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Obesity Rates Through the Decades

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  • Obesity Rates Through the Decades

    I'm not sure if this has been covered before, but as a kid growing up back in the '80s, I don't recall seeing too many obese people around. People have been eating junk well before the low fat diet started in the early 80s but America didn't have the epidemic of obese people that we have today. Does anyone think the low fat diets really caused all the problems we have today? Or do you think it's all the preservative and extra junk they're putting in processed "food?" I like to think it's the addition of HFCS to America's food supply, but I'm just not sure. What do you think?

  • #2
    It's because most people don't eat home-cooked food (made from scratch) anymore, they eat in front of the TV/computer/iPad rather than at a table talking with people, "snacking" is apparently acceptable and even expected for adults (the last time I went to a doctor, he asked me what I ate for "snacks"), and many have bought into the idea that you need to go to a gym to 'work out,' rather than simply keeping active throughout the day to be healthy.


    • #3
      It's probably not one factor but many. I'm not entirely convinced that HFCS is any different than sugar, and sugar hasn't really gone up in the lasty 20 years. Seed oils and grain "products" have. What I think might be behind a large chunk of it is that epigenetic programming in utero. Babies born to overweight people and consumed bad food during pregnancy will be at a higher risk for metabolic syndrome, regardless of the type of environment they are raised in. The problem will compound with every subsequent generation unless people get a really good handle on their problem prior to procreating.
      Stabbing conventional wisdom in its face.

      Anyone who wants to talk nutrition should PM me!


      • #4
        Closing in on 50 and I've gone from being the only fat kid/guy in school or college to one of the few within spitting distance of a healthy weight. At a party recently w/ some folks I hadn't seen in about 15 years and EVERYBODY. GOT. FAT.

        It is a confluence of factors obviously but Dr. Davis ( Wheat Belly | Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight ) might just be on to something because it seems the first thing people do as they get older and perhaps start to try to be proactive about their health is start to load up on the "healthy whole grains" in addition to cutting fat. And as any dedicated label reader knows, the only way this low fat crap can be made palatable is by adding sugar. I would rank the factors as follows:

        1. Sugar via "healthy" carbs
        2. Sugar via HFCS enhanced drinks
        3. Sugar via "low fat" products
        4. Elimination of virtually all healthy fat in a typical modern diet
        5. An over reliance on pre-packaged and/or fast food. Basically 1-4 in some combination.

        And as a side observation it would seem that people can't walk 10 feet w/o consuming something, from water to french fries, it's always something, almost infantile on some weird Freudian level.
        Wheat is the new tobacco. Spread the word.


        • #5
          Stabby's right about multigenerational problems, but on top of that is clearly something else. In 1980, my mother & grandmother were thin and my great-grandmother was Grandma plump. During the decade from 1985 to 1995, all three of them became overweight or obese. Three generations in one decade.

          Absolutely, going low-fat made me fat. No doubt about it, although chronic antibiotics destroying my gut flora also played a significant role in the chaos.

          And YES about the obsession with snacking. Can't bring a child to any type of one-hour event without a snack being involved.
          5'4" 39yo mother to five sweeties & married to their AMAZING DaddyGrok
          Current Weight: 175lb__________________________________Goal: 135lb
          Deadlift: 240lb________________________________________Back Squat: 165lb
          Bench: 130lb__________________________________________Pre ss: 85lb
          ***Winning a 20-year war against binge eating disorder***


          • #6
            Originally posted by IvyBlue View Post
            And as a side observation it would seem that people can't walk 10 feet w/o consuming something, from water to french fries, it's always something, almost infantile on some weird Freudian level.
            Agreed - water bottles look like a grown up version of sippy cups.

            A joyful heart is good medicine

            He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. - Jim Elliot

            Mmmmm. Real food is good.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by IvyBlue View Post
              And as a side observation it would seem that people can't walk 10 feet w/o consuming something, from water to french fries, it's always something, almost infantile on some weird Freudian level.

              When did we decide we have to have food and drinks within arms reach at all times or we are going to succumb to starvation? Even my own husband can't make a two hour trip across the state without stopping at a gas station and loading up on snacks. It's mind boggling. We aren't infants for crying out loud and a few hunger pangs will not kill us. As a kid I remember being shoo'd outside after breakfast, coming in for lunch and being shoo'd back outside until dinner. No snacking, period. My mother had quick reflexes and a big wooden spoon if we got our fingers in the cookie jar in between meals.


              • #8
                Originally posted by JKC View Post
                Agreed - water bottles look like a grown up version of sippy cups.

                Drinking water makes people fat.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by DarthFriendly View Post
                  Drinking water makes people fat.
                  *sideways glance at the water bottle on her desk*
                  Bunny trainer extraordinaire!


                  • #10
                    Obesity and Overweight for Professionals: Data and Statistics: U.S. Obesity Trends | DNPAO | CDC

                    You can play through every year from 1985 until present and watch how the U.S. became fat. I'm not sure why it happened, as there were many things that changed during the 80's, but this is a great visual aid.


                    • #11
                      I think the low-fat craze coupled with the "if you eat more grains and less cows there will be more food for the starving people in <insert country here>" mentality that got rolling the 70's and 80's kicked it off. Taubes did a great job of outlining how the issue of fat and meat become one less of nutritional and more of a social/feel good in that time frame.

