This week, I’m thrilled to share with you a guest post written by a woman I’ve known virtually for many years. She’s and author, physician, public health advocate, humor blogger, mother, wife, fitness enthusiast . . . and introvert (although you’d never know it from her Tweets 🙂 ). Thanks Carrie for an insightful and thought-provoking post!
Telling people they’ll be thin if they eat less and exercise more is like telling them they’ll be astronauts if they apply to NASA. Neither happens that effortlessly. Many factors and outside forces weigh into the equation and make the journey difficult.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the past thirty years, the prevalence of obesity in the United States has more than doubled in adults and children. It has quadrupled in adolescents.
People didn’t suddenly lose their willpower since the 1980s. Certainly we’re more sedentary than we used to be, a product of both our built environment and our increased reliance on technology. Furthermore, our food environment has exploded with processed food, excessive portion sizes, and easy access to high-calorie, low-nutrient fare. But research suggests there is even more at play, including genetic, hormonal, environmental, chemical, and maybe even infectious factors.
We also now better understand the addictive nature of food high in fat, sugar, and salt. Few of us would binge on broccoli or carrot sticks, but give us a bag of salty potato chips or candy bars, and we can’t get enough. Not with all that feel-good dopamine swimming around in our brains. In fact, simply seeing images of junk food triggers dopamine release, much like seeing white powder does to a cocaine addict.
Add in hormones, human biology that encourages our bodies to store fat and resist weight loss, and an environment full of quick-fix foods, portion distortion, and poor walkability, and you have an issue much more complex than calories-in minus calories-out.
One thing is clear, however: a multifactorial problem requires multilevel interventions. Only when we target all the forces behind obesity will we see any lasting change. Yes, the responsibility ultimately falls on the individual, but to ignore these other forces is to invite failure.
After all, how’s it been working for us so far?