Why are we so fat? 
 
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As a result of my research which has spanned over 40 years, I am more and more feeling that perhaps the reason for the widespread obesity in our society, is not complex as some researchers attempt to make it but rather something simple such as, in the presence of SUFFICIENT amounts of food, the human body is designed to carry a certain amount of bodyfat, the amount being determined by the bodytype and the genetics.

Bodyfat is not inactive storage tissue as once thought. It filters toxins out of the bloodstream (so they don't get into other places in the body), stores macrophages (which are the "big guns" of the immune system and might explain why many very fat people seem to have a very strong immunity), produces small amounts of estrogen which at least one study suggested may explain the fact that there is less senility in fat people.  Bodyfat also protects and cushions the bones and organs.  For example, when I fall off my bicycle on my butt now that I have regained all my weight, it's like falling on a cushion and I don't get hurt.

We do not have a precedent of any eras where people were both naturally lean and healthy. At the turn of the 20th century where obesity was a non problem (most folks were on the slim side), the average lifespan was also only 45 years.

In the really early days sometimes given as the ideal for weight control, the average lifespan was even shorter - i.e. like 35 years or less.

In times of yore when people did NOT have ample food and either starved or feasted, they apparently weight cycled which albeit DID keep them slimmer, also may have shortened their lifespan and caused more illness, since weight cycling has been suggested in several studies to be a risky lifestyle.

What confuses the mix is that certain types of food ARE addictive and do promote the release of endorphins, much like other addictive substances.  There are likely some, both fat and slim, who are suffering food addiction and if so, that should be treated as such.

Finally, many studies (and personal experiences) suggest a strong link between dieting and severe obesity since the damage from dieting (metabolic damage) can last , states Dr Rudy Leibel, for as long as 10 years after the diet is stopped.

It would be rather ironic if the very thing we are so hysterically afraid of, obesity, is in part, strongly linked to our affinity to dieting!

Below are some of the theories of why there is so much widespread obesity on a societal level in the United States today:

  1. The Thrifty gene:  In people possessing the 'thrifty gene', the fact that the built in appetite suppressants (LEPTIN et al) don't seem to work may be an indication of an adaptation to former times when food was available a few times a year, and people who were "leptin resistant" (i.e. their bodies ignored the hormonal messages to stop storing fat and shut down the appetite) fared better because they could eat to gain a lot of weight when food was available which kept them alive in the lean times.

    It's interesting to note that the one rat study which "proved" that restricting caloric intake made the rats live longer was very flawed in that those rats in the control group which were allowed demand feeding were not set up like they are in nature. For a rat to "catch" its food, it takes a whole lot of caloric expenditure and the food is limited to the extent of the catch. In the experiment, food was available all the time (unlimited) and the rats had to expend NO calories to obtain it. A scientist who could not repeat the results when he corrected that aspect of the study, remarked that the study only showed that overfed, underexercised rats lived a slightly shorter lifespan.

     
  2. Availability of fatty foods: This is something which was not even true when I was a kid. With a fast food restaurant on every corner, with microwaves and frozen foods, all of us can obtain a warm delicious meal within seconds. The foods we have today are chemically engineered to taste extremely delicious. But being very high in fat content, they are not very dense, so after we eat them, they fool our bodies into thinking we have not had enough because the stomach isn't close to being filled. In days of yore, people ate simply. Food was tasty but not chemically engineered for taste. People ate pretty much the same thing daily - and food was not readily available... a warm dinner took several hours to make. So if we had snacks, we were more likely to snack on fruit rather than doughnuts, bagels or the plethora of foods we have available to us today.

     
  3. Lack of exercise: Laboring jobs are being increasingly done by machines - most of us have jobs in the 'information society'. We sit at computers for 10-12 hours a day burning no calories, compressing our spines in a not-so-good-manner. Many of us work without breaks. In the morning we walk 3 steps to the john, another few steps to the car, another few to work and that's about all we'll do. The Surgeon General's Report of 1996 stated that Americans burn some 800 calories less than their parents did!   Despite this, fewer than 25 percent of the population exercises 3 times a week or more

    That being said, it appears that exercise does NOT stop obesity and many daily exercisers are STILL obese.  Exercise is, however, very healthy and should be done daily whether it affects your weight or not.

     
  4. The American Attitudes - these call for no exercise and for often centering social affairs around eating (and it's never veggies that they serve either).
     
  5. Food addiction: The latest studies indicate that people who tend to become addicted to various substances have less dopamine receptors in the brain. There is also some evidence that eating (or drinking or drugs or whatever) tends to cause some people to produce endorphins, a natural form of heroine which is an excellent pain killer among other things. With the ready availability of chemically engineered, delicious food, food addiction is likely to be existent in some people. In some of the very obese, it might be a factor.

     
  6. Endocrine problems: This is the most often quoted reason for extreme obesity. Until recently, medical thought was that endocrine deficiencies accounted for less than 1 percent of extreme obesity. Current research however, has not only identified hormones which CAUSE obesity in some folks but also that the muscle tissue of people who tend to be fat, requires THREE TIMES the fat content required as those who are not fat.

We have research on entire populations which suggests that the environment and lifestyle is a strong factor in the incidence of morbidity in the fat as well as in the slim people i.e. diabetes, heart disease and stroke. In one society in Mexico where the people have no cars, run everywhere, have active physical funtimes, have no labor saving devices and eat a simple diet with very little meat and mostly complex carbs, there is an extremely low incidence of heart disease in addition little to no, extreme obesity. (although the 'average' Mexican PIMA would be considered a bit "pudgy" by our modern standards).

And we have a diet industry which tickles our ears. Each diet or Weight Loss Surgery website tells people what they want to hear. A one stop visit to the surgeon or joining a diet organization will "cure" obesity.  Except we are getting fatter and fatter, BUT living longer than all the other eras when we were not so obese. What is the no brainer which seems apparent here?  Obesity may not be "deadly" at all but just a natural thing which perhaps would NOT be so pronounced if we would TOTALLY skip the diets and go on a HEALTHY program without a focus on weight Control (called HAES or "Health at Every Size").

It's a choice which few Americans make in full consent because the diet industry and the popular media withhold the facts.

by SueW

Bibliography:

The following books have information on Obesity research and some info on Weight Loss Surgery in them:

  • Fraser, L., Losing It: America's Obsession with Weight and the Industry that Feeds on it, 1997, Dutton (New York)
  • Gaesser, Glenn, PhD:Big Fat Lies, Fawcett (NY, 1996) (updated edition - CA,2002)
  • Colles, Lisa: Fat, Exploding the Myths, Carlton (London, 1998)
  • Pool, Robert: FAT - fighting the Obesity Epidemic (NY, 2001)
  • Campos, Paul: THE DIET MYTH (NY, 2005)
  • Bacon, Linda, PhD: HAES, (NY, 2008)

The following books - a partial list over a 45 year period:

diet exercise books