Is the Obesity Epidemic Exaggerated?

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.


TAGS:  body fat, Hype

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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203 thoughts on “Is the Obesity Epidemic Exaggerated?”

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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 foods. I ate more alkaline foods and less acid foods, a 80/20 split. I believe people can lose the label of Obese if they would eat right in the first place.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

    3. 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 put our Trust in doctors, and yet they would miss how a medication not only lowers metabolism, lowers cardiac outputs so you can’t exercise, gives you insulin resistance by altering how your body processes sugar and fat…..

      Propranolol/inderal pretty much gives people type two diabetes. And then blames the patient’s for their fast unexplained weight gain! Atrocious!

      I was put on propranolol as the first attempt to prevent my new daily chronic migraines because abortive medications were not reducing frequency after 6 months.
      I already have hypotension (good day 90/70, bad day 60/42, with pain of migraines 120/90), and hypoglycemia(idiopathic, not insulin resistance….. I suspect adrenal insufficiency or insulin sensitivity but I can’t get a doctor to test me or refer me to a Endocrinologist).

      Obviously beyond medication issues, thyroid issues, insulin issues, adrenal issues, and other genetic and body problems…..
      Society has to deal with the food pyramid… Which is horribly wrong. Society has to deal with heavily processed food-like-products(scientifically designed to make you addicted because if you eat more, you buy more) because we are all expected to be moving at warp speed constantly.
      The low fat thought process which continues to cause more issues then it aids in weight loss.
      The law of thermodynamics which doesn’t even apply to bodies because of how macronutrients are processed, enzymes, hormones, healthy gut bacteria, systematic inflammation, chronic malnutrition among the obese, ect…..

      ????society is set up to fail.

      For corporations to make money off of it…

      1. 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.

        1. 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?

        2. 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 in your body. Food is but the trigger, its not the whole loaded gun.

        3. 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.


          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.

        4. 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, calory intake can be less than the used calories, as long as the difference can be covered by the calories from the storage.

          So, the old calory theory is kind of correct. The weight change can be positive or negative, but that change is locked to one of the options based on diet. If you force it to be positive (by diet choices), then your body wants to decrease calories out and increase calories in, to make the equation balance. Failure to solve the equation would mean death to your body, so it will give as good incentives as possible to ensure your survival.

        5. 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 I gain weight…. But I’m malnourished?

          My free testosterone was really low, 0.3 (female under 30) not sure if that’s an indication of malnourishment or not.

          Im also never hungry… Whether it’s mental or hormonal I don’t know. I also can’t eat much at once because of acid reflux, I couldn’t eat a whole cheeseburger (lettuce bun) if I tried! And I tend to only eat three times a day. Usually only twice a day when I have a migraine (2-5 times a week during weight gain). (migraines are new, post viral neuralgia).

          So the assumption from that I somehow had to eat those calories….. I did, but it doesn’t appear to be feeding my body or my organs before it would store it.

        6. Alalia –

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

      2. 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.

      3. 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 low carb primal will help 🙂

        1. 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 117lbs my cholesterol was 285.. so yep.. cholesterol meds.. Which further damaged my metabolism. So doubly whammy. I did Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, you name it. I followed everything to the letter. NO CHANGE. 1200 cal a day and 5 days a week at the gym doing cardio and weights.. still a size 16. Took 10 years for them to figure out my thyroid was a mess. PLEASE go to and learn what tests they should be doing for you. I went 362 out of 365 days with migraines.. Tried everything and nothing worked – they came right back. Topamax made me dopey.. I couldn’t even balance my checkbook. What worked for me was magnesium aspartate supplementation. I usually buy Thorne brand but get whatever brand you want. I started off taking 2 tablets a day and worked up to 4 daily.. 2 at lunch 2 at dinner. My migraines subsided tremendously after a month or two. Hope it works for you since tryptans like Imitrex are expensive and not so great for your heart. I hope the magnesium aspartate helps you as much as it did me. I finally have my life back.

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

  2. 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.)

  3. 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.

    1. 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 are fat and 4) just because someone is part of “the obesity epidemic” doesn’t mean that they aren’t really awesome and worthwhile people who are doing the best they can.

      I read these boards because even though I’m fat I could be fatter if I loaded up with sugar everyday and never moved. But y’all should be aware that fat people are reading this and they don’t give you 1000 points for being skinny. I actually think being honest, generous, curious and empathetic is way more important than what you look like. So fat people don’t necessarily want to be considered as being evidence of an obesity epidemic. You might think of all the wonderful things you can’t see instead.

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

        1. 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.

        2. “We are increasingly understanding that attributing obesity to personal responsibility is very simplistic”

          This is a quote from the following article:

          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 lot healthier (there are still a few health issues which don’t want to budge).

          I quite agree that there are people who want only to take the easy way and take a pill or two or more to control their health and their weight, but I assure you that most would want to do whatever it takes to not be sick and obese. Unfortunately, many people have tried so many of the promised solutions, without success – or with initial success just to see the pounds creep back up – that they are tired of trying, of being physically and emotionally hurt, of being disappointed again.

          Strange as it may seem to some of you who are not metabolically challenged, not even the strictest paleo can help everyone loose weight (see: It can, however, make you healthier and happier. Let’s take all the benefits we can get. And please, let’s not judge.

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

      2. 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.

        1. 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 a whole spectrum of behaviors or problems to someone (which may or may not be true) and doesn’t acknowledge that person’s complexity. My aim is not so much to make excuses for fat people as much as asking people to notice that snap judgments based on how a person looks overlook the importance of character and the complexity of their lives. I think there is a way to talk about this that recognizes that at the same time that we recognize we have a lot of work to do – especially in terms of food deserts and creating a less obesagenic environment for our kids – and everyone for that matter. Thanks for replying in a smart and not combative way. I like the opportunity to learn from this website and others who post here.

      3. @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 many or most people and not just your fault. It’s something to do with the day and age we live in – that’s the obvious takeaway from observing it’s dramatic increase today.

        So, to take offence personally that there are many more obese people today is silly. Recognizing a problem is not an insult to those suffering it so much as a crucial step onto the path towards healing.

        You, personally, can choose to judge your level of obesity and current health and accept it, excuse it or not, but no need to take discussion of the general as an insult to that segment of society who suffers from it, k?

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

      4. 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.

        1. @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 not why I come here.

