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Do We Really Wonder WHY We’re Obese?

7 Reasons America is fat - Tips for staying healthy

I’m a people watcher, when I get an opportunity.

I like to wonder about what other people are doing, their motivations, their “story” that day.

Lately, I don’t need statistics to tell me that the nation has an obesity problem. I can see it with my own eyes.

Sometimes I try to estimate the percentage of people in a room who are very obese, a little obese, just a bit overweight or trim and fit (or just a “healthy weight”). I wonder who exercises, who is blessed with an easy metabolism, who eats too much alone late at night.

The percentages are bothersome.

But even more so is the number of truly overweight children, including young, young children who are carrying far more than babyfat on their 3- or 4-year-old waists. It makes me want to cry thinking of the life in the healthcare system that these children are destined for if nothing changes.

And I do wonder “why?” How does it happen that someone who should be making adults roll their eyes, shake their heads and say, “Phew, where do they GET so much energy? They’re making me tired just watching them!” is carrying so much extra weight?

America is Fat. Period.

Want to know the numbers, in case you haven’t been noticing? In 2009-2010, 34.6 percent of boys and 32.6 percent of girls were overweight or obese with fully 17% of today’s kids falling in the obese category – tripling since 1980.

Most currently, the CDC lists adult obesity at over 1/3, or 35.7%, of the U.S. population, with even the healthiest states having at least 1/5 of the population rating as “obese.”

What is Going On?

Why Americans are fat - what not to do!

When you consider portion sizes, fast food, junk food, marketing, open-all-night restaurants and our “eat all the time” mentality that begins with children in nursery at church, schools, and sporting events, in some ways, it’s no wonder we’re having an obesity problem.

Since last spring, I’ve been coming across various articles touching on the subject and just letting them all mix together and brew with my thoughts. The trend is simply frightening…

Food, Junk Food, All the Time

Why america is fat - so much junk food!

I just about stood up at my computer and applauded Yoni Freedhof for this article, “Why is Everyone Always Giving my Kids Junk Food?” He attacks the truly American notion that food – junk food – should be standard at every gathering longer than 19  minutes attended by any child between the ages of 6 months and 18 years (my words, not his).

“It’s never just ‘one,'” Freedhof counters the defenders of junk food at kids’ events, estimating that those “just one” opportunities may easily result in an extra 14 pounds of sugar per year, per child. That’s SEVEN TIMES as much as an adult would consume in an entire year 200 years ago. It’s also an extra 25,000 calories, if I did my math right:

120 teaspoons in a pound of sugar x 14 pounds = 1680 teaspoons of sugar x 15 calories per teaspoon = 25,200 extra calories

When folks say, “But it’s just ONE,” it really gets me going. Maybe I want to give a fun treat to my kids, too, instead of them being “just oned” to death every time they’re out of my sight! Maybe “just one” just doesn’t add up.

I’m thinking of taking this math to our school’s parent-teacher group and recommending a “no sugary treat” birthday policy, since more math perpetuates the problem:

25 kids in a class = 25 birthdays + 3-5 holiday parties + a “good job” treat once a week from the teacher = 60-70 built-in sugary treats in a school year.

That’s 20% of the days of the year, and my kids are allowed one dessert a day. If I don’t make them count those “occasional” treats as their “dessert,” that’s a 20% increase in their sugar intake, just like that.

And I know, many of you are saying, “Katie, you shouldn’t even allow that ‘just one’ every day!” And you may be right, but thus far, we do. I try to make healthier homemade desserts, sometimes serve fruit for dessert, and I DO count outside-the-house treats as the “one” for the day – when I know about them.

So thank you, Yoni Freedhof, for this:

People other than their parents giving children junk food shouldn’t be considered “normal,” and until that attitude changes, I guess I’ll just have to keep pointing out how crazy our new normal has become.

I’m happy to stand in the gap on this one and be “not normal” when that “normal” is so crazy!

Is it Wheat’s Fault?

Is wheat the cause of the obesity epidemic?

Dr. William Davis thinks so. The author of Wheat Belly writes on his blog all about the changes in wheat over the past 40 or so years and how it’s adding pounds to people, even when they’re not overeating wheat.

Gliadin, in high amounts in modern wheat, interferes with the “satiety” response that tells you you’re full:

People who consume gliadin consume 400 calories more per day; people who remove gliadin reduce calorie intake by 400 calories per day. (source)

In this frightening exploration “What if?” Dr. Davis wonders if the wheat mess was intentional, a product of Big Food and drug manufacturers, giddy with the possibility – that is reality now – of people with diabetes spending $1500 per month to manage their disease.

Is it Preservatives and Additives?

Food reporter Melanie Warner thinks so. She blames processed food companies (and the foods they create) for taking real nutrition out of food and injecting synthetic vitamins and minerals back in – made of things like sheep grease and plastic – and calling it “healthy.”

Her book Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Foods Took Over the American Meal is the subject of this great interview where she talks about the processed foods she has purchased that last years beyond their expiration date – probably longer than the obese people eating them.

7 Reasons America Got So Fat 1 F

Is it Food Marketing?

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research Program thinks so. Their research on how food marketing both attacks and affects children under 17, as well as the easy access this population has to junk food, is a cause for alarm and a call for national change.

They claim that unhealthy food is marketed at a much higher rate that healthy food to children and adolescents – and of course that it’s working.

Is it Cheap Food?

Does cheap food make us fat?

Derek Thompson thinks so. Although it’s clear to me and my real food budget that food prices are definitely rising, the amount people spend on food is not. Compared to other countries and other eras, Americans now spend a smaller percentage of their income on food then ever.

What that really means is not that food prices are going down, but that convenience food is cheap in comparison to real food, and especially that people are making more money overall – but not spending it on food.

Statistics also show that almost HALF of many Americans’ food budgets is spent on food prepared outside the home, compared to less than 10% in 1900. And we all know how healthy and appropriate restaurant food is…

Thompson is wrong that food is actually getting cheaper – and he may be wrong that the poor are eating less food – but in my perspective his statistics point to a lack of priority on food and also an availability of cheap processed foods – high in carbs, sodium, and fillers – that allows even the poor to overeat and become obese.

Is it Soda?

Probably. Studies show that drinking your extra calories can be worse than just consuming them in other ways, and one can of soda has more sugar than an average woman is recommended to consume in an entire day. Diet sodas don’t help either – people who drink diet gain weight as much, if not more quickly, than other soda drinkers.

Is it Salt, Sugar and Fat and the Almighty Dollar?

Americans are fat! What mistakes are they making?

You bet Michael Moss thinks so. His book, Salt Sugar Fat, is a must read. I only got through the “sugar” section before taking it back to the library, but I’ll be getting it out again (or buying it, which is a rare thing for me).

I was introduced to Michael Moss in this tome of an article at the NY Times: “The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food.” Be careful, even if it’s late at night, you’ll probably read the whole thing, and it will take a whole hour, and then you’ll be compelled to put his book on your wish list at the library or Amazon. It’s that compelling – and terrifying.

