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What is making people fat?

Posted Jul 18 2011 5:44am

I read this article about obesity in America and how it continues to increase. It is a bit troubling as I believe living a healthy, lower-weight life is the key to living longer and happier. Unhealthy people tend not to be terribly happy.

Lots of people have opinions about what is causing the increase in obesity and one of my favorite sites about the subject, Obesity Panacea , is co-written by joggler Travis Saunders. You should check it out for some great articles.

Since scientists haven’t really figured it out quite yet, I thought I’d add my two cents about what I think is causing the problem and how to fix it.

There are a wide range of factors but I believe it all boils down to this…people are consuming more calories but not exercising more.

More calories equals more weight

Our weight is directly related to how much we eat. It’s shown time and time again that if calories in is greater than calories out, you will gain weight.

And exercise alone is not enough to offset the extra calories. Think about this, one mile of running burns about 125 calories for men and 105 calories for women. At least that’s what research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise as reported by this Runner’s World story .

So for every donut or soda or large banana, you’ll need to run just over a mile to burn off the weight. And if you like candy bars like me, you’ll need to run almost 2 miles. This is just not practical for most people. To lose weight you have to eat less.

Incidentally, if you want to figure out how many calories you burn while running the calculation is done like this.

Total Calories burned while running = 0.75 * your weight
Net Calories burned while running = 0.63 * your weight

The numbers are a little different for women. (0.53 & 0.30) Sorry ladies, you just burn less calories while running.

So, at 190 lbs, I burn about 142 calories per mile. That means my 7.5 miler today burned 1068 calories. Nice!

My contention is that people are getting fat because they are eating too much and not exercising enough to offset the additional calories. Here are a few societal suggestions that I think might help. (There are lots of things individuals can do but we’ll look at that in a different post).

1. Implement a calorie tax. I don’t believe in banning things but items should reflect the total cost of their consumption. Since higher calorie foods are causing obesity & the problems related to that a tax on higher calorie food would offset the costs of these problems.

2. Remove high calorie snacks from schools. I know I said I don’t believe in banning things but removing high calorie items from schools will reduce the availability to children and should ultimately lead to less consumption. Sure, this might not have much impact, but kids are going to eat what is available. If all they had in school were lower calorie items, that’s what they would eat.

3. Restrict the use of cars in cities. We need to encourage people to walk to more places. In the city, we could do this by making it harder to own and operate a car.

Alright, I suppose that’s enough radicalism for one day. I know these are difficult problems and many people wouldn’t agree with me. They likely don’t see obesity as a problem or they don’t want any kind of government intervention. Many people resent a government telling them how to behave. And they have a point.

But when their medical costs start to impact the rest of society, they deserve to at least be asked to make some changes or cover the cost of their impact.

What do you think is the cause of obesity in America and around the world? And how can we fix it? Leave a comment below.

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