      5. Never would a Caveman look at a 10% body- fat- woman and say ” YES! This is exactly what I was looking for!”.
        No Neanderthal would’ve ever bred with such a woman. Fat deposit was important, in fact everybody was trying to fatten up before winter so they could survive and have the energy to shuffle through the 2 metre snow to look if something went in the trap.
        I wouldn’t want to be stranded somewhere with a partner that has nothing to ‘burn’. There is a reason why most men like a little meat on their women, cause the skinny one signals ‘ I’ll be dead soon.’

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

      1. 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!

  4. 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 count. BS; to me, this is real evidence that anybody can look at. Only an ostrich could pretend there has not been a change, hence the resorting to the arguments that Marks has quoted here.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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.

        3. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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?

      2. 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 trying to starve down. It was all so stupid! A guy like that is the kind of guy you’d want fighting on your side, strong and fast and damned healthy. It was such a shame.

        1. 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.

    2. 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 one based on weight and waist measurement, marine and navy body fat calculators based on several anthropometric measurements including waist, neck, height, and another one based on shoulders and waist. But as Mark has noted before, the best indicator is the mirror and if you really want to know your body fat, calipers are a better and relatively inexpensive way to know it. More exciting for me is the concurrent change I am seeing in my blood pressure. It’s not that BMI or any other indicator is good or bad as much as it can be helpful and encouraging to track the change. I try to measure up every other Saturday morning before anybody else is up and before coffee or breakfast.

    3. 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 not healthy because of some arbitrary number.

  6. 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 picked up on Nina Teicholz “The big Fat surprise”, as mentioned earlier on MDA…. back in May 2014

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    1. 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”.

    2. 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.

  9. 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.

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

      1. 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.

  10. 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.

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

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

      1. Nutritionally the children get very incorrect nutritional education

  11. 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 wish society would stop being mean to me. I am *appalled* by people’s behavior toward me since I became, unwillingly, a large woman.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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 it has always seemed to me that that approach would just make the person feel worse, and it would probably not motivate any change, since the necessary change is not a simple one of motivation. Usually there is a medical reason, but the problem is finding it.

      1. 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…

      2. +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 her to live longer, and here was a plan that could help.”

        I pointed out back that there does not exist a fat person in all of America who is not constantly and painfully aware of that fact! I said that trying to ‘shame’ her into trying paleo was only heaping on more pain …. the opposite of motivating! I suggested he tell her how delighted he was, how much better he was feeling, how easy he has found eating “real” food and not crap. (He hasn’t gotten his wife and 10-yr-old high-sugar-diet-daughter quite onto it yet, but he’s hopeful!) I piled the books on his sister, and he and I told her all about paleo and health and how we cope. (Yeah, okay, so maybe it WAS a couple-hours-long deprogramming.) A few days latter, have scanned many of my books, she headed back home (4 states away).

        I just got an email from her: she’s down 15 pounds and off TWO of her meds in just 1-1/2 months!

        Shaming NEVER works!! You aren’t telling a fat person something s/he isn’t aware of. Instead of trying to convince, try to entice! Rather than push, lead! Coax, show, describe — don’t tell, demand, teach! Right?

    4. 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 long overdue for a large injection of compassion. All good people need love and compassion, regardless of size.

      1. 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, and gained it back (had a second baby). Well, you know, what worked for me the first time didn’t work after the first baby, and so far nothing has worked particularly well for the second baby (though I went paleo and got pregnant with baby #2, so it did make me fertile).

        It’s so easy to say “well, just do X, Y, and Z” but man, I had a baby (after gaining 50 lbs) at 42, and things just don’t work like they used to. Stress, illness, injury.

        1. 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.

          1. Future species….LOL
            We are overpopulated, and on the rise every year.
            Don’t think obesity is killing off human kind, en contrair!

            ( i do realize this was 4 years ago, still made me laugh though)

        2. 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? What if you are not?

          And calling someone a fatty, is that at all helpful? Telling someone that “you are on your own”, “it’s your own fault”, “get some willpower”, does that help? It doesn’t seem like it to me.

          So if you’d been to the beach this weekend, you’d have seen me. A 44 year old mother of two, in my bathing suit, all 5’2″ and 158 pounds of me. Digging in the sand, making sand castles, body surfing, boogie boarding. I wonder how many people secretly thought “fatty, a size 14 has no business on the beach?”

          Of course, nobody knows how much exercise I get (a lot), how well I eat (very well), but it’s pretty easy to judge. It’s a lot harder to show, and provide, support. Support can be anything that gets people to eat better and exercise – less stress, more time off work, gym memberships with child care, local farmer’s markets, cooking classes, offering babysitting to single parents, on-line support groups, etc.

        3. 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.

        4. 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.

      2. 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 they understood how many ills are caused by bad diet, many might change. If everyone followed your plan, very few would be obese and there would have been no purpose for it in the first place. I admit I look at what people have in their shopping carts, the only person I ever saw with a cart that looked like mine, meat, eggs, vegetables, no junk, was a guy about 35 and very fit. As a percentage, I think few are in your boat. I wish you well.

    5. 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?

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

  12. 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 of those same larger people to own their true size and face their health issues.

    1. 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.

    2. 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!

      1. 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 feel better about how she looks in that particular item, and to take it to the register for purchase.

        I grouse because I am on the smaller side, and this system creates a situation where I sometimes simply cannot find something that fits!

        Ultimately though, I just wish that more people would start taking personal ownership of their bodies and their health. See themselves and their body for what it is in this moment, accept that, and if change is needed, embrace it. See it as a personal challenge. This site is filled with people who have done just that and it’s incredibly inspiring.

      2. 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.

  13. 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 some serious, widespread inroads among fat people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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 fast food. In fact, the average family rarely ate out. As for those obese people who are neither sick nor tired… Give them time. For many of them it’s not a matter of if but when.

        1. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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 is more processed food available today I can also say that my grandparents had much less access to a broad range of high quality food, and they, as well as almost everyone I encountered of their generation, did very little exercise. Those that were involved in regular physical work invariably had long term damage by the time they hit their 40s.

    1. 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.

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

  16. 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 of them are either fat, sick or have bad risk markers due to poor nutrition.

    Obesity epidemic is an exaggeration? Hell no. It’s a huge problem in many countries that will make economy crumble.

    I can’t find any other word other than: disaster.

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

    2. 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’…

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

    3. 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.

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

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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 would think genetics/epigenetics come into play here. Increasing the health issues for yourself, passing on those bad genetic codes to your children, and exacerbating the predispositions of the children with more of your bad habits.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

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

  23. 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.

