Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
July 09, 2014

Is the Obesity Epidemic Exaggerated?

By Mark Sisson
201 Comments

Obesity CrisisObesity has reached epidemic proportions. People are fat and getting fatter, with no end in sight. Even kids are fat these days. Right? We’ve all seen the picture of the McDonald’s-eating toddler and heard the dire nightly news reports about growing obesity narrating back shots of anonymous overweight families trudging along with wedgies and short shorts. But just as the public at large bemoans the pervasiveness of the obesity epidemic, many critics are claiming the opposite: that the obesity epidemic is exaggerated and overinflated; that the “overweight” and “obese” categories are ploys by insurance companies to get more money from policy holders; that obesity in and of itself isn’t actually a health hazard. Some, like Paul Campos, are even arguing that America’s weight problem is “imaginary.”

Could this be? Am I tilting at windmills when I decry our collective weight problem?

Let’s look at the claims being made.

First, there’s the claim that the definition of obesity is arbitrary and the obesity epidemic only arose because our definition of obesity changed to include more people. According to this argument, people aren’t necessarily any heavier, but what was previously assumed to be a healthy weight has now been deemed an unhealthy weight by statistical trickery. In his 2005 book, Fat Politics, J. Eric Oliver (PDF) tells the story of Louis Dublin, a statistician for MetLife insurance in the 1940s who analyzed the connection between age, bodyweight, and death rate among MetLife subscribers. Dublin found that thinner people generally lived longer and those who maintained close to the bodyweight of an average 25 year-old lived the longest. He published a new weight chart that shifted the healthy weight threshold back, effectively making millions of Americans obese or overweight overnight. And even though he did this to predict who would die earliest and determine who should pay the most for insurance policies, not to uncover a public health threat, it caught on and formed the basis for government policy regarding obesity and health that continues today.

The controversy is in determining whether the current weight charts are based on medical observances and biological truths about the effect of certain BMIs on disease and death risk, or on corporate interests. Is a BMI greater than 25 officially overweight because research shows that people with BMIs over 25 are more likely to die or develop diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases?

This leads to the second main argument – that obesity in and of itself has never been causally linked to health problems or increased mortality.

It’s not a new one. In both Oliver’s book and The Obesity Myth, by Paul Campos, the authors try to debunk the causal connections between obesity and poor health outcomes. According to Campos, Oliver, and others like the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement, the negative health effects associated with obesity aren’t caused by the excess body weight itself, but by the inactivity, poor eating, and other metabolic factors that cause the weight gain. Obesity is just an indicator of the root metabolic dysfunctions. And it’s not even a reliable indicator, they say, since many obese people remain “metabolically healthy.” They often cite the studies that find slightly overweight BMIs to be protective against early mortality as proof.

Some of their messages resonate. Fixating solely on what the scale says while excluding how you look, feel, perform (in the gym, bedroom, and bathroom), and sleep doesn’t really work, and I have always maintained that body weight is not the ultimate determinant or even indicator of health. BMI is good at identifying obesity in large populations, but it’s less accurate on the individual level, almost to the point of uselessness. People who strength train will often have overweight BMIs but low body fat. Are they overweight? Technically, yes. But are they unhealthily overweight? Absolutely not.

But I’m not convinced the obesity epidemic is a figment of our imagination, nor do I think obesity in and of itself is harmless.

Evidence shows that body fat is an endocrine organ – it produces hormones that help control body weight and energy metabolism, as well as inflammatory cytokines. It’s not inert insulation that just sits there. It does stuff and if you have too much of it, it does bad stuff. Like:

  • Body fat secretes leptin, the “I’m full” hormone. Leptin indicates “plenty” to the body, and it scales up with body fat. The more body fat you have, the more leptin you secrete, the less you eat. It’s one way our body keeps itself in energy balance, and it works pretty well – up to a point. Unfortunately, excessive amounts of body fat secrete more leptin than the body can handle, the leptin receptors become resistant to the effect of leptin, the “I’m full” message cannot be received, and hunger grows unabated. Thus, obesity often perpetuates itself by blunting the appetite-suppressing effect of leptin.
  • Body fat also secretes adiponectin, an anti-inflammatory hormone involved in glucose regulation, fatty acid oxidation, triglyceride clearance, and insulin sensitivity. More adiponectin means better fat burning, favorable blood lipids, improved glucose tolerance, and lower insulin levels. Unfortunately, the relationship between body fat and adiponectin secretion isn’t like the one between body fat and leptin. The more body fat you have, the less adiponectin you secrete. That’s why the obese and overweight tend to have lower levels of the beneficial hormone.
  • Body fat secretes resistin, a hormone that increases insulin resistance. Both genetic and diet-related obesity increase resistin levels, suggesting that resistin is a function of obesity and excessive body fat rather than the lifestyle factors that lead to obesity. If a bad diet and poor exercise habits increase resistin, it’s only because they also increase body fat.
  • Body fat secretes inflammatory cytokines, also known as adipokines. Adipokine-derived inflammation may be causing or exacerbating the insulin resistance and other conditions often associated with obesity. Thus, obesity is inherently inflammatory.

There are also different kinds of body fat. You’ve got subcutaneous fat, visceral fat, and brown fat. Visceral fat (the fat that surrounds organs and concentrates in the abdominal area) contains more inflammatory cells that secrete inflammatory cytokines. It’s more metabolically active, more insulin resistant, more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, which is more stable and less inflammatory (but still not harmless!). Meanwhile, brown fat actually promotes the oxidation of other kinds of body fat. It’s how babies keep warm without the ability to shiver, and new evidence reveals that it plays a large role in adult metabolism, too; adults with the most brown fat have lower fasting glucose and weigh less. If you’re going to say that obesity is healthy or imaginary, you have to account for the functional differences between subcutaneous, visceral, and brown fat.

As to the arbitrariness of BMI interpretation, okay. That’s true. It wasn’t based on the most rigorous of data analysis. Even so: how we interpret BMI has changed, but how we measure BMI has not. Say there’s a guy with a BMI of 26 in 1985. You put him in a DeLorean DMC-12, tell him to hit 88 MPH until he catapults into the year 2014, and then recalculate his BMI. It’s still going to be 26. The rate of people with high BMIs indicative of overweight/obesity/whatever you want to call it has not remained static. Unless you’re positing that corporate interests corrupt the calculation of BMI, bodyweight has increased. The data is clear (PDF). Value judgments about those BMIs are another thing entirely, but that doesn’t negate the fact of the matter: people are getting larger.

Besides, BMI isn’t the only way to measure obesity. It’s not even a particularly effective way. If we look at every other measurement of obesity available, it’s increasing. Waist circumference (an arguably better marker than BMI for predicting heart disease mortality) has been going up. Abdominal obesity – the most dangerous kind (or the kind that’s most strongly associated with poor health outcomes, if you’re Paul Campos) – is increasing and has tripled since the 1960s. And although this is anecdotal and thus inadmissible in the court of Science Based Medicine, just taking a look around next time you’re out at a mall or an amusement park will tell you that obesity remains an issue.

And the common co-morbidities of obesity and overweight have been increasing in incidence, too. Non-alcoholic fatty liver (even in teens), type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea (which is strongly correlated with body fat percentage, especially abdominal body fat), most cancers, and many other conditions associated with obesity are all rising.

So there you go. People are getting bigger. They’re gaining belly fat. Common obesity co-morbidities are skyrocketing; even if people are living longer, they’re feeling worse. Maybe those morbidities are just associated with obesity, not caused or exacerbated by it. That’s fine. Call it what you want, as long as you acknowledge that a problem exists.

Because in the end, losing excess body fat just works. Whether it’s the inherent healthiness of the steps you take to lose the weight, the normalization of leptin, resistin, and adiponectin levels and the reduction in fat-derived inflammatory cytokines that comes from shedding excess body fat, or both, you’re healthier. And a bit leaner.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the excessive accumulation of adipose tissue (obesity) is completely innocuous. Maybe obesity and its related maladies merely have common causes, like inactivity or a bad diet, and don’t interact with each other at all. Maybe body fat is the body’s way of dealing with the true offender and obesity is just a reliable indicator of poor health, diet, and exercise habits (I suspect this is partially the case). Assuming all that is true, what changes? What are you doing differently to improve your health? You’re losing body fat. If getting rid of the obesity (through changing your diet and modifying your activity patterns and getting better sleep and reducing stress) makes you healthier, the primary cause doesn’t matter. Only results do. You don’t ignore the smoke alarm just because it’s not the cause of the fire.