A fascinating quote from the book:

“The obesity trend is an epidemic, …and there is no question its roots are directly tied to the expansion of fast food, junk food, and soft drink consumption. Whether you can identify any one of those things is probably a fair question. Soft drink guys prospect on that all the time. But you can look at the obesity rates, and you can look at per capita consumption of sugary soft drinks and overlay those on a map, and I promise you: They correlate about .99999 percent.” Jeffrey Dunn, former Coca Cola executive, interviewed by Michael Moss

I can hardly even begin to break down everything that Moss covers in the book, but it suffices to say that Big Food companies know that their products aren’t good for Americans, but they still continue to think of ways to mass produce, package, extend, cheapen and market their wares to the American people (and beyond) – with devastating health consequences.

More, more, more is the mantra of Big Food – more salt, more sugar, more fat, at least to the perfect “bliss point” at which it is most pleasurable to the most people; more products, more line extensions (flavor varieties of the same product); more grocery store space; more sales. More American people eating too much food and not the right kind. More junk. And More Profit.

As I read, I could have looked up in shock every few pages, sharing a nugget of horror I didn’t know about food marketing or fascinating fact about human physiology – for example, children are actually wired to enjoy more sweetness than adults, as much as double. Sugar dulls pain, which is why hospitals even use sugar water for infant heel pokes (a procedure we opted out of). African Americans also enjoy both sweet and salt more than Caucasians, a fact food processing companies are quick to exploit in their marketing. Following suit, rates of diabetes soar in black populations.

You can get a really good idea of what the book will be like by reading the NY Times article, which is taken a lot from the opening section of the book. Every eater in America should read it, in my humble opinion.

Is It Just Too Darn Much Food?

The average size of a soda 50 years ago was about 7 ounces, if I’m remembering correctly from Salt Sugar Fat. When is the last time you saw a 7-oz. soda? Or a teacup sized portion of pasta in a restaurant, which is a normal European size according to Dr. Andrew Weil in his cookbook, True Food.

A recent ABC News piece explored the reasons why even as the rate of physical activity increases (Yay, exercise!), the rate of obesity also continues to be on the rise:

Clearly, increasing physical activity alone is having a small impact on our nation’s obesity levels, said Dr. Lou Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

“There are several other factors to consider,” he said. “One of the main ones being the availability of too much food.”

In addition to diet, Aronne noted several other potential contributing factors — everything from lack of sleep to the effects of certain medications on weight gain. Even changes in the microorganisms in our intestines may play a part, he said.

“At an individual level, the energy balance is what is important and that boils down to increasing physical activity and reducing overall food intake.”

So really…it’s kind of everything. Anything. Something that has gone wrong.

So What is the Reason for the Obesity Epidemic?

We can stop looking for that magic bullet shot at health from the grassy knoll. There is no one problem that has caused obesity.

YES, obesity is the fault of fast food.

YES, obesity is soda’s fault.

YES, obesity is a result of the sedentary lifestyle, and therefore

YES, computers can take some of the blame for the obesity epidemic.

YES, obesity is food processing companies’ fault, and

YES, obesity is the FDA’s fault for allowing so many additives and craziness in our “food.”

YES, television and the commercials that come with that form of entertainment play a role in obesity.

YES, obesity is the individual’s fault when they don’t have enough control to stop eating, and

YES, obesity is also advanced by chemicals like artificial sweeteners and MSG that interfere with our natural ability to feel satiated and stop eating.

YES, sugar causes obesity, wheat causes obesity, convenience foods cause obesity, and our general laziness in accepting “quicker and better” and “I have more money than time” causes obesity.

YES, you betcha burgeoning portions, both in restaurants and at home, have contributed to the obesity epidemic.

YES, obesity is my fault, for all the times I purchased sugar and fast food and supported the industry with my dollar.

Like it or not, obesity IS. It’s too late for prevention. It’s too late to point fingers.

It’s time for a solution.

I don’t really believe that “calories in minus calories expended in activity” is the simple solution as that last ABC News quote seems to end with, but less food and more exercise are two vital pieces to the puzzle.

The right kind of food and the right kind of moving, now we’re getting somewhere.

Your turn…where does the conversation go from here? Invite people you know to join in with their two cents…

More from Kitchen Stewardship® on the subject:

Sometimes all the information out there on real food just ignites me to ask even more questions… or scream… or write. More often than not, it’s a combination of the three. I’ve shared my thoughts on a whole variety of topics here. Pour a glass of water kefir and enjoy my inner thoughts.

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Amazon from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.
Category: Research

85 thoughts on “Do We Really Wonder WHY We’re Obese?”

  1. I think if we eliminated modern wheat *completely* then a lot of the modern food industry would be left in the dust and real food would have to take over. I wish I could get it out of my house totally! I have read Wheat Belly. Days I have wheat, I am bloated and my gut a wreck. The longer I am without it the better I feel and the better mood I have. Gliadin makes a difference. I too loved Wheat Belly book!

  2. I wonder if our taste buds or brain develops a tolerance for a certain level of salt or fat or other flavor, to where we must have more “flavor.” I can remember when cool ranch Doritos were all that. Now we’ve got extreme Doritos. Dangerously cheesy Cheetos. What, the original Cheetos weren’t cheesy enough? I wonder if this may cause genetic changes in how we taste food that could be passed on to our children. Has anyone researched this that you know of?

    1. Karen,
      Yes, the “law of diminishing returns” it’s called for just about anything – entertainment, recreation, food, etc. I don’t know of any research offhand, but I bet there is some! You’d like “Salt Sugar Fat” by Michael Moss! 🙂 Katie

  3. How about schools breakfasts and lunches. I make my daughter’s lunch, but at the beginning of last year, when she started Kindergarten, I let her eat the “free” school breakfast they offer. It didn’t take me very long to stop that. I was astounded at how much sugar was in these breakfasts. Here is a typical school breakfast: 1 apple juice, 1 serving diced pear (syrup kind), 1 prepackaged sugary cereal, OH, and a trix yogurt. I am not kidding. I think all of us here can estimate that, that is about 30-40 grams of sugar. The schools/government ought to be ashamed of themselves shoveling that food onto our poor children – not mine!

  4. The good news is, there are so many healthy foods available. And good food cooked in a healthy way actually tastes delicious. I think we should encourage people to cook more, eat less fast food, and get some kind of exercise every single day. In other words, just take care of yourself.

  5. I’m surprised that there is no mentioned of THE GUT at all in this article? Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride implicates obesity as a symptom of poor gut health.

    1. Rachael,
      Good one!!! There’s no mention of it just because I was collecting these articles all from mainstream sources and certainly wasn’t saying I hit every possibility – but YES, definitely, I bet more Americans have damaged guts than not, so that’s probably a very important consideration. Thank you for adding it!!! 🙂 Katie

  6. Katie, First of all, I love your article. There certainly is a growing problem in America, and at this rate it’s only going to get worse. I have struggled with being over weight since having my first child more than 10 years ago. I decided that it was too hard to lose weight, so why not eat all of that delicious unhealthy food that I wanted. And that’s exactly what I did, I consumed large amounts of junk food, from chip, to cookies, to snack cakes, pizza, chinese food, and anything I could get my hands on. I simply enjoyed the taste of it all, and wouldn’t just stop at one, oh no, I had to eat and eat until the whole package/box was gone. Then in late December of last year I took a good hard look at my self in the mirror, I was wearing a womens size 20, and realized…. I’m in my 30’s and I don’t want to live the rest of my life in a fat girls body. I sat down and cried, and decided that day that I was going to eat healthy, not just healthy but all organic, and I was going to start exercising! I also cut down my portions, and really started being in control of my body, and I’ve never felt better. Today as I sit here and type I am wearing a size 10, yes, I still have some weight to lose, but I am doing it. I took back control of my body, and will never lose that control again. If I can do it, anyone can. Don’t say ” I just don’t have the will power”, I used that excuse for years. There is no excuse for not eating healthy… Just do it!

