The obesity epidemic

I’m 54 years old and over the last decade or two (sorry no cites) have heard about an “obesity epidemic”. I am starting to wonder, however, if it is specific to one or two generations, namely mine. The reason I ask this is that anyone I see who is in the 30 yrs old and younger range is very thin, while most people in my demographic are probably 10 pounds, at least, overweight (myself included (probably 10 - 15 lbs)). I live in Montreal and my bus routes are filled with students who are definitely not overweight and at my workplace anyone under 30 yrs of age is not overweight. Thoughts?

I believe that a huge contributor has been the depression era folks and their kids pushing children to “clean their plates.” I think children’s appetites were being stretched from an early age, and this demand was made with enormous urgency - an urgency grown from the older generation who had known real hunger.

Modern parents are taught to respect their children’s appetites, provide healthy fruit and veggies for snacks, and make sweets an occasional treat rather than a nightly dessert. I see Celtling’s friends growing up with a very different (and much healthier) relationship to food.

The Baby Boomers were also the first generation to be raised thinking junk food was nourishing: breakfast is sugar, cereal, and orange juice; lunch is pizza and steamed vegetables; dinner is a hamburger, french fries and a big sugar soda or milkshake. We’ve switched from home-cooked meals with more locally-grown ingredients to packaged foods packed with carbohydrates we don’t need. The carbs cause a spike in insulin which has very few choices about what to do with all the glucose, so it packs it away in the fat cells for safe keeping. Take a look through Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes.

I think you’re not seeing as many obese people under 30 for a couple possible reasons: (1) it takes a while after starving your way through college before people become obese, and (2) what TruCelt said.

Youth obesity is an issue but it is not the main issue. Wide scale fatness is much more prevalent in the post age 30 vs pre age 30 time period of most peoples lives, and it is more prevalent in the working class cohort of younger people vs college students.

Maybe it’s different in Canada, but in the US, more kids are obese than previous generations. From the CDC, “The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.”

Go into any convenience store. Look at the displays. The place is brightly lit, and things are colorful and appealing. What do you see? A lot of beer carefully stacked. An aisle, or two, or three with nothing but processed snacks and at least one aisle of candy. The freezer is full of ice cream. The cooler is full of soft drinks and beer. The cigarettes are behind the counter with the lottery tickets but that is only because of laws. Try to find anything healthy. Yea, there might be a carton of milk if you look hard enough.

The motivating factor for the large scale food industry is to sell as many calories as cheaply as possible. The penultimate of this is the McDouble on the dollar menu.

I know a dietician. She said that the basic problem is that in order to keep your weight under control you have to know how to feel hungry. Americans are constantly being programmed not to feel hungry. Satisfy every craving. It is something that gets learned early on. That’s the American way.

I’ve traveled across this country and have been in some very rural areas. The obesity problem is very real. Go into an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s disgusting. It’s people just shoveling food in their face. Don’t you think that when your 11 year old is 90 lbs. overweight it is not a good idea to turn him loose in a buffet?

HBO did a series on obesity awhile ago. Watch it if you can. It will tell you a lot about the problem and the reasons behind the problem.

OTOH the best way to prevent intractable adult obesity is to prevent childhood obesity by having kids develop healthy nutrition and exercise habits in the first place. The good news is that progress has been made. The rise has stopped and in some U.S. pediatric subgroups rates of obesity have even decreased.

As for what our op sees … well he just needs to travel around a bit more. Canada is hitting record high obesity rates. Quebec though is doing pretty well, B.C. even better. The Maritimes and the two Territories though not so much so.

Not to get in a pissing contest but I don’t need to travel around a bit more. I just finished 30 years in the military and have been in Europe several times and the far east. As well I grew up in Ottawa, went to university in Kingston, and spent a year in BC. As far as the maritimes are concerned, I’ve lived in Halifax 12 years out of the last 20 (including a five year stint about a year ago) and have visited PEI, New Brunswick and (though not considered part of the maritimes) Newfoundland numerous times. So yes, I have “travelled around”.

I am not debating the stats out of some narrow-minded ignorance but am merely asking a question regarding possible age relationships.

I have, over most of my life, seen a rise in obesity but it seems to have been confined to people in my general age group and older. And again, in the 30 yrs of age and younger groups, in Montreal and in Halifax the last five years, I haven’t seen much obesity but I have seen and do see a lot of very thin young people.

If they are only eating a bit more calories than they need they would gradually put on the weight… and as they get older - and maybe also less active - they’d put on more weight. Also food costs money and students might be on a tight budget while older people might have more money to spend on food.

BC is the least obese province in Canada. Quebec is number two.

I live in a beach town in California, and our obesity rates are well below the national average. People in NYC and San Francisco tend to be fitter than the flyover country. Colorado is the least obese state in the USA. Spend some time in the midwest or the south and people are noticeably fatter.

I’m pretty convinced that there is some sort of Darwinian thing going on where more attractive people tend to migrate to the coasts. Wandering around Hollywood confirms my hypothesis. And yeah, people get fatter as they get older.

