Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 04-15-2019, 11:59 AM
Machine Elf is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Challenger Deep
Posts: 11,783

Why is America so fat?


Speaking as an American, we the people are fat. We're not the fattest - we're only #17 - but we're pretty close, and more to the point, we're fatter than we were just a few short decades ago.

Why is that? There are other countries out there that have fast food restaurants and cars and remote controls and whatever else you can think of. I would have thought they would also have the same market forces at play, i.e. purveyors of processed food who load it with sugar/fat/salt to make it difficult to resist, and restaurants who jack up portion sizes in pursuit of greater profits. So what makes America so different from, say Canada (#44) or the UK (#40) or Switzerland (#120)?

What makes us so different from Japan (#166)? Sure, they have a stronger reliance on public transport, which builds a fair bit of walking into your day. But they also eat healthier foods, and they eat smaller portions. But why do they eat healthier foods and smaller portions than the US? They have fast-food restaurants, and grocery store shelves with plenty of extremely processed foods, and they have restaurant owners who would surely love to make more money by serving larger portions. Why are they not succumbing to market forces the way we are?
  #2  
Old 04-15-2019, 12:14 PM
Jasmine's Avatar
Jasmine is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Chicagoland
Posts: 1,918
Obesity in America

Briefly:

1) Bigger Portions

2) Confusing "diet" for "nutrition"

3) Inactivity is the New Normal

I'd like to add that there is food everywhere in America, and many of the places that sell it sell high fat/high calorie food. Also, it seems that the people who sell the unhealthiest food (McDonalds, Burger King, sports bars in general, Kentucky Fried, etc.) advertise the most.
  #3  
Old 04-15-2019, 12:19 PM
glee is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Obama country
Posts: 15,360
Yes, as a tourist I know it's easy to overeat in the USA.

When I visited Las Vegas, every hotel / casino had an 'all-you-can-eat' restaurant for a set price.
Now on the occasional day I ate 'all-you-can-eat' (jolly good food ), I would just have a salad for breakfast and something light in the evening.
However, I noticed that there was an option to have three 'all-you-can-eat' meals in one day, also for a set price.
That is an absurd amount of food.
  #4  
Old 04-15-2019, 12:23 PM
Jasmine's Avatar
Jasmine is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Chicagoland
Posts: 1,918
Quote:
Originally Posted by glee View Post
Yes, as a tourist I know it's easy to overeat in the USA.
Indeed, and we seem to actually encourage it. Speaking of Vegas, there is one place that will not charge you for their three pound burger if you can eat it all in one sitting. Another place lets people over 350 lbs eat for free. One of those places has had two separate incidents where patrons had a heart attack while eating there.

Last edited by Jasmine; 04-15-2019 at 12:23 PM.
  #5  
Old 04-15-2019, 12:29 PM
senoy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2018
Posts: 1,818
David Wallerstein.

Basically, in the 60s, food was cheap. Incredibly so. In the post-war era, the government was subsidizing food production and it lead to really, really cheap food. Because of this, the food itself served at restaurants was not the expensive part of the business. It was labor, rents and utilities. The question became then, how do we as restaurants increase profits and the answer was simple - sell more food to the same person. What they realized though is that people were unlikely to buy more discrete quantities of food. We're still the same way. It's rare for us to finish a Big Mac and then go and get another one. What Wallerstein ( a movie theater operator) figured out though was that you could introduce sizing and that fed upon a person's instinct to maximize their resources. If you had a small popcorn for a dime and twice as much popcorn for 17 cents, people would buy the larger size. Since the food itself was not terribly expensive, you could raise profits significantly. Wallerstein took this knowledge to Ray Kroc - owner of McDonald's and in the early 70s, McDonald's introduced sizing. Other restaurants scrambled to copy the idea. Over time, we began to get used to the larger sizes, so there was essentially a war to see how big they could push quantities of food to show that their eatery was a better deal. We became very used to these large sizes.

Where we differ from Europe and Japan is that they did not enjoy the cheap post-war food boom. We tend to view Europe now as very wealthy, but in the post-war period, it was not. There was much more food insecurity and food prices were not anywhere near as cheap as they were in the United States (although by the 80s, things were humming along.) Also, the US has often served as a more experimental economy than Europe. They usually tend to get our 'innovations' after we do. Obesity is one of those things. It's actually increasing in Europe and is roughly about where ours was in 1990. Some countries though like the UK are making great strides to catch up with our corpulence.

Last edited by senoy; 04-15-2019 at 12:31 PM.
  #6  
Old 04-15-2019, 12:43 PM
Barbarian is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: is french for rental
Posts: 5,749
Canadians are only slightly thinner than Americans, but whenever I cross the border I can tell because of the size of the people.

I have several WAGs.

1) Portion size at restaurants in the U.S. is absolutely ridiculous. I've been served meals that have enough calories to feed me for two or three days. Drink sizes are also very large. Trying to get a small tea or coffee or soft drink is really hard at most places.

2) Sugar (or high-fructose corn syrup) has snuck its way into countless items that did not have sugar in past decades.