    1. Holy cow, girl, you really took life by the horns and kicked butt!! I’m super impressed by your full-on change-everything attitude and you obvious success. Way to go! You have more will power than most people I kow, including me. Woot! 🙂 Katie

  7. Has anyone thought of this… When kids were not obese one parent usually stayed home and tended to the house. Cooked the food and provided nutritious snacks. When kids got home from school they were able to go outside and play because there was someone at home. People didn’t eat out because they couldn’t afford it. Now society shames people if they stay at home. Both parents have to work to make ends meet. Making those ends meet means driving nice cars m, going on trips, taking kids out to eat. Kids have to go in the house when they get home and play video games because both of there parents are still at home. Mom and dad are both so busy that they don’t have time to cook so they pick up junk on the way home. People dont have tine to go outside much less time to work out because its not the popular thing to do. We are making society fat in order to keep up with what we think is right.

    1. Amy,
      Overscheduling is certainly a part – in fact, I’ve said a million times this week, as we rushed to soccer M/T/W/Fr and Sat., “I get why people do convenience foods.” It was SO hard! This is the first season we’ve ever had 2 kids involved, and oy! I hated it. We didn’t do any fast food or convenience food, but it was TOUGH. And if I worked all day to make those “ends” meet (i.e. luxuries) I would have self-destructed. I know many, many people really don’t have luxuries and still both parents work, but it’s clear that there are plenty of dual-income families who could make different choices and cut one income. So yes, yes….our culture cries out for fast food because of the choices we make, so sad.
      🙂 Katie

  8. Making healthy choices and feeling sated without overeating is something I work toward every day, every minute of the day. My mom in her 1950s sensibilities had me trying diets from my mid-teen and up. She was a seamstress and tailor and wanted me to have the perfect figure: bust and hips, equal circumference; waist, 10″ smaller. I should have been 32-22-32. (1) I tried the safflower oil diet which suggested a spoonful of safflower oil before each meal. (2) I starved myself on 500 cal./day until I almost collapsed about a week later. (3) I exercised religiously, working on my hips and thighs! (4) I joined Overeaters Anonymous and (5) TOPS (take off pounds sensibly). (6) Weight Watchers worked for me the first time, but then my husband became critically ill and could not absorb nutrients from food. He was on TPN (IV nutrition) for about three years until a miracle surgery saved his life! During this time food became a huge issue for him because he was trying to gain weight. He ate ever high calorie food he liked even though the nutrition would be lost within minutes. While he was ill and trying to gain back some of the 100 lbs. he had lost, I put on most of the weight I had lost. Now my husband has to eat multiple times a day to keep his weight at a healthy level (since he will always have some absorption problems).

    Recently the university in my hometown started a research program for overweight women between the ages of 50-80. I applied and was accepted. The study involved three groups. Group One eats high protein/low carb diet and does not exercise. Group Two eats high protein/low carb diet and exercises with a trainer. Group Three eats high carb/low protein diet and exercises with a trainer. All are under the supervision and counseling from a licensed dietitian. I was randomly selected for Group One. In 6 months, I lost 8.9% of my body weight. I have several more pounds to go and now have the privilege of exercising with a trainer for the next 6 months. The whole group uses to record food intake.

    Not everyone has such a wonderful opportunity, but I want to say a registered dietitian (not nutritionist) is the key to successful weight loss. I learned so much about healthy eating while being counseled privately and during group meetings. The science of food is just amazing. I now understand things I never understood before! I believe I’m finally on the road to a healthy body and a happy life. I will always be on guard about sliding back into my “comfort zone.”

  9. I just wanted to chime in with the comments that weight is not always a clear reflection of health. My mother and I would not be considered overweight but we both have struggled with health issues our whole lives. Only over the last few years have we both learned that severe food intolerances and allergies have caused much of our ill health. For my mom, adjusting her diet has allowed her to gain weight as her body was actually unable to absorb many nutrients- her intestinal tract was so inflamed. Cutting out almost all processed foods (one of my allergies is corn) hasn’t made me loose any weight but has made me feel so much healthier.

    Our focus should be less on numbers like weight or BMI and more on health promoting habits and life styles. I spent too many years thinking the numbers on the scale were what was important- I’m now 20 lbs heavier that I was as a young adult but feel much healthier. In fact I wouldn’t mind gaining a little more weight by increasing my muscle mass.

  10. Very good post and it is so true. I too am an observer of people and admit that I still need to trim off a few more pounds.. But I see people struggling to walk, people with knee problems etc. that would feel better, stronger carrying less weight. People are stressed out and tired and many pinching pennies so we tend to think that fast food is easy and can be a cheap way of eating. It is a result of many things but we all need motivation and role models…We need to be encouraged and inspired. Many in the limelight may be thin but are not healthy role models. Many of us cannot afford gym memberships nor do some of us want to be their. Dance if affordable for children, bike riding on trails would be great as well as safe areas for kids to roller skate.. There are solutions..

  11. First, I want to say that some folks are genetically designed to carry more weight – AND are healthy doing so. I also want to point out that, if your health isn’t optimal, you are NOT one of those people!
    Sencond, I appreciate an article like this one that gathers ALL the factors involved in the obesity problem facing our nation; because, there is no doubt that it’s ALL of those factors that need to be addressed.
    One thing that I rarely hear discussed is the idea that OBESE PEOPLE ARE SICK, AND OBESITY IS A SYMPTOM OF ILLNESS, NOT THE CAUSE.
    You’ve laid out the causes, beautifully! Obesity is just one symptom of failing health; actually, of a cascade of ongoing health failures. Attacking the problem from strictly weight-loss perspectives is going to be as frustrating as taking prescriptions that control symptoms but don’t CURE.
    If we see obesity as the symptom and not the cause, then we can begin to attack the problem in ways that are both powerfully motivating and more effective.
    I was over 250 lbs in 2008; I suffered from nearly every health problem listed under the definition of ‘metabolic syndrome’, including the mental problems. I was in pain 24/7. People looked at me when I ate in public as if it was a crime for me to eat. But I wasn’t eating a LOT of food; I was just eating the wrong things and unknowingly consuming huge quanties of toxins in the process. Add to that the medications I’d been taking for years before this for multiple health problems that continued to just get worse, and my conclusing was simply that I was being drowned in toxins.
    A visit to a chiropractor (in desperation) revealed what no MD had ever told me: a huge percentage of my weight was fluid retention. I WAS SUFFERING FROM SYSTEMIC INFLAMMATION.
    That began my journey to HEAL IN ORDER TO LOSE WEIGHT. The order of priority is hugely important!!! I can’t stress this enough.
    I began an regimen of eliminating toxins from my home (commercial cleaning and personal care products) and my diet (all the foods talked about in the article). I did this one change at a time. I learned that making my own cleaners and personal care cleansers was not only easy, NOT at time-comsuming as shopping for them, but it also saved a HUGE percentage of my monthly budget! THIS is what enabled me to start changing how I eat. Also, I stopped eating anything I didn’t make for myself. Yeah, that was not a happy choice; there are plenty of times eating out made sense. But I was so sick, I knew if I didn’t do what was necessary to heal, I knew I was going to die a slow and excrutiatingly painful death. So, I stuck to my guns. No eating out. (I only had to do that for two years, but I still do it only rarely!)
    Today, I have none of the symptoms I had in 2008. (BTW, I stopped all meds back then!) I was wearing jeans with a 44″ waist in 2008, today I wear jeans with a 36″ waist and they are not tight! I did detox soaks (it’s critical to remove the toxins from the body continually and gently!). I focused on an intensely anti-inflammatory diet. I added herbs and spices and only 5 supplements. I now buy only fresh foods and most of them chemical-free/local. I dehydrate and freeze extra quantities when I can. I consume kefir that I make myself, and will soon be venturing into kefir-fermented sourdough to see if my gut is sufficiently healed to allow grains back into my diet.
    IF one focuses on HEALING and doing it through nutrition, unless irreparable damage has already been done, the changes will be gradual, consistent, and the changes in diet/lifestyle will become permanent – as will the healthy weight.
    Obesity is rarely a matter of too much food alone, if at all; it’s a matter of illness. Use your food as medicine, SEE it as medicine; changing how one percieves food is key to using it to heal instead of allowing it to destroy health!
    BTW, until this year, I had not lost enough weight or gained sufficient strength/stamina (really, my health was devastated 5 years ago!) to do any kind of physical activity, so all that weight lost and all that health improvement came without exercise. Now that I’ve reached this particulare degree of health, I’m gardening a little and doing more physical activity. As my health/weight improve, I expect to not only be ABLE to move more/better, but to also want to and enjoy it!
    I know this is a really long post, but this stuff is really important!

