I just returned from a trip to Manhattan, New York. The streets are packed with taxis, buses, and people walking. Under the streets, you can hear the constant rumble of subway trains. New Yorkers use public transportation and have to walk a lot more than other people in America. Few New Yorkers seem to be excessively overweight. Maybe this is a mistaken impression. It is possible that New Yorkers who are overweight avoid going to Manhattan because then they would have to walk.
Over the last 20 years, Americans have become fatter. Mississippi and Alabama lead the nation in the rates of obesity, but increased obesity is not only happening in the United States. The obesity epidemic is engulfing the entire world. Although obesity is a problem mainly in rich countries, the World Health Organization estimates that by 2010 the developing world will have caught up. Overweight people now outnumber the undernourished.
Why is this happening? The primary culprits are junk food and artificial foods, particularly sweetened soft drinks that provide only carbohydrate calories without any other nutrients, and hydrogenated fats that cannot be metabolized by the body. Lack of exercise is a secondary reason. Here is a list of some of the factors responsible for the increase in obesity.
- We drive to the grocery store because otherwise we cannot carry the big load of groceries home.
- We cannot walk to work or school because the distances are too great.
- We are too busy commuting to have time to exercise, so we don’t exercise.
- We drink too many sugary soft drinks with addictive ingredients like caffeine.
- We eat too many foods that have hydrogenated fats.
- Many staples are over-processed and refined so that they have less fiber and fewer nutrients.
- Food is glorified as a social celebration. TV programs like the Food Channel describe food preparation without regard for its nutritional content. Add more butter…, Deep fry it…, Add a cup of sugar…, etc.
- We snack too much and expect that every meal should have dessert.
- We eat too much fast food that is usually too greasy.
- We use food as celebration. If you have a birthday, how do you celebrate? You have to eat cake!
Food consumption is promoted very agressively. Manufacturers cannot make much money from people who fast or eat small meals. Calorie Restriction and moderate eating are not good for business.