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What Is Really Making Americans Overweight?

We’ve all heard the various statistics about the percentage of Americans who are now overweight or obese.

I’m not sure how they actually come up with these percentages, but simple observance out in public will show the numbers are increasing.

I recently went on vacation to Costa Rica and while killing some time in the Atlanta airport, I sat back and watched people going through the food court. Spend any amount of time observing people in a crowded public place and it’s quickly apparent that we’ve got a serious problem as a society.

While politicians in Washington fumble over health care and fight amongst themselves, the real crisis in health care will be the rising epidemic of chronic illnesses and disease.

No amount of breakthroughs in medical technology, prescription drugs, or treatments will be able to trump the impacts of a continued rise in obesity.

I sat and pondered this fundamental question while waiting for my flight…

“What’s really making Americans overweight?”

More after the jump…

No simple explanations for the rising rates of obesity…

Health experts are quick to come up with simple explanations on why American’s are increasingly become overweight. We’re eating too much processed and refined foods, consuming too much sugar, fats, and not getting enough exercise.

No arguments there, but is it really this simple?

My gut feeling tells me that it’s not. I’ve spent over 20 years studying nutrition and exercise science as a self proclaimed “research junkie.” These subjects have always been interesting to me in part of a passion of wanting to learn more in order to help others as a fitness coach.

I’ve watched over the years as government health agencies have repeatedly changed their recommendations. For a prime example just look at how much the USDA food pyramid has changed. It’s no wonder people are confused.

First we were supposed to get 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, then it was 5-9, and now we see recommendations of up to 9-13 servings. What in the heck is going on?

The government waged “war on saturated fats” back in the 80′s and the food industry responded by making everything “low fat” or “fat free.” How much has this really helped to decrease cardiovascular heart disease and other chronic illnesses?

The reality is this hasn’t worked, it’s done the exact opposite!

Rates of cardiovascular heart disease and type II diabetes are higher now than ever. The food manufacturers knew that taking fat out of foods would make it taste like cardboard. So what did they do? Simply replaced the fat with sugars and artificial sweeteners.

The more processed foods have become the more our health has declined and obesity rates skyrocketed. Easy enough to connect the dots, but something else just isn’t right.

Deep down in the quiet place of each of us we know that something just isn’t right.

We can’t exactly put our finger on it, but it’s more of deeper sense of knowing.

We look back to the generations of our grand parents and great grand parents. We’re they really eating 9-13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day? I think not.

We’re they all eating organic cereals and drinking green juices? Heck no, a lot of them were drinking whole milk, consuming real butter, and cooking with lard in the kitchen.

So why wasn’t obesity as rampant as it is today, and why weren’t people dropping dead of heart disease and the like? Something just doesn’t jive.

I’ve heard all the arguments and pondered on this question for some time.

Sure, past generations did more physical labor and didn’t consume as much processed food, but there’s got to be something more to it.

Here’s what we know to be true, but it doesn’t completely answer why we have an obesity epidemic.

Yes…we need to eat more whole natural foods instead of processed and refined foods.

Yes…we need to be physically active and get some form of exercise daily.

Yes…we need to manage stress levels and live a balanced lifestyle.

Yes…we need to limit sugar consumption.

Yes…we need to avoid toxins and minimize our exposure to chemicals and pesticides.

These are not secrets and pretty much everyone knows in their heart what the fundamentals are for health and weight management.

Could it be that Americans are struggling so much with obesity because of how our food is being produced?

I believe the missing link lies in this very subject, but few people are talking about it. Government health agencies, the very body we’ve entrusted our guidance to certainly isn’t talking. They simply tell us to eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

But special interests, greed, and power has corrupted this entire institution. Look, I’m not trying to turn this into a political debate. I don’t care which party you feel is to blame for our problems, the entire institution is broken.

Government influence has dramatically changed the foods we purchase at the grocery store and in ways most people have little clue about.

Sure, most of us are aware of the “war on fat” and how that’s led to more processed and refined foods. But did you know that our grains, fruits, and vegetables are now significantly different than even say 30 years ago?

No, I’m not just talking about losses in nutrients due to soil depletion and modern agricultural techniques. I’m talking about major changes in the foods themselves and how they’re produced.