    1. heh Sorry for the typos! In case I wasn’t clear in my explanation: making my own cleaners/personal care cleansers saved me so much money that I could spend the extra for healthy,non-toxic, nutrient-dense, local and organic foods. Oh, and real food doesn’t leave me wanting more when I ‘m done eating; real food fills and nourishes with less quantity. Counting calories is something I’ve never had to do in this journey, and never expect to. ALSO, the improvements have been extremely gradual and sometimes that is discouraging; but, what was frustratingly gradual was also consistently ongoing…and it still continues that way. I expect to eventually regain a trim waistline, weight around 135 lbs (healthy for my height), and be able to engage in any activity I wish. I thought I was to sick to ever be as healthy as I am today, again. I now know that this path will give me better health than I had 20 years ago. I say again: FOCUS ON HEALING AND THE WEIGHT WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF.

    2. D’Ann,
      It IS important, and I love your story, your encouragement, your priorities, and your success! Fantastic!! I want to cheer from the rooftops anytime anyone grabs hold of their health, breaks free from meds, and WINS the battle against the bondage of illness. Woo hoooooooooo!! 🙂 Katie

  12. Susan Alexander

    I don’t have the time to read all the replies, but I firmly believe it is more the “What” than the “How Much” that is causing us to be fat – both with regards to food and exercise. There is a false assumption that you can get healthier by simply reducing your intake of food and increasing your exercise. And while that will give you slight gains, your long-term health isn’t going to be that much different. However if you focus on eating more whole, natural food and less junk that came from a box, jar, can, restaurant and you do some form of useful HIIT training (CrossFit or otherwise), you are going to see the most “bang for your buck” with your health improving, your weight dropping, and in general just feeling better. Focus on “What” you are doing and do it carefully and intentionally.

    And as a second part of this point – how much easier is it to stuff yourself with pizza, chips, bread, and general junk than to stuff yourself with a nice steak and a bunch of broccoli. You can’t possibly tell me that it’s easier to overeat on the healthy foods!

  13. Did want to add…we live in one of the skinny states and I can count on my hands the # of my immediate neighbors who appear to be overweight. But then we have this wonderful common backyard and all the kids spend any time they can outside with the other kids…I wish I saw more construction like this, though I understand that many might not be comfortable with the setup.

    Nonetheless, my little boy frequently garners comments to the effect of “ahhh, got yourself a little linebacker there, eh?” Thing is, he’s nowhere’s near overweight – just 40% height, 60% weight, and very broad shouldered. He’s one wide little dude:)

    Just another area where things may not be quite as meets the eye…

    1. Cory,
      I am envious of your common backyard! 😉

      What interests me about your comment is that those folks are saying something positive about your boy, who is built like my toddler apparently. It’s ok for boys to be big, but if you had a little girl who was healthy and husky…what would people say? Another post for another time, but gender issues and appearance are fascinating too…

      🙂 Katie

      1. I so agree…sometimes I wonder if “linebacker” isn’t code for “man is that kid fat!”, but overall I think that yes, it is a positive comment.

        You got me thinking about the elementary-school friend of mine who was husky. In fabulous shape – she did swim team all summer, and their family owned a cabin in the mountains that they had to backpack in to, and did, even while the kids were all elementary-school aged and younger. At one point her mother, who was also husky, my friend, and I were discussing the backpacking excursions, and her mom mentioned that she’d put less weight on me for a hike than on her daughter, since I had a smaller frame. Looking back, I get the distinct impression that she was proud of her sturdy daughter and found me somewhat frail!

  14. Nana Phyllis

    I took a group of middle school students toChina this summer. We ate white rice, lots of veggies, watermelon at the end of every meal. Very few people were overweight. I lost a few pounds. One of my students leaned over and said to me (at the first American airport upon our return) “everyone here is fat.” I agreed, what a contrast!

    1. I bet you walked a lot too! My SIL’s sister just got back from 10 mos. in China and lost a TON of weight; now that she’s back in the land of convenience food and junk snacks, she knows it will be a battle to keep it off but is motivated by how great she looks and healthy she feels. I’m impressed your student noticed the difference…good eye opener for them! 🙂 Katie

  15. I agree with all of these, but would add in the video games and TVas another cause. I have seen different ways peoplehave raised their children. In my family we grew up eating lots of veggies and fruits and hardly any fast food. My husband on the other hand ate a lot of fast food and prepackaged food. He also had his own TV in his room that also had a gaming system hooked up to it. As a result of how he grew up his eating habits were formed that way. he has struggled with his weight for eyars now. This summer he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Since then he has been watching what he ate.
    We have been trying to start eating more real food. Its hard since my husband doesn’t like trying new things. We also have 2 kids who now run a risk of diabetes. My oldest who is 5 hit the 50% range in weight when she was 3. She is a little heavy around the wasit, but lately she has been loosing weight and I’m not that worried since she is still very active. My youngest who is 2 has yet to hit the 10% in weight, but is in the 50% for height. He is skinny, but healthy. It saddens me when I see another little boy that is my son’sage, but weighs as much as my 5 year old does. We watch what our kids eat and pray that they wouldn’t have to deal with the health problems their dad has.

  16. Arthur in the Garden!

    Its all about quantity! We eat way more than we need. Add that we eat too much processed food and not enough fresh food that causes weight gain.

  17. Jo-Lynne Shane {Musings of a Housewife}

    I can’t read all the comments but a few caught my eye. The school celebrations… they finally cut food out of birthday parties at our school. They do have food at the holiday parties. I think that is just FINE! Kids will have their birthday cake at home with their family, and probably another at their “kid party” and on it goes. With 25 kids in the class, that is 25 days + holidays = 30 that my kid gets a cupcake at school. And every time he goes to a friend’s house… and at every sports game… and between church services…. I agree that food is a part of celebrations, but it used to be good food. And now it’s crap. Drives me batty.

