Is Being Obese Considered the New Norm?
Lately, during my extensive business travel, I have begun paying more attention to my surroundings. Typically I either eat dinner with a business colleague from one of my distributors, or I’ll grab a seat at the bar and eat with the rest of the lonely, traveling businessmen and women.
It truly is alarming, the way society has changed and evolved over time. It almost appears nowadays that being obese has become the new norm.
For me, this is extremely evident during social gatherings and business meetings.
Difference Between Men and Women
Women may have it a bit easier than men when it comes down to this. Eating salads and smaller portions appear to be much more readily accepted within circles of women. This is actually very interesting because the percentage of obese women in the US is essentially the same as in adult men.
On the contrary, guys tend to have a completely different attitude towards healthy choices.
When I am out with a bunch of guys for dinner, I might order a salad. I might pass up on the bread. I might pass on the appetizer. One thing that never fails is the reaction I get.
The reaction usually goes like this:
- “What the hell? Lettuce is rabbit food!”
- “How can you say no to this amazing bread?”
- “What, are you on some type of fancy diet?”
- “Ohhhhh…. Low carb, eh? I heard that the Atkins diet has all kinds of bad side effects!”
- “Gosh, you are so picky… Why don’t you just go back there and cook your own food?”
Typically, these are the same people that are considered “overweight” or “obese”. With the obesity rate increasing every single year, it becomes more difficult for people that try to change their behaviors and eat healthy due to peer pressure and social scrutiny…
Typical reactions are so absurd that I asked myself, when did being obese become the new norm in society?
Am I Overweight, or Obese?
There is a fine line between being overweight or obese. The descriptions may vary a bit from person-to-person and doctor-to-doctor.
Who is Considered Overweight?
According to WebMD, doctors usually define “overweight” as a condition in which a person’s weight is 10%-20% higher than “normal,” as defined by a standard height/weight chart, or as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30.
Who is Considered Obese?
Obesity is usually defined as a condition in which a person’s weight is 20% or more above normal weight or as a BMI of 30 or more. “Morbid obesity” means a person is either 50%-100% over normal weight, more than 100 pounds over normal weight, or sufficiently overweight to severely interfere with health or normal functioning.
How Society Has Changed
According to the Center for Disease Control, during the past three decades, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.
1980’s Through 2000’s
The Tipping Point
Referenced by the CDC trends above, the obesity tipping point appears to have come into full effect during the early 2000’s and is progressively getting worse. Before the 2000’s, the US fluctuated around 15-20%.
We just keep getting fatter…
Obesity in the United States Today
According to the CDC; higher prevalence of adult obesity was found in the Midwest (29.5%) and the South (29.4%). Lower prevalence was observed in the Northeast (25.3%) and the West (25.1%).
What could cause the extreme obesity rate in the midwest and south?
- Is it the weather?
- That idea is thwarted by the warm climate of the south…
- Even Alaska can remain below 30%…
- Is it the comfort food?
- That idea is thwarted by the upper midwest…
- What about outdoor activities?
- I do not find this as a logical explination either…
So what’s the cause?
(The remainder of this post is my personal opinion/views on the changes in society.)
The Fast Food Revolution
While McDonald’s may have pioneered the first restaurant to use an assembly line type of system to deliver food to their customers, they weren’t the first guys to offer a drive in type of restaurant. White Castle was actually the first fast food joint and was founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. It wasn’t until 1940 that the McDonald brothers opened McDonald’s BBQ. Eight years thereafter, they shut down their operation for three months and redesigned their new, more convenient, fast food restaurant.
Nowadays, you cannot go for a morning run or bike ride without passing a stretch of a half dozen fast food joints. Nearly every busy corner has anywhere from two to six fast food restaurants which are easily accessible.
Fast food has become the staple in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Busy professionals, moms, dads, and children view fast food as the meal of choice for both convenience and a flavor stand point.
High-fat, high-calorie items such as fried dishes and super-sized sandwiches give fast food its bad name. Frying increases fat calories and is one of the fastest ways to cook anything, whether meat, bread or desserts. There’s too much frying in the American diet.
High-carbohydrate foods are also a problem, because their ingredients are cheap and they’re easy to eat in quantity: ice cream, doughnuts, sugary cereals, pies, cakes, candy and cookies.