That’s my take on the situation, folks. What about you? Let’s hear yours in the comment section.

phc1_640x80

TAGS:  body fat, Hype

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

201 Comments on "Is the Obesity Epidemic Exaggerated?"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Dr. Anthony Gustin
2 years 2 months ago

If you don’t have some severe genetic abnormality it is exceedingly difficult to become morbidly obese with eating real food (meat and veggies). You must eat garbage, sugars, processed foods and lack movement. Is this okay? No. If obesity ITSELF is even remotely arguable to not be problematic, the pathway to getting there undoubtedly is.

Curtis
Curtis
2 years 2 months ago

Agree Anthony,

One has to take in account many variables our grandparents and great grandparents did not deal with. Like eating processed food instead of real food. And the low level exercise many got if they had to grow or raise almost all of their food, which for many, included working from sun up to sun down.

My grandfather’s health did not decline until he quit moving much and just sat in his easy chair and watched tv all day. With that said he still lived into his 80’s because of the lifestyle of eating and exercise he learned from his parents.

Lewis Groome
Lewis Groome
2 years 2 months ago
I am not discounting what you are saying because you are a doctor, but the drugs given to people that have been diagnosed as Obese actually makes them hungry which makes them eat and eat. I believe that when eating fresh veggies and meats that have no chemicals that make them bigger, will reduce the Obesity in the first place. I know about this as I was one of those so called Obese persons. I went from 300 pounds to 180 and I have never felt better. I weaned myself off the prescription’s slowly and changed the way I combined… Read more »
Primespice
Primespice
2 years 2 months ago

Good point about the drugs. The exponential growth of people on psychiatric meds (such as atypical antipsychotics and antidepressants) must be contributing to the obesity problem. It’s getting so it’s the rare individual who has not been on an antidepressant. The atypicals are particularly known to cause weight gain and are prescribed like candy to bipolar people.

tom Li
tom Li
2 years 2 months ago

No doubt, especially among children. Evey little quirk in a kid is now a psychosis, that must be drugged. I see it in my own family. Cousins, neices and nephews being drugged for everything their parents can’t cope with. And they are all what I would describe as fat! And by that I mean they are covered with fat, from their arms down to their feet. They are fat, a bag of fat with a skeleton, and just enough muscle to move them around….for now.

Alalia
Alalia
2 years 2 months ago
Well I must refute your opinion. I was unfortunate to experience extreme unexplained weight gain from propranolol (inderal). I went from a healthy weight to morbidly obese in 5 months. At the 2 1/2 month mark I complained to my doctors and they looked at my thyroid(with in normal range) , looked at my diet (under eating, low carb diet-high fiber diet). But there is this assumption that people are simply shoveling food too fast in their mouths is insulting. Especially from doctors that supposedly know what’s going on with the human body. I’m really disappointed that we are to… Read more »
Dr. Anthony Gustin
2 years 2 months ago

Paleo police seem to be out to get me again… Let me asterisk my initial post by adding *genetic abnormalities or other drug/lifestyle related detriments (OR ANYTHING) causing severe hormonal imbalances. MY POINT is that NATURAL obesity has a point a–>b which is not good for you. YES you can have that messed with via different routes, which are NOT natural.

Zipp
Zipp
2 years 2 months ago

I don’t understand this, and Alalia please don’t take this as argumentative, I truly want to understand the mechanisms here.

I do get that a drug can slow metabolism, perhaps increase appetite, increase insulin resistance etc. But the fact remains that the body requires X amount of fuel everyday to operate. If you take in less fuel then you are burning, regardless of the drugs you may ingest, how could you possibly put on weight?

Chris
Chris
2 years 2 months ago
To Zippy… A slow metabolism and insulin resistance is how you put on weight, of which you said you understand. But then you suggest its a matter of controlling calories to avoid putting on weight? I’ve had type 1 diabetes for over twenty years, and food is not the answer to controlling weight, when its a hormonal conflict between prescribed drugs and the endocrine system. I’ll spare you the details of my long experience with food, versus activity, versus prescribed drugs, versus healthy outcomes, but food and activity are not the controlling factors, when there’s a chemical warfare going on… Read more »
Karl
Karl
2 years 2 months ago

Zipp:

“If you take in less fuel than you are burning, regardless of the drugs you may ingest, how could you possibly put on weight?”

According to the currently available evidence, – ie every metabolic ward study ever conducted so far – you can`t.

Chris:

Chronic energy excess is how you put on weight – even Gary Taubes concedes this. The really interesting question(s) do(es) not pertain to the how, but the why – and this is where neuroendocrine factors come into play. Still, all these complicated variables ( like “a slow metabolism” and “insulin resistance”) operate within the framework of thermodynamics.

Reima Reipas
Reima Reipas
2 years 2 months ago
Wasn’t there the Calories in = Calories out + Calories stored formula? I.e. if excess insulin causes a portion of calories to be stored even if there is not enough calories in, then the unfortunate victim will feel uncontrollable hunger until the minimum number of calories have been eaten to cover the calories out and the forced storage. And become lethargic and unwilling to move to conserve those precious calories. On the other hand, having no excess insulin allows the fat storage to be accessed, making the formula: Calories in = Calories out – Calories from storage. In this case,… Read more »
Alalia
Alalia
2 years 2 months ago
Well blood work came back. I’ve been off propranolol for 1 month. And I’m on topamax. My fasting insulin is 32 (normal is 5-8 but the range is 3-19) My hgbac1 is 5.7 so over 3 months, my average blood glucose is 114 (doesn’t show extreme peeks and falls, and I get a lot of hypoglycemia) Oddities…. My triglycerides were 42…. I’m not on a low carb diet because of topamax contraindications (weight gain was before topamax) But I still eat a high fat diet (hypoglycemia) . What this translates to from what I can tell…. Is I’m malnourished? So… Read more »
Matt
2 years 2 months ago

Alalia –

Your protein values are a better indicator of malnutrition. Contact me and I’d be happy to review them with you.

Karl
Karl
2 years 2 months ago

Alalia:
“The law of thermodynamics which doesn`t even apply to bodies because of….”

…concluded no metabolic ward study ever. All the variables you mention operate within (and are limited by) the framework of thermodynamics.

swot
swot
2 years 2 months ago
I have had the same issue- I have recently been diagnosed with idiopathic ventricular tachycardia, tachycardia and frequent ventricular extra beats. Started on propanolol then switched onto metoprolol by my cardiologist. Combine that with the anti depressant I’m weaning off (post natal depression), contraceptive hormones and a slower lifestyle (toddler at home)- I gained weight on weight watchers, and gained when going to gp prescribed fat club (my name for it). Admittedly this was following cw ideology, but even so… Never had any weight/health problems before taking medications. Granted I still eat, the fat does not magically appear. Hopefully following… Read more »
Margo
Margo
2 years 1 month ago
Alalia, Your story sounds like mine.. I was on propranolol for migraines and was a size 5. I was at the gym 3 days a week and ate well but not obsessively- still the junk occasionally. NOTHING else changed and I gained 72 lbs in 14 months. I worked out hard 2+ hrs 6 days a week and ate 1500 cal. I lost 4 lbs in 4 months.. they SWORE to me that if I was “following the diet” I would have lost 1-2 lbs a week. I was starving all the time. At the start I was 5’6 and… Read more »
Shawn Kearney
Shawn Kearney
1 year 1 month ago

There is no evidence that any widespread increase in BMI is a result of lifestyle.

Erica
2 years 2 months ago

I agree and definitely do not think it’s an exaggerated epidemic! Regardless of the causes/correlations there are so many co-morbid diseases skyrocketing now that are unnecessarily shortening the lifespans of millions of Americans (I used to work in a vascular disease center and saw it daily.)

