The Modern World Causes Obesity

Scientists, doctors, dietitians, and amateurs of all stripes have suggested many factors that may lead to obesity and that have lead to the obesity epidemic. But what are the odds that all of these factors just happened to change in the same direction, towards causing more obesity, at the same time? The odds are astronomically low, which leads one to the conclusion that the modern world causes obesity.

Factors involved in obesity

In our last article, we saw that, while processed and high-carbohydrate foods are associated with obesity, that has not always been the case. Americans used to eat plenty of obesogenic food, but didn’t become obese.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that have been plausibly suggested to lead to obesity. Many of these have scientific backing of some form or another, either animal or human experiments, or epidemiological evidence.

  1. Sleep
  2. Light
  3. Medications
  4. Sugar
  5. Refined carbohydrates
  6. Vegetable (seed) oils
  7. Less physical activity or exercise
  8. Decline of tobacco use
  9. Low-fat food
  10. Less protein
  11. Large portion sizes
  12. Sugar-sweetened beverages
  13. Constant food availability, snacks
  14. Cheap food and greater wealth
  15. Environmental endocrine disruptors
  16. Changing social norms
  17. Hyper-palatable processed food
  18. Food fortification with iron and folate
  19. Microorganisms
  20. Increasing maternal age
  21. Epigenetics
  22. Heating and air conditioning

In my opinion, many or most of these are valid causes of the obesity epidemic. There’s just too much evidence for many of them. I’ve probably missed a few too.

For the sake of argument, assume that the above is a comprehensive list of the causes of obesity, or of the obesity epidemic, and that each one of them contributes some fraction to the effect. What are the odds that each of these factors changed, and all in the same direction – towards causing more people to gain fat – all at the same time?

If the odds were 50/50 that a factor could go one way or another (as in a coin toss), the odds of all 22 factors going in the same direction are 1 in 4.194 million. (Calculator here.) I could probably use some help on these statistical assumptions from Nassim Taleb. But we’ll just go with these.

Something caused all factors to move in the same direction. Even though a lot of assumptions are embedded in that calculation, our ballpark estimate shows that the odds of this being due to chance are low.

What is that something that changed all of those factors?

The modern world.

The modern world and obesity

The key difference between the so-called developed countries and the underdeveloped countries is that the former are more modern. They’re wealthier, and the average person in a developed country doesn’t need to work as hard or struggle as much for a given level of wealth. In short, life is easier.

Life is easier because our wealth allows us to isolate ourselves from nature.

  • We don’t have to stop activity at dusk, because we have electric lights, as well as televisions and computers.
  • We don’t need to walk; we have cars.
  • We don’t let our bodies heal themselves; we have drugs for almost everything.
  • We don’t need to eat bland food; we have sugar.

The list goes on, but the idea is that living closer to nature imposes limits on us. And we had to work hard and endure much in trying to overcome those limits.

For a long time, hundreds of thousands or millions of years (depending how you define “human”), we’ve lived much closer to nature. Suddenly, we are not.

Our biological and social inputs are more artificial, controlled by ourselves.

We were shaped by evolution to be adapted to the older, more natural world. Our genes are not adapted to the modern world.

That’s why we have an obesity epidemic. Many environmental factors have changed, and some are sure to be more important to obesity than others, like 24/7 availability of cheap, processed food. But the modern world changed these factors in the direction of causing obesity, and at about the same time.

We’re insulated from stresses. We never go hungry and physical activity levels are low.

We’re not forced to conform to natural rhythms, so we don’t sleep as much or as well. We insulate ourselves from heat and cold much more than before.

We don’t force our bodies to deal with adversity, we take drugs.

We eat highly artificial foods. Children don’t play in the dirt.

We need the stresses and the rhythms of nature to be lean and healthy.

Control your environment

When I discussed the Deep Soy State, I pointed out the myriad ways in which our environment conspires to make us fat and unhealthy.

The points outlined above show the same.

If you want to be lean and healthy, or to become so, you must control your environment to the extent possible.

