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10 Reasons Why Americans Are Overweight

Updated on January 23, 2016

What is Obesity?

Overweight and obesity are, in non-technical terms, energy imbalances. When a person consumes more calories than they burn, the result is a condition commonly known as overweight. If they continually consume more calories than they burn, the imbalance increases the overweight condition until it becomes obesity. Obesity is a risk factor for several diseases:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • osteoarthritis
  • stroke
  • hypertension
  • gallbladder disease
  • non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

and many others, including several types of cancer. Other dangers of overweight include back problems due to the stress of carrying too much excess fat around the midsection of the body, as well as breathing problems such as sleep apnea. Over two thirds of Americans are overweight to some extent, and over one third are obese. People who are obese have an increased risk of death from all causes, as well as suffering from increased instances of joint difficulties involving knees and hips.

Reason #1- Diet

Tv dinners, fast food, sugar-filled drinks and highly processed meals are cheap, tasty and convenient. But how cheap are they really? When they lead to dangerous health conditions that require expensive medical interventions, the high cost is not only the toll your body pays as it struggles to maintain health and balance on a diet full of saturated fats, sodium and low nutrition but the medical cost as well. The food industry spends millions of dollars promoting and advertising this type of cheap, unhealthy food to American consumers. Why? It's a matter of simple economics. Junk food is cheap to produce, quickly prepared, and it tastes good so there's a market for it. Mass production methods, low-wage workers and the cheapest ingredients ( mostly the unhealthy kind ) make these foods extremely profitable. And profit, commonly known as the bottom line, is what the large and powerful fast food moguls work for- at the expense of our health. Americans have begun to realize that you get what you pay for when it comes to cheaply produced, unhealthy food. Years of living on food loaded with sodium, fat, and low nutritional value takes a toll- can you say high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes? It's a vicious cycle that relies on Americans developing diseases caused by- then treated by- the food and drug industries.

Reason #2- Not Enough Sleep

Research has shown that babies that don't get enough sleep (at least 10 hours a night until age 4) are at risk for becoming overweight. Our sleep needs vary but on the average younger people need more sleep, with older Americans requiring less. What does that say about most American adults? Sleep deprivation affects hormone levels, which are closely tied to feelings of hunger. When people don't get enough sleep, the hormones that cause abnormal hunger pangs may cause people to overeat or to want to eat at all the wrong times. 7 to 9 hours a night is the recommended amount of sleep for healthy hormone levels, and getting the correct amount of rest will help prevent "sleep deprived" weight gain.

Reason #3- Depression

Depression is rampant in our modern society, especially in the depressed economic conditions America has experienced the past few years. "Comfort food" does exactly what its' name implies. Americans turn to food when they need comfort or feel depressed, but the end result (weight gain) is not making them feel any better. Not that the food itself doesn't offer short-term comfort. Depression or emotional distress may be temporarily appeased by the ingestion of foods loaded with fat, calories and sugar.

Comfort food is so popular there are even restaurants that advertise it. Comfort food is typically high in carbs, fat or sugar and is a reminder of a familiar place or time for consumers. Some popular comfort foods include mac and cheese, pancakes with butter and syrup, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits and gravy, chicken and dumplings, apple pie with ice cream, the list is practically endless. When people indulge in comfort food they are, in effect, wrapping themselves in an emotionally satisfying taste experience.

Reason #4- Distracted Eating

What is distracted eating? Nibbling snacks while on the the car...sitting before the computer...watching tv...with their minds totally on something else, is another reason many Americans reach overweight status. With their minds on other things, they eat more than they intended and the resulting weight gain shows it.

Our bodies let us know when we've had enough to eat, but sometimes if we are distracted while eating we miss the "stop" signals and overeat.

Reason #5- Sugary Drinks

Everyone knows that soda is packed with sugar. People might not think much about the effects of that latte or soft drink they've been sipping on, but it is adding pounds and inches due to its high sugar content. The calories in a typical 20 oz. soda can be as much as in a typical meal based on not only the sugar content but the number of servings in the size. A 20 oz. soft drink can pack a walloping 260 calories, and some people drink more than one of these high sugar concoctions every day. Consider this- people should be drinking from 9 to 12 cups of liquid daily just to replace lost fluids. The best choice is always water, and there are flavorings that may be added to water that don't contribute unhealthy sugars and carbs and make drinking enough fluids health promoting rather than detrimental.

Reason #6- Stress

Believe it or not, your daily stress levels can add unwanted pounds to your body that can cause depression, low self-esteem and...well, stress. Of course, the mental conditions that make people eat for comfort (to relieve stress) most often directly result in unwanted pounds and inches. Stress causes your body to secrete higher levels of a hormone called cortisol, which affects insulin levels and carbohydrate metabolism. These are two metabolic activities that have a direct effect on unhealthy weight levels.