Mark
2 years 2 months ago

Whether it’s the actual obesity that’s causing early deaths and disease or that obesity is a by-product of such foods and lifestyle factors that cause early death and disease, there’s tonnes of reasons for staying slim (or losing weight). That’s living an active, confident and healthy lifestyle for most of our lives.

Great article! I think you only have to look around your city centre to decide whether or not we have an obesity problem.

tbird
tbird
2 years 2 months ago
What bothers me about statement like – “you just have to look around to see that we have an obesity problem” – is that you are talking about people. Some of these people don’t have a lot of resources. Some of them are working really hard to take care of others. I know a lot of people on this board give themselves 1000 points a day for being skinny, but 1) not everyone cares as much as you do. 2) some people have bigger fish to fry 3) some people (me!) have excellent bp and cholesterol numbers even though they… Read more »
Nocona
Nocona
2 years 2 months ago

I don’t except your 1,000 excuses, but I’ll give you 1,000 points for being fat.

Cavemanthang
Cavemanthang
2 years 2 months ago

If you’re going to call her out on her so-called excuses, I will call you out on your grammar; it’s “accept,” not “except.” Nice try though.

Gaby
Gaby
2 years 2 months ago
“We are increasingly understanding that attributing obesity to personal responsibility is very simplistic” This is a quote from the following article: http://aeon.co/magazine/being-human/david-berreby-obesity-era/ It is a ‘must-read’ for those of you who still blame overweight people for being overweight. Please read this to understand the myriad of causes for obesity, most of which have nothing to do with the amount of calories being consumed. Moreover, once you are overweight, it is almost impossible to loose the weight and keep it off. Personally, the low-carb primal lifestyle has been the only thing that helped me succeed in slimming down and becoming a… Read more »
Jennifer
Jennifer
1 year 2 months ago

Really? That was a really mean thing to say. Not what this community is about.

Mark
2 years 2 months ago

The way things are I completely understand why many people are obese. I’m not having a go at individuals – the fact is that there is an obesity epidemic in our society.

Accepting that and hurting a few feelings of those who don’t want to be considered as evidence of this epidemic is surely more productive than denying the problem as some do. Especially considering that most people considered obese would like to be slimmer and could benefit from proper resources / awareness.

tbird
2 years 2 months ago
I see your point. I’m just noticing a trend about how people talk about this that demonizes good people who are routinely judged in a split second just because of how they look. It’s not just about feelings, it’s about ethics. And I don’t think that it hurts peoples feelings necessarily to say that there is an obesity epidemic. I think that when people say things like, “The country is going to hell – just look we’re surrounded by fatties.” There is a real damaging lack of ethics in that – because the label fatty is a judgement that attributes… Read more »
Steve
Steve
2 years 2 months ago
@tbird: I think you are confusing the observation Mark and others make with a sense that you feel unduly attacked in general. Certainly attack and blame for obesity is a common aspect of society as well. There is resentment towards the obese, especially when it’s considered to be simply an individual choice. That’s a certain assignment of causality which is still very open to debate. But you can’t assume the observation of obesity to be the same as blaming individuals for it. . In fact, the observation of rampant obesity tends to point out that it’s something that is affecting… Read more »
tkm
tkm
2 years 2 months ago

well said, thanks for pointing that out and promoting good critical thinking.

Foodporncess
Foodporncess
2 years 2 months ago

Tbird, you are 100% right. No one knows another person’s life or health just by looking at them. I wish I could like or upvote your post or something. Thank you for taking the time to point out that we can’t possibly conceive of the struggles of others. It’s important for everyone to remember.

Jennifer
Jennifer
1 year 2 months ago
@Foodporncess – you are exactly right, and I think this is why MDA articles are always taking in to account, the psychological factors people struggle with. Mark understands that “fat” people aren’t just a bunch of ignoramuses that are ignoring the science and don’t care. There is so much more than that going on. I have been a lurker on this site for YEARS. I have my ups and downs. I’m slim one year and fat the next, but I always come back here, honestly, for mental guidance. I know exactly what I have to do to be fit. That’s… Read more »
Kevin Grokman
Kevin Grokman
2 years 2 months ago

Well, if we could *see* the obesity center of our cities…excessive body mass tends to be in the way!

Kevin Grokman
Kevin Grokman
2 years 2 months ago

Hm. Yeah, I retract that last. Guess that was uncalled for, but it was meant in a light-hearted, stand-up comic way. It isn’t meant to be offensive. My apologies to anyone offended!

Tyrannocaster
2 years 2 months ago
I have found one way of tracking the increasing bodyweight in this county – high school yearbooks. They offer an interesting look at the students through the headshots that proliferate throughout their pages, but also in the photos of the activities. I graduated in ’68 and looking at my old yearbook, there just aren’t very many overweight kids in those pictures. A handful out of several hundred. As I progress into the later yearbooks of friends and family I see a change in the faces and in the bodies in the group pictures. I suppose it’s anecdotal so it shouldn’t… Read more »
Tyrannocaster
2 years 2 months ago

Should have been “in this country”. Don’t think there’s anything county-specific about where I live, LOL. Unless it produces people who don’t type very well.

Colleen
Colleen
2 years 2 months ago

Anecdotal but probably true. Look at old TV shows, especially from early 60s or before and you see the same thing, especially when looking at the extras. Maybe some of this is less interest in mass gain? But average people appear noticably thinner. I graduated in ’85 and there would maybe be one “fat” kid in the class (one not thin kid). My daughter is 5 and it is sad to see how many “fat” kids there are. Many more than when I was that age.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 2 months ago

This is very true. Yearbooks don’t lie. We’re a nation of fatties now. My Swiss gals family comes to visit and they are just shocked how fat americans are. I mean their jaws drop every 2 minutes. I mumble something about how pathetic it is, and then carry on.

tbird
2 years 2 months ago

That’s really mean and arrogant. My experience is that people who are judging others all of the time are really unhappy people. I wish your Swiss friends had different eyes. There are great things to see here. Diversity, happiness, gorgeous kids. How sad for them.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 2 months ago

They don’t judge others all the time. Where did you get that from? They are not used to seeing obese people everywhere, that is all. They are very happy people.

Ion Freeman
2 years 2 months ago

I think the Swiss may also believe their kids are gorgeous. And they may be able to find some Swiss version of happiness in their own lives.

Michael
Michael
2 years 2 months ago

Agreed. I work at a university, and there’s no doubt that people are generally fatter today than they were 15 years ago.

There are more very fit people than there used to be, but WAY more obese people.

MissJelic
MissJelic
2 years 2 months ago

You can see the same thing in old National Geographic magazines. I’m thinking of a pic of a crowd of 1950s-ish Americans in front of an attraction at Yellowstone National Park (I think) — there wasn’t one obese person in the photo.

Groktimus Primal
2 years 2 months ago

This is why I rely on Mark for all my “weighty” matters.

Kit
Kit
2 years 2 months ago

nice one!

Jacob
2 years 2 months ago

I really think the BMI needs to be done away with. My BMI says I’m on the higher end of the overweight category and while I’ll admit I have a little more fat than I’d like, I certainly don’t look overweight, near obese.

BMI’s biggest problem has always been that it doesn’t factor in lean muscle mass.

Colleen
Colleen
2 years 2 months ago

BMI is a tool and gets most in the ballpark. You know you have extra lean mass and have already factored that in. But speaking from experience, the overweight often don’t look it and the obese may simply look “overweight.” Especially when over half of all adults or more in areas are overweight.

Pam
Pam
2 years 2 months ago

My question is this…..if there are three different types of fat in the body, then are there different ways to get rid of each of these fats? Or are they all addressed the same way?

Eva
Eva
2 years 2 months ago
Problem is the military uses BMI. I know a guy who had to quit because the military said he was ‘fat’ due to BMI, but he had not even an ounce of fat on him, not even a tiny jiggle anywhere. He was just built like a greek god, naturally muscular plus very active and he excelled at all physical challenges. He had tried and tried to starve down his muscles to be light enough to pass the military BMI rules, but when he did, he felt sick and unhealthy. Finally, the military was not worth the health risks of… Read more »
Matt
Matt
2 years 2 months ago

That’s BS. The military does rely on BMI but they do tape measuring in circumstances of muscle mass. And this was a decade ago when I was in. It generally screws females in the military more so than men, I’ve known very round men make it through weight days when I was because their fat occurs around the stomach.