Whether it is completely relevant, proven or not, the first genetically modified organism (you can read my blog post on GMO’s here) was produced in 1983 using an anti-biotic resistant tobacco plant. From there, the ingredients get progressively more damaging.
Here’s an example of harmful, GMO derived ingredients:
- Vegetable Oil
- Corn Starch, Starch Sugars, Syrups
Go to your pantry, pick up a bag of chips, look at the ingredient list and see how many of the above ingredients are included… I can promise you will be surprised!
Killing Us Slowly
Not only have we been inundated with advertisements for fast food and junk food everywhere we look (pay attention to the super bowl ads this year), but also the introduction of vending machines has played a part in slowly killing our population.
The portion sizes in America have nearly tripled since the 1980’s. Remember the bucket-o-french fries you used to be able to get at McDonald’s? The super sized drinks resembled a child-sized sand castle bucket. The documentary, Super Size Me finally shed some light on the fast food epidemic in the US when it was released in 2004.
Take Canada for an example. Canada has universal healthcare and I believe that the government understands the super sized impacts on obesity and increased medical costs.
In 2012, I attended a sales meeting which was hosted in Montreal. I was absolutely astonished at how much smaller the Canadian fast food portions were compared to what I was used to in the US.
The Homer Simpson Era of Obesity
Just as Homer Simpson likes to sit back on the couch, drink beer and watch TV all day; America has fallen into the same trap!
“Back in my day, we used to walk three miles to school up hill each way!”
Seriously though, when I was a kid I lived outside. Me and my neighborhood friends were always on our bikes, playing basketball/baseball, chasing girls, building forts, running American Gladiator style obstacle courses in our back yard, riding dirt bikes… You name it, we were doing it OUTSIDE!
- It wasn’t until I was about 16 years old that cell phones became affordable and started to get popular.
- Smart phones… I got’s me a flip phone buddy!
- Tablets… What’s a tablet?
- There was no such thing as a DVR…
- We had VCR’s…
- We had video game systems, but only one tv that we could typically play them on. Therefore we didn’t play them nearly as much…
- In the 1980’s, only 23% of households had basic cable.
- In the 1990’s, television viewing exploded.
- Could have been the addition of Seinfeld, Friends and ER
- At this time, Reality TV expanded also… Who remembers America’s Funniest Home Videos
- Nowadays, people live their lives through reality TV…
- Want to be young and rich? Watch the Kardashians…
- Want to be young and stupid? Watch the Jersey Shore…
- Want to live your childhood dream of singing? Watch American Idol or X Factor
- We were yelled at to “get out of the house and play!”
- Playing did not include video games, Nintendo DS, or iPods!
Change of Mentality
I personally feel that most of the mentality changes have to start while we are young. We need to teach our children about healthy eating and physical activity.
Here’s what we all can do to break through the obesity road block:
(The links below are affiliate links through Amazon.com. If you purchase through one of the links, I will receive a very small commission but there will be absolutely no additional charge to you!)
- Learn to cook… Seriously, you need to learn to cook for yourself/family and stop relying on fast food as your meal of choice. Here’s a great book to get started.
- If you really must have it, minimize your fast food trips. Limit your trips to once per week on a cheat meal basis, or opt for salads and grilled chicken products.
- Make your kids become more active.
- At least 60 minutes of play every day!
- Go for hikes, walks, bike rides with your family and friends
- Limit technology time.
- I love the feature of the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD which allows parents limit games, videos, and reading time!
- Kindle Fire HD 7″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers
- Figure out a physical activity which you enjoy and do that!
- For myself, these are kettlebell workouts and road cycling.
Think about this the next time you are out at a restaurant with a group of people.
Observe your surroundings and pay attention to what others are ordering and the reactions you receive when you ask for no croutons or bread.
It’s amazing the types of reactions you will receive when you order something healthy on the menu. Even better yet, order something on the menu and begin substituting french fries for a vegetable and ask for sauces on the side, etc…
Let me leave you with this picture of a billboard I found on I-94 in northern Indiana.
What’s your opinion? Is obesity a disease?
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- Leave a comment in the boxes below and tell me your thoughts!
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Until next time… Stay fit, my friends!