The Real Causes of the Obesity Epidemic
Becoming What We Hate: Corpulence in America
Contrary to the many vested interests wishing to profit from obese persons, overeating is not the reason for our increased heftiness. Fifty-four percent of all Americans are overweight. One in five is obese and in danger of health problems. Until we are honest about obesity in this country, no working solutions will be found. The cult of Jenny Craig and Lean Cuisine will simply make us fatter because their interest lies in profits. The problem is finding unbiased researchers who don't put the cart before the horse, influenced by profiteers who are fueled by fat prejudice. The real cause of the obesity epidemic is not increased gluttony, but factors in modern American life.
Endocrine Systems under Pressure: Burned Out Glands
Americans are under stress. In the last twenty years, there has been this insistence on a fast-paced lifestyle with long workweeks and the average number of work hours has increased. Both sexes are working. Americans are like gerbils on the ever-spinning hamster wheel. People over-schedule themselves with cell phone and bulging day planners in hand. Bragging about having no time to relax is the new sign of success.
Stress, a known risk factor for the endocrine system, is increasing with everyone. Modern society is overwrought with pressures, and this isn't good for the hormonal system that controls metabolism. The type of stress that is commonplace in American culture is the "fight or flight syndrome." Americans pump out a steady stream of high hormones to deal with the daily grind of traffic jams, high-pressure jobs, noise pollution and societal angst for hours and not just the seconds needed to escape a wolf out in the woods that our ancestors had to contend with. Chronic stress takes a much higher toll than acute stress.
There is a very-little known disease that can cause severe obesity. Considered uncommon, rarely diagnosed correctly, it is Cushing's Syndrome. Its symptoms include insulin resistance, weight gain independent of food intake, diabetes, and fatigue. It is caused by an adrenal or pituitary tumor putting out tons of cortisol: a stress hormone which increases under "fight or flight." Also there is a condition called Pseudo-Cushing's, which can happen as the result of severe stress, depression and other endocrine conditions. The stress independent of a tumor produces the higher cortisol. One gains weight because they are simply under the gun. The hormone cortisol slows down the metabolism.
An interesting study was done, where the connection between stress and the manufacturing of higher levels of cortisol was established. Men in higher-stressed positions had more difficulty with pervasive obesity independent of food intake. In the study, "Occupational Status, Cortisol Secretary Pattern and Visceral Obesity in Middle-aged Men," researchers conclude,
"When the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is subjected to prolonged increases in cortisol elicited by chronic stress, the regulation of cortisol secretion is affected, indicating neuroendocrine dysregulations."
Such dysregulations lead to problems with metabolic rate and obesity.
"Stress can make you fat," bellowed the media upon release of this study! However, after the first ballyhoo, this theory was swept under the carpet, disappearing because it conflicted with interests of the obesity establishment.
Syndrome X is also becoming a widespread illness. Genetic in basis, it's been worsened by the modern American diet and lifestyle. It is the combination of obesity -- lower metabolism, heart disease, and diabetes. The modern American diet is made of processed foods -- low in fiber and simple carbohydrates -- which turn into glucose, immediately worsening the effect on the endocrine system, dumping tons of sugar into the system for the pancreas to deal with. The insulin producing "islets" eventually get worn out. Insulin resistance is also known to cause obesity in those with an underlying endocrine disorder that affects the pancreas. It is obvious why America is having a diabetes epidemic. It's due to the content of our food, not necessarily its quantity.
The diabetes epidemic has also lead to more fat people. With fat biases, many doctors have already blamed fat people on getting diabetes, while now it is becoming known that diabetes and the pre-diabetic condition known as insulin resistance lead to an easier storage of fat. When the pancreas is unable to break down sugar as effectively, it is stored more readily as fat. A diet high in unprocessed carbohydrates will lead to more weight gain independent of calories. Stress also has its role to play in the development of diabetes. African-Americans, for example, have a much higher rate of diabetes that is caused by the increased pressures of racism and the lower socioeconomic forces they face.