Reason #7- Skipping Meals

Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can cause your metabolism to slow down and your body to go into "starvation mode"- and that can lead to weight gain. People may skip breakfast because they overslept or don't feel particularly hungry when they first awaken, but eating a healthy meal first thing in the morning actually gives metabolisms a boost and helps prevent weight gain. The best types of foods to eat first thing are foods that provide slow carbs- that is, carbohydrates that break down in the body more slowly, like oatmeal and fruit. Foods like this have a healthy effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, and not only will they keep hunger away longer they will promote weight loss instead of weight gain.

Reason #8- Portion Sizes

There is a marketing ploy used by many restaurateurs to make people feel they are getting their money's worth when they stop in to eat. The overloaded plate causes Americans to consume about twice the food they would normally eat, providing their bodies with twice the calories needed in one meal. And who likes to walk away from a paid-for meal and leave half of it behind? All You Can Eat buffets are another danger zone when it comes to overeating. Not only do people tend to eat all they can hold, the food in most restaurants is high in fat and sodium. To keep from over-eating at a favorite dining establishment, ask for a to go box before you even start eating and tuck away half of your meal to save for later.

Another danger to watch for when you eat out is child portions. Children don't need adult-sized portions, and restaurants can provide up to five times the amount of food your child needs to feel satisfied. That to go box will come in handy so you can monitor and ensure your child doesn't overdo it.

Reason #9- Late-Night Meals

A lot of people have developed the habit of eating just before bedtime. Having an eating cutoff time of day, like 6:30PM, will help ensure that the last meal consumed for the day has had a chance to be fully absorbed, digested and the calories fully utilized and metabolized. Someone working a late shift whose days and nights are reversed as a result should follow the 4 hour rule- don't eat 4 hours prior to going to bed. This gives the body time to metabolize the last meal before it is time for sleep, and the muscles will not store the glucose as glycogen (which if not burned off will turn to fat).

Reason #10- The Exercise Allergy

Americans are working at jobs that require a lot of sitting and not much else. And when they get off work, their leisure time is the same- sedentary activities like watching television or computer surfing and chatting are all just adding to the dangerous health situation facing our adults and children. Less than 30% of Americans exercise on a regular basis. Taking 30 minutes to an hour and using that time to walk (take the dog along! he'll love it!) or engage in some type of moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day will boost your body's metabolic rate, help keep stress levels down and overall body weight from climbing. The current national health crisis facing our children could mean, according to the Surgeon General, that the upcoming generation of Americans can expect to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. Looks like it's time to get moving- literally.

Do you exercise at least 30 minutes per day?

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Food Attitudes

After reading the 10 main reasons people are overweight, did you notice something important? It all boils down to having a good "food attitude". Our attitude toward food must change before we can even take the first step toward good health. The factors involved in health improvement are lifestyle factors that include food, exercise, rest, stress reduction and having the insight to know which of those factors need to change- then caring enough to implement that change. People with poor eating habits either don't realize what they're doing to themselves or else they don't care enough to make the effort to correct the issue. It takes time for fast food and junk food to create a full-blown disease. The symptoms appear one by one. A little softness in your waistline eventually becomes a muffin top, then you are looking at a larger size. That headache you get every day. You feel groggy after lunch and don't feel like doing anything. People would rather take their chances with a doctor- who may or may not realize and treat the underlying problem (diet). It takes insight to know that it is what you're eating (as well as other lifestyle behaviors) that's causing your health issues. If you overeat on a regular basis, or if "comfort food" is your self-indulgence on a regular basis, chances are your poor health is directly connected. If you are obese and you don't have a thyroid imbalance, then you have an "eating imbalance" and bringing balance into your diet should be your focus and your goal. Before you know it, your philosophy will have changed from "Live to eat" to "Eat to LIVE!" and that change will make life so much more worth living.


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    • Laceylinks profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Green 

      7 years ago from Alabama

      Thank you, Ladyweight! I became interested in the "why" of obesity years ago with several family members battling it...and mostly losing. The reasons became clear, and writing about it became my outlet. Since then one has passed on to the next life, one has regained all the weight lost after gastric bypass surgery, and one became a gym rat and whittled it off one day at a time- she is now a slim, curvy size 8!

    • ladyweight profile image

      Melesa Francis-Turner 

      7 years ago

      This article couldn't be more relevant. I agree with you 100% about the reas0ns for our 'overweight' problem. I would put the exercise allergy further up top though, then the food mentality. Well written and informative. Will be following for more!

    • Laceylinks profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Green 

      7 years ago from Alabama

      Thank you for reading, Vishakha. Here's wishing you plenty of good, healthy rest at night!

    • fucsia profile image


      10 years ago

      You have clearly summarized the key points of the problem "overweight." Too many people do not give to these issues the importance they deserve. Thankyou for your hubs! I love read about health.


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