3) There may be U.S. dietary guidelines, but nobody has heard of them. Instead whackjobs fill the void in the marketplace of ideas with bizarre notions. I'd wager it's because it's only in the U.S. that the dominant political party actually seeks to hobble the idea that government exists to serve the public good.

4) Ketchup (or pickle relish, or pizza sauce) as a vegetable.

5) Football and the corresponding worship of really fat people as being athletes to admire.
__________________
First thing we do is, we kill all the market researchers.
  #7  
Old 04-15-2019, 12:51 PM
md2000 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 14,705
The book "The Case Against Sugar" puts forward the thesis that sugar manufacturers deliberately set out to demonize fat as part of the diet to convince people that fat, not sugar, caused obesity. Also claims that sugar is the biggest trigger for insulin which ensures the storage of calories in the body as fat - so "low fat" foods, which tend to have much more sugar to compensate, are in fact a factor in increased obesity.

But there's no doubt portion size is also to blame. The McD hamburger used to be a standard meal. Nowadays, it's mainly for the little kids. An 8-oz (or 10-oz) classic glass Coke bottle held what used to be a normal sized serving. Those tiny TV dinners were a full meal. We probably eat 2 to 3 times more than we need to get by, at a very minimum.
  #8  
Old 04-15-2019, 12:57 PM
Icarus's Avatar
Icarus is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: In front of my PC, y tu?
Posts: 5,063
Quote:
Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
The book "The Case Against Sugar" puts forward the thesis that sugar manufacturers deliberately set out to demonize fat as part of the diet to convince people that fat, not sugar, caused obesity. Also claims that sugar is the biggest trigger for insulin which ensures the storage of calories in the body as fat - so "low fat" foods, which tend to have much more sugar to compensate, are in fact a factor in increased obesity.

But there's no doubt portion size is also to blame. The McD hamburger used to be a standard meal. Nowadays, it's mainly for the little kids. An 8-oz (or 10-oz) classic glass Coke bottle held what used to be a normal sized serving. Those tiny TV dinners were a full meal. We probably eat 2 to 3 times more than we need to get by, at a very minimum.
Agree: #1 sugar, #2 portion size
  #9  
Old 04-15-2019, 01:02 PM
beowulff's Avatar
beowulff is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Scottsdale, more-or-less
Posts: 16,451
Food promoted by price, not quality.

e.g. - "Look at how much you can get for under a dollar!"

Last edited by beowulff; 04-15-2019 at 01:02 PM.
  #10  
Old 04-15-2019, 01:05 PM
Kimstu is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 21,950
There's also a strong correlation between obesity and time spent driving a car. Americans tend to spend much more time behind the wheel than Europeans, on average (though Europeans AFAIK are increasing their private car ownership/use rates these days, and perhaps not coincidentally, getting fatter).
  #11  
Old 04-15-2019, 01:17 PM
kenobi 65's Avatar
kenobi 65 is offline
Corellian Nerfherder
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Brookfield, IL
Posts: 14,640
I concur with the posts above (portion sizes, lots of use of sugar in various forms, willful ignorance and/or disregard for dietary guidance).

I'll also suggest that the traditional American diet -- heavy on the meat and starches -- may also play a role. It's the sort of food that most of us grew up on, and makes a lot of us happy, but it's also a diet that was more ideal for our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, who worked on farms, or in manual labor. Those of us who work the sedentary jobs that are common today (especially for the majority who get no regular exercise) don't need to eat like farmers.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 04-15-2019 at 01:19 PM.
  #12  
Old 04-15-2019, 01:23 PM
bump is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 17,576
Quote:
Originally Posted by Icarus View Post
Agree: #1 sugar, #2 portion size
I think I'd reverse those two. Senoy is dead on target about this topic.

In my lifetime(I'm 46), I've seen the following things, just to name a few:
  • 32 oz Fountain Sodas being absurdly large when I was young, to being a "medium" now.
  • The "big" burgers at the fast food places (Big Mac, Whopper, Quarter Pounder), becoming the default choice.
  • Snack chip bags used to come in smaller bags- the smallest size you can buy at the grocery now used to be the largest.

This sort of thing has taken place across the food spectrum. Candy bars are bigger. Sodas are bigger- it used to be that Coke machines served either 8 or 10 oz bottles (can't recall which), and 12 oz were the "large" ones, with larger quantities being quart bottles sold in six-packs. The implication was that nobody was drinking an entire quart at a time.

I'm not so sure that sugar is the villain, at least not as much as portion size. The quantity of sugar in things wouldn't be such an issue if we ate like we did in 1960.
  #13  
Old 04-15-2019, 01:25 PM
bump is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 17,576
Quote:
Originally Posted by Barbarian View Post
5) Football and the corresponding worship of really fat people as being athletes to admire.
Oh, like these guys?

http://www.espn.com/espn/photos/gall...ies-want-2015#

"Really fat" is kind of a stretch there, and those guys are NFL offensive linemen.
  #14  
Old 04-15-2019, 01:30 PM
Velocity is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 14,057
Quote:
Originally Posted by Barbarian View Post
Football and the corresponding worship of really fat people as being athletes to admire.
I don't get the impression that fat linemen are really the footballers being admired. Usually it seems that the poster or marketed football athletes are the quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, etc. - speed or precision more than girth.
  #15  
Old 04-15-2019, 01:34 PM
kenobi 65's Avatar
kenobi 65 is offline
Corellian Nerfherder
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Brookfield, IL
Posts: 14,640
Quote:
Originally Posted by bump View Post
"Really fat" is kind of a stretch there, and those guys are NFL offensive linemen.
Both offensive and defensive linemen in the modern NFL are bloody huge, compared to any normal person, but it's really only defensive tackles who're typically, visibly fat (though they also have to be very strong).

