Why do we have an obesity epidemic?


There are several hypothesizes out there and unfortunately none has really been proven as scientific law as we all may remember from grade school science class.  This seems strange given we have government agencies and employers providing advice without the scientific backing to really support the hypothesis’s claim.

I will go through a few of the more popular theories and provide some personal incites of each of these and provide what evidence supports or reputes the hypothesis for these theories.

Calories In, Calories Out

This is what we have been told for the last 60 years.  People get fat because they eat too much and don’t exercise enough.  Scientifically speaking this is basic thermodynamics…energy can not be created or destroyed so energy into the system must equal energy out of the system. You basically need to ensure that you are burning less than equal to the calories you consume to maintain or lose weight.  The recommendation for this theory is that you can accomplish this by eating less and/or exercising.

The solution to this is to follow something like the food pyramid and eat several servings of healthy grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and modest amounts of meat and fat.  You should also exercise 45 minutes a day to stay healthy.

The problem with this theory is that it is about as simplistic as saying that a person is an alcoholic because they drink too much.  Strangely enough it has also been proven as scientific law, given there really is no conclusive evidence to support its claim.

Not eating real food

Goes with the idea of eating real foods such as fruits, vegetables, unprocessed grains/rice versus eating processed foods which can include some serious nutrient space cheap ingredients such as sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and the ingredients that have some nutrient value is “enriched” such as flour.  So you eat real foods that provide your body with calories that it can metabolize and you feel satisfied and do not overeat.  One advantage to this way of eating is that eliminates most of the convenience type foods that can be high in calories and low in nutrients.  The basic guideline is when you go to the grocery store if you avoid any aisles you are eating the right things.

Insulin Resistance (Low Carb, High Fat)

Popularized by books such as Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It and Good Calories, Bad Calories and documentaries such as Fat Head this theory is based on the theory that our bodies have complex chemical and hormonal system that are directly affected by changes such as consumption of a high level of sugar/carbohydrate results in spike glucose levels in your blood, this triggers the release of insulin to take care of the excess sugar by storing this into fat cells.  Now with in increased level of insulin in your system your body chooses to not release glucose stored in fat cells as your blood levels decrease, you get hungry…eat more and the process repeats.  If that all was too hard to follow, check out the humorous (but scientifically accurate) clip from the Fat Head documentary.

For this theory your work to get most of your calories from fat (saturated fat consumption encouraged), moderate amount of protein, and minimal carbohydrates.  This means none (or very little) of the following:

  • Starches: wheat (flour, bread, pasta, cakes), corn, oatmeal, potatoes, rice, beans.
  • Sugar: white/brown sugar, honey, milk
  • High Sugar Fruit: grapes, bananas, fruit juices

The exact amount of carbohydrates is arguable but for best weight loss less than 50 grams is a good target, with less than 100 grams for maintenance.  The theory is once your carbohydrate levels get down to a certain level you go into a state of ketosis where you begin burning fat for fuel (where plenty of us have some to spare) instead of the easily available glucose produced from the carbohydrates we eat.

What works for me

If you check out my diary in the link above I do a little out of all of these.  I do not eat much processed food an exception would be protein shakes when I need a quick snack and do not have raw foods at hand in my office.  I also with experimentation learned that eating a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat with moderate protein keeps me full while still having a calorie deficit losing about 2 lbs. a week.  Sure every so often I indulge in some items outside of these criteria but I keep my portions reasonable and accept that I will not lose a quarter of a pound that day and am fine with that, at no time do I call this “cheating” given it is a choice I made freely with my own agency.  Now what I do might not work for you, but do some experimentation and it should eb easy to find a lifestyle that works.

1 Comment

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