You must seek out normal stressors like hunger and exercise. Virtually all discussion of health, fitness, and obesity focuses on diet and exercise, and indeed they’re very important. But you also have to pay attention to all the other factors in your environment.

For example:

  • determine whether you need the medications you take, or whether they may be doing more harm than good;
  • use a light filter or app that dims electronic devices at night, so you can sleep better;
  • go hungry for 16 to 20 (or more) hours a few times a week;
  • lift weights, do some sprints;
  • don’t consume foods or beverages radically different from anything found in nature – pizza and soda qualify here; eat meat and eggs and vegetables, like humans are meant to;
  • take a cold shower and learn what actual cold feels like;
  • walk, preferably among the trees and nature, not on a treadmill.

All of these are a few ways of changing your environment to be more in tune with a natural environment. They involve discomfort and suppression of impulses. Hopefully we can use the modern world to get the best of nature – more trees and fewer infectious diseases, for example.

You’re going to have to avoid many features of our modern environment too. The shortest rule of thumb here is: whatever you see unhealthy and/or obese people doing – don’t do those things. For example;

  • Don’t shop in the middle aisles of the supermarket.
  • Don’t eat at fast food restaurants.
  • Don’t watch television.
  • Don’t eat every few hours.
  • Don’t be sedentary.

Conclusion

Food and physical activity are obviously important for staying lean and healthy. But there are many other factors. Our ancestors didn’t always eat right, but for the most part they didn’t get fat.

That’s because they didn’t live in the modern world, and they weren’t comfortable and coddled at all times, like us.

Be aware that the modern world has changed a multitude of factors that are important to health. That’s why we got the obesity epidemic.

 

PS: One way to get and stay lean is by adding muscle. See my book, Muscle Up.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.

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24 comments
Tenet says April 22, 2018

An important question is why there is an obesity epidemic in the U.S. but not in Western Europe. The factors seem to be the same in the U.S. and Western Europe. But while obesity has gone up in Europe, it is nowhere near American levels.

The one difference I see is that fast food, and cheap food in general, was more available in the U.S. than in Europe, starting many decades ago. And then came the phenomenon where fat parents fatten their children. When fast food came to Europe the dangers were known, from watching Americans. And higher value-added tax and other taxes made a big difference; You couldn’t go to McDonald’s with your family a couple of times a week, it was too expensive. It is still more expensive today.

We ate as much carbs in the past as today, yes; but maybe the other traits in fast food are what makes it so dangerous. And fast food always includes sugar as well. Drinking Coca-Cola, adding ketchup. In a U.S. fast-food restaurant you even get free re-fills of soda.

The chart about fast food in the earlier story doesn’t mention sugar. Soda, ketchup, candy; when I was dieting for half a year I noticed more than ever how these are the things that add to your calorie intake with astonishing speed. Eat just a little candy – and that’s 500 more calories. Reducing or completely annulling your diet effort on that day. And candy, like everything else in the grocery store, is cheaper in the U.S.

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    P. D. Mangan says April 22, 2018

    You make good points, Tenet, but obesity in Europe isn’t as low as you might think. The obesity rate in France, for example is 24%, and it’s going up. UK is at 28%, and Germany, Italy, and Netherlands are all at about 20%. All of those are lower than the U.S. to be sure, but they’ve greatly increased in the past few decades, just as in the US.

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      Johnny says April 22, 2018

      I’ve been fat in Europe, I had absolutely no trouble finding food to stuff my face with. If anything the junk food was of an even higher quality. Better variety too. Then again, the US also seems to have a better selection of junk food than Canada too, so I can’t do a straight 1 to 1 comparison.

      Two ignored factors are that Europeans are more likely to be smokers (28% vs 18%) and city structure is generally not built around driving so people end up walking around more.

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        Tenet says April 23, 2018

        “Europeans” smoke. Where, in Iceland? Bulgaria? Estonia? Germany? Swedes smoke a LOT less than e.g. France, and Swedes are slim. (If smoking stats have risen in recent times, as I expect, that’s not “Swedes”.)

