There’s mounting and undeniable evidence that we should think differently about obesity. The path we as humankind have continued on for the last few decades is only serving to exasperate the problem. It’s long overdue to look at things from a new perspective to start the road to recovery.
The human race is being poisoned by multinationals in the quest for ever more profit. Blaming people themselves for obesity is easy to do but it doesn’t help anyone and isn’t true. Read on for more information as to how corporations are to blame and the people that are supposed to be looking out for public health are failing us.
The food chain is corrupt and full of “food” that does nothing but harm. Ultra refined junk food is pushed aggressively onto people throughout their life. Profits are far more important than the health and happiness of individuals and society. There are many lies and myths that are propagated by corporations making billions a year.
Addictive Food Made In A Lab
60% of calories in an average American diet comes from ultra-processed foods. These are mass produced foods that have been heavily processed to contain no nutrition and have a high amount of refined sugar, carbs, unhealthy oils and salt.
Ultra-processed food is not made in a kitchen by chefs, it’s made in a laboratory by scientists. Carefully formulated with just the right amount of salt, fat and sugar to make something irresistible. Pringles have proudly been declaring for decades that they are so addictive that “once you pop, you can’t stop”.
Sunny delight was the number 1 drink for a short time, until the PR nightmare of a young girl turning orange that it couldn’t recover from. This fake orange juice did so well as they positioned it in the chiller cabinets, added synthetic vitamins and tricked people into thinking it was healthy. People loved the taste as it contained refined sugar, flavourings, fruit juice and oil to coat your throat and give a morish texture. There was no need for it to be in the chiller aisle as it wasn’t fresh and had a very long shelf life.
Studies have shown that the right amount of fat, sugar and salt interferes with the brain chemicals and keeps people eating and unable to stop even when full. In times gone by high-calorie snacks were a very rare occurrence.
Up until very very recently in the history of humankind the struggle was to get enough calories to avoid starvation. Our bodies take a long time to evolve and the ample calories available now is causing a health nightmare. In 2016 the number of obese people in the world overtook the number of underweight people.
Europe has high standards of what’s allowed in food but lots of baby food (3 months or older) in the UK has added salt and sugar. There are calls to ban added salt and sugar to any food aimed at ages 3 or younger. If even babies are getting a taste for added salt and sugar it’s no wonder that many have issues with food later in life.
A Bit Of Everything Isn’t Healthy
As the world turns more health conscious manufacturers are now promoting that the key to a healthy diet is to have everything. This is a convenient way to push their ultra refined junk food while still convincing people that their junk is part of a healthy diet.
“If you fancy something, have it – it’s good for you!” It’s very dangerous when foods are made in labs to be addictive and very difficult not to overconsume. It’s not about someone not being too weak to control their urges, it’s fighting a tough battle going against the ingrained survival in our DNA that’s no longer necessary.
Healthy is all up to interpretation and everyone has a different picture of what is healthy. For some people having an apple a day is a healthy diet whereas for others having a green salad with a teaspoon of cold pressed unfiltered organic extra virgin olive oil is unhealthy.
Saying “there’s no such thing as an unhealthy food only an unhealthy diet” is very convenient at persuading people to include ultra refined foods in their diet that contain zero nutrition. The truth is there are plenty of unhealthy foods and having some healthy fresh foods won’t counterbalance the negative effects of unhealthy food.
The most important part of a diet is what you don’t eat rather than what you do eat. The Mediterranean diet study by Preimed bestowed the health benefits of this diet. It involved people that not only ate fresh fruit and vegetables but also excluded sugary drinks, processed meats, refined grains, refined oils and added sugar. It’s now thought it might be more important what foods they excluded rather than what they actually ate.
Adding vitamins or other supplements to junk food is one of the most ridiculous trends in the food industry. It’s just another way to trick people into thinking a bad food is OK. Added vitamins don’t make junk food any better for you, it’s still junk food. Oreos with added omega was a short-lived product that thankfully didn’t succeed.
The confectioners Modelez (Oreo, Ritz, Cadbury’s), Ferrero (Nutella, Kinder) and Mars (M&Ms, Skittles) have grouped together to form Be treatwise. This group exists solely to push junk food products and claim they are part of a healthy diet.
