4 Truths About Why People Are Really Fat
Today, millions of Americans are fighting the battle of the bulge, carrying enough extra pounds to increase the risk of injury and serious conditions such as heart disease. Although many experts are quick to place responsibility on the heavy individuals, significant cultural problems aren’t making it any easier for people to shed unwanted pounds.
1) Nutrition information is overwhelming and not all that easy to understand.
Even though well over half of consumers report checking the Nutrition Facts labels on foods, people are selective about how much of this data they look at. A 2011 study from the University of Minnesota found that people were more likely to view the information at the top of the label than what’s listed at the bottom, and that people looked less often at the ingredients than at the calories. The results are problematic because ignoring the lower data or ingredients puts consumers at risk for eating substances that are nutritionally void, or which make it easier for the body to hold on to fat.
People also look at the nutritional information based on its position on packaging, and they are more likely to look at i t if it they don’t have to turn or reposition the food. These issues reflect the tendency for individuals to scan what they view (an inclination that technology and the Web reinforce), as well as the hurried nature of modern living. Even if the Nutrition Facts were repositioned or simplified, many people do not know how to apply what they see. For example, they might see that a particular yogurt offers so many grams of protein, but not know how much protein they should consume each day for their weight, age and activity level.
2) Convenience means people get full long after they’ve eaten the calories they need.
As social expectations and expenses have gone up, most individuals are rushing from place to place, working multiple jobs or struggling to get themselves and their kids to different activities. With less time to cook or to take meal breaks, people often turn to convenience or fast-food products. These items usually contain a lot of calories, sometimes delivering several hundred calories in just a few ounces. Subsequently, people easily exceed their calorie quotas without getting the volume of food necessary for them to feel full and satisfied. They feel hungry quickly because they’ve consumed such a small amount of food in terms of weight; this leads to eating even more later.
3) Processed food is usually cheap.
In most cases, the foods that have low price tags are the processed foods that contain unhealthy additives and are nutritionally deficient. This is due to a number of factors: farmers of organic products rarely receive government subsidies; processing foods prevents spoilage that could hike up costs for producers; it’s expensive to import fresh fruits and vegetables to cities or other regions where space or environmental restrictions prevent local harvest. Since the Great Recession, many individuals have had less money to spend, and because they often don’t how to prepare whole foods, they end up reaching for the cheaper options in an effort to get more volume without spending much.
4) People are stressed and not rested enough.
People are working more hours than ever and dealing with an onslaught of modern issues, such as how to pay for both their kids’ education and senior care for their parents. There also are concerns such as school shootings and terrorist attacks. These factors mean that many people are experiencing high anxiety and sleep deprivation, both of which can cause a spike in the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels stay consistently high, the body responds by retaining fat more easily. Cortisol also makes it hard for the body to retain or build metabolically active muscle. Immune system function also can be compromised, and individuals may forgo physical activity because of sickness or pain.
Regardless of how much willpower an individual might demonstrate, social factors still put a person at a disadvantage when it comes to losing weight. Until people actively address these elements, staying slim and healthy will continue to be more challenging than is necessary.
Bouchez, C. (2005). Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?
Kampworth, K. (2013). Why Are Whole Foods Typically More Expensive Than Processed?
Melnick, M. (2011). Study: Why People Don’t Read Nutrition Labels