When study after study explains that one third of Americans are obese and another third are overweight the question it raises is how did we get this way? When you look back in human history, it wasn’t always like this.
Remember the term hunter gatherer?
Historyworld.net shares for almost the whole of human history, from at least 3 million years ago, mankind has lived by carrying out these two basic activities of hunting (or fishing) and gathering edible items of any kind (from fruit to insects). We are unusual among animals in combining the two functions, and we have been greatly helped in both by the development of language. But basically, as hunter-gatherers, we have lived by doing what comes naturally.
The change comes a mere 10,000 years ago, when people first discover how to cultivate crops and to domesticate animals. This is the most significant single development in human history. What’s the term commonly used to describe this new method of sustaining life?
Farming brought at least two major changes to human communities.
Of the major farm animals put to use; the pig, goat, horse, sheep and cow, the cow was the most significant in terms of production because it was the only animal that produced far more milk than it’s young could use. The oxen gave man the muscle power that he never possessed previously.
The second major dynamic was that man’s population had the ability to greatly increase from the hunter gatherer, greatly nomadic and reduced life expectancy model. We now had the ability to stay in one spot, store food and form villages.
We also had a greater ability to over eat.
This is where the human population began to greatly expand.
Historyworld.net continues; the new diet of settled farmers – predominantly vegetarian, with meat now an occasional luxury – results in one small but significant development. Salt becomes an important commodity in human trade.
A physical necessity of human life, salt exists in sufficient quantity in a diet of milk and of raw or roasted meat. It is not present in vegetables, grain or boiled meat. Agriculture in many areas of the world only becomes possible if a trade in salt is established.
Instead of relying on food from one village, mankind could trade for food around the world.
As we speed up to modern times, npr.org provides us with some unexpected and alarming news.
The numbers are staggering: One-third of Americans are obese; another third are overweight. Some 26 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes. An additional 79 million more are pre-diabetic. Thanks to these figures, the children of today have a good chance of becoming the first generation of Americans to die at younger ages than their parents.
The number of obese Americans soared during the 1980s and 1990s, doubling among adults in the U.S. and tripling among children. Sedentary lifestyles and changes in eating habits have contributed to weight gain, as more Americans work at desk jobs, use electronic devices and get served increasingly larger portions at restaurants.
Mr. Kelly Brownell is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Yale University, where he also serves as professor of epidemiology and public health and as director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
He is quoted as stating, “We could count 100 ways or more that the environment has changed in ways that I call toxic. Serving sizes have increased. What used to be the large size at McDonald’s is now the small serving of fries. A muffin used to be smaller than a baseball; now it can be as big as a softball. And this gets multiplied by many products in the food system. Marketing of unhealthy foods is out of control completely. The industry is doing a very poor job of policing itself in that respect. And kids are targeted in a predatory way by the industry.”
“As an example of how much marketing there is, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is now, by far, the largest funder of work in this country on childhood obesity. They’re spending $100 million a year on the problem. The food industry spends that amount every year by Jan. 4, just marketing junk food — just to children.”
Usatoday.com provides us with some hope reporting obesity among U.S. adults is continuing to level off after several decades of skyrocketing growth, new government data show.
In 2012, about 34.9% of the people in this country were obese, which is roughly 35 pounds over a healthy weight. That is not significantly different from the 35.7% who were obese in 2010.
In both 2010 and 2012 about 78 million adults were obese; more than 50 million of those were white, according to the latest statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Even though it looks like a slight drop in the percentage of adults who are obese, this difference is not statistically significant,” says Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics. “This is more evidence that we’re not seeing a change in adult obesity.”
The prevalence of obesity increased dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s after being relatively stable in the USA between 1960 and 1980 when about 15% of people fell into the category.
Rt.com/usa/food-obesity-health-us contributes by 2030; more than half of Americans could be obese, taxing the nation’s health while costing the country $500 billion in lost economic productivity. The food industry, however, is doing its best to keep the public hooked – no matter what the price.
With one out of three adults clinically obese and 40 percent of children officially overweight, the US is the fattest country in the developed world. The burgeoning public health crisis will see instances of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer skyrocket over the next two decades, taking an already strained healthcare system to breaking point.
In 1980, no one had even heard of high-fructose corn syrup. But agricultural subsidies highly distorted market prices, bringing about the rise of cheap corn, which is a staple of highly processed foods like soft drinks and much of what one finds on the supermarket shelves.
Between 1985 and 2010, the price of beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup fell 24 percent in real terms, with American children consuming on average an extra 130 calories daily from soft drinks.[pullquoteleft] Childhood obesity is best tackled at home through improved parental involvement, increased physical exercise, better diet and restraint from eating.
What can help stem the tide?
The starting place of any real change is internal. It often has to do with perception. This is most likely where the battle is being lost.
Not only do many Americans struggle with weight problems, but they often harbor misperceptions about their weight—considering themselves in the correct weight range when they are actually unhealthily overweight, or the reverse, considering they are overweight when in fact they are not states infoplease.com.
• Almost twice as many women as men who are not overweight think that they are. 25.3% of men and 47.9% of women defined as within their normal weight range think they weigh too much.
• Overweight women are more realistic than overweight men in recognizing themselves as overweight. 91.8% of women defined as overweight perceive themselves as such, whereas only 83.4% of overweight men consider themselves to be so.
Once a person is willing to investigate and if the evidence supports it, acknowledge they are overweight, the October 17, 2013 Usatoday.com article generously shares some great starting place advice.
People who are concerned about being obese and want to drop extra pounds should try to lose 10% of their weight, says Patrick O’Neil, director of the Weight Management Center at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. “We know that losing 10% of your body weight can produce a significant improvement in your health. You will feel better and be able to do more things. After you’ve lost 10%, you can determine how much more you wish to lose.”
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Sources: www.huffingtonpost.com, www.historyworld.net, www.sciencedaily.com, www.cdc.gov/women, www.mchb.hrsa.gov, www.npr.org/2012, www.usatoday.com, rt.com/usa/food, www.infoplease.com, www.foodtimeline.org, photos courtesy Wikimedia.