What’s the big difference you ask?

The answer is genetic modification…

As a result of the influence by the US government and special interest groups like Monsato and other mega-agricultural corporate conglomerates, the way food is being grown in this country has changed.

Let me cut to the chase on this as it’s a deeply entrenched and complex problem. Here’s the bottom line.

In the old days, farmers would rotate crops as a way to naturally weaken weeds and pests. It also served as a natural way to manage the soil. Quite simply this practice has worked for hundreds of years. Ask any old farmer about this and they’ll tell you.

But now there’s more and more push to grow massive amounts of crops, often times the same crops in the same fields year in and year out, and achieve maximum yields without losses to weeds and pests.

And since there’s been so much public awareness and push-back on the use of chemicals and pesticides, the corporate interests that run our country’s agricultural production have turned to genetically modifying the seeds.

By genetically modifying the seeds they can make the crop resistant to certain pests and the impact of lethal doses of pesticides.

Believe it or not, there’s actually a classification called “Roundup Ready” crops which as you can probably guess, is resistant to the same household spray we use to kill weeds in the yard.

They’ve made these crops resistant to something that we’ve all seen kill a swatch of grass and weeds literally overnight.

Sound like a good idea to you?

Common sense should tell us that messing with God’s plan by genetically modifying seeds could come back to bit us in the arse.

Look, I’m not a scientist or expert in this area, I’m just going with what my gut tells me. Whenever we think we can outsmart or improve the way nature works, we snub our noses at God.

Bad idea…

So what does all this have with the American obesity epidemic you ask?

Breaking new research in animal studies is showing that animals feed with genetically modified grains get fatter quicker and retained the weight better compared to animals feed on a non-genetically modified grain diet.

Researchers are also finding distinct differences in the intestines and internal organs of animals feed with genetically modified crops.

Humm? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, the same thing could be happening in humans being feed food made from genetically modified crops or the animals that ate those crops?

I’m just saying…

Controversial health advocates like Dr. Mercola have been recently shining a bright light on this little known practice, but the word is slow getting out.

Here’s a link to a recent article he published regarding the research study I just mentioned.

Don’t expect to hear about this on the nightly evening news anytime soon. As with much in our society today, we hear only what the powers to be want us to hear in the mainstream media.

The bottom line…

While we can’t omit the obvious causes of obesity with a poor diet and lack of physical exercise for example, there’s got to be more to the picture.

Are genetically modified crops solely to blame? I don’t think we can point our finger to just one thing. However, common sense should tell us that perhaps even so called “healthy” foods may have changed.

The way we eat, what we eat, and how we live has changed. There’s no getting around that fact. But is it for the betterment of society as a whole?

Is the desire of the US government to maximize food production and feed the world’s growing population, coming at the cost of the very people they’re supposed to be protecting?

Why is it that numerous countries have already elected to ban genetically modified crops, but the US continues to plow forward full steam ahead? The warning signs are there.

Look, I know that it’s not feasible for all of us to eat food solely from our own gardens and farms. We’ve moved out of being a country of small farms and an agricultural society. It’s mega-farms now with corporate interests.

That may not change anytime soon, but as a people we can put pressure on the powers that be by raising our voices and letting them know we disapprove of what’s going on.

First, we have to let others know about the issues. We’re now in an information age where social media and the internet allows for rapid flow of information and ideas. We need to use these tools to our advantage to get the word out.

Share this post on Facebook, Twitter and the like to let those in your inner circle begin to get an understanding about what’s happening.

We can start by pushing for new labeling laws to let consumers know which foods have been made from genetically modified crops. This includes animal products that were fed genetically modified crops.

In the meantime, as much as possible we should look to consume locally grown crops. This is a win-win for our local communities. It won’t solve the bigger problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.

I’ll end this discussion by stating that I’m not trying to paint some conspiracy theory about the government and corporate interests purposely looking to diminish the health of our society.

There will be some who will take that position, but that’s not my point. In the end it probably does go back to money and power, but are these things worth the costs to human health?

I say no. For whatever it’s worth, that’s my two cents.

I’d love to hear your comments.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness consulting in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. See our success stories from numerous Lowcountry residents then sign up for a no-obligations consultation today

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Category: Shane's Commentary.