  24. 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 that it’s only getting worse.

    1. 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 that folks are creating the epidemic in their minds is insanity. Our health institutions are becoming overwhelmed, and this is just the beginning. The obesity epidemic deniers/normalizers are hurting us. Admitting the epidemic is not shaming people or pointing fingers. It’s recognizing the real situation so that we can do something about it and help people.

    2. 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.

  25. 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 today the trend is shifting backward, and in 50 years 6 pack abs won’t just be for “gym freaks”. 🙂

    1. 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.

  26. 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.
    This is truly an epidemic and a disaster for our country. Thank you for being part of the solution.

  27. 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.

    1. 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!

  28. 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 run, play, lift, walk, and generally MOVE!

    While being sedentary doesn’t guarantee someone will be fat– it certainly can be a very huge contributing factor. I’ve said before how I am the only employee with a stand up desk out of some 180 engineers and office personnel. Judging by the expanse of my fellow workers– standing all day along with walking and running hills during lunch (and I turn 64 Saturday) keep me alert, in shape, and productive!

    Eating paleo is also the biggest factor– they think I am nuts here, but I sail through the week feeling energized while many of them suffer from post-partum lunch slumbers. (I made that one up but it’s still true!)

  29. 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!

  30. 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.

  31. 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 pumped with so much sunshine about what you can and can’t eat and what is and isn’t healthy. My 80YO dad came up with dementia-like symptoms last year. When I looked in his refrigerator, it was full of diet shakes (high carb) and frozen lean cuisine meals (also high carb). Everything low or no fat. Very little meat. No fresh fruit or veg because “it goes bad too fast”. Lots of rice and pasta. All he ate for breakfast was cereal or toast.

    I changed his diet to include meat and fat, fresh vegetables and fruit. We figured out how to give him plenty of good balanced food without all the ‘healthy grains’ and carbs. He actually gained 15lbs, which still put him a little light for his height, and his dementia like symptoms completely disappeared. I just don’t think he had enough glucose in his brain for it to operate properly.

    The other bugaboo that also affected me was the medications out the wazoo. We were both on a variety of medications for “pre” conditions. Pre diabetes, pre hypertension, slightly high triglycerides. Doctors mean well, but their first line of defense is to stuff your pockets with pills that reduce your metabolism and have boatloads of side effects. Once we both dumped the meds, we both had more energy, exercised more, felt like making a decent meal, etc. I lost a good bit of weight and my ‘pre’ conditions went away. In looking at my dads lab results, he didn’t even qualify for the ‘pre’ conditions if you looked at official information like the American Diabetes Association. His health care provider just decided to ‘get ahead’ of the experts and started people on meds before they even hit the accepted ‘low’ limit.

    There’s your problem set. Too many unnecessary meds, too many confusing messages about what is and isn’t healthy, too much reversal of cause and effect, too much reliance on correlations, easily available cheap/bad food and way too many cheap carbohydrates in our diet.

  32. 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.

  33. 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 choose those instead of local farm produce”. Very sad.

  34. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  35. 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 and sugar and processed foods until I gained 5 pounds, go on induction and lose it, and then back to the old way of eating. But it was not until I dropped the flour and sugar for good, worked on my emotional eating issues and adopted the Primal lifestyle that I was able to drop the remaining 40 pounds, keep them off for over 3 years and learn to love my new life with no need to go back to my old way of eating.


    1. 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 has a great book called When Food is Love.

  36. 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 don’t like that. They then cut back. This worsens the deficiency. Finally, they can’t stand it and eat tons. I think this dynamic underlies the lack of success of “dieting.” The available evidence suggests, as I understand it, that eating plenty of real food (as I defined it above) does not lead to weight gain. There are no deficiencies then. Excess is burned off. In one experiment 49,000 women were tracked for 8 years. Women in one group ate 120 fewer calories a day than in the other group. Total of 350,400 fewer calories. Their final weight averaged 0.8 pound less (insignificant).

    1. 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 allostasis 101- lower energy intake leads to lower body mass leads to lower energy expenditure up to the point where a new dynamic equilibrium is established – in this case, at “0.8 pound less”. Caloric deficits are moving targets. The total “of 350,400 fewer calories” is irrelevant. (Plus: This is a free-living study, and thus confounded up the wazoo.)

      1. 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 to uncontrolled eating, for the many people who eat processed food, (I think eating tons of sugars DOES put on lots of weight.) Otherwise excess food seems to be burned off (see THE CALORIE MYTH by Bailor). In my case I eat 3300 to 3400 calories per day (8% protein, 15% carbs, 77% fat (stick of butter and lots of coconut/coconut oil). Recently, as advised by THE CALORIE MYTH, I cut back on exercise a lot. It made no difference on my weight. I monitor my weight but don’t change anything based on what I discover. The experiment that you criticized comes from THE CALORIE MYTH. Seen in the context of all the other documentation, it is not so flawed. It just simply means that, under certain conditions, the body burns off excess. That is what I have personally discovered. I think a paleo diet is excellent but may be somewhat carb deficient, as explained in PERFECT HEALTH DIET and on the corresponding website. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and thoughts.

        1. 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 though the book cover proclaims that you can eat more, exercise less and lose weight, he states that it`s not about denying calories in versus calories out.

          “I explicitly state in my book, of course calories count,” Bailor said.
          The `calorie myth` as presented in my book is the myth that you have to count calories to be fit.” Okay, then. Why not call it The Calorie-Counting Myth?”

          The Calorie Myth is riddled with hyperbole and straw men, and the core message it implies amounts to little more than smoke and mirrors.
          I did not critize the experiment you mentioned; what I did not agree with was your interpretation – which remains flawed, regardless of the “context”. This experiment is about body mass flux in an energy deficit; it can tell us nothing about what the body does with “excess”.
          (What Bailor alludes to when he talks about “burning off excess” is TEF, which is essentially the energy used in the digestion, absorption and distribution of nutrients – and TEF is highest for protein and lowest for fats, with carbs in the middle; for it to have even a moderate impact, you`d have to eat a ridiculously high protein diet).

          Again, there is no evidence to support the Jaminet hypothesis proclaiming that nutrient status determines energy intake (and replacing “real food” with “cells” in your line of reasoning does nothing to strengthen your argument).