Lou
Lou
2 years 2 months ago
I wouldn’t worry too much about BMI. It is an easily calculated indicator. There are others. I wouldn’t rely on just one and I would use them to set targets for improvement. My bodyfat is high and I just started to try to live primally. It is working as I can see it in my belt and pants and most interestingly in some of my shirts that were tight around the middle. It has been 2 months for me and I have not been perfect, but have shed grains and legumes for the most part. I track other indicators, including… Read more »
Stacie
2 years 2 months ago
Agreed. I recently went to the doctor and cringed when they recorded my BMI: 31 (5’7″ and 200 lbs). That puts me in the obese category, and like you I know I have a little extra body fat but I know I’m healthy: great blood pressure, no chronic issues, extremely active, and eat whole foods probably 90% of the time (my biggest downfall is booze, especially during the summer months). But I play volleyball, softball, xc ski, bike, hike, walk, run, sprint, lift…all of it! And I eat well. I’ll be damned if someone is going to tell me I’m… Read more »
Time Traveler
Time Traveler
2 years 2 months ago
Those claiming the the obesity epidemic is exaggerated are in denial. And while there is a part of the population that is wrongly labeled by their narrow mind and set in their ways Doctors, the nation is faced with obesity epidemic! All those experts have to do, is leave the country for a month or, return and walk the streets of our cities and look around. Hopefully, they too will come around; just like the media is beginning to embrace that Carbs (most anyway) are bad and good fats are healthy. And isn’t it nice that the Wall Street Journal… Read more »
blinker
blinker
2 years 2 months ago

People don’t need to get larger to increase BMI, they simply need to get shorter. Smartphones causes people to stoop. Stooping causes poor posture. Poor posture eventually reduces people’s ability to stand straight, even while being measured.

So yes, smartphones cause obesity. Science never lies.

Jacob
2 years 2 months ago

Is this your attempt to get the comment of the week spot? 😉

Stacie
2 years 2 months ago

Since going barefoot my foot shrunk half a size. Does this impact my BMI? 😉

Sofie
Sofie
2 years 2 months ago

Mine got bigger 😮

john
2 years 2 months ago

I don’t care about BMI or what’s “officially overweight/obese.” What I know is that almost every middle-aged person is fat/flabby, and even most my age (27) are in terrible shape (fat, balding, inflamed skin). I spent the 4th of July on Cape Cod and, during a parade, had a conversation with my sister noting that everyone looks fat, stressed, etc. I live in Los Angeles, and while it seems people in my neighborhood are generally thinner and/or healthier, it is still uncommon to have a good physique and appear healthy.

Oscar
Oscar
2 years 2 months ago

Obesity is epidemic, and is getting worse! 90% of the products at any supermarket make people fat or sick over time. There is not enough emphasis on healthy eating and exercise while this is a matter of public health that cost millions to all, the government and us alike. The food companies and pharmatheutical companies are involved on this because “money talks”.

Heather
Heather
2 years 2 months ago

I was sitting and waiting at an Outback restaurant. Not the worst restaurant as far as food. I got the same thing. I watched as people came and went. I mentioned to my boyfriend that exact thing. Everyone who came and went was fat or obese. I saw a couple of skinny female teens and that was it. The men had huge guts and the women were just big all over.

Pdawg
Pdawg
2 years 2 months ago

I went out to dinner awhile back (which I do not do very often since going paleo) but as I left the restaurant I scanned the people waiting for a table. Every single person was overweight. It’s just the norm these days and it’s sad. About as sad as the SAD if u ask me. So grateful for mark and this community for saving my life.

Colleen
Colleen
2 years 2 months ago

Just as SAD as looking at what’s in the typical grocery cart.

Primespice
Primespice
2 years 2 months ago

Even sadder is the growing amount of people who need a motorized scooter to shop in the grocery store. How many of those people did you see thirty years ago? Try going on a cruise- that’s next level obesity. I live in the northeast- not the fattest part of the nation. I see really obese people all the time. All day long. It’s sad, it really is.

bill reinecke
bill reinecke
2 years 2 months ago

If Americans are not astonishingly fatter than a generation ago, the only thing that explains what I see when I travel across the country is that fat people used to hide at home and now it’s the slender who do so.

Colleen
Colleen
2 years 2 months ago

LOL!

NaturallySmith
NaturallySmith
2 years 2 months ago

We have to hide at home because it is partically the only place we can eat healthy:)

Primespice
Primespice
2 years 2 months ago

I’ve had that thought, too. But it doesn’t explain the very fat kids. Education has been compulsory for a long time.

Walter Bushell
Walter Bushell
7 hours 35 minutes ago

Nutritionally the children get very incorrect nutritional education

Paula
Paula
2 years 2 months ago
I am a 50+ woman who is now obese. I never was. I’ve been eating “right” since the 1980s. No sugar. Little to no grains, etc. I don’t overeat. I don’t snack. I eat organic. I am strong. I am flexible. I am obese. I have theories as to why this is so, but neither I nor my doctors can validate them, except for the fact that I suddenly lost 1.5 inches in height and was severely deficient in Vitamin D. No explanations for the severe fatigue outside of my normal “invisible illness.” I won’t give up, but I sure… Read more »
Brandi
Brandi
2 years 2 months ago

Adrenal problems?? Since doctors only care if your adrenals work severally too low or Severely too high,Maybe you could try a holistic doctor? Clearly conventional isnt helping you, like it isn’t helping my mother who also lost an inch and vitamin D levels or low, but they wont let her take supplements because of her kidneys which are functioning now but weren’t recently. I don’t like doctors mostly.

Yasmine
Yasmine
2 years 2 months ago

That sounds like a thyroid issue to me. Have you had blood work done? You have to look at T3 and T4, not just TSH. Most conventional doctors will just order the TSH test if you ask to have your thyroid checked, but it’s the T3 and T4 that can really tell if you have a problem.

Tyrannocaster
2 years 2 months ago
Paula, have you seen a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner? I know, it’s more expense…but you didn’t say what kind of doctors you are seeing. It can make all the difference. “Regular” allopaths are very good at trauma and infectious problems, but they aren’t well trained for nutritional and/or chronic conditions. At least, that’s been my experience. I agree with you about the awfulness of some people’s manners and the whole concept of shaming overweight people. Personally, I am quite slim, so you’d think that attitude would make sense to me (if you hadn’t done any thinking, I mean) but… Read more »
Nocona
Nocona
2 years 2 months ago

Let’s be honest here. We’re obviously talking about the fat people who play video games all day, watch TV 12 hours a day, eat like crap, don’t exercise, go to conventional doctors for a pill to make it all better, don’t study and read and really try to help themselves. If we want to survive as a species, I would think we would have to make some effort to make it wrong to be fat. It’s a tough predicament for sure…

Elenor
Elenor
2 years 2 months ago
+1 to the dinosaur! A dear friend who has just hit 24 pounds off (he went Paleo with a 30-day challenge in Jan…) was strategizing with me about his obese, type 2 diabetic, multiple meds (including statins {eye roll}), sister who came to visit in late April. He, understandably, was desperate to share his new knowledge (none so convinced as a new convert, eh? {BG}) and help her to get on his wagon… He was (as so many do!) planning to try to point out ‘how heavy and unhealthy she was, and he was worried about her, and he wants… Read more »
Sally
Sally
2 years 2 months ago

+1

Cliff
Cliff
2 years 2 months ago

Are you eating just meat, veges and some good fats?

Paula
Paula
2 years 2 months ago
I appreciate all of you who are compassionate and want to help. However, I have spent many thousands of dollars on very good and very alternative MDs (functional medicine) and other Natural practitioners and have looked into everything mentioned and much more. In fact, I am a holistic healer, myself. I’ve only recently resorted to standard Western care and only to receive medications and only because I am financially tapped out. However, my point isn’t that I need help, my point is that I think it is time to change the conversation and the perception of obesity, because we are… Read more »
Marcia
Marcia
2 years 2 months ago
This is such a good point. One of the people above says “of course we are just talking about the lazy, video-gaming, cookie-eating obese people” (I’m paraphrasing). The problem is: you can’t see that. When you see someone who is obese, you don’t know their story. You don’t know if they exercise or how they eat. You don’t know if they have hormonal or thyroid or other undiagnosed issues. You don’t know if they are a before or an after. So be kind, always. I’ve been obese, and lost weight, and gained weight back (had a baby), and lost it,… Read more »
Nocona
Nocona
2 years 2 months ago

I call BS. Come on now, we can be kind, but we need to be honest. Our future species is at stake here. These hormonal, bad genes, and other excuses don’t fly for the 95% of people that are obese. Excuses are not going to get us outta this mess.

