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Why Americans are so fat?

Put boldly like this as the title to the article, this is close to being politically incorrect. We are not supposed to talk about people who are overweight. This intrudes into their privacy. We are being discriminatory in some way. Yet, when you come to the hard statistics collected by the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there is absolutely no doubt about the national trend. The CDC has been producing the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys for decades. It’s the CDC’s way of keeping its finger on the pulse of the average American. The first study was done almost sixty years ago.

At that time, about one quarter of all Americans were overweight, i.e. had a Body Mass Index of more than 27. This was the steady result as time passed until the Survey results came in the 1980’s. Suddenly, one third of the population was overweight. In just ten years, millions of Americans switched their eating habits from moderate to excessive. If you could be persuaded to think of this as being like the spread of a disease, this would be an epidemic. And, just like a disease, it has continued to spread. Now more than twelve million adults have a BMI of 40 or more. In everyday terms, this has meant the replacement of the routine things we use in public places. Revolving doors are now bigger. Chairs are wider and strengthened. Even coffins have had to be enlarged.

So what changed and why? The answer is rooted in evolution. For survival purposes, we are hard-wired to eat during the years of plenty so we can live through the inevitable famine. Except, in modern times, no famine appears. This just leaves us with the appetite for high calorie foods to build up fat. Worse, as hunter gatherers, we had to run after our food to catch and kill it, or endlessly dig in the field to grow it. Now we drive down to the convenience store. Our lifestyles changed from active to sedentary. The final nail in the coffin was price. Before we applied technology to agriculture, food was quite expensive but, over the last forty years, the real price of food has been falling fast. Now we can all afford to overeat.

So to lose weight, we have to fight evolution. Just as our brains keep telling our bodies to eat more fat to store up energy, we have to tell ourselves to eat less and exercise more to burn off the fat. One of the key weapons to use in this fight is phentermine. This is a chemical designed to work in our brains. Instead of our stomach having a clear line of communication to our heads with the message that our stomachs are empty, this drug blocks the message. So, when some people start feeling hungry and automatically reach for the cookie jar, the phentermine user does not feel like eating snacks between meals. It kills the hunger pangs and makes it easier to keep to a diet. Now when we tell ourselves to exercise alongside the diet, there is more likelihood we will burn off some of these unwanted pounds and start looking and feeling more healthy.