For example:
B.J. Raji
Casey Hampton and Vince Wilfork

Quote:
Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
I don't get the impression that fat linemen are really the footballers being admired. Usually it seems that the poster or marketed football athletes are the quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, etc. - speed or precision more than girth.
This, also. Yes, we can find pictures of fat quarterbacks, but they're the exceptions to the rule.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 04-15-2019 at 01:36 PM.
  #16  
Old 04-15-2019, 01:36 PM
Surreal is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 2,201
Quote:
Originally Posted by Machine Elf View Post
What makes us so different from Japan (#166)? Sure, they have a stronger reliance on public transport, which builds a fair bit of walking into your day. But they also eat healthier foods, and they eat smaller portions. But why do they eat healthier foods and smaller portions than the US? They have fast-food restaurants, and grocery store shelves with plenty of extremely processed foods, and they have restaurant owners who would surely love to make more money by serving larger portions. Why are they not succumbing to market forces the way we are?
It appears that most of the responders above didn't bother to read the OP, but one of the key reasons for the difference in the obesity rate between the US and Japan is that Japan still practices fat-shaming, whereas we have largely abandoned this practice.

Last edited by Surreal; 04-15-2019 at 01:37 PM.
  #17  
Old 04-15-2019, 01:40 PM
Jasmine's Avatar
Jasmine is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Chicagoland
Posts: 1,918
Quote:
Originally Posted by Barbarian View Post
5) Football and the corresponding worship of really fat people as being athletes to admire.
There was a time when this was pretty much the truth, and that was when the running game was much more important to NFL offenses. Defenses needed BIG defensive tackles to plug the middle and offenses needed BIG linemen to move them. William "The Refrigerator" Perry, a 350 lb. lineman was the rage for a while.

Now, when passing is everything, defenses need relatively lean and fast linemen in order to get to the quarterback as quickly as possible, and offenses need quick tackles to counter their quickness. It's a different game than it used to be.

Last edited by Jasmine; 04-15-2019 at 01:40 PM.
  #18  
Old 04-15-2019, 01:58 PM
Machine Elf is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Challenger Deep
Posts: 11,783
Quote:
Originally Posted by Surreal View Post
It appears that most of the responders above didn't bother to read the OP...
Thanks. Maybe I didn't emphasize my point of query clearly enough. It's easy to point to specific factors that are driving the epidemic of obesity in the US. What I'm wondering is why those factors aren't present to the same extent in other developed countries as well, since (to my ignorant eye) consumers in those countries appear to have the same freedom of choice we do, and businesses in those countries appear to have the same ability to shape the market to serve their interests rather than those of the consumer (i.e. by advertising/selling large portions of cheap, highly processed foods). Senoy and you seem to have caught this point; now that I'm spotlighting it, I'm hopeful that others might continue to offer perspective along those same lines.
  #19  
Old 04-15-2019, 02:36 PM
Bear_Nenno's Avatar
Bear_Nenno is online now
Endowment Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Bavaria
Posts: 8,688
Quote:
Originally Posted by Barbarian View Post
...the corresponding worship of really fat people as being athletes to admire.
Japan admires their sumo wrestlers to a much higher degree than America cares about it's linemen. Yet, they're #166. It's not athlete worship making Americans fat.
  #20  
Old 04-15-2019, 03:24 PM
Crafter_Man's Avatar
Crafter_Man is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Ohio
Posts: 11,260
My WAGs:

1. Food in the U.S. has become very cheap (when measured as a percentage of income). Thus demand for it has increased.

2. There is no scarcity of food; it is always in front of us. And there's a fast food restaurant on every corner. (Well, not really. But you know what I mean.) If you give a dog or cat unlimited access to food, it will become fat. The same is true for humans.

3. As more people become obese, obesity becomes more acceptable. Which means more people will become obese, and obesity becomes even more acceptable. And so on. Positive feedback.

4. People in the U.S. spend a lot of time in front of the TV. Not only are they not burning many calories, but they're usually eating/snacking while watching it.
  #21  
Old 04-15-2019, 03:31 PM
DrDeth is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: San Jose
Posts: 40,225
It's the American fast food diet. Pollan studied several regional "diets' and pretty muc, world wide they all work- except the American fast Food diet.

https://michaelpollan.com/reviews/how-to-eat/

That's too much sugar, fat and salt.

No doubt other nations have McDonalds, but they go there as a treat, not five times a week. Eating at McDs' or Jack in the Box, or whatever once a month is fine. Eating fast food several times a week is not. And sure, when i am on a long road trip, i will hit a McDs. Nice clean restrooms.