Marcia
Marcia
2 years 2 months ago
So, Nocona, being an a-hole about it, does that really help? I’m really asking. it’s oh so easy to sit behind a keyboard, or behind your car window, or behind your sunglasses, and make fun of people behind their back. Or to their face. “Fatty” “Lazy” “Stupid”. You name it. So easy. The fact of the matter is, unless you are actually that person, or a close family member – you don’t know what issues that person is facing. So, you would willingly call someone a lazy fatty to their face, figuring you are 95% sure that you are right?… Read more »
Nocona
Nocona
2 years 2 months ago

Marcia, I’m not trying to be an a-hole. I’m trying to find out what we call the problem. Our society is obese, sick, out of shape and getting worse…I hate political correctness. It’s another form of controlling people. If we don’t say the country is full of obese (fatties), to not hurt some peoples feelings, how do you want to say it? The problems have been getting worse for 40 years. We ARE fat. Let’s say it!
How do you know I’m not fat? Skinny? In between? Your making a lot of guesses now aren’t you.

Marcia
Marcia
2 years 2 months ago

There’s a difference between saying “there’s a problem” and specifically singling out people and calling them lazy/fat, etc.

I am not arguing that there is a problem. I see it everywhere I go.

My point is that we should not go from “there’s a problem” to individually blaming people for being lazy/weak/whatever. That is not a solution.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 2 months ago

Point taken!

Colleen
Colleen
2 years 2 months ago
Formerly overweight/obese, I am sympathetic to your plight and fear it myself in a few years when menopause arrives in light of my history. But the reality is that the obesity epidemic is not largely populated with people in your circumstances. It consists largely of people overeating foods of dubious nutritional quality, often who would rather take a pill then stop drinking a coke every morning for breakfast (my mother), and many of whom were educated in nutritional nonsense which they are still unwittingly following today. Many people are suffering because of poor or no advice on nutrition, and if… Read more »
2Rae
2Rae
2 years 2 months ago

Amen Sista’!
Glad you are not giving up.

2Rae
2Rae
2 years 2 months ago

to Paula in this stream….

Primespice
Primespice
2 years 2 months ago

I agree that fat shaming is not okay. But let’s get real here. We are talking about an epidemic that is spreading to children and has a multitude of co-morbidities. Unlike alcoholism or HIV or most cancers, we can see if someone is fat. Remarking on that epidemic is not at all wrong. Denial is what’s wrong. Btw are you by any chance on any meds that have weight gain as a side effect?

Kit
Kit
2 years 2 months ago

Look into stress. If you are out of options, try and get into nutritional ketosis.

Jinnah
Jinnah
2 years 2 months ago
For me, another sign of our population’s steadily increasing girth is vanity sizing of women’s clothes. I haven’t changed my overall physique or weight in 10-15 years, but in many common brand’s items that I used to buy in size 4 or even 6 I now have to buy in size 0, and often these I have to have tailored so they fit my waist. It’s annoying (and expensive, if you factor in tailoring!) for those of us who have a healthy body size. More importantly, it points not only to the general population’s growing size, but also the unwillingness… Read more »
KStew
KStew
2 years 2 months ago

I agree. I am 5’7, 155 lbs, and while only at 19% body fat (I’m an athlete) I don’t think I’m anyone’s definition of a small woman. But that’s the clothing size I wear- small. I find that silly.

Marcia
Marcia
2 years 2 months ago

Eh, I don’t even know why they do this.

When I got married, I weighed 135.
Between babies, I weighed 135.

I was a 12 when I got married and an 8 between babies. So really, am I really fooled to think I got smaller? No.

If I were to buy a pattern to make pants or a dress, which for many patterns are still based on 1950’s sizes, I would be a 16 (so vanity sizing had already begun in the 90’s).

Who are we fooling – I wish I could buy pants like a man: waist, hips, inseam, done!

Jinnah
Jinnah
2 years 2 months ago
I totally agree! If I were to take a stab at it, I’d say that the reason companies do this is that they understand that (sadly) in our culture there is a lot of (potential) shame and self-esteem wrapped up in one’s dress/pant size, probably especially for women. There is not a lot of value or profit in having people feel horrible when they try on clothes. By creating that “wow, I fit into a size [fill in the number that makes you feel good about yourself]!” feeling in a person, the consumer is almost certainly much more likely to… Read more »
Mitch
Mitch
2 years 2 months ago

Different brand male jeans do “vanity” sizes – some brands list larger sizes that are two inches smaller.

They are in the business of selling jeans, if someone feels better in thinking they fit in to a 32″ waist that are really 34″ (because the ‘jeans are a better cut’), then they are more likely to sell than the truthfully labeled 34″ jeans.

Shary
Shary
2 years 2 months ago
No, I don’t think the obesity epidemic is exaggerated at all. It’s readily apparent everywhere, and I live in Colorado, where the percentage of obesity is supposedly relatively low. I think it’s more a case of well-intentioned “spin” being put on the situation to make people believe that fat is the new normal. True, being overweight once was the norm, back in what was called the Gilded Age (late 1800’s, early 1900’s), but the food was mostly of better quality then, so maybe being fat didn’t necessarily equate to being unhealthy…or maybe it did. I do think Paleo/Primal is making… Read more »
Dan
Dan
2 years 2 months ago

Prove to me the food was better quality. Furthermore many so-called fat people are neither sick nor tired. There’s evidence that having a very high BMI, over 35, is definitively bad, but for the rest the evidence is weak to non-existent.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 2 months ago

Really? Our soil is about worthless, conventionally speaking. You need some studying to see what has been stripped out of our living soil. I hope you supplement magnesium. Comparing vitamin/mineral composition from a century ago until today is an eye opener. Since switching to CAFO and through milk laws, we have a disaster on our hands.

Shary
Shary
2 years 2 months ago
Prove it to you? Geez, open your eyes! People cooked with real ingredients years ago. They used real cream, eggs, and butter, not products that have been tinkered with or manufactured in a lab. The fruit and veggies they ate didn’t come from South America or China. If they wanted cake and ice cream they made it all from scratch. They didn’t buy processed convenience foods that are full of chemicals and preservatives because there was no such thing at the time. Their meats came fresh from the farmer, not styrofoam-wrapped from a warehouse. There was no such thing as… Read more »
Marcia
Marcia
2 years 2 months ago

I dunno…I agree that food was better back then.

But you know, I was still a chubby kid. My mom was overweight, my grandmother was obese and had diabetes (Type II).

We never ate out, had a garden. etc.

But still…I have to admit, I am surprised at the larger young people.
I am used to seeing children be trimmer than their parents, because they are younger. That is often not the case these days. Many times I see children (teens, 20’s, 30’s) who are much larger than their parents.

Jon
Jon
2 years 2 months ago

People can debate BMI numbers and what defines obesity all they want, but I’ll tell you one thing: I know it when I see it. A day at the beach or town pool will give you an eye-full.

Dan
Dan
2 years 2 months ago
Recent research found that those in the BMI range 25-30 have the lowest mortality rate. It certainly puts into question the ongoing belief that 18-24 is the healthy range. One of the lies of those promoting the obesity epidemic and dangers of being above 25 has been to combine everyone above 25 into a single category. We’re seeing the similar lying around salt. The real problem is that diet is not the simplistic thing people a few decades ago, we vary in what we need and there are no easily identified causal links. While it may be true that there… Read more »
Marcia
Marcia
2 years 2 months ago

I used to wonder why a higher BMI was better for mortality.

Then, at 43, I got sick – a cold, then bronchitis. It knocked me on my butt. I couldn’t get out of bed for a week, and I was down and out for three. Antibiotics. Steroids. I lost a bunch of weight in a very short period of time.

