The obesity problem in America is not going away anytime soon. A recent report published in a 2015 issue of the “JAMA Internal Medicine” found for the first time that more Americans are obese than are overweight. That’s something to be concerned about. I don’t know about you, but I think about obesity and weight loss a lot. Not only do I write and speak on the subjects, I am also the primary person responsible for feeding my family healthy food. Like many of you, I have a vested interest in the topic and want my family to be as healthy as possible. There are currently over 111,000 books on Amazon dealing with weight loss and 15,000 diet cookbooks. In addition to all the books written, there are thousands of research studies on the topic of obesity and weight. Because of this, you might assume that the reasons for obesity number in the thousands. To the contrary, I believe there are three primary reasons for the obesity crisis. Of course each of the reasons is multi-layered, but these three lie at the core of the problem. Fix them and the crisis will begin to fix itself.
1) Convenience Food
The increase in the consumption of convenience foods is one of the primary reasons for the obesity crisis. These foods include a variety of foods including: Fast food Boxed processed foods Quick serve restaurant meals Prepackaged frozen and refrigerated dinners Snacks such as chips and pretzels Candy Frozen desserts I was hooked on convenience foods. Not only did I like the way they tasted, I loved how easy they were to purchase and eat. I did not have to cut anything up, measure ingredients, or even set the table. I ate a lot of convenience food and I was rewarded with an extreme weight problem. Convenience foods take away your choice of ingredients and calories. You can make chicken parmesan that contains fresh tomatoes and herbs, a small amount of cheese, boneless skinless chicken breasts, and homemade breading or you can purchase a boxed chicken parmesan meal that has over 15 ingredients, many of which you cannot pronounce.
2) Sedentary Lifestyle
Americans are a sedentary bunch, according to a Gallup poll. Only about 50 percent of Americans indicate they exercise at least three times a week for a mere 30 minutes. Our increasing reliance and love of all things electronic definitely contributes to the lack of exercise and overall movement among Americans. And logic dictates the less you move during the day, the fewer calories you burn. For example, the National Institutes of Health indicates a woman between the ages of 19 and 30 requires 1,800 calories if she is sedentary. A sedentary man the same age requires about 2,400 calories. The more active you are, the more calories you can have without gaining weight. Think about it. If a woman eats a 350 calorie bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, a 500 calorie salad for lunch, two 300 calorie snacks, an 800 calorie dinner, and a 200 calorie bowl of ice cream during the day, she will have consumed 2,400 calories. If she does no exercise, she is eating about 600 calories a day more than she needs. Over time, this excess calorie consumption combined with no exercise will cause weight gain. The solution to this problem is simple. Move more and eat within your calorie range to lose weight and then maintain it. I exercise six days a week in some fashion. I swim, walk, or ride my bike. Mix up your exercise routine to avoid boredom and to challenge yourself physically.
3) Portion Sizes
The third reason for obesity is simply that we eat too much. Our portion sizes are off the charts. Who needs a 2,400 calorie prime rib dinner like the one that Outback sells? Not me and probably not you either. Portion sizes have increased during the past 40 years and so have American’s waistlines. When McDonald’s first opened they offered one size of fries. Now there are four sizes, including a large option with 510 calories. Even the average plate and mug size has increased throughout the years, which contributes to the amount of food and drink you eat. Everything seems to have gotten bigger. The fix is easy on the surface but harder to execute. It takes practice to know how many calories are in a pile of pasta or a burger. I recommend you weigh and measure your foods until you have a good grasp on how much you should be eating. Be particularly careful in restaurants and err on the side of caution when deciding how much of your entrée to finish and how much to take home.