For the tens of thousands of years human beings have been on planet Earth, obesity was never a problem for the majority of people. It is only in the past 70 or so years, since post World War II that obesity has become a progressively increasing issue in our society. So what happened? Why is the population in developed countries now 60% over weight? It does not make sense that we have evolved into being fat. The only answer can be environmental conditions have changed that make it near impossible to maintain a lean healthy body. Below I have identified eight issues that I believe directly affect the unhealthy fat pounds people are gaining.
Lack of Movement
I have read research that states the majority of people in North America are only in an upright position for 1hr in a day. The other 23hrs they are either sitting or lying down, which are the two laziest positions the body can be in. You can imagine this to be true given this scenario “sleeping 8hrs, working at a desk 8 hrs, driving to and back from work 30min+, average person watches 3-4 hrs of television daily, computer or video game time daily 1-2 hrs, sitting to eat 30min to one hour, etc.” In my experience a majority of our population lives like this. Compare this scenario to how people existed 100 years ago. It is no wonder why we are gaining weight with so little calories being expended in a day.
Type and Accessibility of Food
In most of human history mankind spent much time and energy trying to acquire food. Today people just have to make a phone call and food is brought to them while they are sitting on the couch. The average family in North America orders food in 3-4 times per week. The food that humans relied on for most of their existence was nuts, seeds, plant type food and some meat. A few thousand years ago when agriculture became the main source of feeding a large group of people humans started to ingest grain products. Today we are ordering pizza, pop, pasta, Chinese food, burgers and fries. These foods are loaded with high quantities of salt, sugar and fat. The reasons why the billion dollar take out industry exist are convenience, low cost and people’s desire to feel good temporarily in the miserable depressing lives they lead. Make no mistake the desire for immediate gratification is lost seconds after you finish wiping the pizza and wing sauce off your chin. The time thought to be saved from cooking a real meal is really lost at the back end of one’s life from premature death.
Humans are Genetically Lazy
Being lazy was an important human trait that allowed man to survive and evolve for thousands of years. Prehistoric man did not have access to five meals per day as we do today. He may have ate once while the next meal was days away. Basal metabolic rate (the rate at which calories are burned at rest) is lowered saving fat stores in times of famine. Unfortunately today the genetic trait of a low metabolism still exists in some more than others. We no longer need to conserve energy as we have every comfort imaginable plus an abundance of food.
As our society strives for more technology, increasing profits for big corporation and adding as much luxury into our lives as possible, the toxicity levels in the human body is rising as a result. Toxicity can be thought of as “the degree a substance can damage an organism”. Some items that directly affect the toxicity of a person can be: smoking, pollution, industrial waste, sun exposure and the chemicals and preservatives found in most commercial food product. In Dr. Mark Schauss’s book “Achieving Victory Over a Toxic World” he states that a highly toxic person would have a lower core body temperature. The normal temperature of a person is found to be 98.6 degrees. Today he states that many doctors are finding people to have a temperature closer to 98 degrees. This lower body temperature is affecting basal metabolic rate. The hormones testosterone and estrogen are affected making it more difficult to lose body fat. A toxic person can have a 7% lower metabolic rate. If your metabolism allows you to consume 2,000 calories daily to maintain your weight, that would result in having to consume 140 calories less per day to maintain that weight. If 140 calories are not eliminated from your diet, it would result in a 14lb weight gain over the course of a year.
Sensitive Pleasure Centers In The Brain
Scientists are now finding that the reasons some people over indulge may not be their fault or even under their control. Now everyone settle down, I am not saying go to Buffet World and start shoveling it in. Everyone has a reward part of their brain. This is the part that signals that you are receiving a pleasurable experience. The pleasure can come from warmth, shelter, sex or food (specifically those foods high in salt, sugar and fat). The hormone dopamine is released and a euphoria of pleasure is experienced throughout the body, especially if you have gone without one of these rewards for a long time. The reward part of the brain is a big reason that motivated humans to survive. Prehistoric man would travel hundreds of miles risking injury or death to seek the satisfaction of fire, shelter, food and sex.
It is thought today that some people have a desensitized reward brain. This means that more exposure to pleasure must be experienced before satisfaction is achieved. This can explain why some people may be classified as sex addicts while others are obese. I can only imagine that if you are both then you are one greedy person who is hard to satisfy. The desensitization can occur from excessive stress, depression and anxiety. People seek the pleasures of salty, fatty or sugary foods to make them feel temporarily satisfied to compensate for other issues in their life. Sometimes just getting a good eight hours sleep on a regular basis, improving your financial situation or getting rid of your useless significant other can reduce the desire to seek pleasure from food. For others, their DNA make up regulates how sensitive they are to rewards. Some people look at others who are obese and immediately think “oh they must be lazy and don’t care what they look like”. This is often not the case. Research is now showing that it can be harder for some people to resist chips, ice cream and chocolate than it is for others. The problem is compounded when excessive rich unhealthy foods are eaten regularly. This further contributes to reducing the sensitivity of the reward brain.
Food Is Highly Addictive
Dr. David Macklin is an obesity expert at his clinic in Toronto and also appears on the show “X-Weighted” with me, states that the research shows food to be one of the most addicting things that people face. He ranks the following in order of most addictive to least addictive: cocaine/crystal meth – food – smoking – alcohol. The addictive properties of food lay in their structural make up, appearance and taste. Obviously a hot molten lava cake with a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream will create more pleasure than a spear of asparagus. The key to combat addiction is to create a mindset that it’s not available to you. People who say they are addicted to smoking can go an airplane for hours not craving a cigarette so badly that they are going crazy. That is because they know by law they cannot have one because they will be arrested and fined. Their mind is aware lighting up is off limits so can deal with the situation better. Having the courage to say “No” to something that is bad for you can also give you a pleasurable experience for your reward brain. The good news is that this experience is longer lasting than succumbing to a temporary pleasure. The hormone dopamine is released for longer lasting periods. It is almost like having multiple orgasms – well maybe it doesn’t feel that good.
