What role has the American culture had in the development of eating disorders and obesity?

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Right now, America has the distinction of being one of the top ten countries in the world for overweight adults.  60% of all American adults are classified as overweight, one out of four being morbidly obese. Also, obesity is increasing at such an alarming rate among U.S. children that they will be the first generation in decades that are projected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents! The question we must ask is why is this happening?  A common theory is that we are lazy slugs who eat too much and exert too little. Really?

First of all, let’s consider our lifestyle.  With the advancement of technology, most developed nations have experienced negative health consequences of more sedentary lifestyles.  However, when it comes to exercising and activity level, Americans are actually right in the middle of the pack. Yet still, we are at the top of the list for obesity and the attendant health problems! So much for our lack of physical fitness as the answer!

If it isn’t the exercise, it must be the way we eat.   Cross-cultural studies have demonstrated that “Westernized” societies are at greatest risk for obesity and weight related health problems. Of the top ten heaviest countries in the world, eight are located in the South Pacific. The only exceptions are the U.S. and Kuwait. Guess what the other eight have in common? If your thinking coconuts, think again. It’s us, the U.S. of A! For the past 50 years these eight countries have established significant economic ties with the U.S., which caused a surge in Western food imports and significant changes in their diet. Namely, they ate more processed and fast foods that originated in the U.S. Likewise, although China and Japan rank 148th and 163rd respectively for obese adults, compared to our ranking of 8th, both countries have shown marked increases in obesity the more “westernized” they have become.  Nothing like a Micky D’s to increase the average waist size of the populace!

These statistics demonstrate that the American diet has some major issues. But how is it that our food supply has become so fattening and why in the world have we allowed it? One of the issues is that we are dependent upon the convenience of packaged and/or fast foods. We like things now, because we don’t have time to wait. We are overworked to the point of having to rely upon the convenience of basic things like already prepared foods, because we simply don’t have the time to shop and cook.

It’s true, American workers play less and work more than the workers of any other developed nation in the world. In a report comparing international vacation and holiday laws, the researchers found that the United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation or holidays. And vacation time is not the only problem. American workers are overworked day in and day out as well. Consider the following: At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the workweek; the U.S. does not. In the U.S. 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week, and according to the International Labor Organization, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.” The fact is that in our country, you’ve got to come in early, (before 7:00 a.m.) stay late, carry your cell and/or pager all weekend, and become a road-warrior, lest you fall behind in the never-ending work piled on top of you day in and day out!

So we are not lazy, we are overworked!

Another part of the problem is that we have come to view cooking as an inconvenience.  It has become synonymous with being “old fashioned” or with traditionalism. As a result, we rely on packaged, processed, pre-cooked, pre-pared foods because it’s quick and easy. What’s wrong with that? Nothing except that these prepared foods are TOXIC.  The FDA looks the other way while food manufacturers pocket the profits from loading our food supply with additives that are addictive and cheap to manufacture.

Hard to believe?  Believe it. The research has been done. The data is good. The information is out there. The U.S. food industry has been polluting our food supply with addictives, poisonous additives called excitatory neurotoxins, like MSG, high fructose corn syrup, Splenda, and NutraSweet since the 1970’s.  These neurotoxins have been shown to cause all manner of neurological problems as well as obesity and it’s complications.  Guess when we started to become more obese? The 1980’s, shortly after we began to ingest sweeteners, and all manner of hydrolyzed proteins that literally excite the neurons in the centers of our brains that were designed to regulate appetite and fat storage!  At about the same time the rates of autism, ADD, Aspergers, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and a number of different types of cancers, all of which appear to be driven by environmental toxins, began to climb, peaking recently. The sad thing is that these issues are not even on the radar of the vast majority of Americans, who blame themselves for their obesity, binge eating, bulimia, anorexia and all manner of disturbed eating patterns. Where does it end?

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Sources:

Forbes Magazine (online version) – World’s Fattest Countries (http://www.forbes.com/2007/02/07/worlds-fattest-countries-forbeslife-cx_ls_0208worldfat.html)

New York Times (online version) – Americans’ International Lead in Hours Worked Grew in 90’s, Report Shows (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/01/us/americans-international-lead-in-hours-worked-grew-in-90-s-report-shows.html)

DORway (http://www.dorway.com)

Russell Blaylock, MD (http://www.russellblaylockmd.com/)