        Also – Americans smoking less? Really? The country that is legalizing marijuana?

        As for obesity rates in Europe – 24%? Include older people, you get higher numbers in the statistics. But young people? Only in the U.S. do you see twenty-somethings looking like a tub of lard on a regular basis. It is practically unseen in any West European country, and probably in Eastern ones as well though I have little experience of them. I am shocked to see visiting American women through work, and they’re in their twenties and the majority are fat, even obese like round globes – no, we don’t see that here. And 24% in a country is far lower than in the U.S., showing there are differences. There are difference within “obese” and “fat” categories, too. I see what I see, it’s simply not comparable.

        No problem getting fat food? No, but Johnny, read that point I made. The U.S. was hit first by the fast-food industry. Europe was hit later and with warnings attached, having seen the results in the U.S. Plus costs were always higher. They are lower now, but still higher than in the U.S. Americans today also know fast food is unhealthy, but the damage was already done – a fattened generation. As research shows, fat parents are more likely to also fatten their children. That first unsuspecting U.S. generation that got astonishingly cheap fast food with no warnings or bad examples to look at, changed the whole culture. Fast food as part of life is on a special level in the U.S. And again, adding that one detail: free soda. People have two or 2.5 cups of soda instead of one, that makes a huge (heh) difference. All in all, fast food came, saw and conquered in the U.S. in a way it never did in Europe. The leftist parties are generally full of crahp, but their high taxes and their intense warnings about “cultural imperialist” McDonald’s, coupled with the health warnings, made a world of difference at a critical time. (Oddly they never showed the same hysteria over the Soviet bloc destroying nature, but you gotta prioritize.)

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          Tenet says April 23, 2018

          I forgot to add one more detail: If we look at overweight stats for Europe, immigrants are far fatter and skewer the statistics. Middle Easterners buy chicken, wheat flour, cigarettes and more wheat flour in the store. So I can imagine overweight stats have risen lately. Though there is the same difference between groups in the U.S., of course.

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    Drifter says April 22, 2018

    Another often-overlooked factor is that much of Europe, specifically much of Italy and Spain from what little I’ve seen, eat very small breakfasts such as a cup of coffee and some cheese. The longer period in a semi-unfed state likely creates a host of benefits. There are no IHOPS or Awful Houses. Germany on the other hand has the Back Factory and other pastry shops with the expected poorer health to show for it. Also, the organ-fat semi-pregnant look is almost nowhere to be found. I know nothing about the statistics but if 1 in five people are obese (other than the UK and possibly Germany) I couldn’t find them the last time I was there. Perhaps they are concentrated somewhere or maybe the statistics counted American tourists.

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    Montgomery says April 22, 2018

    Just wait a little.
    Last year the EU deregulated HFCS as an ingredient in food; it was restricted before.
    I checked, and very nearly all Christmas sweets’ ingredients listed no longer sugar, but “fructose-glucose syrup” as central ingredient. The same for most bakery products in the supermarkets.
    This will not exactly reduce obesity or diabetes rates.

    Being fat in the EU is also somewhat more perceived as shameful compared with the USA;
    more obese people in the EU seem to hide socially, avoid shopping etc. during crowded times to try to stay unobserved; perhaps this effect warps your impression.
    Most tourist destinations tend to be rather rich and fancy, so less local fat people should live there.

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      Tenet says April 23, 2018

      “I checked, and very nearly all Christmas sweets’ ingredients listed no longer sugar, but “fructose-glucose syrup” as central ingredient. The same for most bakery products in the supermarkets.
      This will not exactly reduce obesity or diabetes rates.”

      We will see if that makes a difference in the future then. But it doesn’t affect the factors in the past and present. Also, people are more health conscious now than ever. And again, no fattened older generation bringing up their children the same way as they lived. (Of course, there are such families, but not in the same numbers as in the U.S.)