So for older people (not calling myself older) – 50, 60, 70 +, a little extra weight can be the difference between surviving a bout of pneumonia or some other illness and not.

David
David
2 years 2 months ago

Did that “recent research” remove smokers and the already unhealthy (e.g. people fighting illness) from the 18-24 BMI mortality rate?

Morex
Morex
2 years 2 months ago
I live in Mexico and we are living a disaster the government overlooks and try to cover. Eight out of ten people are obese here!! Let me say that again. 8 in 10 adults are obese. And in kids it gets worse: 2 out of 3 kids are obese. That’s bad. Really bad. The whole country is fat and people just won’t listen. The government not just doesn’t do anything, but keeps promoting processed crap as healthy food. Just this morning I called my sister. She needs some blood donors but none of her friends can donate blood because all… Read more »
Dan
Dan
2 years 2 months ago

What do you mean by fat? Someone in the so-called overweight category, 25-30, should not be precluded from blood donation.

PH
PH
2 years 2 months ago

In your example, kids aren’t worse. It’s good to know how to do math/percentages…

If 8 of 10 adults are obese, that’s 80%. If 2 of 3 kids are obese, that’s 66%. Just sayin’…

Morex
Morex
2 years 2 months ago

Holy cow! That’s true! I got caught up on the emotion of the post. Thanks!

Jack Lea Mason
Jack Lea Mason
2 years 2 months ago

The word for the problem in Mexico is Grupo Bimbo! This is the 13 billion dollar supplier of packaged pastries, grain based snack foods and sweets. Their social awareness program utilizes a percentage of profits to build and support schools in Mexico. Every tienda in every small town is well stocked with their brands. Even the teddybear logo is appealing to children.

Karl
Karl
2 years 2 months ago

While the obesity epidemic may or may not be exaggerated, the existence of the
“(metabolically) healthy obese” sure is fascinating!

ngyoung
ngyoung
2 years 2 months ago

I would think that life insurance companies would have a vested interest in getting accurate data. They’re trying to get the odds in their favor as much as possible. I know when I was getting term life insurance they took weight, body measurements, blood pressure, and drew blood to test cholesterol. So it seems that they are not relying too heavily on BMI. Now that I know what I know about cholesterol I do question how they look at those numbers and hope they are paying attention to the latest cholesterol studies.

Meepster
Meepster
2 years 2 months ago

Could you comment on the studies that show that weight loss increases mortality?

Karson
Karson
2 years 2 months ago
The human body is a remarkably resilient machine.From my anecdotal experience, most people can shovel in crap and sit at a desk all day without the manifestation of serious health problems. “Why stop eating X or why should I start doing Y. There is nothing wrong with me.” This is all well and good to a point. When the tipping point is hit (later in life) it can be too late if the individual doesnt take extreme measures. I believe the more society continues the status quo of crappy diet/inactivity, the earlier this tipping point becomes for future generations. I… Read more »
Vanessa
Vanessa
2 years 2 months ago

Oh, those people just want to publish books and get attention. There is no doubt that people are increasing in obesity (and unhappiness too). I’m just going to throw this weird thought out there too – my children always went to private school in their younger years and none of their classmates were heavy. When we got to public school that changed.

Kate
Kate
2 years 2 months ago

Has anyone noticed that overweight people haev started featuring in TV ads? Not long ago, you’d never have seen anyone even vaguely tubby. Now they’re really quite common. Advertisers therefore seem to be acknowledging that their target groups are indeed getting heavier.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 2 months ago

On the otherhand…I watched Victoria’s Secret runway show and those poor women are skeletons.

John Finn
2 years 2 months ago

They have to please the masses, am I right?

Kate
Kate
2 years 2 months ago

Has anyone noticed that overweight people have started featuring in TV ads? Not long ago, you’d never have seen anyone even vaguely tubby. Now they’re really quite common. Advertisers therefore seem to be acknowledging that their target groups are indeed getting heavier.

Michele
2 years 2 months ago
I think all you have to do it look around in any public place to see that the “epidemic” is not being exagerated. There are more overweight and obese people now than there were 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago. It’s very apparent. I think it’s also true that in some areas there are many people who take thinness to an extreme and that’s not healthy either. We are an extreme nation in general and more and more people are falling at both ends of the spectrum I think. And going to an elementary school or high school shows you… Read more »
Pure Hapa
Pure Hapa
2 years 2 months ago
Yes. Look at the poor children – they are our future. We are not here to “fat-shame” – we are absolutely in the midst of a global health disaster. As folks have noted, when we were growing up, almost no one was obese. Now, obese is the new normal. People don’t see it when it is all around them, in their own homes and looking back at them in the mirror. Even our cats and dogs are obese. The disease has crept up on us so insidiously that people who used to be “normal” weight are now called skinny. Arguing… Read more »
Marie
Marie
2 years 2 months ago

Also 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago, there were fewer older people nearing retirement. The Baby Boomers do contribute some to the ‘rising’ obesity numbers.

Jeff
Jeff
2 years 2 months ago
It doesn’t take a number like BMI, body fat percentage, or weight to tell when someone is unfit. The problem is our skewed perspective. The incremental changes year after year go unnoticed and the mean shifts slowly and silently. These days, as long as your stomach and lovehandles don’t hang over your belt, you will be considered “fit” or “healthy”. 200+ years ago, that person would but an unfit outlier among 6 packs. Now its the opposite. We shouldn’t need a trend in BMI to prove that the physique of the average American has declined. Who knows, maybe as of… Read more »
Nocona
Nocona
2 years 2 months ago

Like some of the before and after pics of the Friday success stories…some before shots look healthy at first glance, then you see what they look like in the after pics and it is amazing the difference between fake health and real health.

ShaSha
ShaSha
2 years 2 months ago
Thanks, Mark for another great post. I think you hit all the points exactly right. Where I live, in western Oregon, you don’t have to travel far to see the problem….any grocery store, mall or other public place will tell the story. Its pretty hard to find even a few people who would have been considered “average” size a decade ago. Virtually everyone is too fat and most are morbidly so. I see quite a few folks in the middle age range using those motorized carts to get around the store because their legs can no longer support the weight.… Read more »
Nan
Nan
2 years 2 months ago

While it’s true that “weight” is probably a good measurement for “fat” on a mass public scale, I think we put way too much emphasis on the numbers. I generally don’t believe that one can have excessive extra fat and still be healthy, but that aside, I think the real emphasis should be on fitness and lean mass to fat ratios. It seems to me like a lot of people who are not “overweight” according to BMI, waist circumference, or even body fat percentage, are just flabby. They have poor posture and hardly any muscle.

Energy!
Energy!
2 years 2 months ago

I agree with you…most “normal-sized” folks these days seem to have little or no visible muscle definition, including teenagers and kids. It’s rare to see a toned person anywhere. As a recovering “sitaholic,” I’m on a mission to build more muscle….even at 55, better late than never!

Pastor dave Deppisch
2 years 2 months ago
Awesome article Mark– I also think obesity comes at an increasing rate as we have become more mechanized and attached to our inventions of ease. In other words, if you look at some old footage of men working on skyscrapers or building roads and bridges etc., you will rarely see an obese person. Women worked harder in the home and without distractions like TV and other luxuries probably burned 2-3 times the calories of the modern stay at home spouse (man or woman). There;s something to be said for primal living that gets you off yourr butt and outside to… Read more »
Graham Ballachey
2 years 2 months ago

Great post. I’ve had some people try to convince me that there is such thing as “healthy obesity”, but now I have some knowledge bombs to drop about the inherent inflammation associated with excess body fat.

Whether obesity is a symptom of unhealthiness or the problem itself doesn’t matter. It’s unhealthy.

FORTUNATELY – a good diet and some exercise can put anyone on the right track. Thanks Mark!

Heidi
Heidi
2 years 2 months ago

I don’t think being thin is in and of itself healthy. And becoming thin can be detrimental, when it causes eating disorders. The most lethal psychological disorder is anorexia.