          Anecdotes are fine and dandy, but low on the “evidence totem pole” for a reason – they are extremely susceptible to confounders and perceptual errors; if you want to make a convincing case for energy excess being irrelevant as long as one just eats “the right foods,” regardless of energy expenditure via movement (exercise and NEAT), show me the metabolic ward studies that demonstrate this phenomenon.

        2. “…I did not criticize…”

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

  37. 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 am convinced that obese ( not slightly) individuals die early, have more health issues, and are also given to psychological harassment just by having a disease called obesity.


    1. 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).

    2. {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 RVs — my conclusion was they break down all the time! But they don’t.

      Paramedics get called out to the obese folks suffering heart attacks; they do NOT get called out to the obese folks just ‘drivin’ around’ without medical problems.

    3. 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.

  38. 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 people as overweight. NBA players are obviously among the most fit athletes on the planet, and tend towards a slender body type, but they are tall.

    BMI is positively associated with longevity within certain ranges because BMI is positively associated with lean body mass. Lean body mass is, in turn, often associated with good health.

    Due to our lack of exercise, “skinny fat” (low BMI, high body fat percentage) is another huge epidemic in America. There’s plenty of data to show that “skinny fat” people suffer disproportionately from aliments we associate with obesity. This is yet another problem with these “scientific” studies on Americans: Add together the skinny fat people with the fat fat people, and you’ve got the vast majority of the population. “Thin” vs. “fat” studies are just comparing one group with too much body fat to another group with too much body fat.

    We all have different body types, and body fat measurements give a much more accurate measurement of fitness for naturally thin and naturally muscular builds.

    There are ways of estimating body fat (measurements, calipers, etc.) other than a DEXA scan, if you prefer.

    1. “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 shaming and disgust and rejection on “you’re fat! Lose weight!” instead of on: “what foods are you eating?” and “please let me tell you what is a better way of eating” then we’ll never get enough people focused on the solution — because the solution is NOT: “you HAVE to lose weight” — that leads to idiot diets and drugs and anorexia. The solution is: “what you’ve been told is wrong’; here is what’s right.”

      Did y’all see that TV show with a British chef who came to some town in TN or AL or somewhere down here, and he held up vegetables to a class of kids — and NOT A ONE of them had any idea what each one was… and their parent’s freezers were all full of the most horrific crap! And he tried to get the local schools to change the horrific crap they’re forced to feed the kids — and the schools can’t or lose their funding!

      But — the default is always: “you’re fat, lose weight!” Which drives the shamed fat person (people, people — it’s LOTS of people!) BACK to “heart-healthy grains” and avoiding health fats! If “we” don’t correctly identify the problem, we’ll waste all the time and money fixing the WRONG THING! (Sorry, for shouting — this frustrates me more than I can say! Shaming fat people (Nocomo…) gets you exactly nowhere!)

      (And while I’m on a roll: why do ‘we’ keep going round and round about “is there or isn’t there an obesity epidemic?” There is an epidemic of BAD FOOD — which is leading to many bad results, only one of which is fat people!!)

      1. 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 in the face of abundant food isn’t a sign that “there’s something wrong with you;” rather it’s a sign that your body is well-adapted to a natural environment, and poorly adapted to the world of abundance that’s only been common globally for a few decades.

        Personally, I pile on both fat and muscle very quickly if I don’t restrict my calories. I am an “easy gainer” – nothing wrong with that in a state of nature – it’s very adaptive for an apex predator. Plenty wrong with it a world of unnatural abundance. I need to consciously restrict calories regardless of what I eat. Eating a primal, low-carb diet really helps, but maintaining my weight is still a challenge.

        As Mark said:

        “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.”

        Too many of these hormones and you’ve got metabolic syndrome: It doesn’t matter whether you got there eating Salmon and Spinach or Cake and Ice Cream.

        My intention certainly wasn’t to shame anyone. I’ve been on the losing end of a struggle with weight on and off for many years, and I know that “just try harder” can be really useless advice. I just know that I look and feel better when I’m lighter, and all of my health stats improve. Primal eating really helps, but it still takes considerable effort to contain calories. For me, eating right helps, but it’s only part of my solution (plenty of exercise, making weight control a priority, getting plenty of sleep, etc.) which I understand may not work for everyone.

        Eating good food is good for you. So is having a natural body fat percentage (far lower than almost all Americans). If you can lose the weight, do it!

        1. 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, no matter how unhealthy to lose the weight will make you acceptable.’ Phen-fen anyone? What’s a broken heart valve among friends! Hey, if you lose the weight it’s worth it!) (I’m not suggesting you’re saying this Karl — but few fat people don’t immediately go to that equation! Everything about our world teaches that!)

          So, “we” are doing the same thing as a doctor who throws statins at someone to lower his cholesterol — because statins treat the “symptom” (cholesterol); and covering over that symptom will lower the heart attack rate, right? Except it won’t! It’s “treating” (covering over) a(nother) SYMPTOM and pretending the disease is gone. (Now, let’s try to work the skinny-fat into this equation: If “just” losing the weight were the “cure” — why then, they’re NOT sick!)

          You wrote: “Too many of these hormones and you’ve got metabolic syndrome: It doesn’t matter whether you got there eating Salmon and Spinach or Cake and Ice Cream.”

          Here’s where I must respectfully disagree, Karl. Salmon and spinach will NOT get you there; cake and ice cream will! Sure, if you eat a truck-load of salmon and spinach every day (yuck), you *may* gain weight — but you will likely NOT get sick: no Type 2, no metabolic syndrome — unless something *else* is broken! No truck-load of salmon and spinach is going to wear out your pancreas, create AGES in your entire system, or otherwise create the damage that creates metabolic syndrome.

          You wrote: “If you can lose the weight, do it!”

          No one could ever disagree with this! But if “we” keep focusing on “lose weight” and NOT on: “high weight / high body-fat is a SYMPTOM of an underlying problem” (with the corollary: “so let’s treat the PROBLEM, not the symptom”) — then the shaming will continue, the fat people will continue to try desperately to do the low-fat, high-carb crap the entire world is pushing, and nothing will change!

          I mentioned in a comment above, my (now Paleo) friend’s sister: who has been desperately trying to control a truck-load of SYMPTOMS of a broken metabolism — including her weight! — and getting absolutely nowhere! She has been working so hard to do your “If you can lose the weight, do it!” and having no success whatsoever! (Even WITH all the meds!) She changed not the decades-long “treat (cover-over) the symptom(s)” that even her doctors told her to do; but “change the underlying vector: eat differently”! And suddenly she is having amazing success in just one month!

