 the American women increased their calories by 335 (on average) and men increased by 168 calories each day. If we average these numbers and apply them over a year, that is nearly 92,000 additional calories. Studies show that 3500 extra calories more than our body’s need cause 1 pound of fat accumulation. That’s over 26 pounds of fat that our bodies take on due to this increased consumption.

What is causing this increased consumption? Portion sizes are expanding, Americans are eating out more than ever, and we have an addiction to sodas. An example of portion sizes from the Harvard study showed that the single portion calories of french fries from McDonald’s have increased by 3 times over the years from when they first introduced to their menu. Americans are also choosing to dine out much more than ever. Nearly 50% of our food budget accounts for out of house dining vs just 27% in 1970. Food portions at restaurants are far greater than at home portions, contributing to more calories.

A study using data from the USDA and Beverage Digest showed production of 12-ounce servings of soda per American went from 100 12 ounce cans of soft drinks in 1957 to over 600 12 ounce cans annually in 2000. That is 5 more cans per person over 40 years. ³ These sugary drinks can cause weight gain, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.

Another study from USDA showed that Americans aged 2 and over only drink 3.9 cups of “plain” water a day. That is 31 ounces of water per day. ⁴ Water is known to increase metabolism, decrease appetite, and increase overall health. Most studies say that 8 glasses of water each day, a total of 64 ounces.

Exercise

Americans don’t exercise nearly enough, however, studies show that nutrition is a bigger component of weight gain than lack of exercise. Only 25% of Americans get the recommended hour of moderate exercise per day. There are various reasons why we don’t exercise like we should. Television has changed our lives over the last few decades and more and more time has been dedicated to watching television, however, there is a new technology that is taking our attention away from exercise; the internet. A Zenith study showed that we spend nearly 5.5 hours a day on either television or internet.⁵

Budget cuts to gym and extracurricular activities have made it hard for our children to exercise. With exercise not being promoted at a young age, it is hard for children as they become adults to become and stay active. Childhood obesity has increased to 1 in 6 children.

Stress is another factor that is rising obesity levels in America. Employees have been working been working long hours and also haven’t been using vacation time for downtime. Studies show that those who sleep less than 8 hours suffer from obesity more than those who get 8 hours of sleep. Whether it is work-related stress or lack of sleep, both contribute to obesity.

Other Outside Forces

Smoking during pregnancy, gestational diabetes, and babies breastfed for greater than 3 months all increase likelihood of obesity later in life. Our culture is also programming our youth to be lazy and to consume more food than needed because of technology and advertisements. When obesity is forced upon our children at a young age, it makes it even more difficult to living a long and healthy life.

Summary

With over 70% of American either overweight or obese, this epidemic is causing increased costs in healthcare, decreased productivity, and shorter lifespans. It is essential that we as individuals do our part to lower this trend because the government hasn’t been able to curb the explosive growth of obesity in our population.

 

Sources:

¹https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity

²https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-people-become-overweight

³https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-diet-sodas

⁴https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/DBrief/7_water_intakes_0508.pdf

⁵http://www.businessinsider.com/tv-vs-internet-media-consumption-average-chart-2017-6