Obesity is the state of bring morbidly overweight
and is becoming a huge problem (excuse the pun) in western societie
s, mainly America
. In England
we always talk about how bad we are getting, in terms of when we will "become like America". An ever increasing proportion of the population, in all age groups of both genders, are becoming obese, but why?
The simple answer is that an increasing amount of people are taking in more calories then they expend, the difference between the two is then stored as fat around the body increasing the individuals weight. But then a more complicated answer is why is this situation on the increase?
I believe it is down to two factors.
- Reduced activity levels
As western society progresses, everything around us is designed to save us time and effort. For example, we have cars, escalators, elevators, moving walkways. Taking this even further, we have products such as electric whisks, electric screwdrivers, electric everything! I'm simply trying to make the point that putting any physical effort into doing anything in our daily lives is increasingly being looked down upon.
Western societies economies are also evolving to the point where the majority of us sit at a desk all day, only getting up to visit the coffee machine. Our daily activity levels are rock bottom. So much so that gyms and health clubs have sprung up on most street corners. We spend all this money on products that save us effort, only to then pay a huge monthly membership fee to a health club, so we have somewhere to go to be active. It simply doesn't make sense.
- What we eat
When we eat, most of us don't make the most sensible of choices, but how much of this is our fault? If you go into a supermarket, how many products do you think are actually in that store, 100's if not 1000's. Many of these products will not be as good for us as they should be, so the odds of an individual who doesn't know too much about nutrition making the right choice are extremely low. And the chances of an individual having any knowledge of nutrition is also extremely low, Home Economics in school is almost non-existent nowadays, and anyway, how many of us, especially boys were interested in cooking when we were teenagers, I for one was not.
But why is so much food unhealthy? The simple fact is that sugar and fat make food taste pretty damn nice. This is down to evolution. Fat is a great source of energy providing more then twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrate per gram. It is also easily stored around the body due to the shape of the fat molecule. Sugar gives us instant energy as it is already glucose.
Because we like the taste of fat and sugar so much, manufacturers pump their food products full of it, if we like the taste of it, we'll but it, and they make profits. Everybody's happy.
Another factor that contributes to unhealthy food choices is time constraints, mainly due to job commitments. This can cause many people to skip breakfast and then work through the morning, until their blood glucose levels drop to rock bottom. At this point our body sends a signal indicating that we are "starving". When we feel like this our body craves sugary and fatty foods. Not the best time to be making a choice about what to eat.
Why do people yo-yo diet?
These are the main factors contributing to today’s problem of obesity. What most overweight people do, when they realize that they want to do something about their weight is go on a diet. Many long term, overweight individuals move from one diet to another losing a certain amount of weight, then putting it back on, in a never ending cycle. These individuals are called yo-yo dieters. Let me try and explain why this occurs:
The person goes onto a diet, which creates a daily calorie deficit. The aim is that this deficit will prompt the body into using it's fat stores to make up this deficit. Unfortunately the body does not care where these extra calories come from and will quite happily take them from muscle tissue if it sees that the muscles are not being used for any form of exercise. Initially there is weight loss, but not solely fat loss, which is the ideal situation.
Over the weeks the weight lost may become less and less and the dieter loses the motivation to continue, eventually changing back to their original eating habits. At this point they have less lean tissue then what they started with. There is therefore less muscle to burn calories and weight is more easily gained.
When the individual decides to start another diet, they have less lean tissue to burn calories so weight loss is slow to begin with. More lean tissue is then lost throughout the diet, motivation is lost, the diet is forgotten and weight is again put back on, but now with even less lean tissue.
This cycle continues, reducing lean tissue each time, and making weight loss harder and harder, hence the yo-yo dieter.