My personal pet theory is many people can’t self regulate their food intake. When I lost all of my weight, something I noticed is some people I knew were essentially “life long healthy weight without trying.” A lot of people in my life are fitness freaks who hit 40 and got a high blood pressure/high cholesterol diagnosis and took up aggressive dieting and playing tennis or distance running or etc because the fear of grim death made them make serious changes. I’m not as interested in how those people got to a healthy weight and stayed there–they did it the same way I did, through hard work and what felt like a Herculean effort.
But the people I’ve known most of my life who have always been at a healthy weight, and have never struggled to maintain one, those are the ones who interested me. Something I’ve noticed about these people, is to a one, they simply won’t eat when they aren’t genuinely hungry. What I mean is, thinking back years and years, we’d be at someone’s house and there’d be a tray of cookies set out. If they were hungry, these guys would eat the cookies. But if not, they wouldn’t. Even if they weren’t necessarily “full”, but just “not hungry” they wouldn’t eat.
These are a minority of the people I know. Probably 85% of the people I know, someone puts out a plate of cookies, they’re going to take one or two, maybe three. But a small minority, for whatever reason, have no “desire” to eat something if they aren’t actually hungry. As in they really feel hungry. Most people I know will want a piece of cake or a cookie or some chips or etc even if they aren’t hungry, because it’s tasty food that is being provided and they’re going to want to eat it. That’s how I am, based on the % of Americans who are obese I think that is how a lot of Americans are.
Basically I think a small minority of our population has retained some natural ability to self-regulate their weight by only eating when they are hungry, which leads to a natural balance. For people like me, the only way I was able to lose weight was to meticulously count every calorie that came into my body and stop putting more calories in once I had reached my daily limit (and eventually I had a system where I pre-planned an entire week’s meals every Sunday and adhered to that schedule with the fervor of a religious zealot.)
Since it seems most people are like me, lacking in that natural regulation, the introduction of cheap processed snack food is probably what has lead to obesity. I don’t think my dad was any better than me at naturally regulating his weight. I just think that the only snack food that people had around their house back then might be an apple or an orange or something. People didn’t keep Oreos, chips, microwave dinners, 24 packs of Coca-Cola or etc in their house back then. If you wanted to eat a real meal you had to make one, which involved using raw ingredients and preparing them.
I think the people of the 1950s, if you put a pack of Oreos on their kitchen counters, and restocked it every day, those people would get fat with that easily available food. But when all they might have is a bit of produce or something as easily available “hand food” it requires deliberate effort to over eat. I think people will naturally over eat when it’s easy to do so, but will not over eat when it requires effort to painstakingly prepare a meal.