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We Eat Too Much

We Eat Too Much

The title “We Consume Too Much” would be a catchy anthem for tens of millions of American dieters. There were few overweight Americans during the 1930s Depression, but triumphs in World War II seem to liberate the inner fat person in some of our parents and grandparents. By the 1950s when I was in grade school fat kids were certainly not the norm, and they got teased a lot, but every homeroom class had one or two or three.

Trends have been decisively towards larger waistlines in the past few decades. About a third of all Americans today are “obese” with a “body mass index” of 30 or more according to studies presented at the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Weight of the Nation” conference. A report from Duke University researchers at the conference predicted that about 42% of all Americans would be “obese” by 2030 if trends persist. Their crystal ball also shows that about 11% of Americans will be “severely obese,” meaning more than 100 pounds overweight or with a body mass index of more than 40. That’s a lot of fat, and the Duke team warned that those increases above and beyond our existing high obesity rates will generate $550 billion in extra health-care costs by 2030.

Other  news from the CDC-assembled experts include estimates that about two thirds of Americans are currently “overweight” with many trending towards the “obese” category. Further, about half of “severe obesity” in adults results from obesity in childhood. Right now about 17% of American children and adolescents are obese.

There appear to be no cure-alls. I’m sympathetic to people with addictions as I ran 26.2-mile marathons into my late 40s and  was physically addicted to heavy exercise every day. If I didn’t run, my body was  uncomfortable and I was jumpy and irritable. The addiction drove me to running in unsafe places, running when there was ice or rain, and otherwise exercising when it wasn’t sensible. In my last marathon I broke my leg in two places and had surgery afterwards; the pain I experienced diminished, almost cured, the addiction. My exercise now is a small fraction of what it was as body chemistry adjusted to new realities.  My own addiction experience lends empathy for the struggle an overweight person has in eating less. The body wants what it is accustomed to, and it protests when we don’t give it want our chemistry demands.

I have friends who have handled being overweight, and resulting the health consequences like diabetes, with gastric bypass surgery. That seems like a good choice when the alternative is gnawing, persistent discomfort while fighting the addiction, probable failure, and then years of dealing with the health effects of carrying too much fat. Bless them in their fights, and as parents let’s try to keep our children from getting addicted  by encouraging common sense diet and exercise habits.

Image by © 2010 by Tomasz Sienicki [user: tsca, mail: tomasz.sienicki at] (Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki (Own work)) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Cynthia Blaylock Friday - 11 / 05 / 2012
    Grier, I commend you in your new blog, We Consume Too Much. It ties right in with a new book, just hot off the presses, by Dr. John McDougall titled The Starch Solution. The title of Chapter 6 is "We Are Eating the Planet to Death" and, while I've just glanced at it, it speaks to the "devastating environmental destruction" we are causing on the earth with our rich American diet loaded with animal products, to say nothing of the travesty we are doing to our bodies. I've been fascinated by his books for the past few months, and are well worth looking into.

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