Why are we getting fat?
On face value, that’s easy one to answer. People consume more calories than they burn, and we sit on our butts more than we should. Due to the wonders of modern technology and the modern workplace, we have less reason to move than ever before.
We don’t go out and hunt and kill our food like the caveman did, either. When we’re hungry, we go to our favorite drive thru restaurant and order something hot and juicy. This is simple, easy and convenient.
The access to tasty processed food and a time-crunched society combined with the comfort of sitting down is leading us down the road of fat. But how bad (or fat) is it?
Across the United States, more than one in three adults and one in six children (ages 2-19) are obese — and one in 11 young children (ages 2-5) are obese (1). Considering the USA has a (estimated) population of 322,762,018 in 2017, that’s a lot of overweight people.
However, more people are joining gyms than ever before. In 2016, U.S. fitness centers had a total membership of 57.25 million as some people looked down at their waistlines in disbelief.
With more people joining gyms and with all the information (or disinformation) on diet and exercise, you’d figure people would be getting skinnier. However, as you know, this is not the case.
Besides, there are other factors that play a role in the rise of obesity, including
It’s far beyond the scope of this article to go into these complex and politically-charged factors because that’s way above my paygrade. However, what isn’t is my observations as a fitness professional over the past 8 years and as a human being for 47 years.
Here are some little known but important factors that have played a role in the rise of obesity.
1. Cooking- The lost skill
Factors such as home economics being taken out of the classroom and parents struggling with their own busy lifestyles has led to a whole generation with no cooking skills. They think their food comes from a drive thru or magically appears at their front doorstep rather than from their own kitchens.
In the 1970’s Americans spent 30 percent of their food dollars on food prepared outside of the home. Today Americans spends over 50 percent on their food dollars outside of the home.
However, the simple act of eating at home as a family unit has heathy ramifications, especially for childhood obesity. Homemade meals promote portion control as the parents are (relatively) in charge of how much food each child gets and when the eating stops.
This leads to young children being less likely to be overweight because they are eating regular, nutritious, home cooked meals, and (hopefully) they are helping in making or serving those meals (2). Involving kids in the whole mealtime process is really a no brainer.
Parents need to get their kids into the kitchen and schools need to introduce home economics back into the curriculum. Dining out or ordering in should be a luxury, not a necessity.
2. Lack of play
I was lucky enough to grow up in the 70’s in the era of open space and creative play. Heck, my parents use to throw me out of the house and tell me not to come back until the sun went down. What I didn’t know at the time was they were on to something.
Even though I ate like a horse, I was a skinny, active and healthy kid, like most of the other kids in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, this is less likely to happen in today’s world. The reduction in open space because of our ever-increasing population and the rise of technology is contributing to kids playing less and sitting more.
However, it’s not as simple as taking the video games off the kids and ordering them to go play outside, particularly when there is nowhere to play.
There is evidence to suggest that for active children, it is all about location, location, location. Davidson and Lawson (2006) reviewed the literature on children and concluded that kids living near parks, playgrounds, and recreation areas are more physically active. (3)
Having open space and nearby playgrounds with basketball courts and such should be a requirement for all cities and suburbs, so when parents kick their kids out of the house, they have somewhere to play. Heck, I think the parents should join them, also.
3. The quick fix solution failure
The best advice for losing fat is not to get fat in the first place. Great advice, right? However, that doesn’t help the people who are already there.
It takes time for people to become overweight, yet some think they can lose it in a flash because there is some secret technique or superfood that will cause the weight to fall right off. This is what you’re led to believe if you listen to the diet industry.
According to Marketdata Enterprises, Inc a leading independent market research company, the U.S. weight loss market is worth $66 billion dollars but the U.S is fatter than ever. That’s a huge disconnect.
Throwing money at the problem only helps so much because the willingness to change your circumstances comes from within and not from your wallet. Consistency and good habits which form the basis for positive change is something you can’t put a dollar figure on.
Besides, eating less calories, eating more whole foods and going to the gym consistently wouldn’t sell many books. Or would it?
Obesity is one of the biggest health problems we face. Although it’s a complex problem, there are solutions discussed here that are easy to implement, like cooking more at home, building more parks and stopping the search for a quick fix.
Let’s stop putting band aids on the problem and throw our efforts into finding more solutions because our waistlines depend on it.