They try to encourage their junk food by saying “chocolate has been enjoyed for centuries.” Ignoring that their products are very very low in cocoa and contain far more refined sugar and unhealthy oils than anything else.
Companies try to convince people that their products are healthy by showing the maximum amounts of sugar and fat the government suggests. Then saying a small serving is within these limits. Often serving sizes are ridiculously small and the average person is having 3-4 times the serving.
Manufacturers have lobbied against doctors that called for the maximum amount of sugar to be reduced. The real amount of added sugars health experts recommend is zero. There’s no healthy amount of refined sugar anyone should be having.
Food companies have prevented medical experts from giving their genuine advice of having no refined / free sugars a day. The advice that is best for health won’t allow food producers to sell junk food and pretend its part of a healthy diet. Instead, the advice is pushed that 5% (was 10% until 2015 in the UK) of daily calories from refined sugar is recommended, this encourages people to eat unhealthy foods.
The two often overlooked issues with modern diets is they are lacking in fibre and are dehydrated. Causing someone to eat when they are not hungry. Just drinking more water and having real foods that are naturally high in fibre goes a long way to resolve this.
The problem with nutritional information is that it treats all calories and fats as the same whereas some are harmful. My healthy recipes aren’t low fat or low calorie – they are no empty calories, high in fibre and made from wholesome ingredients.
Always An Excuse For A Treat
Treat culture is endemic in the modern world. Christmas now seems to extend to the whole of December where it’s normalised to have ultra-processed foods in excess every single day.
Modern life is stressful and it’s easy to want something pleasurable that gives momentary relief. People are working longer than ever, with many realising retirement or home ownership may never come. It’s easy to grab something that’s accessible everywhere and makes you feel good.
There’s always an excuse for a treat:
- It’s the weekend.
- It’s Friday I’ve made it through the week.
- It’s Wednesday I’ve made it halfway through.
- Its Monday night I’ve made it through the first day
- It’s 11 am I’ve almost made it through the morning
- It’s 8 am I’ve made it up.
- It’s my birthday, that only happens once a year.
- It’s my friends birthday, that only happens once a year.
- It’s one of my children’s birthdays, that only happens once a year.
- It’s Christmas that only happens once a year.
- It’s Easter, that only happens once a year.
- It’s Mothers day, that only happens once a year.
- I’m on holiday, that only happens a few weeks a year.
Before you know it you’re having a big wedge of unhealthy cake as its Janet from logistics birthday and that’s important to celebrate as it only happens once a year, not that you’ve ever said any more than hi to Janet. All these “rare occasions” and reasons to eat junk are anything but rare.
A Complex Relationship With Food
It’s an overused cliche for someone to say that weight loss is as simple as eating less and moving more. The truth is many people have a very complex relationship with food and blaming overweight people for being lazy is no help to anyone.
The fitness industry is full of people that have a sporting background or good genetics that can’t relate to everyone. They don’t know the real struggle and can’t see the complex picture. Some may have had great results with X or Y but that could be lots to do with their genetics and general disposition. It’s not helpful to think the same formula can be repeated for everyone to yield the same results.
Ultra refined foods are very cheap and easy. Poverty plays a big part in the problem. The income disparity in society has been rising over the last few decades. If you are overworked and short of time it’s no surprise that the quick, tasty and easy option is so attractive.
Everyone is individual and different and all know what food they shouldn’t be eating and they should exercise more. The solution isn’t that simple or a lack of knowledge.
Mental health is often interlinked with an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s easy to self medicate with something as addictive as opiates that are available everywhere.
We’re naturally drawn to a simple solution to a complex problem, but it’s not that straightforward.
Normal Size and Wanting To Eat Healthy Is Seen As A Disorder
Many times I’ve been called orthorexic because I don’t want to eat ultra-processed food. Being Vegan for over 30 years I know that people do often take your food choices as an attack on their lifestyle and become defensive. “What’s wrong with” is ever present even if you’re someone like me that only talks about diet when it naturally comes up.
Orthorexia is a real condition but not wanting to eat highly processed foods doesn’t mean someone is suffering from it. Lots of foods consumed today have no nutrition and would not be recognised as a food by people a few generations ago.