          Correctly identify the PROBLEM: the modern food system is making us sick, and we have a chance at changing the symptoms: fat, Type 2, Alzheimer’s GERD, IBS/Crohns, leaky gut, acne, rashes, bloating, etc. etc. All SYMPTOMS! Being fat is not the cause, it’s just *another* symptom! Continue to try to get people to treat the symptom(s): Just “lose weight and you’ll be fine” — and we’ll continue accelerating this handbasket ride downhill!

  39. 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.

    1. 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…

  40. 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 to the bathroom or maybe grab that next snack.

    It’s clear that many (but certainly not all) of the people doing this are carrying extra fat on their bodies, belly fat is commonly a portion of this additional fat. As you made clear, Mark, the production of several different hormones and / or the body’s sensitivity to them is altered by the extra fat.

    Heck yeah! It seems that people who have unhealthy diet and exercise lifestyles frequently have large body sizes, which signals a pretty obvious problem. For those who have unclear causes of “obesity” that are unrelated to diet and exercise lifestyles, I sympathize and encourage anyone in this category not to give up and to do as much research and self-experimentation as you can get away with! The more experimentation you can do, the better your chances of finding other related symptoms that may lead you or a doctor well-versed in nutrition to the answer you seek (truly: good luck!)

  41. 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.

    1. 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.

  42. 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? It seems to me that I got a better education out of HS (Class of 1964) than most are getting out of college today. I was taught to think, today kids seem to be being taught to pass a test & many schools are cutting recess time so kids can study more….which seems to be working in reverse!

  43. 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 Medicaid. It’s similar in a way to the tobacco-related illnesses that smoking caused in so many people.

    I find it odd that it’s almost impossible to discuss the obesity epidemic and the problems it is causing for society as a whole and for individuals, without being attacked and labeled a “fat-shamer.” Were people who talked about the dangers of smoking “smoke-shamers”?

  44. 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 think there are an awful lot of unhappy people in America, people who are terribly bored by their jobs but see no escape from them, people who are trapped in unhappy relationships, people living in ugly, violent cities. The United States has a mental health crisis as well as an obesity epidemic, and it’s possible that the two are related.

    1. “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 epidemic’ folks. Besides, I’ve read of studies that it’s NOT that “kids sit and get fat”; it’s that “kids get fat, and only then cease moving as much”!

      1. 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 I had my computer. I’ve never had a TV.

  45. 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 this weekend that food is one of the few pleasures in modern life that people allow themselves to indulge in. That and drinking. We don’t dance; we don’t sing with each other; most people hardly ever go outside and look at nature; we don’t have time to play; we don’t sleep and dream very much; people don’t even have time to have sex! But eating is allowed, so we over-eat to make up for all the other things we don’t get to do.

    1. 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.

  46. 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 so passionately, it means that people are beginning to wake up! In the mean time, I think some posters above said it best, always be kind to others b/c we don’t know what others’ stories are and just be helpful in a constructive manner. It also helps to just lead by example:) My hope is that as I progress with my Primal lifestyle that my husband & others in my life follow suite, too.

    Cheers to another great article to make us think!

  47. 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 ….

  48. 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!

  49. 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. Thus increases overeating the processed foods made to encourage overeating. “no one can eat just one.” i work in a hospital that serves fired potatos, a blueberry muffin and fruit juice on a ADA diabetic tray. I kid you not! Our medical community reminds me of what i see on many magazines. The cover screams “lose 20lbs in 20 days just like the celbs do!” it will be placed by a photo of an eight layered cake food porn cover spread. Yes, we are accountable for our actions, but our society does not do enough to educate or patients. We just write them of as non compliant.

  50. BMI may work for the diet and medical industries but it does nothing for me.

    I lost over 80 lbs in one year; slimming down from a plus size 16 to a trim 2. Yet, I’m overweight. I’m told to lose another 12 to 15 pounds to be “healthy”. I’m strong for a girl ( in my opinion). Pushups and the occasional pull up is no longer a problem. But despite my genetics and my improved musculature, I need to lose more weight. At 160, ,I wear smaller sizes than
    others at my height (5,5) and weight.

    Are people getting “bigger”? Sure.. but if active folks like me are factored in “America’s obesity crisis” then how can it be accurate or a measurable standard of good health?

    And like in 1997 when the bmi standards were changed, one could simply go to sleep “normal” one day, wake up as ” overweight” the next. Thus worsening the “epidemic”

    like in 1997, then those who claim that the bmi is ok well be reclassified as overweight and

  51. I don’t think humans can add billions of pounds of endocrine-disrupting chemicals to the environment every year and not eventually experience some kind of effect. I imagine that this is one part of what we’re seeing here. Not the only thing of course, but it could explain how some of us can be very active and eat very healthy and all the rest but still not look like people did 75 years ago.

  52. Rattle off all the statistics and studies you can find. It doesn’t matter. All you need to do is go to any public place or group gathering anywhere in America, and you will see all you need to know about the very real obesity epidemic. I am 45 years old, and, growing up, we had like maybe two “fat kids” in our entire elementary school. A few years back when my own kids were in grade school and I’d attend events there, it was the lean kids who stood out in the crowd of double chins and inflated cheeks. Last summer we went to Disney and the pool was crowded with 4th grade girls who looked five months pregnant, and 11 year old boys sporting jiggly B-cup breasts. I work in a community hospital where 2/3 of the nurses literally WADDLE and are out of breath walking the distance of a unit hallway. Trips to the beach are a parade of back rolls, beer bellies, butt cheeks eating up bikini bottoms, chafed thighs, and overflowing bikini tops…all decorated with stretch marks, rashes, and cellulite…there was NO SUCH SCENERY when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s.

    1. I had a similar thought. I was in high school in the 60s. There was one (1) overweight student in the entire school. One (and none before high school.) None of the teachers had any weight problems. Not long ago I went to a “vegetarian fair” where local vendors of vegetarian foods and related products showed off their wares. I rode my bike. The only person to do so. Meat-eating me was the skinniest person there. I felt like a gazelle amongst hippos. Everyone was very fat, the sellers and the buyers. But ask those carb-stuffing vegetarians if they are healthy and they will tell you their diet is superior… what delusional nonsense.