                      From that point, I think government subsidization of farming, really getting going in the 80's, lead to the ubiquity of corn and the use of it in all sorts of food products AND as feed for more and more of our animals that don't operate well on it...AND the ubiquity of HFCS.

                      A year ago, I was one of those "HFCS is the root of all evil" kind of people, but now I've backed off that stance after looking at what people like Taubes, Lustig, etc. have had to say about it. From a nutritional/metabolic standpoint, it appears there is very little difference...that is both will screw you up pretty badly. However, I still wonder if there isn't *something* about the way HFCS is manufactured (and I admit I don't know much about the details of this AT ALL) which has not been detected yet which could cause HFCS to be EVEN MORE addicting than sugar is. I know from experience that sugar is addicting...but is it not possible that HFCS is even more so because of some as yet to be discovered reason?

                      The reason I ask this is because if I recall correctly, the consumption of HFCS has tripled in a 10 year span (I've since returned GCBC to the library) and that seems like a LOT to me. It could also be merely because with corn subsidization, HFCS is being added to more and more products and people are just eating more if it naturally. It could also be that the "cheapness" of HFCS makes it possible for people to afford to consume more. But, I'm still not convinced there isn't something about it that's uniquely addicting even more so than sugar.
                      Re-focusing on the Primal Lifestyle in 2012!

                      Starting: 221.0lb, 29.5% BF (1/9/2012)
                      Latest: 208.9, 26.1% BF (3/19/2012)



                      • #12
                        This is another excellent interactive one: Civil Eats Blog Archive Where Do Americans Get Their Calories? (Infographic)

                        There's no denying the data are available. Equating the grains and added fruit w/ sugar coupled with the added fat which would be of the grain-based variety and it's just stunning. It's a wonder there aren't more fat folks.
                        Last edited by IvyBlue; 09-07-2011, 02:39 PM.
                        Wheat is the new tobacco. Spread the word.


                        • #13
                          I'm betting there are more factors at play than most of us think. The driving factor, in my view, is our increased sugar consumption (HFCS or not, it's all virtually the same) over the years coupled with the low-fat craze. That alone is surely a recipe for disaster.

                          But I have a sneaking suspicion, though I have nothing concrete to back this up with, that our whole culture of eating habits has been radically warped in recent history with much of the blame lying on advertisers. I don't watch TV near as much as I used to, but when I do I'm amazed by how well commercials for food products can elicit intense cravings. Corporations pour so much money and research into their advertising campaigns; the science behind how they can manipulate your emotions is pretty scary.


                          • #14
                            It's just a culture of comfort, of everything should be easy, so I pop a pill if I feel sad, I go to the doctor at the slightest discomfort, I view my obese self as the pinnacle of human evolution, certain that I don't need to take responsibility for my health because the doctor will, the pill will, it's always someone else will do something to fix my problem because, hey, why should I be bothered? I'm number one, I'm the best, and doing anything even mildly challenging or productive is just not something I have to do, as the pinnacle of human evolution.

                            Nothing anyone does can be criticized, every choice or decision everyone makes is just as good, no matter how asinine. It's a culture that has lost its internal checks and balances; no coworker will check you on your stupidity because he will get slapped with a reprimand. You just don't get checked, by anyone, no matter what you do sans breaking the law.

                            You walk to work instead of driving an SUV, you're poor. You walk barefoot on the sidewalk or in the park, you're crazy. You read anything other than James Patterson, you're elitist. You don't watch football, you're a homo. You check someone with a direct and honest comment, and you're mean, a jerk. And so on. This is the mindset. You throw some sugar in there and a Big Mac, and you have what you have.

                            It's a culture that has lost its backbone, it's spineless, and so obesity is the only natural physical manifestation of this spinelessness; you turn into a blob just like your world view. Physical fitness brings with it it's own rigidness and direction, it makes things absolute and requires a purpose. And this is lost on most of our countrymen.
                            Last edited by dado; 09-08-2011, 07:32 AM.


                            • #15
                              I have been thinking about this for some time now, largely because part of me suspects that the identified decline in violent assaults since the 1980s could be something to do with the fact that people have got bigger.

                              Now I live in Northern Britain, so what I identify might be very different to other places but the 1980s saw the following...

                              * The end of trades, and the end of large amounts of physical skilled and semi-skilled employment opportunities.
                              * The growth of car use. No one had two cars per household when I was growing up in the 70s; a lot of families didn't even have one.
                              * The first big supermarkets came to our area, with large frozen food sections.
                              * Reasonably priced microwaves went on the market
                              * The start of "low fat".
                              * The start of chronic cardio: Jane Fonda, aerobics etc.
                              * The rise of pasta.
                              * The rise of vegetable oils and margarine as the "healthy choice".

                              However, going by my n=1, our big obesity epidemic has happened over the last ten years. When I think back, people were not as big as they are now back in the 1990s. Children weren't as big, teenagers weren't as big, adults weren't.

                              I was talking to an old friend about it a fortnight ago, and she is convinced it is processed food from supermarkets: the jars of italian or chicken sauces, the ready meals, the pizzas, the frozen chips etc -- and what you notice about those processed foods and meals is that they have an incredible amount of sugar in them. Plus there is wheat in almost everything.

                              Interestingly, I didn't bring the subject up; she did, which suggests that the phenomenon is being noticed by a heck of a lot of people aside from those on the PB/Paleo vibe.