I think our culture as a whole is suffering from anorexic ideation, and almost all discussions of weight are tainted by it. This ideation/obsession contributes to disordered eating, and disordered eating, ironically, leads to obesity–wherein we eat or binge on all the bad things that we think we shouldn’t because we’re trying desperately to be thinner.

cfb
cfb
2 years 2 months ago
All of these ‘studies’ seem to imply that correlation = causation and often the cause and effect are backwards. Thin people live longer? Maybe its the healthier eating, increased exercise and general lifestyle that leads to both being thinner AND living longer. There may be many overweight people who eat well enough and exercise enough to live longer, but those are probably outliers. Poor people often eat crap because its cheap and easy. Older people also eat crap. They don’t have the energy to make a proper meal, they’re often eating alone, they don’t feel well, etc. Plus they’ve been… Read more »
Marcia
Marcia
2 years 2 months ago

This is such a great story!

Liz
Liz
2 years 2 months ago

I didn’t think much of the obesity epidemic here until I went abroad. In parts of East Asia, like the Philippines, they still have women clothing stores that only sell clothes in “free size”. It basically fits a women no taller than 5’6” and about 130 lbs or less. I basically could not go clothes shopping in the countryside.

Linda
Linda
2 years 2 months ago
I read today about the overweight/obesity problems in Brazil on CNN’s website written by Meera Senthilingam. It mentioned that “the stereotypical image of slender Brazilians on the beach has changed, with more than half of the population now overweight (1 in 7 obese). Experts say that increased access to processed food and cultural acceptability of gainng weight has seen eating habits change across Brazil”. The article goes on to say “Nestle, for example, has provided scheduled boats since 2010 that serve as floating supermarkets for communities residing along the Amazon. Remote communities can now buy branded goods and often do… Read more »
Emma
Emma
2 years 2 months ago

Maddeningly brief reference: “They often cite the studies that find slightly overweight BMIs to be protective against early mortality as proof.”

Any ideas about why this might be the case?

At a BMI of 26, I’ve been trying to lose a few pounds – should I not worry about it based on the above mentioned study?

Marcia
Marcia
2 years 2 months ago

I’ve wondered that myself. My own personal suspicion is that it allows you to weather an illness.

I had a bad illness last year and lost a bunch of weight in a short period of time. A few extra pounds and you can survive better.

Karl Kelman
2 years 2 months ago

A minority of Americans have normal or low BMIs. Weight loss is common in the end stage of most fatal diseases, and common among those with certain dangerous behavioral issues (heroin addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders). In the aggregate population numbers, some serious athletes and the Calorie Restricted Optimal Nutrition people get lumped in with heroin addicts and cancer patients. And, fit people with a stocky or muscular build get lumped together high body fat percentage folks. Consequently, the results of these “studies” mean absolutely nothing as to what an individual should do.

TID
TID
2 years 2 months ago
I just want to address one thing that I seldom see discussed on this and other whole foods blogs, and that is food addiction. No eating plan will succeed long term until a person addresses the psychological factors that drove him/her to drug themselves with food in the first place. So first that person needs to go cold turkey on flour, sugar and processed foods and to get rid of the brain fog then they can adopt a healthy eating plan . For me Atkins was the key to keeping 80 pounds off for ten years- I would eat flour… Read more »
kay
2 years 2 months ago
Thanks for mentioning the emotional aspect of overeating. One person I know has just started to eat primally and has really lowered processed food, all grains except quinoa, and most sugar. He is 2 or 3 weeks in, and is finding the emotional cravings the hardest. He does not produce leptin, and has many related issues including sleep apnea,which play a part. He is discouraged right now, with no weight loss yet, but it feels overwhelming to also do some kind of portion control too. Not sure what he would need to do to truly get fat adapted. Genee Roth… Read more »
George Ordal
George Ordal
2 years 2 months ago
This is a general comment, not specifically directed to any replies to the original article. To me, the underlying dynamic is this. We have a lot of requirements for minerals, trace minerals, and vitamins. Read food (not processed food) supply these if eaten in adequate amounts–particularly, eggs, fish, and nonstarchy vegetables. If a person doesn’t eat enough real food, they may develop deficiencies. A feeling of hunger results. People then eat more of what they are accustomed to eat–such as processed food. Such food does not satisfy the requirements. The body induces them to eat more. They gain weight. They… Read more »
Karl
Karl
2 years 2 months ago
The available evidence does not support your hypothesis about the “underlying dynamic”; see, for example, Stephan Guyenet`s writings about this. Overeating “real food” doesn`t result in a “magical energy burn-off” – I should know, seeing as my body fat percentage/weight was decidedly lower on a steady diet of protein shakes and junk than it is on my current paleo regimen (probably because I pay less attention to protein/overall energy intake now). No metabolic ward study ever conducted has so far been able to demonstrate a significant “metabolic advantage” of any particular diet/macronutrient composition. As to the “experiment” you mention: That`s… Read more »
George Ordal
George Ordal
2 years 2 months ago
I should probably have used the term “cells” instead of “real food.” In this and for other reasons, grains (other than white rice for a separate reason) and legumes are terrible–lots of calories, few cells, lots of defensive proteins to ward off predators. The more cells you eat (here eggs, although not cells, produce them during maturation of the chick). Hence the emphasis on fish, eggs, and nonstarchy vegetables. This way all the macronutrients (potassium ion, magnesium ion, calcium ion, etc.), trace minerals, and vitamins are supplied. As described in PERFECT HEALTH DIET by Jaminet, this prevents shortages that lead… Read more »
Karl
Karl
2 years 2 months ago
I see. Of course. “THE CALORIE MYTH”. An article written by James Fell on the topic (inspired by the controversy over the recent Quest Nutrition video(s) that featured Jonathan Bailor) bears mentioning here, I think. Let me quote some snippets: “I spoke with Jonathan Bailor, and he repeated numerous times that calories DO count and that you can`t lose weight unless you`re in a caloric deficit. I asked him if you could lose weight eating nothing but chocolate cake if you`re in a caloric deficit, and he said yes, you can. Bailor`s book is called The Calorie Myth, but even… Read more »
Karl
Karl
2 years 2 months ago

“…I did not criticize…”

PS: The article I mentioned is called “Why Calories Count” (James Fell, askmen.com).

Richard
Richard
2 years 2 months ago
This may only be anecdotal but….As a Critical Care Paramedic with over 31 years on both land ambulance and aircraft I can say that I can only remember resuscitating one individual ever, who was significantly obese ( BMI > 30). In fact it seems quite common knowledge amongst paramedics that obese individuals die early, and have little chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. I seems there just aren’t many ‘healthy” obese people, especially when you get to the over 60 years of age. As someone who does a significant amount of research into maintaining a healthy body and mind, I… Read more »
Shary
Shary
2 years 2 months ago

I agree with your comment but disagree that obesity is a disease. Obesity is both reversible and preventable and therefore, IMO, does not qualify to be labeled a disease. Moreover, calling it a disease is giving people an excuse to assume their obesity is beyond their control and give up, when what’s really needed is willpower, desire, and diet information that really works (such as what is available for free on this website).

Elenor
Elenor
2 years 2 months ago
{wince} Yeah, sorry Richard, same thought process I once had. Back when I worked in the service department of an RV dealership, I thought RVs were (all) truly balky machines horrifically prone to breaking down… Why would anyone own an RV, fer cryin’ out loud, when they always seemed to break down!? Well, duh: silly me! I was *working in a business* dealing with the broken-down ones — most of the (many many more) RVs that were out drivin’ around never broke down. But since I saw all the broken ones – – and that was my main exposure to… Read more »
k-del
k-del
2 years 2 months ago

Calling obesity (not caused by a legit medical reason) a “disease” is an affront to people dealing with actual diseases. Yep. I said it. Not much PC here.