  53. People are throwing out wild assumptions about what causes obesity, so here’s one for you. Maybe children would not be so overweight if we cared for them the way we used to (back when people were thin) with a parent at home to nuture them and bond with them. We stick them in child care before school and child care after school and then they finally get to go home (if they are not shuttled off to dance or soccer or fill in the blank activity) to very tired out parents from working so much. I think emotionally their needs are not being met. Maybe the highlight of their day is eating. Parents work hard too without little down time. It’s probably their highlight too. I think people/Americans live way above their means and have forgotten about what is important.

  54. I came across that show, “Say yes to the dress” the other day, on my way up the channels to watch the world cup. OMG! Every one of those brides was enormous! They try on wedding gowns and then stand in front of there equally-enormous friends and relatives, who ooh and ahh over how beautiful they look. Ugh. Just another example of how easy it is to see that the obesity “epidemic” is not overblown.

  55. BMI is a tool used to evaluate risk. When taken out of context, and not looked at as a ‘risk’ indicator, then people get offended and antsy b/c their BMI is high or low. It also doesn’t take into account many other factors, like muscle mass and bone density. It’s important to look at the whole person when evaluating healthy weights and considering overall weight management, whether you’re large or small.

  56. It’s all well and good to say things like “BMI isn’t the only way to measure obesity. It’s not even a particularly effective way.” However, it’s not true. Obesity is now a disease, and the definition of that disease is a BMI of 30 or over.

    Now, one might say that certain interests benefit from this definition, and that this definition will have predictable effects. However, I’m not that one. He’s a freaking conspiracy theorist. I’m just reminding y’all of the fact.

    1. BMI measures weight. DEXA scans (or similar methods) measure body fat percentage. Wikipedia defines Obesity as “excess body fat.” BMI is a very indirect and inaccurate way of measuring body fat.

      I’m not sure continuing to use BMI is a conspiracy; It’s more likely a tragedy caused by cheapness and habit. Weight and height are slightly easier to measure than body fat, and that’s what they taught the docs to measure back in medical school before scans were easy and cheap.

      1. I generally agree with you, but sincerely doubt that the majority of people with a BMI of 30 or over are in the stratospheric range due to all the muscle they carry; I was into natural bodybuilding for a while, and in my experience, most of the competitors are in the “overweight” BMI range even in the offseason; the ones who solidly fall into the “obesity” range as defined by BMI are few and far between.

        1. I generally agree with your response. The significant problem is the number of “skinny fat” (normal weight obesity) people: They have a BMI under 25, but high body fat percentage. I’m forgetting the exact numbers, but that’s a very significant percentage of the population (something like 30% of all people with a BMI under 25).

          People with normal weight obesity are that substantially greater risk for many illnesses, but they may believe there’s no need to improve their fitness, since their BMI is under 25.

          In addition to risking their personal health, the skinny fat problem skews scientific data gathered from populations. Studies that assess things like heart disease risk generally compare people by BMI groups. But, if there are large percent of people with high body fat in the “normal weight” group, it’s hard to know what the results mean. Is weight the risk factor or body fat percentage, or other variables (exercise, diet, lean body mass) linked to weight/fat%?

          In Japan, people tend to control their weight (being perceived as “fat” is far more stigmatized there), but exercise is less common than in the US. As one might expect, lean body mass is lower, and the risks of obesity-related disease starts to climb at lower BMI levels in that population.

  57. One way to stop the problem is through education, which is what this site does, so thank you for that, but quite frankly we don’t want to change our diets. That is the real problem at hand. There’s pushback wherever you go! Way over 50% of the standard grocery store the world over is made up of foods not conducive to any sustainable diet and we know this. We know this from childhood. Seriously, are we worried at all if California’s lack of water will have an effect on Walnut production OR were we sick about weather Twinkies were not going to be produced for at least as long as it takes one to oxidate which we all know is something like a thousand years!? Personnaly I was sick about the fact that those yellow buddies might get the ax! That is the true issue here: We simply do don’t want to change!
    The thought of getting into bed with carrots and cabbage is unimaginable compared to a juicy hamburger, followed by pizza, rounded out by something with the name nugget in it! We have been trained to ignore what is good for us for things that give us the short term zing!
    What is that word, Mark, that sounds so good when you say it? Indulgence! Yes that’s it.
    Tomorrow you can get hit by a car, slip on a banana, a safe can hit you on the head and with that kind of danger lurking out there it’s no wonder that daily massive Indulgence rules our stomachs!

  58. Specifically on the obesity epidemic: I don’t think it’s necessarily ‘exaggerated’ in terms of its actuality. That said, I do think that mainstream media likes to grab onto the concept and use it as clickbait- in which case it winds up becoming exaggerated as the discourse becomes less of a legitimate part of discourse around health and more of an exercise in shaming particular sections of society.

    Speaking more broadly, what I’d like to see is a more systemic discussion: on health, on economics, on marketing, on food justice, on organics, on the environment and how all of these things are connected. I’ve been poor for most of my life, and I think that I can safely say- from personal experience- that a heck of a whole lot of marketing gets directed at folks who don’t have a lot of money to spare: cheap burgers, 2-for-1 deals etc*. Now that I’m financially middle class, most marketing directed at me/my demographic isn’t focused on cheapness- it’s telling me that I want to spend more money (on highly processed foods) so that I can be thin without the effort of moving. A systemic discussion would (hopefully) set aside the hyperbole, posturing, blame and excuses and focus instead on genuine, holistic health. I’ve been overweight (as a kid) and underweight (as a teenager) and I don’t think either are what we’re talking about when we talk about health and fitness- yet most of the current discussion centres around obesity (it centred around anorexia when I was growing up).

    *Note: I don’t necessarily think that ‘junk food’ in the broad sense of the term is always cheaper than eating ‘real food’, That said, I was only able to work this out when I had the privilege of access, time and level of education to read widely and consider the issue properly. While I think there are plenty of people who fall back on excuses to avoid addressing problematic habits, I also think it’s worth considering and respecting- in good faith- the realities of people living below the poverty line or acting as full time carers.

  59. This is so concerning on so many levels. On a recent trip to South Africa, I noticed something immediately different from the USA. The serving sizes are drastically different, as are the offerings of pre-packaged foods like chips. What the USA would typically consider a lunch size bag, and take two of for lunch, the people of that country only have one of. Their pizza size is typically the size of a small USA pizza, but they consider that a large. Cappuccinos and other coffee drinks do not come in glasses the size of pounder glasses for beer, rather, they are served in tiny tea cups on saucers. People all over the world just don’t eat that way, but they’re also not marketed to the same way either.

