Why Are Americans So Overweight?
The Center for Disease Control has marked several disturbing trends over the years relating to obesity and the general increase of individuals who are overweight to obese. In the state of Mississippi alone, more than 34% of all the residents are obese.
Other health problems have increased as well with cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease increasing the most. At the same time, the general sentiments toward fat have become increasingly negative.
A study at the Michigan State University found that the vast majority of the students would rather marry a drug user or an embezzler than an obese person.
With all this going against obesity, it makes you wonder why Americans are so overweight.
The Mind Behind a Dietary Discovery
National Geographic decided to dig into this issue as well.
They interviewed Robert Atkins and asked him where America went wrong, particularly when it was compared to other countries.He responded very simply that America went wrong “by allowing the American Medical Association and the United States Department of Agriculture to say, ‘You’ve got to be on a low fat diet.’ They failed to take into account that when people do that, they increase their carbohydrates.'”
Since the 1970s, sugar and carbohydrate consumption has indeed increased drastically. Highly processed foods like white bread are available everywhere. These foods all lead to insulin spikes, cravings, and more.
Back even into the 1980s and up to 1990, not a single state had more obesity than 14%, according to the Center for Disease Control. However, starting with the turn of the century, obesity rates started going up to 24% to beyond 30% in recent years.
A Shift in Economic Food Choices
It used to be that being fat and rich where synonymous. It symbolized an ability to purchase the finer and richer foods. In fact, that is part of where the concept that fat is bad has come from. Rich men in business suits could afford buttered lobster whereas your working class family would eat something far lighter like greens from the garden.
However, as it’s turned out, the weight gain trends demonstrate the opposite is true. Sugars and highly processed foods are the cornerstone staples of the poor man’s diet these days.
It is significantly less expensive to buy bags of potato chips, processed meals, white bread, and other products that come from the United States’ two primary crops: corn and soy. High fructose corn syrup is one of the most popular cheap ingredients for increasing flavor and addiction to food.
Intriguingly, this same phenomenon has been noted in other countries. Where processed foods filled with sugar and carbs start to become the primary food source, obesity rates rise in countries like Mexico which now have an obesity rate of 24.2%.
A common contention though is that Italy, the home of pasta and pizza, came in with a mere 8.5% of obesity, making them #25 among affluent countries. However, according to “Why are Italian People So Slim,” the traditional Italian cuisine is actually far higher in vegetables, meat, and olive oil than greasy pizza and fettuccine alfredo.
Pasta is a core part of the culture to be sure, but generally it is homemade pasta, and it is only one serving among many other foods. The rich carb heavy pasta dishes that are so famous in America are actually not as popular. In fact, if you joined an Italian family for dinner, you would be surprised to find out that you would be more likely to have lamb and salad than beef and pasta.
The focus on the pasta heavy meals in the United States came about in part because it was a way for the Italians to remind themselves of their heritage. These foods soon became synonymous with celebrations and great parties, plus they were inexpensive to make. In Italy, pasta is delicious, but it is not the focal point of each meal. Add to that the fact that they walk just about everywhere and keep their main meal to the mid day, and you have the reasons that America comes in at over 30% and Italy is under 20%.
The Challenges of Healthy Living
Eating healthy and living healthfully can be challenging, but it is not something to be avoided. Despite all of these struggles, the best choice for Americans is to start going back to their old diets before carbs and sugar became the order of the day.
Whole foods are better. Don’t be fooled just because it says that it’s a health food. Always read the ingredients, and avoid processed food as much as you can. You’ll be amazed at the things in those supposed health foods that are actually ruining your weight loss efforts.
“Obesity Rates,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html (2012).
Cathy Newman, “Why Are We So Fat?,” National Geographic, http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-body/fat-costs/#page=1.
Joseph Mercola, “Americans Are Less Healthy and Die Sooner Than People in Other Developed Nations,” Mercola, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/01/23/united-states-health-ranking.aspx (2013).
Rachel Pomerance, “Why We’re So Fat: What’s Behind the Latest Obesity Rates,” U.S. Health News, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/08/16/why-were-so-fat-whats-behind-the-latest-obesity-rates (2012).
Claire Elaine, “Why Are Italian People Slim?” http://caloriecount.about.com/why-italian-people-slim-b396203 (2010).