McDonalds also sucks the kids in with their Playspace and such, conditioning them to like McDs crap.

Lets looks at the top Japan fast food chains:

https://www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/10...st-food-chains

Sure there are a couple burger chains there, but "beef bowls" are the big thing, and you can see Japanese from all walks of life slurping those for lunch.
There are 650 calories in 1 bowl (17.5 oz) of Yoshinoya Beef Bowl with Vegetable, regular. 20g grams fat. And it is pretty damn filling.

A Big Mac combo is about 1300 calories, with a lot of fat 52 grams- and salt.

Last edited by DrDeth; 04-15-2019 at 03:32 PM.
  #22  
Old 04-15-2019, 03:32 PM
dtilque is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: My own private Nogero
Posts: 6,688
One possible reason is that flame retardant chemicals in furniture and carpeting may cause obesity. Apparently they are phasing these toxic chamicals out, but they were in lots of stuff for decades. And there's still lots in people's houses. Studies on rats show a link between fire retardant chemicals and obesity. Also some other health issues like autism.

Anyway, I don't think other countries had the same chemicals in their furniture.
  #23  
Old 04-15-2019, 04:05 PM
Hilarity N. Suze is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Denver
Posts: 7,863
Apparently there are not as many flame-retardant chemicals in the furniture in Colorado, because I rarely see fat people in Colorado. I did notice, when driving cross-country and stopping at a fast-food place in Kansas, that almost everyone I saw in that restaurant was pretty hefty, and I assumed the skinny people were all brown-bagging it or jogging during their lunch hour.

Also, to refute someone down below, I have always free-fed my pets, cats and dogs, meaning there is always food in their bowl or if there isn't, and they ask, I will put food in there. Never had a fat pet. One of my kittens might be getting there, but he's still a kitten and doesn't have to be put on a diet until he turns into a cat (in July).

Of course this is pet food. If my dog had unlimited access to, say, bacon, he probably would be a fat dog.
  #24  
Old 04-15-2019, 04:24 PM
Machine Elf is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Challenger Deep
Posts: 11,783
Quote:
Originally Posted by dtilque View Post
One possible reason is that flame retardant chemicals in furniture and carpeting may cause obesity. Apparently they are phasing these toxic chamicals out, but they were in lots of stuff for decades. And there's still lots in people's houses. Studies on rats show a link between fire retardant chemicals and obesity. Also some other health issues like autism.

Anyway, I don't think other countries had the same chemicals in their furniture.
This is interesting. AIUI, the primary ignition source for furniture fires over the years has been cigarettes - and the solution that Big Tobacco pushed for was loading up furniture with flame-retardant chemicals.

So it seems cigarettes are giving smokers cancer and making the rest of us fat.
  #25  
Old 04-15-2019, 04:26 PM
Treppenwitz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: UK
Posts: 611
I'll float this as an observation made by a non-American (but one who has visited often and had American colleagues and friends) - I have no cites, so don't bother to ask; but I think most people get through the day using some sort of emotional crutch. Some people smoke; me, I like a drink; other people prefer other little treats; and some people comfort eat.

Now, the US has/had, at least from my point of view, a funny relationship with alcohol - rather a puritanical one. Same thing for drugs historically? If you take out a couple of those emotional crutches and make them unavailable, then are you not making people more reliant on those that are left - notably comfort eating?

I would never suggest that this could be anything more than a contribution to the overall effect. But as I look at the list the OP provided, some things catch my eye. A lot of middle eastern states (no alcohol) are fat. European countries (we properly like a drink) less so.

Yeah, there are loads of exceptions to what I'm seeing as a "pattern" - call it pareidolia - maybe it is.

Just a thought. And BTW I think this thread is full of excellent ideas and provides a fascinating historical aspect tp the issue.

j

Last edited by Treppenwitz; 04-15-2019 at 04:27 PM.
  #26  
Old 04-15-2019, 04:55 PM
Tired and Cranky is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 1,402
One idea is that some places simply have more obesogenic environments than others.

The "built environment" seems to affect whether a place has an obesogenic environment. This includes things like whether there is high population density, good public transit, good pavement (for walking and bicycling), and mixed use communities that put homes, work, and leisure destinations close to each other. Access to recreation facilities might also a factor. Whether an environment is obesogenic is also influenced by the "food environment," that is, changes to the food supply, including what types of food are sold in the area, the prevalence of fast food restaurants, and the frequency with which people eat out. Researchers are also looking into advertising's effect on obesogenic environments. All of these things may be factors. There may not yet be a GQ answer to why America is generally generally more obesogenic than other developed countries or what's causing other countries to get fatter too. However, the reasons for the disparity in the obesogeneity of environments isn't entirely clear and more research is needed.

https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentra...71-2458-14-233
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/ful...r_pub%3Dpubmed

High stress may also be a factor in obesogenic environments. If greater social safety nets help to reduce stress, countries with stronger social safety nets might tend to have somewhat lower rates of obesity than otherwise similar places. Stress induced by racial discrimination may also be a factor. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/16/5/861

Nothing I have seen suggests that greater fat shaming leads to slimmer bodies.
  #27  
Old 04-15-2019, 04:56 PM
DorkVader's Avatar
DorkVader is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: boise idaho
Posts: 2,385
Quote:
Originally Posted by Treppenwitz View Post
I'll float this as an observation made by a non-American (but one who has visited often and had American colleagues and friends) - I have no cites, so don't bother to ask; but I think most people get through the day using some sort of emotional crutch. Some people smoke; me, I like a drink; other people prefer other little treats; and some people comfort eat.

