Why are we so fat? In America especially, but also in most of the more affluent western nations we have been getting bigger, heavier, and yes, FATTER! WHY? This phenomenon has been pondered for many decades and many many people have tried to answer this burning question. Even more have tried to capitalize financially on the lack of a definitive answer. The most common of these ‘answers’ have included in some way too much fat, too much sugar, too much dairy, too many ‘carbs, too much meat, etc. A wide variety of those looking for “the answer” are trying to narrow it to something they can sell you in a pill or a diet or a super-food, even a psychoanalysis tape. Well here’s my two cents on the subject. We eat more (often way more) and move less (often way less) than previous generations. This statement is very true, but may be a tad over-simplified. So let explain in a little more detail.
Let’s start with the ‘eating more’ part. We eat way more than our grandparents and great grandparents did. This is largely due to easier access and more idle time. Since the advent of the refrigerated train boxcar, the food industry has been trying to get us to eat more. Simply put, the more we eat the more money they make. It’s their job. As the meat industry, dairy industry and processed foods continued to grow, so did we! With better packaging and ubiquitous access they made it too easy.
All of our “modern conveniences” have not helped either. They have given us more free time which sounds good at first, but it has become very costly to our waistlines and more importantly to our health in general. Too many people fill this time eating and watching TV. Ironically, we’re usually watching others moving/playing sports while we sit there eating (more on lack of movement later). The point here is that there are very smart people marketing for very rich companies whose sole purpose it is to get us to eat more meat, more dairy, more junk food, more of EVERYTHING! We must realize this, listen to our bodies and eat only what we need. Food is not a pastime. Eating is to sustain our bodies (and minds) so we can function at our highest abilities. There is a plethora of quality foods that will stimulate those pleasure centers in the brain just as well as the “unhealthy fair”. You just need to be a little more adventurous and try something new once in a while. You also must always read labels and know what is in the food you eat. If the ingredient list is too long and/or unpronounceable, leave it alone. In other words, learn to be a conscious eater.
Now for the ‘moving’ part. Our grandparents/great grandparents were much more active in their daily routine than most of us today. Their jobs usually required some type of physical activity, not just sitting looking at a screen moving their fingers (which, by the way, is the extent of many people’s daily ‘exercise’). They worked in the yard, fixed their own houses, took the stairs and walked most places. They even walked to the grocery store to buy the food, which may have had an added benefit of limiting how much they bought. Even if they did have a car, they didn’t drive everywhere. So by the time they worked, and walked, and fixed, they went to bed earlier. They didn’t have idle time in the evening to sit around and eat.
So why are we so fat and seemingly getting fatter? We have chosen this lifestyle! Many have done so consciously, but most have done so unconsciously. We have unconsciously made the food industry rich while eating more and more of what they tell us to eat. Our great grandparents would have eaten what they grew themselves or what their neighbors grew. In other words, they knew what it was they were eating and where it came from (no need for ingredient lists). We have also gone along with all the latest technology advances, which were supposed to make our lives easier, better. But unfortunately easier does not mean healthier. We make the tech companies rich buying the ‘gadget of the month’ then SITTING and playing with it (or just staring at it). Instead of just getting a break from too much work, we’ve stopped all activity and are getting lazier and fatter by the day.
So what can we do to return to a more normal weight and live healthier? Actively, consciously choose a lifestyle that has you eating less and moving more. This would be a great place to start. Once you realize how much better you feel, you can get more specific about food choices (whole foods centered around vegetables, whole grains and fruits) and exercise by reading and/or consulting knowledgeable/competent professionals. By eating consciously, not blindly, your eating pleasure will go up as your weight goes down. Know what you eat, where it comes from and how much you eat. Don’t use eating as a way to pass the time. Instead, use this time to find ways to be more active. Walk to do errands when you can, and when you can’t, park as far away as you can. Use the stairs, walk for ½ of your lunch hour, do more of your own yard work, or maybe even play with your kids (yes outside, not video games).
When you choose a healthier, active, more conscious lifestyle, I guarantee you will feel better. This will change your direction and start you down a new road that will encourage you to learn even more and thus lose even more!