      You are not likely to see, for example, an obese girl aged twenty always keeping a bowl of candy on a bookshelf in her bedroom. I return to this topic, young girls who are obese, but it is really the difference that makes the most impression. To see that in the U.S., you realize statistics about the whole population don’t tell the whole story, and you start to realize why many American guys sound so bitter when they talk about U.S. girls online. (Though I suspect they too could lose a few pounds.)

      “Being fat in the EU is also somewhat more perceived as shameful compared with the USA; more obese people in the EU seem to hide socially, avoid shopping etc. during crowded times to try to stay unobserved; perhaps this effect warps your impression.”

      Montgomery, I live here, and I have visited the U.S. many times. It is not comparable. As for fat people hiding, of course they don’t! How would they get to and from work? And if anything there’s even more of “we are all equal and perfect!” talk, so there would be no more shame than in the U.S.

      Reply
    American says April 24, 2018

    It is way way way more complicated than just fast food is the mother of all evils that causes obesity. As my name would imply i am from the USA. I have plenty of fat friends who despise fast food, soda and Mcdonalds and all of its brethren. These are smart people who read food labels and yet are somehow still fat.

    I am not fat. One difference between me and them is that I go to bed hungry every day, on purpose.

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Bill says April 22, 2018

PD, you mention sugar. It’s in everything. I like dark chocolate especially the 90 sugar free type. But even I get confused occasionally., On Friday I bought a Lindt Italian made Dark Chocolate labelled “No Sugar ADDED”.
Well I tried it and it was so sweet. I wondered what was going on. Afterwards I read the list of ingredients. And read that it has maltitol added to it and that it is listed as the second ingredient which indicates that there makes up quite a large percentage of the total weight. Maltitol is hydrogenated corn syrup and corn syrup is a form of sugar. That means Maltitol is a form of sugar. By the way I needed a magnifying glass to read the ingredients list.

So the Lindt statement on the label packaging that there is no sugar added, is a direct lie and misinformation to consumers. And probably causes obesity even in those trying to avoid such crap. I have written to Lindt but I doubt I will even get a reply.
The real problem is that this product is but an example of mass corporate lies & misinformation.

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    LEE TURNER says April 22, 2018

    Try Lily’s Chocolate. Its the only dark chocolate I eat, and it’s sweetened with stevia.

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      Bill says April 24, 2018

      Not available in Australia ;-(

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        Nick Westgate says April 24, 2018

        Well Naturally is an Oz brand (and in NZ too) that makes a good range of no and low-sugar chocolate bars. The dark one is 70% with polydextrose, erythritol, and stevia, which are probably at least benign, and may have some benefits.

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          Bill says April 26, 2018

          Never heard or seen Well Naturally, Nick

          Reply
Montgomery says April 22, 2018

>We’re insulated from stresses.

From some, but exposed to others more than ever.
We are warm, well fed and entertained. But socially more stressed than ever before.

I recently read a book from a clinical psychologist; he wrote that the most intense fear is the immediate fear of death (in accidents, heart attacks, crime etc.).
What are the second most intense fears? Poverty, illness ? No.
The 2nd most intense fears, generally, are social fears.

The number of prescribed anti-depressives:
https://amp.businessinsider.com/images/56b381f5dd0895c4558b46ad-750-739.png
Tranquilizers, which reduce anxiety, are another class of drugs also in shockingly common use:
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6409a1.htm
And then we have the “opioid epidemic” and the widespread use of alcohol and marijuana.
https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/drugusegraph_rx_df_2014.gif
Then there is also TV and video game addiction.

What do all these have in common?
They reduce anxiety, fear, dumb down, make forget, distract. They help relax. They shut out reality, help to sleep, allow to ignore the outside world.

Binge eating has the same effect: Quick satisfaction, and then a feeling of tiredness and forgetfulness/pleasure, a state of less anxiety and less immediate pressure from life’s problems.
Most mammals, when under stress (lack of sleep, social conflicts), incl. humans, show increased appetite in stress situations – binge-eating decreases the acute stress reaction, by lowering cortisol and adrenaline. We are evolutionary programmed to react with desire for more food when under stress, perhaps as a precautionary measure to alleviate future starvation due to social exclusion or not being able to gather/hunt food after a conflict/fight.