    For many in the USA, it is not cost effective to eat healthier, the poorest people there cannot afford the healthier foods, they are marked up by as much as 50% in some cases, more in others. Without access to a local farmer’s market, or the ability to pay less for the better foods, society in the USA dooms it’s citizens to obesity by cutting out their ability to pay for their health. When a bag of chips that is 6x the size offered and marketed to other countries is cheaper than a single bag of carrots, we have a problem.

    More needs to be done to make the healthy options available to more people.

    1. Agree 100% see my post below…

      Yes, the obesity epidemic is real and no, it is not the “fault” of “fat” people: Rather, it is the direct result of capitalism run wild (economic policy) manifested in colonial, agricultural, industrial, medical, political, and, ultimately, social practices. Make no mistake: we are generations of victims–perhaps willing, but victims none the less.

      Is the decline of the middle class in the US be correlated with the increase of population BMI? Absolutely. Are the “rich” really “thinner?” Of course! Can I prove causation? Foment a political revolt? Er, probably not.

      However, thanks largely to Mark Sisson, I can continue to pursue my own, personal, revolution: the Primal revolution that has enabled me to reject blood sugar medication, blood pressure medication, and cholesterol medication. A revolution that has allowed me to pause and reevaluate my life in a kinder, gentler, more spiritual direction; to breathe and move easier at 60 years than I did at 30!…oh, yeah, and forced me to shop for (smaller) clothing…which I can pretty much afford because real food actually costs less!

      1. “Yes, the obesity epidemic is real and no, it is not the fault of fat people.”

        Nonsense. Nobody holds a gun to anyone’s head and forces them to overeat, or to eat a steady diet of junk. It’s purely a matter of choice, never mind the million or so excuses fat people manage to come up with. Sorry if that sounds cold, but it’s an unavoidable fact.

        1. Step on over to the nearest charity food pantry and check out the choices. How much is “junk,” let alone paleo-compatible? Ask just about any doc involved in public health about “healthy” grains. What patently false dogma do you hear? View some “food” adverts. Inventory 90% of the items for sale in a grocery store. Have your emotional angst temporarily assuaged several times by using the drug, sugar, and see how easy it is to quit “cold turkey.”

          Yes, the information required to make food choices enabling healthy gene expression possible is out there–but not so much. Google, “healthy food choices,” and see what I’m talking about.

          You are correct, “nobody holds a gun to anyone’s head and forces them to overeat, or eat a steady diet of junk.” So what? Where is your empathy? Your compassion? Yes, you do sound cold to me. But behind your insensitivity lies fear, I suspect. Try coming from faith instead. Just a suggestion…

          But the he point of this debate is causation. The very real obesity epidemic is absolutely NOT the choice of the victims, although people like Mark are enabling them to loosen their shackles, via information and education. Blanket condemnation of the “fat people” does nothing to help, save perhaps shock a few into action.

        2. Fear of what, Corey?

          For many if not most obese people, food is an addiction. I don’t believe in enabling them by portraying them as victims of external situations that are supposedly beyond their control. You, however, come across as part of the problem, not part of the solution. Try offering any addict faith and warm fuzzies and see how far you get. Facing the cold, hard facts can be painful in any self-created situation, but it’s the absolutely necessary first step toward making positive changes.

        3. Shary~I guess I must agree to disagree. I am an addict in recovery (via the 12 steps) and my recovery is based on Faith. I’m sorry if I sound like “part of the problem” to you–that wasn’t my intention. I know so many who are recovering from addictions and obsessions far worse than poor eating habits I habitually try to visualize the best in people and tend to ignore more common failings, I suppose. Maybe if I were financially rich instead of spiritually wealthy I could afford to be more critical of the 99%. But, I’m glad I’m not. Please forgive my vision of society as a helpless child, bullied and oppressed. In the end, you are correct, we get exactly what we sow.

        4. Thanks for your comment, Corey. Best wishes to you for your recovery.

  60. what was previously assumed to be a healthy weight has now been deemed an unhealthy weight by statistical trickery.

    Sounds like the whole Ancel Keys/lipid hypothesis/statin thing to me.

  61. It is hard to classify America as a whole since each region varies so much and even each part of your town varies due to the family income and culture. Lower income has more of a problem with obesity. Easy access to junk food is prevalent. Portion control is another issue. Currently, I’m getting tired of my office having junk food offered at parties and co-workers expecting you to eat that crap. If they are upset, so be it.

  62. If you were a single guy and lived where I live, I’m not sure you would ask this question. Seriously. The size of people here is surreal. I have lived in LA county so I can do a reasonable anecdotal comparison. It’s easy to believe the obesity epidemic is exaggerated living there. Not here. Not even close.

  63. Try going on Google Images and typing in “class of 1920” or any year thereabout and it’s pretty obvious that people were quite a bit thinner back then. I also think it’s pretty obvious that people generally feel better and are healthier when they’re thinner. Have you ever met anyone who wanted to put on an extra 20 or 30 pounds of fat so that they could feel better? There’s a lot of interesting science and implications mixed into all of this, but the bottom line is that we’d all be better off if we were on the thinner side, and that may mean reasonably different things to different people.

    1. Class of 1970 or 80 even. It doesn’t go back that far that things were more “normal” than they are now.

      But us elders remember. Young people and children only know that this is the way it has been all their lives. To change this new normal is an even more monumental task in light of this.

  64. Yes, the obesity epidemic is real and no, it is not the “fault” of “fat” people: Rather, it is the direct result of capitalism run wild (economic policy) manifested in colonial, agricultural, industrial, medical, political, and, ultimately, social practices. Make no mistake: we are generations of victims–perhaps willing, but victims none the less.

    Is the decline of the middle class in the US be correlated with the increase of population BMI? Absolutely. Are the “rich” really “thinner?” Of course! Can I prove causation? Foment a political revolt? Er, probably not.

    However, thanks largely to Mark Sisson, I can continue to pursue my own, personal, revolution: the Primal revolution that has enabled me to reject blood sugar medication, blood pressure medication, and cholesterol medication. A revolution that has allowed me to pause and reevaluate my life in a kinder, gentler, more spiritual direction; to breathe and move easier at 60 years than I did at 30!…oh, yeah, and forced me to shop for (smaller) clothing…which I can pretty much afford because real food actually costs less!