Now, the US has/had, at least from my point of view, a funny relationship with alcohol - rather a puritanical one. Same thing for drugs historically? If you take out a couple of those emotional crutches and make them unavailable, then are you not making people more reliant on those that are left - notably comfort eating?

I would never suggest that this could be anything more than a contribution to the overall effect. But as I look at the list the OP provided, some things catch my eye. A lot of middle eastern states (no alcohol) are fat. European countries (we properly like a drink) less so.

Yeah, there are loads of exceptions to what I'm seeing as a "pattern" - call it pareidolia - maybe it is.

Just a thought. And BTW I think this thread is full of excellent ideas and provides a fascinating historical aspect tp the issue.

j
interesting thought.
Me? I'm a laborer by choice and preference. I eat a pretty calorie dense breakfast. Lunch is usually salad with an ounce or two of turkey, an ounce (about) of cheese, an ounce of cranberry raisins, and an ounce of vinegar based dressing. Anything else makes me sleepy and makes it hard to work. Dinner is something usually small, maybe healthy maybe not, but not the biggest meal of the day.

I'm not a health and fitness fixated person, I just eat what makes me feel physically good and I've mostly figured it out.
__________________
L. Californicus Deserticola Sithae

Last edited by DorkVader; 04-15-2019 at 04:57 PM.
  #28  
Old 04-15-2019, 05:02 PM
DorkVader's Avatar
DorkVader is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: boise idaho
Posts: 2,385
dang it, hit post to soon, lost the train of thought, missed the edit window too.
__________________
L. Californicus Deserticola Sithae

Last edited by DorkVader; 04-15-2019 at 05:03 PM.
  #29  
Old 04-15-2019, 05:22 PM
Chefguy's Avatar
Chefguy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Portlandia
Posts: 41,628
I think most Americans have lost an accurate perception of what a 'normal' portion size of any given food is. This is mostly due to advertising showing people with big eyes stuffing their faces with giant cheeseburgers accompanied by a large portion of fries and a giant, sugary soft drink.

When I first tried the Weight Watchers program, I was shocked by what I thought were the tiny portions of food. In fact, they were what was normal for how much I should weigh, and after a couple of days I realized that I wasn't hungry all the time like I thought I would be. Hunger and cravings being too completely different things, of course. I easily lost 40 pounds over the course of a year and didn't feel the least bit deprived.
  #30  
Old 04-15-2019, 06:14 PM
nelliebly is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Washington
Posts: 1,374
I think it was a perfect storm situation. The obesity epidemic can be traced back to the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1960s, something like 5% of children were fat and 20% of adults. Now about 20% of kids are overweight and 33% of adults. What changed in the US during that time?

One factor is that more women were entering the workforce. There simply wasn't someone at home to cook, so more families became reliant on fast food. At the same time, social pressures led to over-scheduling children. When you have to drop Jeb at his soccer game, take Jenny to her karate class, whip back to watch Jeb's game, run back to pick up Jenny, etc., fast food is more doable. So are convenience foods at supermarkets. And in the 80s, restaurant portions started increasing, as has been noted.

At the same time, we were getting incrementally more exercise. Nobody in my childhood neighborhood "worked out." But they moved more. Cable TV wasn't widely available. With fewer options, people turned off the TV, and of course, there were no cell phones, iPads, and other sedentary amusements. Furthermore, children got more active play time and commonly walked or rode bikes to neighborhood parks and friends' houses or to the town pool.

And I do think food became the drug of choice for a lot of stressed people. You may run ragged 18 hours a day, but by God, you have that Dove bar to look forward to. Hell, you're worth it: have two.

I don't know how this compares with other countries. And I certainly don't want to return to the Fifties or Sixties, when other social pressures kept people constrained and in some cases, oppressed. Life is better. But we're fatter.
  #31  
Old 04-15-2019, 06:23 PM
Wallaby is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Melbourne, Far South
Posts: 837
I also think there is an attitude that 'eating' is something to do.

'Lets go out and have a bite to eat'.
'Let's get a coffee'.
'Let's go for a drive in the country, see the forests, ansd stop somewhere for something to eat'.

It's become a habit, rather than a necessity.
  #32  
Old 04-15-2019, 06:33 PM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear_Nenno View Post
Japan admires their sumo wrestlers to a much higher degree than America cares about it's linemen. Yet, they're #166. It's not athlete worship making Americans fat.
In my experience (mainly with my son's partners family, as well as my own time in Japan and South Korea as well as Taiwan), Asians have a cultural aversion to overweight people. Perhaps this is a broad brush, but what my son's partners Chinese family thinks is 'fat' is often not considered fat by most westerners (including Canadians, Europeans and the rest). They don't seem to really like the ripped, muscle bound look either, but they definitely seem to have quite a distaste for fat people, and they use things like fat shaming among family and close friends quite often.

