The Obesity Epidemic

So, I must begin today’s post with a “Mea Culpa”.

When I wrote my post about the soda tax, I had no idea how powerful my words were, such that a few weeks later, despite Bloomberg’s effort, the soda tax is to be repealed.

And given how this tax was intended purely for the purposes of public health, I now feel the need to address the obesity epidemic, and put forth my ideas on how to stop it.

If my post is as successful as the last one, I expect everyone to look svelte for the Holidays.

(Note to my Jewish friends: Hanukah begins 12/13, so since you have less time, I highly recommend you put down the latkes already!)

Why is obesity considered an epidemic?

Because according to the latest study (found here), approximately 40% of adults are obese and another 33% are overweight.

So, smart guy, by writing “no fatties” on your dating profile, you just knocked out more than 70% of the dating pool.

And guess what? The remaining supermodels aren’t interested in you.

The reasons for this epidemic vary, but, suffice it to say, the bottom line is we all eat too much crap.

However, there’s another side to this that many do not realize.

First, let me begin by saying I totally understand obesity. When I was in high school I was 5’4” and weighed over 200 pounds, giving me a BMI of 34, just a hair shy of morbidly obese.

I lost 20 pounds going away to college (a reverse freshman 20) and another 30 when I got gallstones (cholecystectomy at age 20).

I was then able to hold my weight here for most of my adult life, till my late 40’s when I got back up to about 180. I lost it using the Atkin’s diet (more on that later).

I went back up in my mid-fifties due to stress at work, to about 185. I shed that by changing jobs, but am now stuck at about 170 or so.

I’d like to go back to around 160, but it seems as though my body steadfastly refuses.

Since I fully believe in the saying, “Physician heal thyself!” I have made great efforts to learn how best to lose weight.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Oh, and spoiler alert, you’re not going to like it.

The first thing is, exercise will not do it. How do we know?

Two recent articles in Scientific American (also referred to as “the magazine that only Joe reads”), discussed numerous studies which demonstrated that indigenous groups of people that are still hunter-gatherers, and who travel great distances every day, only burn about 100-200 more calories than you, seated in that cubicle all day.

Now, to be fair, even 100 calories a day will add up to 10-15 pounds a year, so it’s not insignificant, but the point was that the hour you spend at the gym, which still has important health benefits, won’t make you skinny.

There’s only one way to do it.

Stop eating so much.

And here’s the rub.

From an evolutionary perspective, we want to eat, because in the truly olden days, you could not be certain when you’d get your next meal.

But, today, that next meal, for most of us, is merely a few hours away.

And, it won’t be some sickly antelope you barely managed to catch after chasing it all day, it’ll be a bowl of pasta large enough to hold a Big Ten football field.

So, the trick then, is how do we stop eating so much?

Pure starvation isn’t good, because your body goes into starvation mode, where it will stubbornly cling to the fat stores it has, causing you to use fewer calories a day.

Diets, like the Atkin’s I mentioned earlier, work by removing all carbs from your diet, resulting in ketosis, which suppresses your appetite.

So, you’re eating less, and not feeling hungry and getting skinnier! What’s wrong with that?

Lots of things, unfortunately.

The first is that keeping your body in a state of ketosis is not healthy. Not to mention your breath will smell horrid and you will have no energy and be in a shit mood.

(In my case, it was a “shittier” mood.)

So, variants on this diet have been developed, with the Paleo being a current favorite, where you reduce carbs, which helps by not causing you to get insulin spikes, which will often trigger snacking.

This is not bad, and does work if you stick to it.

And that’s where the second rub is.

Any type of diet, will by definition, be a change from what you normally do. As a result, staying on them becomes progressively more difficult.

(It's also progressively more irritating to your friends, who are sick of hearing, "Oh, that looks good, but I can't eat it, because it's not on my diet." However, not as irritating as vegetarians.)

Not only that, but once you go off them, there’s typically a rebound phenomenon, which will cause you to overindulge in the crap you know you should stay away from.

(Yes, Bill, like what happened after Susan broke up with you, remember?)

So, Mr. Wizard, you might ask, what’s the answer?

Well, first, it’s Dr. Wizard, thank you very much, and second, Hell if I know.

To begin with, food especially food that’s bad for you, is just too cheap and tastes too good.

Let me also digress a moment and say that we still manage to have problems with hunger in our society.

Of course, we throw away more than enough food to feed every starving child, but no one wants to pay to do that.

They do, however, want the government to pay for health care, so the ravages that obesity has wrought on your body can be treated for free.

Personally, I’d like to take those health care dollars and use more of them to feed the hungry. (Starvation is an easily remedied medical problem.)

In conclusion, the answer to stopping the obesity epidemic is obvious, but so incredibly difficult to achieve, just eat less.

And when you hear all about those miracle weight loss ads on TV, please, remember these words:

STAY SKEPTICAL!

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