  18. Jo-Lynne Shane {Musings of a Housewife}

    PREACH. And I daresay, we have gone past the point of no return. It’s terribly sad and frustrating all at the same time.

  19. Elizabeth Prince

    Hi Katie. Before I respond to this important post, I want to thank you for your wonderful blog. You evangelize for health as St. Francis taught us to teach Christianity: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” As a fellow Catholic, I appreciate your light touch, even when you’re shouting from the desert like John the Baptist, as with today’s post. (Hopefully you’re not eating bugs, too! You can’t let the epidemic of obesity get you down!) While I agree with your overall thesis and am so grateful you posted it, I question some assertions. The first: “Although it’s clear to me and my real food budget that food prices are definitely rising, the amount people spend on food is not. Compared to other countries and other eras, Americans now spend a smaller percentage of their income on food then ever.” What that really means is not that food prices are going down, but that convenience food is cheap in comparison to real food, and especially that people are making more money overall [bold mine] – but not spending it on food.
    I take exception to data used to support this claim (people making more $ overall) particularly as it relates to what seemed a rather cavalier note, something like “the [obese] poor we will have always with us.” For starters, Americans do not make more money then they did … when? I don’t know either the time span and/or dominant political party he is using for comparative purposes, nor what statistical purpose justifies his measurement. Because Americans certainly have not made more money since 2008. When compared with overall productivity, as it was understood throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s when the government started measuring these things (Office of Management and Budget) we are hemorrhaging paychecks. People like my father, a merchant seaman, and my mother, a junior high school teacher for 47 years, had real security “back in the day”, the same 50’s and 60’s. They had, in addition to very generous income packages, “Major Medical” health insurance, with coverage close to 100%. Both parents had lavish pensions, monies they’d sorely earned, monies the Church reminded us, just yesterday, are essential to human dignity. Over 40% of Americans still do not have healthcare, and of those who do, it’s “catastrophic”. It’s a catastrophe all right. Catastrophic coverage will cover your catastrophic coma only after your co-pay of $15,000 kicks in. $15,000 you do not have, as the cumulative benefits that allowed a different generation to save money (imagine!) and have the type of fiscal security that could account for catastrophe – again, going off the rails medically didn’t happen to a middle class that now is in its death throws. As to the question of the poor, and why they don’t eat real foods. The farmer’s market doesn’t take their fresh harvests to inner city Oakland. Nor do they take blueberries to the South Bronx. Basic staples, such as chicken, celery, carrots – these foods are either completely unavailable, or – the greater sin in my book –the price for celery in a grocery store in east Oakland usually runs anywhere from three to five times what it would cost you or me. And like you, I know the price of real food is skyrocketing. But you can buy five giant Hershey bars for carry around cash. It also may be that certain poor populations feel so locked in, with reason, that luscious homemade chicken stock is not a source of hope. Pepsi is. “Judge not…” I remind myself. Finally, there’s the question of childhood obesity. I taught in a “blue ribbon” Catholic high school in the California Bay Area. The student body was 70% Filipino. Both parents worked, many multiple jobs, to give their kids the shot they missed. On each floor of Moreau Catholic were vending machines with sodas, Rollo bars, Twinkies. It was appalling! My department chair in theology went to the mat to have these machines removed, or else subject to a “real foods makeover”. He got nowhere. Administration thought access to junk food would be a selling point in the hustle to “close” more kids at higher tuition, year after year. What interests me in how these darling second generation kids, brand new Americans, followed the tradition of their culture – at least concerning food. In a student body of 1100, two were overweight. Let he/she/it who has ears to hear… This opinionated Catholic is signing off, but not before telling you again how grateful I am for your sly stewardship.

    1. Elizabeth,
      What a lovely post – you should blog, truly. I’m not sure if I’m grinning because I’m “sly” or about to go eat bugs because of my numbers mistake. 😉

      The way I read the author’s graphs that I linked to – and quite honestly, the disposable income that people seem to have in the upper middle and upper class, and maybe the middle class too (not sure where the numbers fall) – seems to show that overall, people have more money to spend. They might not spend it wisely, they might not have good access to medical insurance, but there’s money there. On his graphs, even the poor spent 1/3 of their food budgets on meals out of the home. If you’re truly poor, you shouldn’t be able to afford eating out, IMHO. I think any comparison was with the 1980s or a bit before. But the real point is that people are (a) spending a lot at restaurants, more than ever, and (b) Americans don’t spend as much of a percentage of their income on food as do other countries. You bring up many other points that are a mess in our society and economy, though – it’s not just food!

      Thanks for being opinionated right along with me, and it’s nice that stewardship comes through, even though I clearly use LOTS of words, not exactly Franciscan in my silence. 😉 Katie

  20. I’m reading The China Study, which has its faults but is overall a sensible recommendation of complex carbohydrates from whole foods and much lower amounts of animal protein than the average American diet. Worth adding to your nutrition library if it’s not already there.

    1. Julie,
      I tried to get through the China Study a while back, but I just couldn’t do it. Since they recommend NO animal products at all, it didn’t jive with what feels right and what many healthy people have been doing for ages. Also, the science is questionable – simply leaving out outlying populations, etc.

      However – yes – whole foods, complex carbs, less junky meat for most Americans would help. I’m of the opinion that fewer carbs would help even more though – I think everyone should try grain-free for a month and see how they feel. If no change, go back to normal. But I think many would learn something about their bodies doing that.

      Thanks for the recommendation! 🙂 Katie

  21. Timely yet again, Katie. When I was walking my dog in our neighborhood park yesterday evening I was appalled at the evidence of the obesity problem visible everywhere I looked.

    Something that really bugs me is the connection between obesity and class. I’m a member of the blue-blood old-money parish in my city, and obesity is rare there. Plenty of folks who could stand to lose 10-15lbs, but very few who need to lose 50. I also live at the slum’s edge, where obesity is epidemic. The few thin adults in my neighborhood are mostly sick or addicts. It’s heartbreaking, and there’s no easy, silver-bullet fix to the problem.

    BTW, I spent my first 37 yrs overweight/obese. For the past 5.5 years I’ve been at a healthy weight. Change is possible. But I know the barriers in the way of so many of my neighbors…

    1. i wonder how much of the ‘obesity is a class issue’ comes from the fact that wealthier people ahve the option of plastic surgery/weight loss surgery and the poorer folks do not. However it has been discussed time and time again that poorer communities do not have as much access to fresh health food and rely more on fast/convience food whether it be because of convenience or cost. I really enjoyed that show that Jamie Oliver did a couple years ago where he went into the schools and revamped their menus with healthy choices that the kids would actually eat.

    2. Way to go, Sharon!

      So true about the class difference, and it comes down to a number of related factors, I think: education, TIME to “work out” and/or make good food, ease of convenience foods, availability of fresh food (for some inner cities), and even, as I mentioned in the post, a propensity for African Amer populations toward salt and sugar. Sad landscape….

    3. One factor in my neighborhood: according to the 2010 census, 45.8% of households have no access to a motorized vehicle. It’s 8.9% for the rest of the city. There are plenty of neighborhood corner markets and they’re excellent for soft drinks and chips and beer but nutritious food is hard to find (and costs a lot more than in the big modern supermarket). We have buses, but doing grocery shopping by bus is not easy at all.