Anyway, I think several in this thread have identified why American's are so fat, comparatively speaking. Portion size has gotten ridiculous...I mean, I love to eat, but I almost never can finish the food when I go to a restaurant and generally, the friends I go with eat it AND some appetizers to start. Plus an enormous soda to boot (I generally get iced tea, unsweetened...and it's sometimes hard to even get that, as they sweeten the stuff now without telling you). So, portion size, sugar in everything and sedentary life styles are the main culprits, IMHO anyway.


I heard what might be an urban legend the other day at work that I haven't bothered to verify. There is a drive in place called Sonic that a lot of my cow-orkers go to. Supposedly they put sugar in the ice. Now, I don't know if it's true or not...but in the US, that is actually plausible. It COULD be true.
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!

Last edited by XT; 04-15-2019 at 06:35 PM.
  #33  
Old 04-15-2019, 06:59 PM
Velocity is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 14,057
Quote:
Originally Posted by Surreal View Post
It appears that most of the responders above didn't bother to read the OP, but one of the key reasons for the difference in the obesity rate between the US and Japan is that Japan still practices fat-shaming, whereas we have largely abandoned this practice.
I've read that fat-shaming can somehow make obesity worse - that being said, even if it's wrong, fat-shaming no doubt still provides powerful incentive to lose weight.

But body positivity can also make obesity worse by making people think that fat is normal or average.

It's a can't-win situation.
  #34  
Old 04-15-2019, 07:18 PM
Ambivalid is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 13,653
I wonder if emotional eating has a cultural component? By that I mean eating to satisfy/comfort/numb, etc. emotional issues and not to satisfy actual hunger or provide fuel for the body. I think it could be possible that the myriad forces at work that shape U.S. culture have a particularly insidious side effect of widespread emotional eating in response to particular social stimuli and the private feelings they provoke.
  #35  
Old 04-15-2019, 07:22 PM
skdo23 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 1,065
Quote:
Originally Posted by XT View Post
a lot of my cow-orkers
Best typo (I assume) ever!
  #36  
Old 04-15-2019, 08:08 PM
jaycat is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Posts: 1,254
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wallaby View Post
I also think there is an attitude that 'eating' is something to do.

'Lets go out and have a bite to eat'.
'Let's get a coffee'.
'Let's go for a drive in the country, see the forests, ansd stop somewhere for something to eat'.

It's become a habit, rather than a necessity.
Social gatherings, for the most part, revolve around food. I am acutely aware of this, as I have dietary restrictions that often leave me out of the festivities. I have adapted by seeking out social gatherings that revolve around playing music. But those are not so common.

Last edited by jaycat; 04-15-2019 at 08:08 PM.
  #37  
Old 04-15-2019, 08:21 PM
Jackmannii is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: the extreme center
Posts: 31,436
Quote:
Originally Posted by Machine Elf View Post
So what makes America so different from, say Canada (#44) or the UK (#40) or Switzerland (#120)?
There's no need to malign Canada. Our northern neighbor ranks much higher on the list of fatty fat fatness:

"The 2017 Obesity Update by the OECD placed Canada among its most overweight countries, with 25.8 per cent of the population aged 15 and over considered obese.

Only South Africa, the U.K., Australia, Hungary, New Zealand, Mexico and the U.S. had higher rates."


http://globalnews.ca/news/3595135/ca...ty-inequality/

With lots of good calorie dense foods to consume, plenty of computer games/cellphone activities to keep us inactive and anti "fat shaming" initiatives, USers have every incentive to gain weight.

I just toured a new hospital in our area. It was proudly pointed out by the guide that each inpatient room has a scale capable of weighing patients up to 600 pounds (more than that and you'd need to wheel them over to the bariatric unit, which can handle people weighing up to a half ton).

Glad I looked into this thread. Now I'm definitely going to treadmill tonight.

Last edited by Jackmannii; 04-15-2019 at 08:22 PM.
  #38  
Old 04-15-2019, 08:26 PM
elfkin477 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: NH
Posts: 22,592
Quote:
Originally Posted by nelliebly View Post
I think it was a perfect storm situation.
When did parents become horrified by the idea of not toting around snacks for their toddlers at all times? Not ever being allowed to be hungry between meals from birth surely has not helped anyone.
  #39  
Old 04-15-2019, 08:34 PM
Kimstu is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 21,950
Quote:
Originally Posted by Surreal View Post
one of the key reasons for the difference in the obesity rate between the US and Japan is that Japan still practices fat-shaming, whereas we have largely abandoned this practice.
Cite that this is actually "one of the key reasons"?

ISTM far more likely that the real key reasons are that Japan has a far healthier traditional diet which people still relish and cherish, in addition to a built environment much more conducive to incidental exercise.

Fat-shaming does not seem to have any actual statistically-supported correlation with reduced obesity levels, AFAICT. For instance, the UK is the most fat-shaming society in the world, and also (as senoy and Jackmannii noted above) has one of the highest obesity rates.
Quote:
Britain is more prejudiced against fat people than any other country, with one in four saying they would not want an obese person marrying into the family, a study has found.

