Why We Eat . . . . and why we keep eating.
Dr. Jeffry Weiss
Since 1950, the amount of nutritional information available to the public has roughly doubled every seven years. During that same period (1950-2000), obesity rose by 214% until today, where 64.5 percent of adult Americans (about 127 million) are categorized as being overweight or obese.
The average American weighs 30 lbs. more today than 100 years ago. In that light, one might conclude that there is a direct correlation between knowledge of obesity and obesity itself.
The point is – we aren't foolish. We know that a salad is better for us than a pizza; that grilled chicken is better than a smothered burrito; that tofu is preferable to a cheeseburger; that fresh fruits and vegetables are better than candy bars and French fries. People are swimming in information. We've become anesthetized by information overload. But more information has not and will not lead to enlightened behavior, less craving for food or improved health.
Do''t blame obesity on your genes. It takes eons for our genes to adapt to changes in the environment, while escalating obesity is a phenomenon of only the past few decades. To say that obesity is genetic flies in the face of evolutionary evidence. Consider that there was far less obesity just a century ago. In the early 1900's only one in 150 people were obese. In the 1950's less than 10% of the population was classified as such.Table 1 shows us that the overall number of adults who are overweight or obese has continued to increase each decade. A BMI, or Body Mass Index, of 25 equates to a person who is 25% over their ideal weight.
In Table2, we see that by every indicator – age, gender, and decade – the prevalence of overweight has become more and more systemic in our society.
Commenting on the prevalence of obesity in America, John Foreyt, Ph.D., obesity expert at Baylor College of Medicine, concluded that, "At the rate the average waistline is expanding in the United States, everyone will be overweight in another 100 years . . . It's not our genes that are the problem; it's our environment."
In the 1960's, men consumed an average of 2,200 calories per day. By 2000, that had increased to 2,700 calories per day. During the same period, women went from 1,500 to 1,950 calories per day. And that alone is sufficient to explain the "how" of the obesity epidemic.
Replying to the question, "Why are so many of us fat?", Jeffrey Friedman, a molecular geneticist at Rockefeller University, asked, "Why, despite equal access to calories, is anyone thin?"
While the statistics may tell us that we are, in fact, eating more, they do not tell us why we are doing so. Nor do they tell us why we ate roughly the same amount of calories for hundreds of years; but then, in the last 50 years we suddenly began consuming 20% more calories than previously.
Some say our diets have changed, that we are consuming more fats. Yet, during the past 50 years, while obesity rates have skyrocketed, the consumption of saturated fats rose only 7%. And, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, total fats in our diet have fallen from 40% in 1990 to roughly 34% today.
So, let's look at what has transpired since 1950. The most predominant and fundamental changes have not so much been in our diets as in our lifestyles. This trend began in the 1950's with:
Yet we do not have to return to the society of the 1950's, or give up all our modern conveniences, to regain our health. What we must do is take a new approach.
The strategy of focusing on what we eat is turning people away from the real
Early man ate only enough to meet his caloric requirements. Present day inhabitants continue to eat for a very different reason: to gain a euphoric feeling through the chemicals released in the body by the foods we eat. And what are these chemicals that are so powerful as to induce behaviors that are sometimes irrational and often detrimental to our health and continued evolution? Endorphins.
In 1993, an experiment was conducted to determine the power of endorphins.
It is time for us to take responsibility for our own conditions and circumstances. As we have clearly identified, obesity is not genetic. However, we must also recognize society's role in this epidemic. The world we live in has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. We have been separated from our friends, neighbors and nature by economics, housing, suburbia, and technology; tempted by the constant images of food on television, and lured by the instant gratification offered by the ever-present fast food chains.
Our hopes and dreams have been masked by the new face of society. Yet we have the power to unmask this illusion, the power to see clearly what our culture can and cannot give and to provide for ourselves what it can't.
Jeffry Weiss attended Drexel University (B.S.), Temple University (M.B.A.), the University of Pennsylvania (M.A.), and Clayton College (PhD, Naturopathic Medicine). He has consulted on matters of diet and obesity with the health ministries of the UK, Australia and Mexico and with the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services on nutrition. Under the aegis of his project, Vested Interest and Economic Incentive, Dr. Weiss has developed a statistical protocol for a food tax that encompasses personal preferences in deciding suitable fees for Medicare and Medicaid in the U.S. He has provided numerous individuals with nutritional advice for their conditions which range from diabetes, liver disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, ADD, CFS, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease and obesity. Additionally, he has counseled several school districts about improving nutrition for school lunch programs. Dr. Weiss is the author of "Why We Eat…and Why We Keep Eating" and "The End of Alzheimer's" and has published a variety of articles in scientific and consumer journals. He is a member of the Medical & Advisory Board of Insulite Laboratories, a company that is dedicated to healing insulin resistance and its related disorders, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and excess weight gain.