  22. Vanessa Johnson

    It was interesting, but I couldn’t get over how judgmental you are. That’s what really bothered me. I’ve lost a ton of weight, and am still considered “obese” and will still probably be considered “obese” and/or “overweight” for the rest of my life according to BMI standards because with the frame & bone structure I have, I’d just look weird & malnurished if I weighed the 105 lbs that the BMI calculator says that I should. I work out daily, and don’t have the flat stomach, the perfect arms or legs that society says that I should, and most likely will never have because I don’t like the idea of plastic surgery. So maybe quit looking at everybody else? Just because you think that they don’t do anything, doesn’t mean that they don’t. That person sitting in the chair who looks obese, could actually be the one who goes to the gym every night, while you just go home and watch tv. I’ve worked my tail off to get where I am, and just because I don’t have the perfect body doesn’t mean I just sit on my butt and eat Big Macs all day.

    1. I think the “B” in BMI should stand for BS. By the charts, I’d have to loose about 15lbs to be underweight, but I know very well that I’d actually be underweight just 5lbs under my current weight.

      1. BMI just doesn’t make sense. I work for a company that deploys civilians to work with the military. One of the medical requirements is a BMI under 35 (i.e. not obese). We have had to turn away some incredibly fit, healthy, people just because their BMI is too high even though they are perfectly fit for duty. While the amount of weight you carry on your frame is important, I think your overall health is a better guide to how healthy one is (like the poster above who is obese but her ‘numbers’ are fine). My BMI is 39, and I would certinally like to lose weight and am working towards that goal with proper diet and exercise however my cholesterol is excellent, my glucose is fine, and my bp is slightly elevated (normal for me is around 110/90) so I do take medication for that but it runs in my family. My doctor seems pretty confident that even if I lost 100 lbs I would still have issues with my bp just because of the family history.

    2. Vanessa,
      I’m sorry my ramblings came across as judgmental – part of my “wondering” about people’s story IS giving them the benefit of the doubt, as much as I can. I do know that so many factors contribute to weight/size and also that a healthy weight is not the picture perfect one (yuck).

      And actually, if anything, my butt will be huge someday because of “blogger butt” – I don’t watch much TV. 😉

      Again, I feel badly that you felt judged, but I promise I am applauding your hard work and love that you’re taking control of your health! 🙂 Katie

    3. I work at a women’s gym/diet center and we mostly ignore BMI and focus on the percentage of body fat. BMI charts do not take into account that people with very low body fat will weigh heavy because a pound of fat has about twice the volume of a pound of muscle. They also do not account for the fact that women are supposed to have more fat than men and everyone should have more fat as they age. Fat is important to your body chemistry and too little can be as bad or worse than too little.

  23. I think sugar (and junk food) is an addiction, like many other things… and it’s hard to break bad habits and addiction without God’s help. Even I, only 24 years old, and living a relatively healthy lifestyle, found it really hard to drop quite a bit of weight after my first son was born, even though I was breastfeeding. It took some prayer and some mild health issues, but we realized that I have a gluten and nut sensitivity, in addition to needing to cut out more sugar in my diet. It’s been a long couple of years since then, and I continue to learn more about diet and what it means to truly be “healthy”. We are now on the journey of eating “real, whole food”, fermenting dairy and veggies at home, soaking grains, buying more organic whole foods than ever before. And we all feel so good!

    It was also then, when I was struggling with my weight myself, that I stopped judging people for being overweight. I realized that it isn’t just eating junk food all the time (which I didn’t), or being lazy (which I wasn’t), or eating way too much (which I didn’t). It can sometimes mean food insensitivities or hormonal imbalances, or just a little bit of this and that that can cause the weight to not come off. I do totally agree that the whole cultural mentality about food needs to be drastically altered. My mentality has changed so much in this journey.

    I really appreciate your site, Katie–it has helped me tremendously!

    1. Rebecca,
      What a wonderful story and important reminders!! You’d love “Salt Sugar Fat” because it really demonstrates why all that crud IS so addicting. It’s crazy. Good for you to find the root of your struggle, knock it out and embrace a new lifestyle – it isn’t easy, but I love that you’re seeing how worth it all the change/work is! My husband is actually just getting to that point – where he notices that crappy food makes him feel awful. It’s wonderful to watch… 🙂 Katie

  24. I think some of the problem is also all all of the prescriptions everyone is on. For example thyroid meds when a lot of thyroid issues can be greatly improved by changing diet to eliminate hidden food allergies. Or antibiotics that destroy our intestinal tracts to “help” with ear or yeast infections, both things that can sometimes be relieved by diet and herbs.

  25. I know about “boredom eating” (I do it) but more and more I notice I do “loneliness eating.” As our society becomes more isolated from each other, we lose touch. I also blame big companies; I now work a weird schedule that includes 12-hour shifts (both nights and days) and rotating work weeks. No one I know is available for getting together except by extensive planning in advance. My mother and I rarely got along, but if we were out somewhere on a “girls’ day out”, a big part of the trip was the lunch. It was one of the few times she didn’t police what I ate, because it was special. I think I’m looking for that happiness again, that sense of approval from someone, the sense of connection… and I’m not going to find it. But I can’t seem to convince my subconscious of that.

  26. Thanks for your thoughts and all the great resources, Katie. I look forward to reading the articles you recommended.

    One little glimmer of hope: My son goes to public school, and the school has a firm policy about birthday treats being “healthy.” They recommend things like fruit kabobs or yogurt. It’s true that people have different ideas of healthy, and it’s not always perfect. But, it seems like a great move in the right direction, and people are really trying to follow the rule. So, maybe it can actually work!

  27. I recently read Health at Every Size and found it very interesting as a starting place for people who are obese or overweight.

    I teach Zumba classes and one of my participants quit recently. I ran into and told I missed her. She said that exercise made her feel better, she didn’t lose weight, so she decided to quit. 🙁

    We are so obsessed with weight that it creates a negative spiral that makes it hard to pursue *health*. When healthy choices don’t result in weight loss immediately people bail.

  28. I have a few disjointed thoughts on this.

    1) You can’t take food out of celebrations – it’s not an American thing, it is a human thing. Food is also the most frequent reminder of God’s provision that most of us get. We do need to have a healthy relationship with it though. Maybe instead of taking food out of celebrations we could limit ‘celebrations’ to things that are really worth celebrating. Make them special again instead of a weekly occurrence? I bulk at the idea of not allowing birthday treats in school (maybe because I had a summer birthday and was then homeschooled so I never got them and it always seemed so cool . . . ), but maybe suggesting monthly or quarterly recognition of birthdays would be a way to compromise – some schools already do this for all of the summer birthdays at the end of the year.

    2) On marketing to kids: I sat down and watched some Baby Einstein with my kids the other day and had to turn it off because there is ice cream, cake, or cookies on the screen every couple minutes and I am on an anti-yeast diet! I hate the preachy-ness of PBS and the food pyramid, but at least they show fruits and vegetables, so we don’t end the show and raid the cookie jar! Visual suggestion is very powerful, but it is also not unavoidable when kids are little and home with you.

    3) This is a sensitive topic for those of us who are ‘blessed with high metabolisms’ or have a distaste for food that makes us feel yucky, or simply prefer savory things (I was the kid who always went for more of the main course during or after dessert). It is uncomfortable to talk about a struggle you do not experience. When I was pregnant, I remember being so glad that the weight would go away! It was so hard on my body. Children who grow up obese will never know that that feeling is not normal – that they should feel strong and energetic, not tired and sore. That makes me very sad.