Life in most aspects is richer and safer than ever before; yet, most people are more stressed and even despaired or panicky or so deeply saddened that they need medication to calm down or brighten up.

Social fears as 2nd most intense fears we can feel have, in my opinion, something to do with it.
We are extremely social. We cannot stop judging and comparing others and ourselves to them, it happens automatically.
We are most aware of others just looking at us, and then we change our behaviour (“act”) even when we just suspect we are looked at. We behave differently in private and public, feel a strong need to play a role in publicly.
We are addicted to social surveillance – we are a species highly interested in other people’s faces, abilities, possessions, social status and interactions. We have strong instincts to surveil our social environment; these were first exploited by theatre (actors acting, pretending to do social things, while the audience feels like it can observe – unobserved itself – to learn valuable social information – perhaps in a way our social ape-ancestors spied on each other from the safety of being shrouded by foliage in a tree to gather social information – it is motivated by us reacting with pleasure/reward center activation to these activities). Movies and TV deliver the same illusion to “spy” on our social environment from the unobserved safety of our TV room.
Social media exploits the same craving for learning about social interactions, standards, successes, failures, strengths, weaknesses, social status and alliances of other people – not only celebrity gossip and news, but the life’s of our immediate peers are now presented for our “secret” surveillance.

The quantity and quality of what we get to see is evolutionary novel – most people receive information about hundreds of people (direct social contacts and media-sourced celebrity news) daily.
Our ancestors have hardly seen as many attractive potential mates in all their lives as we see in a single day. But the quality is different, too.
The media pictures we see influence us – consciously and unconsciously. All this fake (and real) perfection – hyper-beautiful women and hyper-successful men – it matters not so much for our unconscious social status detector if they are supermen and princesses from movies or real models and billionaires – push ourselves down in comparison – most people have no hope of ever getting near these levels of success and social status.

I think this causes frustration, and hopelessness, social stress, even shame and self-hate for being so inferior, and from that anxiety and/or depression in most – and envy-derived hatred for others in some, like school shooters (some react to being hopelessly dominated socially by depression – more of a female reaction – some react with aggression – a more male reaction).
No wonder – compared with the artificial or real super-high social status people from media most cannot hope to compete, but are exposed to them, from cradle to grave – in news, movies, TV.

It’s a constant single kind of message:
You are not good enough, and you are so lacking that you have no chance to compete successfully.

Socially humans are very competitive (most tend to down-play their fierce competitiveness publicly), but what is required today to qualify seems nothing less than perfection.
But real people, the vast majority, are very limited – by IQ, health, willpower, beauty – they know they have no chance. They are, and will always be, failures – at least by the standards set by media (and social media, where many people are addicted to present themselves pretending having perfect lives, and others are addicted to observe their – mostly untrue – presentations).

In our modern world, life is in many aspects easier, more comfortable, richer; what we have, is on a higher level than ever before.
But because of the media’s exploitation of social instincts, our expectations have grown much higher, of what constitutes a successful, or even just decent, level of life success:
The gap, the differential between is and should has grown exorbitantly, and is higher than ever, as well.

For most people, therefore, life feels like being a one-legged competitor in a butt-kicking contest – failure and misery awaits (humans desire not so much an absolute level of success, but judge themselves by their relative level compared to others). And because most are so social and socially(-media) hyper-connected (all the time, everywhere, even on the loo, from waking up to falling asleep), we must notice others, and we know we are observed and judged by others all the time, as well – in a sense, we feel other people’s judging eyes all the time on us. In the past, people could be more private; live less observed by others. Social comparison was less terrible. Being normal did not feel like being hopeless human garbage. Being less than normal was less hopeless. People could hide socially, find a measure of peace.
Not so today – we live closer together (cities, communication), and we cannot escape other’s judgment – school or job, we are always under social observation. What we do, what we communicate, is stored forever in the form of texts or smartphone pictures/videos – every little embarrassing mistake is not only distributed instantly to our social circle and beyond, but also inerasably stored away on people’s computers and smartphones, to haunt us forever – in a sense, we cannot retreat, not escape anymore. The social environment was always a dangerous competitive arena, but today it is a minefield.

