The Forces behind Obesity: Why Tackling the Issue Goes beyond the Individual Alone {Guest Post}

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.

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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?

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 9.07.55 AMCarrie Rubin is a physician, public health advocate, and medical thriller author. Her newest novel, Eating Bull, explores fat-shaming, food addiction, and the food industry’s role in obesity.


  1. Thanks for hosting me, Tamara. Obesity is a complex issue, and I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the topic here on your wonderful site.

  2. Obesity is far more than just being heavier than others…. It’s a mental illness for some and it’s SO HARRDDD to break free from food addiction, etc.
    GiGi Eats recently posted…I Was Poisoning Myself…My Profile

  3. Great post. I recently watched the documentary Fed Up. It is amazing how much the prevalence of junk food has changed. It is now everywhere! I think this has an impact as well.

    • Thank you. ‘Fed Up’ is a great documentary. It really hits home when you see the personal struggle some of those kids go through. There’s another one called ‘That Sugar Film’ I have on my list to watch.

  4. Clearly this is all true. Where my head goes these days though, is that we now 2 generations deep into Claim Jumper culture. There are now two generations of people alive today who have never known reasonable portion sizes at home and in restaurants. While that is a blanket statement, and is not true of all westerners, it represents the fast majority of most of western culture. That is a curve that will take two more genrations to change, but only if we start today — which I think we have…

    • That’s a great point. To kids and young adults today, a 32-ounce soda seems perfectly normal. It’s difficult to go back to 8-12 ounces when all you’ve known are supersizes.


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