Oversimplified approaches to fixing the obesity problem in America could have unintended -- and dangerous -- consequences for all of us
Obesity is a world of big dollars and big numbers: big dollars spent in generating it, big dollars trying to prevent it, big dollars treating it, and big dollars dealing with its consequences; big numbers, in that when we speak of overweight and obese as defined by the accepted measure of body-mass index (BMI) we are speaking about two-thirds of the adult U.S. population. The increase in the incidence and prevalence of obesity has mirrored an increase in chronic and debilitating disease states like diabetes.
Yet when we speak of obesity on a personal level, denial is the default. And when we look closely, it becomes much more complicated than a person simply eating too much, too often. Ultimately, it is the calories in and the calories out that determine our weight. However, the variables in that equation are multiple, varied, and exhibit complex relationships. It is not just that we as a nation have continued to increase our intake of fats. It is not that obese persons eat all the time. (Studies have demonstrated that obese individuals tend to eat less often than those who are not obese, but they tend to consume more at those sittings.) Your weight depends on what, or what is not, added to your plate -- not just in terms of quantity but in terms of quality, as well. Your weight can vary with your metabolism; interestingly, the metabolism of those who are obese tends to be higher than those who are not.