    1. Beth,
      So many good points!!

      This one is so poignant:
      “Children who grow up obese will never know that that feeling is not normal – that they should feel strong and energetic, not tired and sore. That makes me very sad.”

      And I do agree about food and celebrations – it’s just the overabundance, the over-sugary stuff, and the frequency. Love the idea of quarterly celebrations…or fruit kebobs? Is anything healthy fun for kiddos? I would love to take a poll somehow…

      Thank you for chiming in!
      🙂 Katid

  29. What depresses me about the whole situation is that less than 10% of people are successful in losing weight for more than a year. Makes it all seem hopeless, and I can only imagine the frustration people feel when a doctor says, “You should lose some weight.” Because there are so many factors it is hard to pinpoint the ones that are causing each specific person’s problem, then combine that with the societal barriers that make it difficult to stick to a protocol to try and fix them. It becomes combinatorially difficult and thus statistically unlikely to be successful.

    This article has a handful of non-food related reasons people might be obese.

    And as for the first article you posted about the special occasions for kids. I posted it on my facebook a while back and got lambasted by other parents as being a spoil sport. I just wanted to scream, “Do you not see the irony? You are doing EXACTLY what the article said.”And as an example of the problem I just got back from the meet-and-greet at my daughter’s elementary school before school starts tomorrow. There was candy offered beforehand. The teacher sent home cheezits, hershey kisses, and sprinkles with a poem about how they should to eat it right before bed as a “magic snack” to help them feel good about going to school the next day, and the PTA handed out ice cream bars. Ugh.

    1. Laura,
      Holy overboard! Sprinkles right before bed!???? Ow. Ouch. I’m in disbelief. May you get up the courage to say something to someone who could make a difference (or volunteer for the PTA and quietly take over t hings that have to do with food, tee hee!)

      That 10% stat is very depressing. Le sigh. But 10% is better than hopeless!!! Thank you for sharing!!
      🙂 Katie

  30. Katie, I am so with you on all these things. Wheat, sugar, artificial ingredients, food at every. single. event. It is madness. My best attempt is to be informed, tell my kids about good nutrition, and stay strong. Luckily my husband is on board. It is an uphill battle for sure.

  31. As another obese person, I wanted to share. I agree that many of these things are at fault. I also think that parenting plays a LARGE (no pun intended) part in why children are obese. For instance, I have two kids (2 and 4) who are quite tall and quite trim…in a very healthy way. They love to run and have a seemingly unending cache of energy. Even though their dad and I are both obese, we realize some of the factors that led to our lifestyle choices that led to our weight and we work to keep those from becoming a part of our kids realities.

    We don’t require our kids to clean their plate just b/c some food might be wasted, we don’t have dessert every day, we do serve a fruit/vegetable with almost every meal (though we don’t force them to eat it), we encourage them to try new foods, and most of all we are very careful about what goes into their little bodies. We are responsible for them at this point and we have the ability to say “no” when enough is enough. I agree that the little “treats” they seem to get everywhere are out of hand! Even the things people feel are “healthy”…like juice or “100% fruit” gummy snacks. While we know they get an overabundance of these things elsewhere, they are a rare indulgence in our house (generally only for birthdays). In fact our kids get things like Larabars, fruit twists, and applesauce pouches in their stocking for Christmas 🙂

    I still however, feel that stigma when we go out to eat. That other people are looking at us and our size and judging our parenting ability based on it. That it is impossible we could possibly teach our kids moderation when we are the size we are….those people are wrong, by the way…but it is hard to get past the looks.

    Just wanting to share my perspective. While my husband and I are working to lose weight and strive to eat as healthy as we can on a rather meager income (and prioritizing food dollars to support our kids health), what you see is the last 20+ years of bad food and bad choices. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover 🙂

    1. It sounds like you’re breaking the cycle and doing so great for your kids!! I applaud you, my dear, and encourage you to keep trying on your own efforts to attain a healthy weight. Celebrate the little victories! (but not w/food, of course) 😉 I publicly applaud you and your EXCELLENT parenting and send virtual scowls at those who judge you in public. {hugs} 🙂 Katie

  32. I’ve struggled with my weight since I was in my early teens. And have needed to lose 100 lbs for the past 10 years. Growing up Food was a reward for good behavior it was around when we celebrated and in an emotionally abusive household it was a way to cope with the turmoil. That being said we were poor and my parents cooked at home frequently. Soda and eating out we’re very rare treats. My husbands story is similar, but he lost 180 lbs, then gained 100 + back when an auto immune disease developed and left him in pain. We have tried again and again to clean up our diet. I find there is SO much information that We have difficulty on deciding the most important things to focus on. Us both working full time doesn’t give us a lot of time to prepare food in the evenings with homework and the bedtime routine and exercise seems mostly impossible at this point. it is all so overwhelming. I know what I should be doing, the changes I need to make, especially now that we ate struggling with secondary infertility, I just can’t seem to consistently find the ability to do what I need to do… gets in the way.

  33. It is also big pharma. I’m in my mid 50s now, I have been 100 pounds overweight for at least 20 years. The antidepressants, the broad-spectrum antibiotics, the steroids, the big gun medical intervention: I blame all these in addition to the culprits you have identified. The environmental toxins, the obesogens…where does it all end? I have been “doing all the right things” for 3 years and have lost…0 pounds. In fact, I’ve gained 5.

    I consume a real food diet of 1200 calories per day. I exercise to soaking sweat 5 days a week for at least 20 minutes a day. People look at me like I am a ticking time bomb.

    But my resting heart rate is 55. My normal blood pressure is 90/70. My other “numbers” are better than most. Dare I posit that the health danger of obesity is NOT body weight?

    We need to take the focus off externals. Those of us carrying weight are the new “evil.” But it is just a ruse, as was skin color in the 60s and nationality in the 50s.

    1. Incredible perspective – I love that your numbers and health are so good. What a challenging struggle you have though, I’m so sorry! You sound like you’re doing amazing with all your choices – I would fall right over on 1200 cals a day! {hugs!}
      🙂 Katie

    2. I so agree! My husband and I were discussing this recently – that we’ve so “scientificated” everything that those who fall outside 2 sigma’s (standard deviation) and are normal/healthy are needlessly stigmatized.

    3. Maybe you are not eating enough. Our bodies can think they are starving and store fat if they think they aren’t getting enough food. Something to think about. Water making sure your drinking your water. Not trying to be a big shot just a reminder. 🙂 I struggle too!

  34. Very enlightening…and frightening. As far as a solution, there is a book coming out at the end of the year called “The Calorie Myth” by Jonathan Bailor. His work is based on sound science (as published in peer reviewed medical journals), without any gimmickry. It’s based on simple principles of eating real food and exercising smarter. Check him out at

  35. I don’t know if the wheat explanation is that simple, or maybe we’re just lucky around here, being able to get (mostly) organic wheat sourdough bread (yes, sometimes we eat non-organic white sourdough), but my child seems to have no trouble with wheat and his weight. My own intuitive feeling for a long time has been that when I was eating food low in available nutrients but readily-available-calorie-dense (as opposed to lots of vegetable matter with nutrients locked up), I would eat more and more in an (unconscious) search for those nutrients I was lacking.