As people have grown bigger and bigger I feel like we are losing sight of what a normal size is. Waistlines have been increasing for the last few decades. It’s slowly changed peoples perceptions of what a healthy size is.
In schools there used to be one larger person, now much of the class are an unhealthy weight. 70% of adults in the UK are obese or overweight. I’ve noticed myself in Thailand, only a bit over a decade ago, there were no overweight local people. However once the multinationals started selling ultra processed junk foods and incomes increased overweight people is now a common sight.
Many sources have predicted that life expectancy is currently peaking and on the decline. There appears to be a link with fasting and longevity. The generations that had lean times throughout world conflicts might have benefited healthwise, for the ones that survived. Now for the first time ever we have generations of people who have never known lean times.
If you have the time, inclination and money you can scientifically prove pretty much anything. The multinationals have money to throw at studies until they get the result they want. Cherry picking to make misleading results is commonplace. Also corruption with the food industries and government advice is rife.
The UK is low down on the list of most corrupt countries but the NHS is still promoting decades old debunked advice about having a low-fat diet and artificial sweeteners.
Not all fats are created equal, a chemically refined GMO oil that is full of transfats is a world apart from a tablespoon of cold stone pressed fresh olive oil used as a salad dressing.
The food pyramid that was commonplace for many growing up had fruits and vegetables at the bottom. However under pressure from food manufacturers, this was swapped with carbohydrates at the bottom. This serves as a handy way to make people believe that it’s good to consume lots of the junky carbohydrates that the big manufacturers produce.
No Magic Pill Or Miracle Diet
As peoples relationship with food is complicated there is no magic pill or diet that can solve problems that have been building up for decades.
There are so many different systems out there to help people transition to a healthier diet. As a plant based website it would be very easy for me to say “just eat a diet high in plant-based natural produce that isn’t refined to solve all weight issues” but that would be a lie I couldn’t tell.
Sure a plant-based diet has worked for me but it’s not going to work for everyone. As food and diet is a complicated issue there isn’t a one size fits all. There are so many different approaches to take.
An individual needs to find what works for them. I advise avoiding the fad diets and schemes that just look too good to be true, like the slimming tea adverts that are everywhere on Instagram.
It’s a road to recovery and people need support more than anything else.
The damage of ultra-processed foods has been done over decades and has existed for many people throughout their entire life. There isn’t a quick fix that will help everyone. It’s going to take gradual steps to get over the addiction of ultra-processed foods.
You Can’t Out-Exercise A Bad Diet
It’s nice to think that you can eat what you like then just burn it off. But it really isn’t that simple and doesn’t work like that.
High sugar refined foods (white bread included) cause your blood sugar to spike causing more insulin to be released resulting in weight loss becoming harder. High-fat foods are very high in calories and it takes much longer than most people think to burn off. What lasts minutes on the lips can take hours to burn off.
Not all calories are created equal and can be burnt off as easily. A doughnut and avocado might have similar calories but the refined fats and sugar in a doughnut cause havoc for a body and make someone less likely to exercise and prone to eat more.
Some foods fill you up and make you want to go out and do something bursting with energy. Others make you sleepy, lethargic and more likely to stay static and eat more. That’s why I think its very harmful to just look at the nutritional content of food.
Some studies have concluded that people now are exercising more than they did in the previous few decades. Adding fuel to the argument that it’s not as simple as people not getting enough exercise. Although this can’t be helped by the fact that blue collar work is next to non-existent thanks to globalisation moving jobs and advancements in mechanisation.
Food Addiction Is A Real Problem
People have been poisoned, there’s nothing to gain from blaming them. The multinationals have intertwined themselves into every part of the modern world from schools, hospitals and even maternity units. It’s like trying to swim up a waterfall avoiding them.
It’s no surprise that a trillion dollar industry has all the money to throw at manipulative marketing and misleading studies.
Junk foods have been shown to be as addictive as drugs. They react with the pleasure centre of your brain releasing endorphins that are not too dissimilar to opiates. When something is that additive and pleasurable to the brain its no wonder people can’t stop but eat far too much.
We Live In A Mixed Up World
In the plant-based world, cold pressed unfiltered extra virgin olive oil is seen as a poison to some.
