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Who Is To Blame for America’s
Obesity Epidemic and Overweight Problem?
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“French fries wilted in their own grease on paper plates with burger scraps and ketchup smears. A yellow bag of M & M s gaped open beside a gutted sack of Doritos. Half-empty soda cans stood near a pizza box glistening with rainbow streaks of congealing oil.”
- Frat house after a party?
- Bulimic girl’s bedroom?
- Hollywood movie set?
- Government agency all-nighter preparing for a cover up?
You could imagine any of these scenes. However in her new book Zooubiquity, Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD was describing the on call room used by the overnight team of a cardiac care unit. The young doctors who had created this mess were on their cardiovascular medicine rotation; some were deep into their training to become cardiologists. These physicians, handpicked from the best med schools, had spent the past twenty-four hours treating some of the deadliest conditions known to modern humans: heart attacks, artery ruptures, strokes, and aneurysms. A whirlwind of chest pains, abnormal EKGs, angiograms, defibrillations. Most of this trauma had been caused by their patients’ underlying coronary artery disease, the leading killer in the United States, which is strongly linked to diets high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, salt and too much and the wrong kinds of fats.
Can you see the disconnect?
We are awash in junk food calories. Our environment is full of calories. Dunkin Donuts next to the Taco Bell beside the KFC, alongside the Burger King, followed by the McD’s. Oh and Wendy’s is across the street, next to the 7-11, where you can still get a 32 oz of slurpee with 10 teaspoons of sugar. The food it convenient, quick and cheap. This environment supported by our own biology has resulted in 70% of the population deemed overweight or obese.
What part does biology play you ask?
In the days of the hunter-gatherer, the expenditure to find a calorie was high. It had to be hunted or harvested. The only picnic was wild berries growing on bushes or a fruit bearing tree was happened upon at the right time.
Yesterday, I led Table Topics at our local chapter of Toastmasters at Franklin Square Hopsital. It’s a medical community with most of the members in the group are non-medical, mostly administrative staffs. It’s a good thing that they are in Toastmasters since they are usually the ones who need to lead meetings. Business meetings are the bane of business, a necessary evil, some would say. But if run and helped out by Toastmasters members, they will be on time, succint and humorous.
One of the topics I set out for a member was the question: Which is more difficult for you to eat healthy or to exercise?
Chuck handled the question adroitly and recalled a time when his family lived in Europe. Beef and chicken were nine dollars a pound, so ate smaller portions. Bicycles were the mode of transport and walking daily was an integral part of life. Chuck reported that he had gained 40 lbs since returning from Europe.
You could say that it’s the environment that makes us fat. If you breathe in the USA, you get fat. I felt that way over my three decades of living overseas, whenever I would visit the States, I couldn’t help but gain weight almost immediately it seemed.
Certainly a part of the story is the overabundance of easy calories. Junk food need not be hunted or gathered. From your couch you can pick up the telephone and call for Chinese or Pizza. When you go to supermarket, you don’t even have to push the door open, they open automagically. NO expenditure of calories, oh no, too much work.
There is another part of the story though, I call it Good Cop, Bad Cop. Next time… Move to Part II