Britons are more likely to blame people for being obese and see them as lazy and irresponsible because of the nation’s “harsh bias” regarding weight, the study said.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Velocity
But body positivity can also make obesity worse by making people think that fat is normal or average.
Yeah, it's really not cultural attitudes toward obesity that seem to be most determinative of obesity rates, but rather the cultural norms about eating and exercise in the society they live in.

US cultural norms in those areas, starting around the 1950s, have been disproportionately shaped by industries wanting to sell us more food and cars. This is why, as remarked above, US commercial food portions are so "supersized", and also why so few US communities have really useful public transit systems or walkable/bikeable commutes even in areas that are densely populated.

Last edited by Kimstu; 04-15-2019 at 08:35 PM.
  #40  
Old 04-15-2019, 08:38 PM
pohjonen's Avatar
pohjonen is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Almost Idaho
Posts: 1,659
If fat shaming did anything positive, no one would be fat past the second grade.
  #41  
Old 04-15-2019, 08:43 PM
MichaelEmouse's Avatar
MichaelEmouse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 7,099
What's the proportion of macronutrients Americans eat vs other developed countries?

I noticed something while fasting: A few hours after eating, I would get a sensation that compelled me to eat but if I held, it would eventually transform into real hunger after about a day. So what was the sensation I got after a few hours? Probably low blood sugar.

Consuming a lot of carbs, especially sugar, makes blood sugar spike which makes insulin spike which lowers blood sugar too low, which then can compel to eat more carbs and so on; you get an amplifying yo-yo movement of blood sugar levels. Sugar can be somewhat like a drug in that it's soothing and pleasurable to have it, especially in refined form, and can create withdrawal. You may also need increased doses to maintain the same effect; If you're used to sugar, you can gulp down a lot of sugary soda but if not, the same amount would sicken you.

So I'm guessing it's mainly carb, especially sugar, consumption but I'm having a difficult time finding a study that breaks down caloric intake by macronutrient when comparing the US to another country.

Last edited by MichaelEmouse; 04-15-2019 at 08:47 PM.
  #42  
Old 04-15-2019, 08:46 PM
beowulff's Avatar
beowulff is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Scottsdale, more-or-less
Posts: 16,451
Quote:
Originally Posted by pohjonen View Post
If fat shaming did anything positive, no one would be fat past the second grade.
Obviously, people aren’t doing it right.
  #43  
Old 04-15-2019, 08:48 PM
nelliebly is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Washington
Posts: 1,374
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wallaby View Post
I also think there is an attitude that 'eating' is something to do.

'Lets go out and have a bite to eat'.
'Let's get a coffee'.
'Let's go for a drive in the country, see the forests, ansd stop somewhere for something to eat'.

It's become a habit, rather than a necessity.
Hasn't that always been the case, though? People have been going to dinner and a movie or dinner and a play for decades. Movie theaters started selling concessions in the 1930's. A Sunday drive with a stop for ice cream was a tradition for some families. And people have invited each other out for coffee since the first café, the difference there being that "coffee" usually meant an 8 oz. cup with sugar, and possibly cream (66 calories for both), not a 20 oz. double chocolate frappuccino (520 calories). Similarly, movie theater popcorn in the Thirties meant a small bag (220 calories), not a large bucket (1,030 calories).
  #44  
Old 04-15-2019, 09:39 PM
snowthx's Avatar
snowthx is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Sacratomato area
Posts: 3,452
Echoing most of the comments here. In sum:

- Everyone (mostly) has enough money to buy food. Even our poor people are fat, and no-one is starving to death (unless they choose).
- Unhealthy, calorie-rich food is ubiquitous and cheap. Healthy, nutrient-rich food is harder to get and more expensive.
- Portion sizes at restaurants are determined based on what makes sense from a business perspective (profit), and not from a health perspective (healthy). It's quantity over quality, because that is how business operates.

And,
- Food lobbies are powerful. Say anything or try to pass laws restricting bad things and try to promote good things, and you will soon be confronted by lawyers. These lobbies exist to further the interests of their said product (sugar, beef, etc.) and to ensure no one does or says anything that may hurt that product. Examples: Oprah vs the Beef industry, efforts to rid schools of soda and candy machines, school lunch programs influenced by various lobbies.
  #45  
Old 04-15-2019, 10:05 PM
scr4 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Alabama
Posts: 15,608
I think our dependence on cars is a huge factor. Over 70% of Americans live in suburbs or rural areas. This article says 76% of commuters drive alone, and another 9% carpool. That's 85% of commuters who are dependent on cars. And presumably, most of those people use cars for almost all their non-commuting trips as well (grocery shopping, taking kids to school, etc).

I can't find a country-by-country comparison for this, but this (PDF) says 62% of all "trips" in UK are by car.

Last edited by scr4; 04-15-2019 at 10:07 PM.
  #46  
Old 04-15-2019, 10:06 PM
purplehorseshoe is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Texas, USA
Posts: 9,856
Quote:
Originally Posted by guestchaz View Post
dang it, hit post to soon, lost the train of thought, missed the edit window too.
We are from the same tribe.
__________________
I can haz sig line?
  #47  
Old 04-15-2019, 11:25 PM
ZipperJJ's Avatar
ZipperJJ is offline
Just Lovely and Delicious
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Northeast Ohio
Posts: 25,184
I hardly think that toning down the fat shaming caused people to be obese. It stands to reason that being fat needs to be the standard before it becomes normalized enough to be accepted.

