Obesity numbers have risen from 15 percent of our population to 31 percent in only 20 years. This means that 93 million Americans are obese. Even more alarming is the fact that 17% or over 9 million US children over the age of 6 are considered to be overweight. What causes this terrifying trend? In this article we will examine three factors that are at the root of the problem. The first is our lack of physical activity. Next we will discuss our eating habits and the rise of convenience foods. Lastly we will look at emotional problems that make the situation worse.
The amount of food we eat and high calorie levels were not as much of a problem when we spent more time exercising. Farming and even blue collar jobs required us to work long hours and perform physical tasks. Today most of our jobs are sedentary, sitting in an office cubical, only getting up for another cup of coffee or a trip to the conference room for a meeting. At home, between computers, video games, and TV we get very little exercise and this lack of physical activity is having a major effect on our weight.
Convenience foods have become a staple in the American diet since the end of World War II. It is very tempting to eat meals and snacks that can be prepared in the microwave or need no preparation at all. We all know that fast food has too many calories, sometimes our total recommended daily intake in one serving of a burger, fries, and a coke. Food companies who market convenience foods spend millions telling us how wonderful their products are. Their ads are hard to resist. But studies show that these products contain 20% to 25% more fat and sugar than are recommended and this is leading to a national epidemic of obesity. We need to go back to homemade meals and healthy snacks with low salt, low fat, and high fiber.
Our emotions also affect our weight. For example, a new study shows a link between depression and obesity. If an individual is already obese, the messages our society gives him can result in a bad self-image and lack of confidence. “You’re never too rich or too thin” is our mantra. The resulting depression produces a chemical imbalance that causes the body to store more fat. On the other hand, the same study shows that people who are not overweight but suffer from depression are at a higher risk of becoming obese for the same reason. The psychological stress produces the same chemical imbalance that causes the body to store fat. Treating the depression relieves the stress and helps depressed people to overcome their feelings of hopelessness.
Right now the CDC says 300,000 annual deaths are attributed to obesity but the number could be much higher. Solving our national epidemic of obesity will not be easy but each step toward more physical activity, natural diet pills, eating a healthy diet, and addressing our emotional problems is a step in the right direction.