Poisoned Endocrine Systems: Bloating Bodies
There is a basic increase in endocrine diseases due to environmental poisonings. Higher estrogen in the environment is leading to smaller sperm counts and now one in every seven couples is infertile. This is something never seen before. Hormonal diseases that used to be rare, like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), hypothyroidism and diabetes are now worsening in number. Scientists alone have identified 51 synthetic chemicals in our environment that disrupt hormones. Some mimic estrogen, which is a hormone that adds weight, especially in women, and others conflict with testosterone and thyroid. Among them include everything from PCBs, Dioxin and Furans, many from heavily-used pesticides on our food supply.
Girls are even entering puberty earlier due to these factors, which is leading to higher body weights at early ages. The obesity epidemic has been blamed on higher rates of weight due to the increased insulin (the cart before the horse syndrome again) and leptin from the fat cells. However, the article "Teens Before Their Time" in Time magazine points out:
"The most prominent effect, reported last spring in the Journal of Pediatrics, was the boys exposed to DDE and girls exposed to PCBs were heavier than their unexposed peers at age 14. The study also noted an intriguing fact: girls with high prenatal PCB exposure tended to hit the first stages of puberty a bit earlier than others."
It is pointed out that the sample may be too small statistically but this
certainly needs more investigation. Other researchers are even pointing to plastics.
Losing Weight: Getting Factor
In American culture, no one eats simply because they are hungry anymore. They are scarfing Doritos after starving on rice cakes and protein shakes. In fact, Americans have disturbed not only their metabolisms with chronic dieting, but also their natural food cues which can control satiety and hunger. Deprivation, starvation diets and Richard Simmons' notorious "Deal-A-Meal" program has led to fatter people.
Dieting drops the metabolism. After three years, 90 percent of dieters regain any lost weight and usually add more. Any other medical treatment with this high of a failure rate would be tossed in the garbage! Yo-yo dieting can actually increase a person's body weight over a long stretch of time. A person's time they can maintain a deprived diet is very shot. After all, the Nazis on Treblinka, according to Marilyn Wann's book, Fat?so!, considered 900 calories starvation level. A typical diet has 1,200-1,500 calories -- which, for most people, is simply insufferable in the long run. The biological urge for nutrition takes over, no matter how disciplined or controlled the dieter! The brain actually sends out "time to binge" signals when food is made available after a time of deprivation further undermining the dieter's best interests.
The body's biological cues never cease; the human body, after all, was made for the occasional famine, not the Western supermarket chain, and drops the metabolism to save lives. This natural truth has been wallpapered over by many. For example, Oprah, one of the world's most disciplined and successful persons -- who has legions of chefs and personal trainers to help her lose weight -- never could stick to a deprivation diet for more than a few months at a time. When her knees went and the five hours of exercise could not be maintained per day -- which is far beyond what most thin people have time for -- she put back on the weight her body was accustomed to. She also went on a starvation diet (Optifast) and her body fulfilled the scientific reality of re-feeding and regaining.
People can still lose weight in a healthy slow fashion by adapting lifelong healthy eating plans, but turning fat people automatically into thin people by starvation methods does backfire in the worst of ways. This is why the nation that does the most dieting is the fattest.
In the study, "Weight-loss Attempts and Risk of Major Weight Gain: a protective study in Finnish adults," they conclude "Weight Loss attempts may be associated with subsequent major weight gain even when several potential cofounders are controlled for. Genetic and familial factors may contribute to this association."
Simplistic answers regarding weight will continue to fail. Obesity is a complex condition, and more than an energy expenditure and input equation. Dr. Charles Roy Schroeder writes in his book, "Fat Is Not A Four-Letter Word," that:
"Along with hereditary differences, there are well-known metabolic and dietary factors that can vary so much between individuals. Not so well-known are the variations in the fatness 'setpoint' and the hunger and satiety control centers in the brain. There are also a variety of metabolic diseases, brain disorders and hormonal disorders that affect fatness."
The failure of diets has been hidden from public view and even knowing this, the fad diet industry holds its power over the American consumer, who is basically brainwashed through fat prejudice into believing the failure of the diet lies with the dieter himself -- not the diet. Around 1997, even some doctors spoke against diets but a backlash has silenced many of those voices. Still there is a reason that all advertisements for diet products in tiny words, one will find the phrase -- "results not typical."