Karl Kelman
2 years 2 months ago
One step in solving this problem would be to change the language we use to address it. Let’s stop using these terms: Overweight, underweight, BMI, and weight problem. The health issues America (and a growing number of countries) face are due to excessive body fat percentages. Weight is an extraordinarily crude measure of body fat, and, in the age of inexpensive DEXA scans, should have almost no place in scientific research. BMI is a very crude hack to guesstimate obesity: About half of all NBA players are overweight, according to BMI. Why? Among other problems, BMI labels almost all tall… Read more »
Elenor
Elenor
2 years 2 months ago
“aliments we associate with obesity” Maybe we should stop calling the underlying ‘disease’ obesity — since obesity is probably just one more in a group of “aliments we associate with obesity.” Being FAT is not the problem, having a body that reacts by inappropriate handling/metabolizing/shunting of the ‘bad’ foods we are told to eat is the problem. Being told to eat buckets of ‘heart-healthy grains’ and avoid like the devil any artery-clogging fats is the problem. If we don’t correctly DEFINE the problem, we’ll never solve it. If we focus (and BOY! Do “we” ever focus!) all the hate and… Read more »
Karl Kelman
2 years 2 months ago
I respectfully disagree: My belief is that having a high body fat percentage is a significant health problem, regardless of diet, exercise, etc. For example, Type 2 diabetes in children and younger adults is almost exclusively a disease of people with high body fat percentages. Modern humans don’t have a high body fat percentage because they are morally weak; they do because we live in a society where endless food is available. Gaining weight as fat is the normal, natural response to food abundance – it’s the most efficient way to survive the predictable future food shortages. Getting fat quickly… Read more »
Elenor
Elenor
2 years 2 months ago
You wrote: “Type 2 diabetes in children and younger adults is almost exclusively a disease of people with high body fat percentages.” Equivalent: Lung cancer is almost exclusively a disease of people who smell like cigarettes! So, if we can only shame them ENOUGH about stinking of smoke so they compulsively wash their clothes and use breath mints, then the lung cancer will go away! Of *course* high body fat and a host of serious illnesses go together. “We” keep the focus on: “just lose weight” (with it’s attendant: ‘fat is disgusting = you are disgusting, so ANYthing you do,… Read more »
Lee ying
Lee ying
2 years 2 months ago

If there is an obesity problem how do we stop it? I mean heck, it’s not like Mcdonalds wants to make everyone fat, all they want to do is sell what the people want.

It’s been my choice to become thin and fit, but do we have the right to try to force obese people to change their habits?

I’m not saying that there is a right or wrong answer, I just think this is the real question we should be focusing on.

Brett Michaels
Brett Michaels
1 year 8 months ago

Yu are ASSUMING they have bad habits… Obesity is FAR deeper than you know. Science shows us it is NOT a simple condition of overeating…

Kevin Grokman
Kevin Grokman
2 years 2 months ago
I believe that there is a problem: many Americans eat in an unhealthy manner and do not participate in any form of physical activity. I take this as fact in the people I see around me; the people in the fast food lanes, the people piling on sugar coated grain cereals and breads and eating pastries at Starbucks or candy or a carton of ice cream in a single sitting. Some people eat two helpings of birthday cake for EVERY birthday party held in their office. Worse, many people, stuck in their office, don’t even get up except to go… Read more »
Green Deane
2 years 2 months ago

Pull up a random crowd picture from the 1960s and then one from today. To say we are not getting fatter is to be blind. And frankly I don’t care if people are obese just as long as I don’t have to pay for their poor choices. But since our nanny government says I must, then I say it’s time to loose weight.

Al
Al
2 years 2 months ago

Fat people even get a ‘discount’ while the healthy and thin pay more….true.

I just don’t know how menopausal women are supposed to remain thin when it’s the bodies natural defense against bone loss to create slightly higher body fat to help produce estrogen.

Women once again will be punished throughout this debate, while doctors and policy makers completely ignore the 2 different biologies between men and women.

To all the fat men out there: You’re just lazy. No other excuse.

Waya
Waya
2 years 2 months ago
Maybe I’m on a different wavelength here, but although I understand, & by & large agree with many of the comments, what came to my mind when I read the article was a bit different. I read quite a bit, & am always looking out for ways to improve myself (which is why I’m tied into the Daily Apple!). I’m working through a book now on Brain Rules. Much of what I’m finding there rings harmoniously with this article. I wonder if there is any research being done to see how our brains are developing with the current dietary fiasco?… Read more »
shannon
shannon
2 years 2 months ago
Just look at newsreels or newspapers from the 1960s. Most people look downright thin, compared to the way people look now. I’m glad to read this take-down of the anti-fat-shamers’ campaign. Some of my friends have been posting rationalizations of their obesity on FB, saying that it’s not really a problem, and that they’re not really fat, or if they are, it doesn’t matter. It may be true that it’s nobody else’s business if you are fat. However, we all pay for the health crises that obesity produces, either through insurance premiums or through taxes that pay for Medicare and… Read more »
shannon
shannon
2 years 2 months ago
I wonder a lot about WHY the obesity epidemic is so prevalent. Of course it is partly due to larger portions, fast food, addictive food, people sitting still in front of computers and TVs, people working long hours sitting down and then driving long hours to get home, people eating out more b/c they don’t have time to cook, people having to eat cheap food b/c real wages have fallen. But there’s another possible cause that is related: the increasing use of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. These drugs often cause enormous weight gain. And they weren’t around in the 1960s. I… Read more »
Elenor
Elenor
2 years 2 months ago
“people sitting still in front of computers and TVs” So, does this mean that all those accountants and (male) secretaries and log-book maintainers back in the late 19th century were all fat? THEY spent all day every day sitting at a desk and not moving — but they weren’t fat! “people working long hours sitting down” Back then, they worked 10, 12, and 14 hour days, not like today’s 9-to-5… I’m not picking on you Shannon — but we all tend to slide into ‘easy descriptions’ that don’t actually seem to apply, if you try to equate them to ‘pre-obesity… Read more »
shannon
shannon
2 years 2 months ago
I just read an article in the New YOrk Times “Well” section about the fact that kids today are in fact much more aerobically unfit than they were even ten years ago. The culprit seemed to be…screens. Sitting and staring at them. As for the 19th century scribes and clerks: they walked to work. Bob Cratchitt did, anyway. In A Christmas Carol, Dickens describes his walks to and from work and what he saw… Clearly sitting still isn’t the ONLY factor in the obesity epidemic, but it’s one of them. I probably sit still more than I used to before… Read more »
shannon
shannon
2 years 2 months ago
I went to a wedding recently and I was astounded at how much people could eat during that weekend. The portions were huge, and yet people cleaned their plates. I was one of the few that could not. Also I was surprised that many people did not dance. I wonder if they are afraid of “looking silly” or something. Dancing is great exercise as well as great fun. Some of the people who didn’t dance were healthy, fit people, so it couldn’t be because they didn’t want people judging their bodies on the dance floor. It occurred to me during… Read more »
Meagan
2 years 2 months ago

OMG. Best comment EVER.

Nikki
2 years 2 months ago

I agree and I’ve definitely noticed this with the people in my life. We all have to eat and so many fun (stress releasing) activities are surrounded by food. It’s one thing everyone can indulge in.

Steve
Steve
2 years 2 months ago

+1

IslandSeeker
IslandSeeker
2 years 2 months ago
I know one thing for sure – I feel a hell of alot better since switching to Primal & I have not even come close to losing the amount of weight I want to (perhaps my ideal weight is a bit skewed, too??). I do believe that extra weight contributes to all kinds of issues, namely the feelings of fatigue & depression (probably just a byproduct of fatigue), but I also believe WHAT we eat contributes to all of those issues even more so. I find it hopeful that the topic of low-carb, exercise, & general health topics are argued… Read more »
Karen
Karen
2 years 2 months ago

Hello from MD. We’re fat here! I couldn’t help but notice, however, that when the Warren Jeffs group was broken up in 2006, they were ALL as fit as a fiddle. It’s lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle ….

Chris
2 years 2 months ago

I’m sorry. Just come sit outside a Winn-Dixie anywhere in the South. The evidence is irrefutable. In fact, you don’t even have to be at a grocery store. It’s shocking!

Georgina
Georgina
2 years 2 months ago
It a bell shaped curve. Many are overweight and do just fine. Elders even have a few pounds in storage to help survive illness. The problem is the increase of the super obese. The ones we need to get super large beds, wheel chairs and bedside commodes for care. These folks are often very strong. Think how much strength it takes to carry all that extra weight. Often they cannot even cate for themselves. These outliers are increasing. Our conventional method of weight loss to restrict calories and increase “good carbs.” just leaves these people misirable and sets up failure.… Read more »
wpDiscuz