Why Are We Becoming Obese?
It’s no secret that obesity is on the rise. Data keeps pouring in about the number of Americans and around the world achieving overweight and obese status at an alarming rate. There are many theories as to why this is happening today and at such a fast pace. This article will focus on some of the “main” reasons seen by the experts as to why this is happening but get more in-depth about the one factor that put humans on a quantum leap in the wrong direction with weight.
A Little History To Show The Trend
The actual statistics and record-keeping on obesity are relatively recent. Before the 1960s, the medical community did not record a lot of this information, nor did they have a reason to because it wasn’t an issue at that time. Going back to centuries before and determining obesity rates can be done through science; however, it is a scientific calculation, not an exact measurement. So knowing the accurate obesity rates hundreds and thousands of years ago will be directionally correct.
We do know that obesity in the US and around the world was relatively low until the mid-1990s. This is the point that the medical community started focusing on measuring obesity rates and the statistics began trending up.
In 1960 the obesity rate was approximately 13% in America. Then in 1970, this rate moved up to around 15%. This is about a 2% increase over a decade, which is relatively small. In 1980 the obesity rate stayed about the same at approximately 15% and the same for 1990. At the turn of the century is when things changed with obesity rates. In 2000 the obesity rate was about 24%, representing a 9% increase over the previous two decades.
From 2000 on, the trend has taken an upward trajectory and not slowing down. In 2010 the rate was approximately 35%, and 11% increase over the past decade. In 2020 the rate moved up to around 43%, representing an 8% increase over the past decade. The estimated rate for 2030 is 51%, which is another 8% jump over the previous decade. When does this stop?
What Is Causing All This?
The experts have weighed in and come up with a multitude of different causes. These causes focused on just a few areas, including less movement and exercise, more abundance of food and deterioration of food quality, and lifestyle changes that focus on more sitting.
Lifestyles have changed over the past few decades to or more sedentary environment watching TV, staring at devices, or on some form of computer. In the 1960s, approximately half of the jobs required moderate physical activity to perform the job requirements. Now the number of jobs that require physical activity is below 20%. The shift in physical activity in the workplace is primarily due to technological advancements. Technology is good and allows for more productivity with less effort, but it comes with a cost. The experts think it is having an adverse effect on obesity.
Regular physical activity is on the decline has only one in four Americans is achieving an adequate exercise amount per week. So there is less physical activity in the workplace and less physical activity performed outside the workplace, which equals less movement in exercise overall.
The abundance of food is increasing each decade. Food engineering is also increasing each decade, which makes the food less nutritious but more affordable and lasts longer on the shelves. The food abundance in the United States has steadily risen each year measured and total calories available for consumption. The fact of the matter is there is plenty of food in this country for everyone to eat. But the quality of food has decreased, and the number of calories has increased. Just look on any corner, and you will see a fast-food establishment with cars wrapped around it to buy food in large quantities with little nutritional value.
Sitting is the new standard in America. The average American sits approximately half of their awake time. As you can guess, this number is also increasing each year, which has been directly linked to the amount of usage of electronic devices. Some of the current estimates of device usage range in the area of 17 hours per day. Yes, you guessed it, this number is also increasing.
Some other areas that the experts agree upon are causing obesity, such as medications and the amount and type of medications being consumed today that can lead to weight gain. Sugar is on the rise. Currently, the estimate is the average American consumes 152 lb of sugar per year. This number continues to grow at a staggering rate and is not doing the human race any good. For example, Caveman consumed approximately 4 lb of sugar per year, which is what the human body was built to ingest.
One last agreed-upon cause is the aggressive marketing of food companies showcasing their variety of food products on social media platforms. With the average American glued to their device all the waking hours, seeing aggressive food campaigns and the dependence on convenience to have a meal instantly all equates to putting more food and lousy food into our systems.
Are all of the above root causes or just symptoms of today’s society? What was the turning point that truly put humankind on the wrong path when it comes to food, lack of exercise, and lifestyle changes that have caused humans to become more dependent on convenience?
The refrigerator! The refrigerator is a pivotal point in human history that put Mankind on a different food trajectory than before. The refrigerator was invented in 1834 but did not become mainstream until the 1920s when freon was introduced as a critical refrigerant component. It is at this point in time that Mankind had a way to store food for extended periods.
This changed our entire mentality towards food; before the refrigerator, humankind was a hunter-gatherer. The man would generally go fishing or hunting during the day, and the women and children would work the fields. At the end of the day, whatever was collected was eating, then the cycle repeated the next day. To survive, a great deal of physical activity was needed to capture or harvest food so that the person would not starve. Moving away from this lifestyle and walking to the kitchen to open a refrigerator and pull out a meal that can be prepared in seconds changed Mankind’s philosophy for food, physical activity, and lifestyle all at the same time.
Is the refrigerator a bad thing? Absolutely not. It has allowed humans to survive without fear of starvation, knowing where the next meal comes from, and the insurance that food is available at any time without having to hunt and collect. The downside is that we as humans now depend on the refrigerator, which has allowed us to become more sedentary, select and store lower quality foods, and allowed more opportunity for less physical activity and lifestyle changes due to the increased amount of time not used and hunting and collecting food.
Think about it this way; if you had to hunt for your dinner or fishing for your next meal, you would not have extended amounts of time to play on your device in a seated position for hours on end. And the next meal you had would have high nutritional content with little fat, no preservatives, and no other engineered substances. You would also have to work for it because hunting, fishing, and harvesting all need energy.
There are many reasons why Americans are becoming more obese, and all of them are valid. However, for the most part, these reasons are not the root cause of the problem but rather the symptoms. The availability of having food in a refrigerated state has allowed humans to become less physically active, change their lifestyle to a more sanitary environment, and consume lower quality foods.
If cavemen had refrigerators, then chances are there would have been a high obesity rate. This is because the focus of collecting the next meal would not be top-of-mind. After all, the refrigerator is already stocked. This would allow cavemen just to sit around and do a lot less.
The root cause is the ability to store food, which is what the refrigerator produced. With this new way to keep food, Mankind does not have to hunt and gather. This changed our perspective on activity, amounts of food needed to survive, and allowed for sitting instead of hunting-gathering.