Thin people are so afraid of being fat, they diet, drop their metabolism and put on a few extra pounds every year. Hospitals weight clinics who really should know better continue to set very obese people up for failure by insisting on 600- to 800-calorie crash diets that are bound to fail. Corporations get money to put out heart-harming weight loss drugs that aren't fully tested, such as in the Phen-Fen fiasco. Weight regain will happen regardless, because no one can starve their bodies forever. Average eating must resume at some time, and with it will come back more pounds.
Bad Food at McDonald's: Microwaves and Cheetos
American food has changed over the last 100 years. No longer high in complex vitamins and fiber, today's manufactured food, such as Wonder bread, needs the nutrients pumped back into it. The foods that are the most widely available and cheapest are the least nutritious. Try going for a drive across America on a healthy eating lifestyle and choosing the new low-wilted nutrition Iceberg Lettuce salads that are available amid the scads of double cheeseburgers with bacon, fried chicken and French fries.
Food processors abuse the human system of hunger to make money. They add sugar, which has an addictive quality and makes people more inclined to eat more. Grease and hydrogenated fats add more taste and hunger but also lead to more obesity. Salt is literally poured into foods to attract the taste buds, ignoring damage to the body.
Nutritionally-deprived Americans end up eating more calories than they otherwise would to fulfill nutritional needs. Take eating a piece of thick grainy wholesome Brownberry wheat bread and compare it to a slice of fluffy, white Wonder bread. The Wonder bread is gone within an hour, the wheat bread takes longer to digest and to break down. The Brownberry bread can satisfy with one slice. The Wonder bread takes two. One gets hungrier much faster off the Wonder bread and it also takes a toll on the human pancreas with its immediate dumping of glucose into the system. Bad food, high in carbohydrates, lacking in fiber and high in sugar, abuses the pancreas and digestive system. The body starts to be deficient in breaking down sugars, thusly one gains weight and has an easier time getting fat.
American eating is disordered. No one takes the time to slowly bake some squash for an hour and to mince eggplant for a vegetable dip. They run down to the grocery store and buy some high calorie macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. These are cheap and take minutes to cook. Nutrition almost becomes the lesser concern in this scenario. Health is being sacrificed for taste and price.
Paying off the Sleep Debt: Fatigued Bodies
Many Americans brag about how little sleep they get. In the days without electric light, people slept nine to ten hours a day, now five- to six-hour nights are not uncommon. Scientists are finding out lack of sleep leads to higher cortisol levels and ill effects on the hormonal system. In fact, sleep has such an effect on body weight, that sleep disorders have been known to put hundreds of pounds upon their unwilling victims.
Some sufferers of sleep apnea disorders will find that treatment with a CPAP machine, which allows more time in REM, leads to slow, steady weight loss. In the study, "Sleep Apnea and Daytime Sleepiness and Fatigue: Relation to Visceral Obesity, Insulin Resistance," it says, "We conclude that there is a strong independent association among sleep apnea, visceral obesity and, insulin resistancewhich may contribute to the pathological manifestations of this condition."
Growth Hormone, which is responsible for controlling the body's proportions of fat and muscle -- and thus keeps obesity more at bay -- is released during the first round of deep, slow-wave sleep. Less sleep means a reduction in this hormone. Van Cauter, a sleep researcher at University of Chicago, says in the Time article "Sleepless in America," that "sleep loss is partially involved in the epidemic of obesity."
Rich and Lean, Poor and Fat
A class difference is being made apparent through the fattening of the poor. Rich people have a "Whole Foods" grocery store and plenty of money for high proteins and exercise programs. Poor people are stuck with the corner convenience store and are scared to walk around their own block. For example, "Whole Foods," an upscale, suburban chain offers foods like tempeh and whole wheat pasta; down at the local store on a Chicago ghetto street, one finds foods such as Cornflakes and Cheetos more readily available. Many of the poor simply don't have the cash or the wheels to travel to the better groceries, which they couldn't afford anyway. Having no money to join an exercise group, no public recreation programs and less access to decent health care, obesity among the poor is indeed much higher in rates.
One can almost see the future where the social class becomes visible according to body weight. The rich are becoming lean aristocrats with the resources to control obesity. A rich person can broil some salmon, vegetables and make watercress salad. Anyone knows that the most fattening food is also the cheapest. This is why one can visit a grocery store and pay $3.50 for a package of tofu burgers and get way with a $1.50 for a pound of greasy hamburger! Any person embarking on a new "lifestyle plan" or diet will find their grocery bills shooting up!
