Study after study has come out showing that obesity is not only here to stay but is still on the rise, despite an ever-growing negative public sentiment towards those who are overweight and obese. So if being obese is so frowned upon, why are so many people falling victim to it? One reason could be that we are given more things to blame our extra weight on than you can shake an extra value meal at.
The growing epidemic of obesity is not an easy disease to pin down and treat because for every proposed fix to a cause, there are two more causes that we come up with to blame instead.
Common excuses around obesity:
A slow metabolism and certain misleading medical conditions
After working for more than a decade as a Nutrition Counselor and Personal Trainer, I have heard people blame weight gain on almost everything you can imagine, though the most popular excuse is a slow metabolism. Until recently, people blamed their slow metabolism on the idea that it just naturally slows as a person ages (which by the way, is completely and totally untrue), but now they have help from the medical community telling them that it is not their fault, that they have Metabolic Syndrome. It sounds great, but all it is is a fancy, medically-backed name for someone who has poor dietary habits and does not exercise enough. It should never be used as a legitimate excuse for being overweight, but rather as a title for someone with unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Heredity and obesity
The next to be blamed is usually genetics. Often I hear “well my parents are overweight so I am overweight; it just runs in the family”. Though there is some validity in genetics playing a role in being overweight (10% of overweight and obese people have a genetic or hormonal defect that makes them predisposed to being heavy), it is more directly related to the habits of the environment you were raised in.
This is a great argument for the Nature Vs. Nurture psychology folks out there. It is always a combination of both but in this case it is almost always “nurture” that wins out. Your weight has more to do with what and how much you eat than just pure genetics does. Think; where did you learn to eat the way that you do? You may not eat exactly like your parents do but learned behaviors of how you cook (or if you cook at all), what you cook, how much you cook, and how much you eat are often directly related to what you learned as a child in your parents house. If you grew up eating chicken and dumplings and apple pie, it is unlikely that you now eat tofu or chicken curry with veggies on a regular basis.
It’s cheaper to eat poorly than it is to eat healthily
There are however some arguments that are more valid than others. For example, the idea that it is cheaper to eat “bad” food than it is to eat “good” food is one that I have fought against for a long time but is unfortunately true in some respects. Cheap calories such as sodas, candy, and fast food are in fact less expensive than a lot of nutrient rich foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy. For example, you pay around $0.0015 per calorie for both sodas and bananas, however, you pay $0.05 per calorie from a red sweet pepper.
The Math: You can get a 12oz can of soda for around $0.21 when you buy them in a pack. The average 12 oz soda contains 140 calories which equates to $0.0015 per calorie. A banana is one of the least expensive fruits we can buy and they are around $0.63 per pound. There are roughly 4 medium bananas per pound which equates to $0.1575 per banana. Each has roughly 105 calories, which equates to $0.0015 per calorie, the same as a soda. Red sweet peppers run around $1.50 per pepper and there are 30 calories in a single red pepper, which equates to $0.05 per calorie.
But what most people don’t know is that the reason that those sweet foods are so inexpensive is because they are made with sweeteners and preservatives that are produced with cheap, government subsidized corn. So, in a way you are already paying for those products by way of federal income tax. The main point is that these government subsidized corn products actually make these nutritionally low quality, highly manufactured foods, like soda and candy, less expensive than the foods that have a higher nutritional content and are actually better for us to consume. But when you factor in your tax money that has gone towards paying for the ingredients of those nutritionally null and void foods, you’re actually paying more than what the price tag indicates.
Ditching the blame game to actually start making some progress
No matter how many excuses you come up with to deflect the blame of obesity, it boils down to one thing; your individual nutrition and activity choices. There are always going to be things that will make it hard to lose weight and factors that you will have to work against. Being healthy and physically fit is not easy! It never has been and it never will be. If it were everyone would have six pack abs and be out running marathons. What you really need to take from this article is that if you want to have a long and quality life then you have to work for it, and that the work to get there and stay there is worth it. It will always be worth it and it can even actually be fun, but it will never be easy. The only thing you can really blame obesity on is each and every individual’s personal choices; choosing to take the easy way versus the hard way.
The key is to never give up and to never give in. If you slip up on your nutrition or physical activity don’t sweat it, just start again the next day. It is not about making huge life changes. It is about being as consistent as you can and being conscious about your decisions. And remember there is no such thing as the quick way out, fad diets and gimmicks never get you anywhere, but hard work and dedication always will.