  36. I don’t wonder why I’m obese, I wonder how on earth I’m ever going to find the energy and money to fix it.

    I’ve been fighting this battle for over 10 years and that’s long enough to make a few observations of my own. Such as: it’s an incredibly vicious cycle. You eat poorly, you gain weight, you feel poorly… so you make more shortcut decisions that feed you in the short/easy run, but make you feel even worse… leading to worse decisions.

    It’s not just energy, it’s money. You waste so much money on convenience food that when you want to go organic, fresh, local, etc., you feel like you can’t really afford it. I’ve been meaning to buy fish and vegetables all summer, but the realization that a single organic, local apple costs more than a family size bag of chips makes it hard to commit to that purchase!

    I did finally buy 7 pounds of salmon yesterday – and because it was wild and local, it was $66. Boy, that was tough to swallow. The same amount of hamburger would have been about $15.

    I’m struggling to make better choices, but it is really hard to break out of the round-and-round of poor food/no energy/more poor food cycle.

    Oh here’s a thought (I’m in a rambling mood tonight apparently)… when I was pregnant with my miracle baby (tried 12 years to get and stay pregnant!), I had gestational diabetes and the support was INCREDIBLE. I had weekly visits at the hospital with nutritionists, an endocrinologist and a nurse specialist… I had one of the BEST controlled GD they had ever seen – didn’t need insulin until my 30th week and it was a tiny dose at that – and I LOST 65 pounds throughout my pregnancy and gave birth to an astoundingly healthy little girl at just 6 lbs 14 oz, which they told me was a wonderful birth weight, not too high or low.

    Now that I am just a regular mom though, I don’t have that support and encouragement, and I can’t lose weight and it’s all coming back. Thankfully I’m still making fairly good choices for my daughter, who is now one and has only tasted sugar once on her birthday and has never eaten wheat or soy. But I am afraid I will end up letting her down if I can’t get off this road of poor eating. OK, I’ll shut up now.

    1. I have also found this to be true…the repeating cycle. It is expensive to “try” something new b/c I don’t have the money to make a second dinner if the one I make doesn’t turn out or is inedible (usually b/c I don’t have experience cooking whatever it is).

      Also, my husbands dr has tried and tried to get his insurance to approve a meeting with a nutritionist (ONE MEETING). Unless he is diagnosed with diabetes they won’t cover it. This country is not interested in preventative medicine it seems…only in making major bank once people get so unhealthy/sick that they have no other choice. Not to mention the myriad of things that could help with general health (organic food, chiropractic care, etc.) that insurance companies won’t touch with a 10 foot pole.

      1. Good point abt “This country is not interested in preventative medicine it seems” — SUCH a sad truth. Ugh. Even with all my experimentations, I’ve only had two dinners our whole marriage that we threw away or gave away. Find some trusted bloggers whose families seem to like food your family likes and try their recipes. Good luck and keep on trying!! 🙂 Katie

    2. Shari,
      I applaud your baby girl and the hard work it took to conceive, carry safely, and raise her well for year one!!!! You are supermom whether you believe it or not!! And your goals are excellent – I want to just encourage you by saying that maybe organic AND fresh is too many steps at once (sticker shock!). If you can just switch from the chips to…anything real. Apples. Potatoes you cook yourself (some will crucify me for that, but it’s better than chips, and cheaper!). Kale chips. Cucumbers. They may not be organic, but they’re better than chips. Celebrate the baby steps and keep your goal in mind, and remember that you already proved to yourself that you can do it…so get a friend to remind you everything the nutritionists said during your pregnancy. Ask someone to email you once a week. Follow some bloggers like the fitness/weight loss folks who write with me at Attune Foods ( Tony and Diane are AMAZING example of doing it for your kids and keeping it off – you will love everything they write!!!

      Hugs and prayers and good luck and all that – you can do it!!! 🙂 Katie

    3. Hey Shari, I’d like to applaud you for taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle. I’m an American Council on Exercise certified fitness instructor and health coach, and I’d love to pass along a couple tips, some of which Katie pointed out.

      1. Start with baby steps. Change one thing at a time. If it’s incorporating more fruits/veggies into your diet, great. As Katie said, don’t worry if they’re organic. That can come later. Overweight/obesity is really, really hard to change because it’s a lifestyle. Our old habits die hard. We like to stay with what’s comfortable, what we know. (I’ve had obese parents my whole life and have struggled with weight myself, so I’m no stranger to the reality that I love sweets and easy foods.)

      2. Try keeping a food log of EVERYTHING you eat for at least two weeks. Include how you feel at the time and the portions you consume. (Estimate if you’re not quite sure.) Notice patterns, like emotional or late-night eating. Try not to judge yourself. The exercise isn’t about judgment; it’s about finding those sneaky habits that sabotage your attempts to shed pounds and inches and your ability to feel good about yourself, whatever your size.

      3. How’s your sleep schedule? I recently read a study on how a decent amount of sleep might be as important, if more so, in combating daily stress (and therefore weight issues) than exercise. If you can, aim for 8 hours but remember that it might not come all at once. Naps are wonderful!

      4. More and more studies are saying that daily activities are just as/more important than 60 minutes of exercise in maintaining health. This could be gardening, going for a stroll to deliver blueberry muffins to neighbors (and cooking those muffins too!), walking the dog. You name it.

      5. Positive mindset is powerful. Cognitive restructuring–exchanging negative thoughts for positive ones–has a huge impact on healthy living. The better we think about ourselves, the better we’ll feel, and science has proved that that translates into the body.

      Hope these things help. Keep your chin up. You can do this!

  37. Lori Alexander

    I have even noticed a troubling trend with babies being very heavy, almost all that I see! My grandbaby is in the 90% height wise, has chubby legs and would be considered “stocky” yet is only 20% in the weight category…Too many babies are fat!

    1. Lori,
      If they’re breastfed babies, I wouldn’t worry a bit. Not one cent. Many chubby babies stretch out their first and second year as they start moving. If they’re formula fed and overfed…then it’s a conversation to open. But I really wouldn’t worry about a kid’s weight until at least 3, only their diet. Great question to open up though!

      🙂 Katie

      1. My babies are bruisers, especially my second. But since they are heavy for their size, not flabby, it seems healthy to me. And anyway breastfed babies do level out.

        On the other hand, a woman I know who struggles with her weight confided in me that she’s been overweight since infancy. Her grandmother always said “a fed baby is a happy baby” and gave her more formula whenever she made a peep. By her first birthday she was almost 40 pounds!

        Lesson learned — if you formula feed, use only the amount recommended, not as much as you can get them to swallow!

    2. I agree with Katie. My three breastfed babies were in the 95+ percentile for height and weight until they finally started walking (make that running!). Now, at 14, 12, and 8 there is no extra fat on them. It helps that we don’t eat junk food, limit sugar, etc.

  38. As an obese person (only within the last couple of years), I have to say that all of the above are true. But, the most accurate is the fact that we have chosen to put these bad things in our bodies. And, long after those bad choices have been made, it seems even more difficult to turn the situation around. But most of all, I have to take responsibility of how I treat my body. If I am not willing to take responsibility for what I put in my body or the exercise and sleep that it does or does not get, then my body will continue to fail me. We must be aware of what all of these things are doing to our bodies so that we can follow the best course of action while taking responsibility for DOING what is GOOD for our bodies in all areas!!

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