Economics In Society
Human beings have created a world where money rules everything. The acquiring of wealth has become so important that we sacrifice our life time for it, the environment and our health. Many people have a difficult time making enough money to cover life’s expenses of a mortgage payment, saving for children’s education, taxes and paying the bills. Not having enough money is a source of extreme stress, depression and anxiety for many people. They feel they are working so hard but not advancing economically in their lives. Research shows that those families lower in economic status have higher incidences of obesity. Buying healthy food and developing a positive mindset to exercise regularly is more difficult.
I put much of the blame on our overweight population on Big Corporations. Actually it is more on everyone who allows big corporations to rule and ruin their health. Fast food outlets like McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, and A W make it almost impossible not to eat at their places.
- There is a fast food outlet on almost every city block.
- These companies spend billions of dollars advertising their products to our children hoping to hook them for life.
- Fast food outlets provide inexpensive food that is convenient (you don’t have to even get out of your car).
- The food is high in salt, sugar and fat that provides your reward brain some temporary pleasure.
- McDonalds tries to associate themselves with health by sponsoring the Olympics. The only reason they were the main sponsor is that they had the most money for the highest bid. Most of this money came from the 110 Billion dollars North Americans spend on fast food yearly.
The most effective way to create change in an economic climate as a consumer is simple not to give them your business. This forces them to change and provide healthier options or die by going out of business.
Some other big corporations you may want to be leery of:
Drug Companies sell medications for diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, weight loss pills and even pills to increase sexual arousal. North Americans spend over 150 Billion dollars yearly on prescription drugs. Most of this money is a complete waste. Many conditions can simply be controlled by eating healthy and being active consistently. If a portion of this money could be diverted to educating people on health, make it cheaper for them to have memberships in city recreation centers plus subsidize sport programs for children, the long term societal health benefits are immeasurable. The only one that would suffer is the Drug Companies.
The medical community writes out prescriptions for almost any condition someone can be afflicted with. Instead of trying to find out the root cause of obesity doctors say that “you need to lose some weight”. Gee thanks doc, did you really need eight years of post secondary education for that valuable piece of advice. The reality is most doctors are not educated or have the time to deal with obesity. It is easier for them to give you medication for the obesity related issues you have. Plus it really makes the drug companies very happy.
Processed food companies can be put in the same boat as Fast Food. Most people buy their food in grocery stores. Unfortunately 80% of the items sold there are not meant for long term human consumption. I tell people to shop the perimeter. Everything sold in the middle aisle is junk food. Processed food companies make a profit by selling you cheap to make food packaged up very nicely. They prey on your busy life schedule making it easier to feed your family. The problem is that these food products have to be loaded with preservatives so that they can keep a long shelf life. The food and drug administration allows processed food companies to treat us like guinea pigs. Only when enough people get sick from a product will a product be considered removable from the shelves. My suggestion is never buy any food product with more than four ingredients on the food label. Be cautious of the following: Trans fats/hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, sugars (many types, anything ending in “ose”), salt, enriched flour, artificial flavoring, natural flavoring. Any food product that has these items can potentially cause you long term health issues. Good luck trying to find anything to eat that is healthy in grocery stores. Your best bet is farmers markets where food is grown locally. The faster you can get that fruit and vegetable picked from the tree or ground into your body the more nutritious it is for you. A meat product where the animal is free to move around and eat their natural vegetation is best. Big Meat Companies inject their animals with hormones to develop faster and feed them cardboard,paper, saw dust, corn, sewage and oils. Think about that next time you buy a frozen burger patty or McDonald’s Big Mac.
Dr. Macklin has talked about people developing unhealthy eating patterns. These patterns have been repeated thousands of times often starting in childhood. What happens is that eating certain foods become associated with a specific environment, situation or event. You may not be hungry or desire a type of food but you eat it anyway because the conditions call for it. An example would be someone who always eats a snack as soon as they come home and before dinner. Dr. Macklin states this habit often results when a child comes home from school and the parents have not arrived yet from work. Being alone the child would often pick cookies, ice cream or some other treat to indulge in. This habit performed multiple times becomes carried forward to adulthood. A second example is a person who eats after dinner and before going to bed. This is a common scenario for most people. When watching television it is a common habit to reach for chips, popcorn or some other treat to occupy yourself with during viewing. On many days you may not even desire the snack but the comfy familiar couch, your favorite show, the quiet of the evening, the mood of the environment signals your brain to eat. You probably have been in this situation thousands of times often not even remembering how much you ate or being present in the moment and enjoying it.
The key to breaking eating patterns is first becoming aware which exist for you and second creating different environments to be exposed too. Instead of always sitting on the couch watching television, go to the library, read a book at a coffee shop, do something more active like going for a walk or join a volleyball recreation league. It is highly unlikely you will be consuming chips or popcorn in these different environments saving yourself thousands of calories and dozens of pounds over the course of a year.
Losing weight in the 21st Century is hard but not impossible. I have seen many people who have desk jobs, stress making payments on the mortgage, children driving them crazy yet still maintaining a healthy weight. The key is to figure out what obstacles exist for you that prevent a smart decision being made. We all know what needs to be done the hard part is figuring out why we can’t do it.