Huh? Sure, my depression-era parents often told me to clean my plate—but we were sitting together at the dinner table as a family, eating my mother’s home cooking-- chicken, veggies (and ,yeah, potatoes and starches too.) But it was wholesome food, and not served in huge portions.
Eating at restuarants was an occasional treat, and even then–whether it was a nice restaurant or the drive-in burger place–the cokes were 8 ounces, the portions were normal sized.

Obesity didn’t begin with depression era parents pressuring their kids at the dinner table.
Obesity began when those families stopped eating mom’s cooking and starting eating fast food…

In the UK, those of us who grew up in the 40s and 50s, had pretty good diets as children, due to food rationing. The result is that a lot of us - those of us who didn’t kill ourselves off by smoking - are now drawing our pensions and causing a strain on the economy.

Kids born in the 60s and 70s are much more likely to be overweight now, and from what I read (government propaganda) todays kids are becoming seriously obese. I see quite a few of them walking past my house on their way to school, and as a casual observer, they don’t look all that fat to me. Their language though!!!

I agree the prevalence of fast food has contributed to the obesity epidemic. But I believe the *overall *root cause is the low cost of food. Food is cheaper than it has ever been. Low cost of food → more food consumed.

Sorry for how that came off. The point was that your local area is an area that is doing pretty well for Canada, almost as well as B.C., but that the numbers for Canada elsewhere are not so good. It is not just us middle aged and later folks … 31% of Canadian childen are overweight or obese, apparently especially young boys.

The problem is worst among the First Nations. Your college kids population in Montreal not as bad. And Canada overall is less obese than the U.S.

Yes there is an increase in obesity rates with age but that has been a stable trend.

Oh, from the last cite this that directly addresses your speculation:

Thesecharts shows it graphically and in more detail. Obesity rates among those 20 to 39 doubled in Canada over 20 years. Actually the smallest increase in that time period was among those in your age group, 40 to 59.

Again, I apologize that I sounded like I was insulting you. Your speculation was a reasonable one to make based on your anecdotal experiences but it does not pan out either in Canada or the United States.

Do you have any facts to prove that “more attractive” people move to the coasts?

In the US the population is moving south and west. The midwest and northeast are losing people. But I don’t know if the census bureau tracks people by beauty.

From what I have read, the reasons obesity is on the rise are multiple, although the main culprits are 1. the rapidly increasing sedentariness of life for everyone, including children – this is a combo of a number of factors in itself. 2. massive increase of portion sizes in fast food (marketing device tied to industrial farming). 3. increase in the use of fast food meals over home-cooked.

You can call people “lazy” or “greedy” or “lousy parents” if you want, but the truth is, economic life has changed, child-rearing has changed, technology has changed. The energy and time and sacrifice involved in not doing what everyone else is doing, and expecting you to do, is more than most people can come up with even when they know it is causing them and their children problems.

Also, if everyone around you looks like you (fat), it feels surprisingly right and acceptable, which doesn’t help anything.

It just so happened that a couple weeks ago, I stayed two nights in a hotel in Schenectady, NY and I was astonished at how many more fat people (couples with young kids eating breakfast at the hotel) that I am accustomed to seeing in Montreal. Incidentally, being 5-10 overweight is not what is meant by obese. I am about 15 lb overweight and my doctor doesn’t want me losing more weight. I have lost about 85 lb since 2000 and he wants me to stop there. He considers it healthier, especially given how much I walk (20 miles a week on average) and always have, even when I was obese. My BMI is 26.7 and that is fine.

In the next generation, I notice that my grandchildren are pretty much all a decent weight. One is a bit plump (but he runs and plays soccer), two are rather thin, and the other three about average. And among their friends I don’t see anyone obviously fat. So maybe it is improving in the next generation. On the other hand, my grandchildren never walk anywhere. Who knows where a child-snatcher might be lurking. Is it worse than in my generation? Somehow I doubt it. We walked to school (I actually had to cross US Route 1 to get there, which was less scary than it sounds) and played unsupervised after school and during summer vacations incessantly.

Lifestyles sure have changed a lot. Much more screen time now than in the past. Also, prepared food makers have successfully marketed many calories, in America especially.

I think that with regard to kids not being so fat, the problem is that so many of them are fatt-ER than they used to be, which is a bad starting point as you head into middle age spread. Also there are more kids around at the weight that used to be considered outliers (I’m lookin’ at you, Cartman :wink: ).

I live in a “fat” state in the Midwest, and even I was a bit surprised at the chubbiness of kids coming to my door for Halloween candy this year. (Talk about being part of the problem! :smack: )

Of course, these kids braved some pretty bad weather this year, so I figure they were the highly motivated ones! :smiley:

No problem but thanks. I obviously believe your sources and what you’re saying but, in the last few years, I just don’t see it among young people (that doesn’t mean I think that you’re wrong btw). I used to see it often, ten years or so ago and perhaps the people we’re talking about are concentrated in certain areas, such as low income schools, for example, that I don’t frequent. Having said that, when I lived in Halifax the most recent time I was living in a lower income area and the typical thing I would see among young people would be very skinny 18 - 20 year old guys (based on appearance) with their pregnant girlfriends. The “fatsos” I used to commonly see 20 years ago are now middle aged or older.

Something I have noticed, however, while on business trips to the US is a noticeably larger population of much larger people and larger portion sizes in restaurants.