  65. We are definately getting larger, not just in America, but here in the UK. Back in the 50’s when I was at school, I only remember one girl who was overweight in my year which had about 60 girls. But you can’t always tell by looking at someone if they are overweight. My grandfather who was of a very stocky build but short, he was the same height as me,and also smoked all his life, lived until he was 92. By today’s standards he would probally be labelled as fat. He worked until he was 70 and then did gardening when he retired and walked everywhere, he didn’t have a car.
    As to the sizes of clothes, they have changed here. When I was in my teens & 20’s I bought size 12, I then put on some weight and needed size 14. Before I went paleo I had to buy size 12 even though I hadn’t changed size. I now need size 10 trousers and sometimes the waist is too large. A pattern I bought last year to make a dress, I needed size 14 verging on size 16!! I have gone down to my teen/20’s weight but I think I am still a bit fat round the middle. Going paleo has reduced my waistline several inches. I’m a skinny build with small bones, not like my grandfather.
    I don’t think we have the right to lecture people about their eating habits, but need to be a role model. If people notice how good you look or how much weight you have lost, and ask you how you did it, then you can plug our diet. I’m still getting good comments about how well I look from people I haven’t seen for a while, I had one today in the supermarket. this really encourages me to continue.

  66. I’m 20 lbs overweight because I drink too much raw milk.

    I also consume too much fruit in combination of a high fat diet.

    I totally OWN my reasons…unlike so many here that come up with excuses such as:
    Medication ruined my metabolism or my parents fed me crap and I’m stuck this way.

    On the other hand, I don’t think some extra pounds have ever hurt anyone, I had more health problems than I could count on 2 hands before going primal.
    I actually weigh more now than before and the chub on my belly wiggles when I laugh but do I care?!

    Health and feeling great is what matters.

  67. I chose fat acceptance over low-fat dieting (the only form of dieting that I had read about/been told about in a positive light) for 10 years. (During that time, my weight varied between about 200 and 250 lbs. I’m a 5’8″ tall woman, so I was decidedly obese.) The up side of this choice was that I saved loads of money over buying books, paying for weight watchers, buying new clothes as my weight yo-yo’ed, etc. I also exercised more than many of the other fat people I know because I found it made me feel good regardless of my weight.

    I read Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It a year and a half ago after a friend recommended them. Since then, I’ve been slowly losing weight on a low carb diet. I feel great, and I plan to eat low carb for the rest of my life.

    I hope that the message that a low fat diet is a terrible way to lose weight gets out (I have several friends trying low-carb after seeing my success), but until then I think that Paul Campos’s message is less destructive than telling people that obesity will kill them while giving them terrible advice about how to fix it.

  68. I agree that the obesity epidemic is greatly exaggerated. Fitness and weight control are the new religion, fueled more by faith than science.

    That said, our modern diet does encourage an unhealthy body. One of the common effects of overindulgence in carbs is sending the appetite out of control. And a side effect is craving more carbs. So kids growing up eating cereal for breakfast and dinner, super-sized portions, sodas everwhere — the list is too numerous to ennumerate — yes! kids are too fat and parents too.

    And, as you say, the health effects of obesity are actually the product of our normal everyday diet. Obesity itself is a symptom of a bad diet and inactive lifestyle.

  69. I have been moving to different continents & countries for 12 years now. I am from Ireland originally. I lived in Norway first where people are in general very fit & healthy. I then moved to Indonesia where obesity in not seen in the general population, quite the opposite due to intense poverty. I then moved to Texas! I was actually shocked I had never seen so many obese people, seeing overweight young children was unbelivable to me how much & what kinds of food were these kids given to counteract all that growth hormone! I recently traveled to Ireland since I was last there people are bigger, I saw overweight kids too, nothing like the volume in Texas, but a definitive shift, I’ve just settled back in Norway and can’t believe the amount of young overweight people I have seen,in my experience the generation below me (I’m 36) is most definitely suffering from weight gain. I truely believe the obesity epidemic us alive and well especially in places like Texas. It’s those poor children I feel for, I’ve seen children just over a year be given coke to drink, surely this can be made illegal, do people realise that this stuff is caffeinated?

  70. I’m from Western Canada (Edmonton), so maybe I live in a magical part of North America where people are a different species than elsewhere, but I can go out into the city to any place where there are a large number of people of all ages and sociioeconomic levels and see with my own eyes that the obesity epidemic just doesn’t exist. We are being told that sixty percent of adults are overweight or obese. This just isn’t observable in Edmonton. Maybe thirty percent, if that.

    How are these figures for population obesity obtained? Where does the data come from in the first place? How to the health authorities find out the weights and heights of a random assortment of citizens? Well they can’t. The figures probably come from measurements of clinical patients. So sure, sixty percent of people who go to a clinic or a hospital are too heavy, but not sixty percent of the general population. That’s bogus.

  71. Not sure if this will help anyone since I don’t have any scientific evidence to back anything up. I’m just a normal human being leading a normal life in Asia.

    I lived in the US but managed to stay thin. In my country, there’s an increase in overweight people but the obesity levels are still much lower. When a nation gets more affluent, people eat more. Portions are larger.

    When I stayed in the US, I could barely finish an entree. Whatever I ate, including burgers, I stuck to portion sizes I’m used to. I walked. I also continued a typical Asian diet – fresh food. Processed and junk food make me lethargic; they still do.

    I’m 38 years old. Theoretically, my metabolism should be short. But the right foods, proper portions and activity helped me remain the same size as my college years. I’m not a fitness professional so my body fat levels are average. I’m between 24 – 25%. My BMI is below 20. I remain 5’4″ and don’t go beyond 120lbs. Blood pressure is either 110/70 or 120/80 whenever I have it taken.

    Again, I must stress, there’s no science involved. I’m just sharing what works for me. I just hope it helps someone else.

  72. I don’t believe that the obesity epidemic is overrated, but I do think that sometimes it’s impossible to recover from years of mistakes.

    I’m a recovering Coke (a-cola) addict. I haven’t had a soda in almost 900 days. I don’t eat sweets or unhealthy snacks (with maybe an exception at a birthday party once a month or so).

    I don’t lose weight, despite working out 3 or 4 times a week. My biggest clothes are starting to fall off me, but my BMI remains the same.

    I’ve resigned myself to the fact that while I can control my fitness, I cannot control my weight or my BMI. I’m only half joking when I say that my goal is to be so muscular that I will be morbidly obese, wearing a size zero, maybe even running marathons (right now I only run a slow 5k).