The causes of obesity are so complex and varied that I’ve used two posts simply to give an overview.
In my previous post, The Obesity Epidemic Part One , I showed how changes to BMI measurements, our obesogenic environment, unlimited access to fast food combined with economic and social inequality has helped increase the weight of nations over the past 30 years.
It’s still all your fault….
It suits the food industry and government to put the sole blame for this increase on our lack of willpower and poor food decisions.
Have we really suffered a collective and global loss of willpower?
Clever. Because this deliberately distracts from other fundamental causes driving the numbers of people affected by obesity. And, crucially, avoids their responsibility.
Here are only a few more reasons to explain why we find it so easy to gain weight: –
Too much ‘sit’ time?
How far can the sedentary effects of screen time – which includes television and digital media – in the past two decades help explain the rise in obesity?
Once again, a new phrase – “Social Network Obesity” – has been coined to describe the influence of social media on our weight.
In January 2018, the MIT Technology Review reported that adults and even children in the US are spending in the region of 23 hours a week on-line.
Where the US goes the UK follows.
When play areas don’t exist, when young people have little to do outside is it surprising that they turn to screens?
In January 2018, Silvia Landi reported in the Thomson Reuters News Foundation:-
“Currently the percentage of obese people in the world is growing at double the rate of people who suffer from hunger or malnutrition. For the first time in history, the world has more overweight than underweight people, and adult obesity is more common globally than undernutrition. “
It’s become too easy to consume calories and too difficult to use them, and this isn’t just a ‘first world’ problem.
Other countries are importing our habits and our food, along with the health consequences and excess weight gain.
Obesity Epidemic? Good for Business
The more people attempt to lose weight the more diet fads emerge vying for our attention – and adding our money to an already billion-dollar industry.
Despite the 95% failure rate the diet industry flourishes – now using the term ‘healthy lifestyle choices’ instead of ‘diet’.
Any dieting ‘lifer’ will know that Weight Watchers has rebranded itself as “WW”.
As well, what I call the business of thin (and will write about in a future post) exploded even more – if possible – in 2013. The American Medical Association classified obesity as a disease – allowing people to claim through their insurance companies for medical, pharmaceutical and diet treatments.
Of course, for many Americans this has meant life changing bariatric surgery or health interventions could be accessed. And more fees charged.
It’s all your fault…
I repeat – it suits the food industry and governments to blame individuals rather than the companies and advertisers.
Why? Well, to start with there is the money to be made from the desperation caused by weight stigma, blame for NHS costs and fat shaming.
Some legislation has come into force and food manufacturers are complying. But don’t you worry, they won’t be losing money.
Because, you see, it us who will be poorer – financially and mentally.
So, what should we do?
There is only so much we can do by ourselves. Yes, we should take responsibility for our food choices. Yes, we can try more exercise and yes, watch our portions.
But – to have any chance of slowing the increase in those affected by obesity we need to: –
- Work harder to improve the social and economic basis of health inequality. (Fact: The better off are getting slimmer, and the less well off are getting heavier.)
- Stop the emphasis on BMI and thinness as the only measures of good health.
- Educate – make teaching nutrition and cooking (not re-heating) part of the curriculum from Year 1.
- Planning laws changed on a national level in order to oppose fast food outlets near schools.
- Enforce regulation of the food industry. Voluntary? When did that ever work..? (See cigarettes & seat belts, for a start.)
- Promote and legislate for realistic, achievable eating habits.
- Provide enough PE in schools, and neighbourhood play areas.
- Develop public policies that promote affordable access to healthy foods.
- Train healthcare professionals (click here) to effectively and sensitively support people who need to lose weight, and help others avoid gaining weight.