What for someone is a ridiculously healthy meal for another is total junk food, yet all of our bodies are very similar.
I do not have any qualifications in nutrition. I wanted to study it but reading the syllabus for the courses that existed in the 90s when I was making choices I knew it would teach me things I don’t agree with. Such as that several portions of dairy are vital for human health. I’ve backed up many of the points in this article, but some are my own thoughts and conclusions.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or money to launch a study to prove beyond doubt all the things that make sense to me. I’ve been vegan for over 30 years. I settled for a degree in computer science before leaving my successful career in 2015 to pursue a different path.
Sadly official advice is often very outdated as the NHS health advice proves, again and again. It’s a sick service rather than health service. GPs in the UK have 5 years of training to become qualified, but they have virtually no training in nutrition and food.
Seeing as diet is the biggest killer in the western world and how that combined with exercise has countless benefits it’s a very broken system that isn’t helping public health.
If you’re slim and healthy it’s all too easy to blame other people for their weight. This helps no one and if anything leads to more stress. As a coping mechanism people could eat more for a very short term fix.
Great for you if you are slim, but not everyone has the same genetics, upbringing and money.
Successful people like to think it was nothing to do with luck and anyone could do what they did. That is virtually never the case. So much of life comes down to luck and the opportunities that have afforded someone. The same can be said for weight; luck to be born and fed a healthy diet from a young age goes a long way to having a healthy weight and diet.
Having enough money and time for fresh food is becoming increasingly harder as working conditions deteriorate.
Yes, the formula to lose weight is easy but putting it into practice is a complicated picture. It involves more than just eating or moving, the human brain is an infinitely complex organ
I don’t have the answers other than knowing there is no quick fix. Long term there needs to a be shift in the diets people eat and the real causes of obesity and this could take generations. The problem with every government is they just want to put plasters over the issues and kick the can down the road for someone else to deal with.
It’s all about the short term fixes. Not that I’m blaming them as I’m sure many of the people in power want to do something, but like so many things they realise why it’s so bad the more they learn about it. Short-termism will be the end of the human race if we don’t start looking at a long term plan.
Companies will do whatever they can to bring in huge profits. Making people addicted to food that wreaks health and causes unimaginable pain and suffering is no concern to them.
It’s time governments did something to address it. But while so many of the big food companies are in cahoots with them and corruption is rife nothing will change.
Millions of people are killed every year by being poisoned with their diet. If anything else was causing just 1% of the deaths that the food industry does there would be an outcry to do something.
Please do let me know what you think of this article. I hope some sense is made out of my mixtures of facts, thoughts and observations. I didn’t plan to be writing this for several weeks and go over three thousand words. Now even though it feels incomplete and muddled I think I have to publish it and thanks if you did make it this far.
6 thoughts on “Why We Need To Look At Obesity Causes Differently”
Lots of good points; not enough enough structure. It kind of goes up n down, a little sideways, and is repetitive.
There’s so many factors into weight; one I consider a high contributor to obesity is not chewing your food! Taking huge mouthfuls of food, more than your mouth can really handle and looking like a chipmunk, and then not chewing enough to connect the “eating” spark in your brain doesn’t allow your stomach and brain to communicate, hence constantly hungry. I am also a believer in more exercise less food. Our current lifestyle of sitting down for over 12 hours a day ( I say this sitting on the train, going to my sit down office job), the time limitations we have, and the push to be constantly “switched in and availabile” can be added to the equation. There’s no way to walk off 12 hours of sitting. Despite this, I’m trying to do just that!
Thanks for getting through it. I agree the structure does need more work. I’ll re-do it in a few months but it was taking too much time with little progress. I agree with what you are saying about lifestyles, I too am guilty of that – thinking I can sit down most of the day during the winter then just drive (I know..) to have a swim for half an hour and think that is enough!
Made it to the end, glad you pointed out that not all over weight people are fat and lazy. Some interesting ideas .
Thanks for making it to the end! Just had to publish it now rather than spending more unproductive time on it. Will re-write parts of it in the future
A well-argued and thought-provoking piece. This should be shared with a wider audience. Thank you.
Thanks Jim, glad you made it through it all. Hope you’re well 🙂