Over the years American’s have been very successful at many things. But lets face it, there are some things in life that we shouldn’t be proud of being successful at. In this case, it’s gaining weight. America, the simple truth is WE ARE FAT. Obesity is at epidemic levels, weight related illness is killing millions and costing us trillions. But why? When did this start? How did we go wrong? Where are we headed? What will happen if we don’t change course and what can be done?
The chart above speaks for itself in terms of percentage of American’s bulging at the waistline. Take note of that sharp jump from 1976 to 1999, 15% or almost 41 million of us joined the ranks of obese in that period. Keep in mind this is a chart of Obese people, not just overweight. What’s the difference? Overweight is defined as a person who’d BMI (Body Mass Index) is between 25 and 29.9 whereas obese is a BMI greater than 30. BMI isn’t a perfect metric for a health check (that’s another discussion altogether) but it’s a fantastic indicator for general population health. If you’re a man who is 5′ 10″ that equates to about 80 lbs overweight, for a woman at 5’5″ it’s about 70 lbs over. Feel free to check yours here.
Why is it that in this time frame everything started to change? Why did grocery stores mid sections expand while Americans did too? To explain that, think about the mid section of a grocery store. What is it that you find there – everything processed and frozen. There is no real food in the middle of most any grocery store. Chips, cereal, ice cream, candy, sugar, frozen dinners, pizza, pastas, foods that don’t need refrigeration like pudding and pepperoni sticks. The list goes on and on. Why are foods processed, why are food’s pre-made with ingredients we can’t even read and loaded in the frozen food section by huge manufactures. What was it that happened to America in the late 70’s into the 80’s that brought on this new shift in the definition food?
TIME… or a loss thereof. America has no time for making real food. Ask anyone who has ever gone on a diet that required food prep. Lunches and dinners don’t happen in a few minutes when starting from scratch, whole foods.
In the 70’s and 80’s a one-two punch was delivered between a loss of time and the adoption of the ill-advised food pyramid. A knee jerk reaction by the USDA over cardiac related illness, while extreme amounts of money poured into lobbying by food manufactures during the US food pyramid creation which recommended absurd amounts of breads and grains while minimizing fats.
Mythbuster – fat does not make you fat, but the sugar they replace the fat with to make food taste good again, does. Also, the extreme amount of carbs in wheat based foods which the body breaks down into sugar causes huge glycemic spikes. What does the body then do? If those calories aren’t needed in the moment, they are stored as fat.
How did we suddenly lose this time? Let me first and foremost say, this is NOT a sexist or anti women remark, it is a reflection of culture and time change in America which has lead to many amazing advancements and discoveries. The time we suddenly lost in America and the rise of obesity directly correlates with America’s dual wage earning culture. Our Mothers went to work and the men failed to pick up the need. Take a hint guys. So who stepped in to help out? Processed food manufactures did along with the help of the recently affordable microwave oven. In fact by 1976 microwaves were in 60% of American homes.
Where are we headed? The figures being tossed out by authorities are dynamic and have a wide range but none of it looks good when we research obesity related disease, cost and mortality rates.
- Heart disease
- Respiratory Disease
- Some cancers
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Gallbladder disease and gallstones
- Sleep apnea
Those are a few of the conditions we see present alongside obesity. With diseases like those our nations healthcare costs are skyrocketing. $200,000,000,000 – no I didn’t accidentally add extra zeros. The amount the US spends on obesity related healthcare cost is Two Hundred Billion dollars annually. Whether you’re obese or not, spread that number over the number of households in America and we are closing in on $2,000 each. Worst of all, for those that have pushed the obese lifestyle for too long , recent numbers have shown that as much as 18% of annual deaths in America are directly related to obesity.
Here is a breakdown of the leading causes of death for 2014 according to the CDC:
- Heart disease: 614,348
- Cancer: 591,699
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 147,101
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 136,053
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 133,103
- Alzheimer’s disease: 93,541
- Diabetes: 76,488
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,227
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 48,146
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 42,773
Notice any similarities? It’s not a stretch in my mind to say that every one of those could be related to obesity. If we can’t get ahead of the curve, the outlook is grim to say the least.
It’s easy to blame others for circumstances. Blame the government, blame big food manufactures, blame the USDA food pyramid for telling us to eat the wrong things. As you know blaming others won’t solve the issue. What will? Educating our country will. Correcting the definition of “food” by ensuring that everyone understands that processed food is not food.
In a recent Q & A session with a cardiologist that I attended, someone asked what we should look for or avoid on ingredient lists on foods. The answer was great. He stated if the “food” has a label listing out the ingredients, he wouldn’t eat it. In other words whole food only.
So how do we make an impact on our immediate family and those around us now? I’ll be listing healthy eating, whole food focused websites, the blog and embedding videos soon. Check back often!
For now here’s an excellent video discussing the importance of whole food consumption from Certified holistic health coach – Corrina Rachel