It seems true:
Because of our immutable social instincts of relative comparison with others, psychologically most would live happier “ruling in hell” than “serving in heaven.” Being a strong warrior or clan chief 10.000 BC, the top dog in a community living in dirt, appears to be psychologically superior than being an office clerk or minimum wage worker today, even as the latter have vastly more absolute wealth. The first feels like the king of the world, the latter like a miserable slave with no hope of significant improvement.
This can make life feel pointless, wrong, hopeless. Low social status causes distress, is painful, and then people desire medications – or binge eat – to dumb the pain and anxiety, or feel a little bit of pleasure from non-social sources.

Anxiety and depression have a purpose – they are signals that something in our (social) lives goes wrong,
that we are currently losers in the social war for resources and mates, social status – those emotions cause pain, just like physical pain, to motivate us to get rid of the problems we have.

Tranquilizers fake to our nervous system we are safe and can relax chemically.
Antidepressants fake to our nervous systems we are winners, have a high social status, by faking the reward from success (increased serotonin) chemically.
Stimulants fake to our nervous systems that we are bold and strong and smart, and have very good chances to compete socially, to win, by faking energy and optimism, wakefulness and even aggression chemically.
Those are lies, emotional lies, chemical high-social-status simulators. And they only became necessary because the standard for success today is higher than ever and the competition is fiercer than ever, so that most people are so hopeless they cannot function anymore without pharmaceutical success simulators.

When real achievement appears unobtainable, people get simulated achievement from chemicals or electronic entertainment; but then they need to keep reality out of their minds – and another set of drugs, and binge-eating, facilitate that.

Is this done to people on purpose?
Perhaps they can sell a lot more to unhappy than to happy people; the latter are more content.
Being of low social status, and getting reminded constantly of it, causes social stress and pain; and this stress makes people crave compensational pleasures – food, drugs, entertainment.
Women who feel beautiful do not need much; it’s those who feel (or are made to feel) too ugly who buy up all the makeup.
Men who feel successful and confident need no Porsche; those are craved more by men who are insecure (for example young boys and men – music videos of rappers are full of luxury cars – but many really rich, powerful men do not care much for fancy cars at all).

Humans are addicted to social surveillance, then get fed emotionally arousing media information of vastly superior individuals, then feel hopelessly inferior in comparison, then become sad and anxious, then desire to alleviate this social pain by buying products that produce immediate pleasure/reward, then feel more relaxed again, and then the cycle starts anew.

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    René says May 2, 2018

    Outstanding Comment, Montgomery! I would like to read more of you. Do you have a blog or written a book?
    Regards from the not yet obese Germany

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Herman Rutner says April 22, 2018

Most of your cited factors contribute little to the obesity epidemic in the US and now in Europe, copying US food and lifestyles. The 2 major factors:: Our greed driven food providers in collusion with the USDA are largely responsible in knowingly creating seductive fat and sugar laden processed food and drinks. These in combination with a sedentary lifestyle are the main causes of the obesity epidemic. The damaging health effects of overconsumption of junk foods are ignored by our greed driven agro mega corporations. Similarly our health care, more properly sick care system, profits from sickened obese patients, not from lean healthy folk.
Just look back to 1900s or earlier in colonial times when food was largely home grown home cooked and limited, especially in wartime, here and in Europe. And it required much effort to plant, harvest, preserve and cook in time and energy consuming activities.
Bottom line: folk sickened by bad lifestyles are good for the economy and GDP.. Hence our regulators in DC protect big business interests, not the the public, as they should as public servants.

