Today’s obesity epidemic has been over 100 years in the making. Multiple factors are causing America’s waistlines to expand.
Today, 70% of Americans are overweight and 30% are obese. According to US military and health records, our average weight has been increasing every year since national records began in the 1880s. It’s likely that no single food or habit is driving the weight gain, but rather a constellation of factors associated with modern life are working together to make us, collectively, get fatter.
Below are some of the factors that researchers believe are making us gain weight.
(Obviously) Our Diet
Too much sugar If fruit juices, sodas, and Starbucks Frappuccinos are part of our regular diet, you’re probably consuming far too much sugar. This can lead to insulin insensitivity (diabetes), and leads to rapid weight gain.
Eating animal products. The average meat-eater has a BMI of 28.8 (30 is obese, 25 is overweight). Vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs are still overweight, with an average BMI of 25.7. Meanwhile, vegans are the only diet group in America enjoying healthy average BMI (23.5). Watch this video for more on this. Only 0.8% of Americans are vegan.
Our Chemical Environment
Too many antibiotics. The average American child is given antibiotics once a year. When livestock are given antibiotics, a common side-effect is weight gain. It stands to reason that antibiotics could contribute to human weight gain as well.
Plastic In our food & water. Every time we eat or drink from plastic containers, we ingest microscopic amounts of plastic. Plastic of all kinds block Leptin receptors in our brain. The hormone Leptin tells the brain when we’re full, so if the receptors are blocked, we overeat.
A chicken-based virus. Adenovirus-36, a major cause of common colds, could also lead to long-term weight gain. There’s no vaccine and it is contagious. It changes one’s metabolism, efficiency of food digestion, and may cause fat cells to both multiply and grow.
Medications. Steroids and anti-depressants are known to cause weight gain.
Imbalanced gut flora. From living in a sterile environment to having too many vaccines, our gut flora – the trillions of bacteria inside our intestines that help us digest food – can become imbalanced.
Our Genetics & Early Childhood
Being born to an overweight or diabetic mother. Women who are overweight during pregnancy or are at have gestational diabetes have larger babies. Those babies go on to suffer from childhood obesity, and obese children are likely to become obese adults.
Being born by C-section. While we don’t know why this happens, children born by c-section have significantly higher chances of becoming obese or overweight as adults.
Too much sugar as a small child. Having too much sugar over too much time can lead to insulin resistance (diabetes).
Our Bad Habits
Not enough sleep. Ghrelin and Leptin are two hormones that regular hunger and appetite. Both are secreted during sleep, so if you don’t sleep enough (go to bed too late or wake up too early), these will be out of balance. You’ll get ravenously hungry and you’ll eat too much.
Too much stress. Stress causes the release of the hormone Cortisol. Too much cortisol causes our body to store fat in the belly and increases the appetite. People tend to eat sugary / high carb food when they’re stressed.
Menopause. Many women gain weight during menopause as their estrogen levels drop. They gain belly fat and find it harder to lose the weight. Post-menopausal women have to work harder to keep weight off.
Aging. Men and women alike lose muscle and put on fat as they age. Decreases in testosterone, estrogen, and growth hormone may cause muscle growth to slow or stop. This seemingly-inevitable process can be delayed or slowed by eating right, lowering stress, and exercising.