Why Are We So Fat?

You’ve heard the statistics – over a third of American adults are obese, and 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese. Since 1980 the number of obese adults and children has almost tripled.

So why are we so fat?

In this recent article in Newsweek Gary Taubes argues that there are several reasons the campaign to stop obesity in the country continues to fail.  According to the author:

The conventional wisdom these days—promoted by government, obesity researchers, physicians, and probably your personal trainer as well—is that we get fat because we have too much to eat and not enough reasons to be physically active. The problem is, the solutions this multilevel campaign promotes are the same ones that have been used to fight obesity for a century—and they just haven’t worked.

The author suggests and alternative theory, largely ignored by medical experts, that implicates specific foods—refined sugars and grains—because of their effect on the hormone insulin. According to this theory not all calories are created equal. Our problem is not only controlling our impulses, but also rewriting our beliefs about what constitutes a healthy diet.

So what is a “healthy diet”? In this article Mark Hyman M.D. outlines what he calls the last diet you will ever need. He suggests we “unjunk” our diets:

Simply choose foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils (olive oil, fish oil, avocado and coconut oil), small amounts of whole grains and beans and lean animal protein including small wild fish, grass fed meat, and farm eggs.

This author argues that if we eat only real food the need for counting calories, points, fat grams etc… all becomes unnecessary because our body is receiving adequate nutrition and we will stop eating once we have had enough.

Sounds pretty simple right? Of course simple is not always easy.

What happens when you are stuck in a meeting and haven’t had anything to eat since your morning coffee? Or you get home from work late, you are tired and your family is screaming for fast food? With a little pre-planning dietary disasters like these can be averted.

I advise my clients to set aside one day a week for meal prep. Make a list and shop the perimeter of the grocery store, starting in produce. Load up on fresh (or frozen) fruits and veggies, meats, eggs and dairy (local, organic, grass fed if possible). When you get home, chop and store (freeze if you need to) your prepped meat and veg. You are much more likely to snack on veggies if they are washed, chopped and sitting on the first shelf of the fridge.

Got a kid who will only eat mac and cheese? Great – make that part of a meal that also includes a big salad or steamed veggies, some protein and fruit. Your picky eater is much more likely to try new foods if he sees everyone else at the table leading by example.

What about the “I don’t have time for breakfast” argument? Could you boil a few eggs (on your meal prep day – see above), peel them and have them ready to go in the morning? Or put together some berries, yogurt and nuts the night before so you can throw your breakfast in your bag on the way out the door. Not into dairy? How’s this for an idea – salad for breakfast? In one container mix leftover protein, or nuts, dried fruit, lentils, leftover steamed veggies and green leafies. In a separate container make a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and fresh herbs. When you are ready to eat mix your salad and dressing and enjoy! You have “front loaded” your day with foods that have a high water content, are energy dense, and rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein.

What dietary changes could you make to “unjunk” your diet?