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Simon says April 22, 2018

The number of factors at play makes it an almost chaotically complex problem to model, it being difficult to boil it down to a few common root causes, such that one might correlate the obesity rate against them.

Doubtless though as you conclude, and is evident in many ways, not just confined to obesity – we are maladapted to the modern world.

The industrial revolution kicked off an unprecedented rate of change in the world, which we are still pretty much nowhere towards biologically adapting to.

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Drifter says April 22, 2018

In other news, I’m happy to see that sprinting is now on the recommended list!

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Kevin McHale says April 22, 2018

I agree with the positionibg of sleep (or lack of) as one of the many ‘modern life’ contributory factors to obesity. I think it’s a good place to start if you are trying to get onto a healthy path. If we regularly can get 8hrs, we feel more clear headed and even-tempered, have more energy, and less cravings for junk food and excess food generally. Lac of sleep undermines our physical and mental health in many mores than just obesity.(See ‘Why We Sleep’ by Walker) . The challenge is giving ourselves an 8hour sleep opportunity each nigh and then generating enough natural sleep to fil it . A good place to start the rebellion against modern life.

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David The Good says April 23, 2018

Very good observations. Extra points for the Taleb reference.

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    P. D. Mangan says April 24, 2018

    Thanks, David, great to see you around here!

    Reply
Paloma says April 24, 2018

Hi PD,
I live in Spain and although we still do not have the same obesity rates as the US, we are working on it. I used to live in the UK and at that time it shocked me the amount of processed food there was available at supermarkets. 15 years after that, Spaniards have changed so much the way we eat that supermarkets have the same processed products than any other more developed country :(:

https://stopalaobesidad.com/2014/11/11/estadisticas-de-obesidad-2014/

When I travel to Germany and the UK, people look fatter to me, in France they look leaner than in my country. When travelling to Morocco or Portugal, the slenderness of their habitats reminds me of my younger age. 30 years ago, there was just 1 or 2 fatter kids at school, now at my children classes, almost 1/3 of the children look too fat to me 🙁
This correlates with this article:
https://www.lavozdegalicia.es/noticia/sociedad/2016/05/04/galicia-comunidad-mayor-porcentaje-personas-sobrepeso/0003_201605G4P26991.htm

I live in Madrid centre and the tendency has somehow inverted (wealth and obesity). In my area, where people are wealthier, people are leaner than in less income areas. The same applies when you travel to villages, people eat too much, are uneducated about what to eat but cannot resist new industry products, and as they do not know what is good or bad for their health, nor care about fashion, they keep on increasing their body sizes.
It is becoming a real crusade to avoid all processed foods, specially for children. Mine complain from time to time about not eating pizza or doughnuts, so I keep explaining the why they are not good for them and finally it pays. They do not like too sweet foods and they rather drink still water than any refreshment.

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Aussie says April 29, 2018

One of the big differences is the amount of sugared soft drink that US people consume. I read that it is now the largest single source of calories in the US diet!!! Nor is it a new phenomenon. When I went to work in New Jersey in 1980 two of the things that struck me as different to Australia was that first my work colleagues went out to a diner every lunchtime and ate a sit down meal and secondly that they all ordered soda to drink with the meal. To me drinking sweet soda with a savoury meal just didn’t taste right. Re the point about the sit-down lunch – in Australia there aren’t any places to sit down and eat lunch in the industrial and commercial districts. You either bring sandwiches to work or you go to a storefront sandwich shop where they make to order. While there are a lot more cafes and fast food places here today than in 1980, they are mostly in the shopping areas and downtown CBD. So it’s still not easy to go for a sit down meal at lunchtime for most workers.

But don’t worry Yanks, with the generous help of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds and Dominos Pizza we’re catching you up! We regularly get news stories about rising obesity and certainly I notice a lot more fat kids than I remember in my childhood. Also I see a lot of kids walking around clutching a can of the dreaded Coke or some such liquid sugar – ominous sign for their future health.p

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