Rich people also have far more leisure time to take walks, go on trips where physical exercise is fun and not a punishing, boring chore and to put thousands of dollars into sports equipment and gym memberships. Joe Six-Pack after a day of sitting at the drill press comes home to eat, rest and watch television before another day of drudgery and is too tired to feel the enthusiasm to exercise. Sometimes the only pleasure he can afford is what he will have for dinner that night. After all, food has become a recreational pastime. You can see proof of this on a popular "All Food and cooking shows all the time" cable network.
Fat discrimination is becoming the new weapon in class warfare. Fat people after all find obesity alone is what leads to a fall down the socioeconomic ladder, for example, fat women in one study were found to make an average of $7,000 less a year but it works both ways. Getting poor can also lead to obesity. The richer powers that be can simply point to the increasing obesity of the poor as inherent laziness, sloth and gluttony, rather than seeing the responsibility that industries and social institutions take in ruining the poor's health. Greg Criser points out in his Harper's Essay "Let Them Eat Fat" that:
"The answer, (re: the solution of the obesity problem) I suggest, is that
almost every public health arena needs to address obesity as a class issue-one that transcends the inevitable divisiveness of race and gender has been blunted by bad logic, vested interests, academic cant and ideological chauvinism."
After all corporations--who among their own culture, refuse to hire the fat for their upwardly mobile jobs ---are making millions off cheap, fattening food, and the diet industry that accompanies it.
Extremes in Approach: Losing the War
Fat people are hated in American culture. They are the only class of people where it's open season as far as jokes and open disdain go. Discrimination against the fat is only illegal in San Francisco and Michigan. There are no protections anywhere else.
There are two approaches towards weight. The first one is the fat hatred side where fatness is to be avoided at all costs and vilified. It fuels the fad diet industry, which makes millions of dollars off the hatred and angst of fat people. Wrongly directed studies are funded by the industrial food-restriction complex. The other side, the tiny minority voices, are the size acceptors---whom in frightened and overwhelmed response to the diet industry monster scream, "Diets dont work. Losing weight is impossible and finding something that works isn't worth it!" leaving those who suffer physically from their weight out in the cold. They want fat to be accepted but at the price most mainstream Americans won't pay; accepting a physical condition that can hurt. Both are indeed opposite coins of one another. Neither is honest. One denies why people become fat. One denies how fat affects health. In one way they almost serve each other's needs. The problem is no one is demanding a cure that works, that comes from fair objective research.
One example of American's stubborn refusal to treat fat fairly is their choice of self-avowed expert on fat, Michael Fumento, who wrote the book, The Fat of the Land. More available than any underground size acceptance tome, Fumento touts the most unscientific, bariatric surgeon-financed information to promote fat bigotry as a way of turning fat people into thin people, a few limp concessions to the "rare" endocrine sufferer and genetics is included. This has basically been the failed American plan for the last thirty years in dealing with obesity.
According to Reason magazine, Fumento makes his agenda clear, "No ones arguing that it should be illegal to be such a glutton and a sloth that you can't get around without an electric scooter." He also writes, "Gluttony and sloth need to be demonized to the extend that cigarettes have been, but this doesnt mean oppressing fat people." This is very contradictory but also shows some of the breakdowns in logic that occur as a result of fat hatred.
There is fair research. Fact is most of it backs up what all fat people know as truth. Still there are limitations. No one as of yet has addressed the factors that are leading to imbalances of all things, including weight. No researchers have bothered to study the severely overweight, even though there are thousands of people who weight over 500 pounds, an estimated 5,000 housebound souls in New York State alone.
Size Acceptance helps fight the discrimination but sadly, in the face of all the moneyed powers, has yet to confront the real reasons behind the problem and takes cover under the umbrella of fat promotion. American is getting fatter. The overused answers are failing. Greed is ruining intellectual honesty. Predatory concerns are taking advantage of the 97 million Americans that suffer from what is basically a health condition. The real causes of the obesity epidemic don't make money; after all, they need money to be solved. Meanwhile, America gets larger.
This article written by "Victoria"