I mean like, we didn’t put “Mike & Molly” on the air and then Americans all became fat. Rather we were all fat enough as a society by 2010 to warrant being comfortable with seeing two fat people in love on prime time tv.

I’m going with the points others have made:
- Extra sugar in foods
- Low costs of unhealthy foods
- Lack of exercise in work and play
- Over eating as a coping mechanism for depression

I’m not buying the “everything revolves around food now” theory. Everything has always revolved around food for all of time, in every culture.

I also don’t see how portion sizes would CAUSE obesity. Like body positivity, I see it as a result of obesity. I mean like as a fat person, I don’t need a McDonalds large fry to be larger in order to get my fry fix. I am very capable of ordering 1-4 small fries if I need them. And my parents, who eat like birds (old birds) aren’t getting fat because the portions at Bob Evans are bigger than they were in 1974. My parents are just leaving more on the plate. If I’m super fat and the portions at a restaurant are super big I’m simply not having a snack when I get home.

No one is suddenly eating more food cuz it’s there on their plate. They’re eating more food in one place instead of another.
  #48  
Old 04-15-2019, 11:33 PM
Flyer is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Colorado
Posts: 3,259
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
It's the American fast food diet. Pollan studied several regional "diets' and pretty muc, world wide they all work- except the American fast Food diet.

https://michaelpollan.com/reviews/how-to-eat/

That's too much sugar, fat and salt.
Then why have people managed to lose weight on an all-fast food diet?

https://www.fitnessmagazine.com/weig...ast-food-diet/

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-s...-a8632016.html
  #49  
Old 04-15-2019, 11:51 PM
Kimstu is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 21,950
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyer View Post
Then why have people managed to lose weight on an all-fast food diet?

https://www.fitnessmagazine.com/weig...ast-food-diet/

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-s...-a8632016.html
Um, do you really not see the difference between a couple of short-term tightly-controlled calorie-limited stunt "diets" consisting only of fast food, and the everyday eating habits of ordinary people trying to manage their eating choices among food options where fast food is drastically overrepresented?

If so, let me help you out with a few excerpts from your linked articles:
Quote:
When the nutrition director of Fitness called and asked me to eat nothing but fast food for a week [...]

With the help of Nelda Mercer, RD, a dietitian based near me in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I figured out that eating 1,500 calories a day would have me losing one to two pounds a week based on my level of activity, which consists of running and walking three days a week. Mercer and her assistant, Rebecca DeKeyser, then pored over menus to come up with a week's worth of meals. After a lot of calculating, they gave me a plan that satisfied most of my nutritional requirements. Calcium and fiber were low, however, so Mercer suggested that I take a multivitamin. [...]

The next day, I wake up, weigh myself and am surprised to find that I did indeed drop a pound.
Quote:
A man ate nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days and managed to lose weight to prove a point about calorie intake and weight loss [...]

Ryan Williams, 29, a postman from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, decided to undertake the fast food diet to disprove the 2004 documentary Super Size Me [...]

However, Williams also spent an hour at the gym each morning [...]

For his own challenge, Williams stressed the importance of balancing caloric intake with staying in shape.

“It’s obvious that calories are quite important, but the average Joe doesn’t always know how to balance the recommended calorie intake with staying in shape," he said - and although he does not suggest it is a "healthy way of living," he wanted "to show that it’s purely a calorie game, as opposed to the types of food you eat."

Williams began the month eating 2,500 calories per day - the recommended calorie intake for a male adult - but dropped down to 2,300 by the end of the second week. [...]

In the final two weeks of the challenge, he dropped his calories slightly further, depending on how his weight and body fat index were performing.
In other words, when highly active fit people devise or are handed a carefully managed short-term diet consisting only of fast food with caloric intake tightly controlled, while still maintaining high activity levels, then surprise surprise, they can lose weight on it.

That doesn't mean that fast food overall doesn't still have unhealthily high fat levels and calorie content that significantly contribute to American obesity.
  #50  
Old 04-16-2019, 12:10 AM
scr4 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Alabama
Posts: 15,608
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
I also don’t see how portion sizes would CAUSE obesity. Like body positivity, I see it as a result of obesity. I mean like as a fat person, I don’t need a McDonalds large fry to be larger in order to get my fry fix.
Really? When I eat out in Japan or Europe and order a standard portion of a main course, I can always finish it and feel satiated, but not feel overly full. If I want to feel really full, I'd specifically need to choose a type of restaurant that allows for it (e.g. sushi restaurants, where you keep ordering more food till you feel full). It just isn't the norm.

When I eat out in the US, I often can't finish a meal. And if I do, I feel physically full, not just satiated.

I don't know if this is a major contribution to the obesity epidemic, but surely it is a non-negligible factor.

Last edited by scr4; 04-16-2019 at 12:12 AM.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:39 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017