Obesity hits a record high

Lunch break

Lunch break

The obese now outnumber the overweight


Here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, obesity has hit a record high. Among men (for whom this blog is written), the combination of overweight, defined as a body mass index from 25 to 29, and obesity, BMI greater than 30, reached a combined percentage of 75% of all men over the age of 25. Among men older than 55, only 23% are of normal weight.

When you combine men’s and women’s BMI, the obese now outnumber the merely overweight.

Make no mistake, if you do what everyone around you is doing, this will happen to you too. We live in an obesogenic environment, and the reason most people – the vast majority of people – become overweight/obese is because they give in to that environment.

They’re passive consumers of the nearest thing that will excite their taste buds.

As I wrote in my new book on aging, implementing an anti-aging program requires just a bit of discipline. The same holds for getting and staying lean: you need some discipline to just not give in to your environment.

I can hear the whiners out there (not my readers, you understand) objecting that obesity is never anyone’s fault, that they’re victims – victims I tell you! – of bad food and drink manufactured and advertised by the food and beverage industries.

But as a simple experiment, bring a box of donuts to your next social or workplace gathering, and see how many people refrain from eating one, or several. Hardly anyone.

What causes obesity?

The causes of obesity are still hotly debated, but in my view, they are mainly two: 1) people eat too much sugar and refined carbohydrates, and 2) they eat constantly, snacking and munching whenever they feel like it. If you want more on that, read my other book, Top Ten Reasons We’re Fat.

So, to stay lean, drop the sugar and most of the carbs. Recall that a low-carb diet is an anti-aging diet.

Then, fast intermittently. Intermittent fasting is the simplest diet plan in the world: just don’t eat for a given length of time. No counting calories, no meal plans. Simple.

And don’t skip the weight room.

Obesity is the pro-aging phenotype

Obesity causes, or is accompanied by, increased insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress, both of which are solidly associated with aging. Becoming overweight or obese accelerates aging because of this. Diabetes, the logical culmination of obesity, means much higher rates of cancer, heart disease, and muscle loss, and all of these are diseases of aging.

The anti-aging phenotype is lean muscularity, with a high degree of insulin sensitivity, and low levels of inflammation and oxidative stress. The fact that calorie restriction and fasting are the best proven lifespan extenders in animals ought to tell you just about everything you need to know about excess food intake and aging.

Less food = less aging.

Don’t be that guy

When I was a teenager, my dad unfortunately ballooned up into the obese range. He also suffered from heart disease, and was forced to take beta blockers and nitroglycerin to keep it at bay. I remember observing all this and swearing that I would never let it happen to me.

So don’t let it happen to you. If, as I say, you do what everyone around you is doing, it will happen.


Leave a Comment:

guy says June 26, 2015

I agree obesity is an issue, but I think BMI isnt the best indicator of being overweight. As an example, I am sub 15% body fat, but solidly in the overweight category due to my muscle mass. My HDL/triglycerides, fasting glucose and everything other than my BMI point to a healthy weight. Muscle is heavier per volume compared to fat and BMI fails to make the distinction. If muscle mass were taken into account, Im sure the amount of overweight men would decrease.

    P. D. Mangan says June 26, 2015

    guy, you’re correct at least that BMI is not the perfect indicator. It is adiposity, not muscle, that counts toward an unhealthy weight. However, as I wrote in my new book, researchers can pretty much ignore extra muscle in men when doing population-based analysis since so few men (or women) have any. I’m also sub 15% fat, and I’m just below BMI 25. If I could add a bit more muscle, I’d be “overweight”. Waist circumference or actual percent body fat are better measures of unhealthy weight than BMI, but they are not easily done, and BMI requires knowing only height and weight.

      JP Irving says June 27, 2015

      I was going to quibble with using BMW, but let’s be real, the world isn’t filling up with muscle-laden powerlifters and body builders. However, as someone with a wide frame and a good capacity to put on muscle, I really don’t like BMI as a fatness proxy.

      I’m currently losing out on some health insurance discounts from my employer because the insurance algorithm only uses BMI. At 6’2” 230, I’m considered at the high end of overweight, even though my body fat is quite low and my exercise capacity is high.

      This makes me wonder though, at what point does weight become a risk factor, even if the weight is muscle? A lot of those 70s era body builder types are still quite big, and presumably doing alright healthwise (Arnold, Ferrigno, Stallone &c.) but there are also cases of some big guys going down young, some of the professional wrestling performers and strongmen come to mind. Steroids and stimulants are obviously confounding variables.

guy says June 27, 2015

Thats a good point. I was under the impression that weightlifting was relatively popular among men, but perhaps there is some confirmation bias based on the circles Im in.

Excess body fat accelerates aging - Rogue Health and Fitness says March 23, 2016

[…] Obesity  is the pro-aging phenotype, with increasing levels of inflammation and oxidative stress, which conduces to cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline. […]

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