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Why we're overweight

  • Rmis32 Apr 17, 2012 09:20 AM
LOCKED DISCUSSION

"Densely caloric and all too convenient food now envelops us, and many of us do what we’re chromosomally hard-wired to, thanks to millenniums of feast-and-famine cycles. We devour it, creating plump savings accounts of excess energy, sometimes known as love handles, for an imagined future shortage that, in America today, doesn’t come.

“We’re simply not genetically programmed to refuse calories when they’re within arm’s reach,” said Thomas A. Farley, New York City’s health commissioner."

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/17/opi...

  1. Not to mention the genetic programming that is synchronized with TV programming, keeping our inactive asses in the seats.

    1. Uh - we eat too much & exercise too little? Or is that too simple an explanation?

      46 Replies
      1. re: Bacardi1

        Occam's Razor.

        1. re: Bacardi1

          calories in/calories out is NOT the whole story, at least not for everyone. if it was, i'd have reached a body weight of *less than zero* a long time ago. hormones & genetics play pretty significant roles.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            "calories in/calories out" is enough to drive me into a rage. I hate it when people spout that. It's just not true for so many people, for so many reasons.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              It's true for the majority of people. There are always going to be exceptions but the reality is that a reduction in calories combined with any type of exercise is effective for weight management.

              1. re: rockandroller1

                <"calories in/calories out" is enough to drive me into a rage. I hate it when people spout that. It's just not true for so many people, for so many reasons.>

                Well, it drives me into a rage when people say it is NOT "Calories in/Calories out" because it is. This is the first law of thermodynamics. Calories in - Calories out = Calories Surplus/Deficit.

                <It's just not true for so many people, for so many reasons.>

                It does not matter if you are a human, a tree or a rock. It is all governed by the laws of thermodynamics.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Metabolic research does not support that notion. Maybe if you're a closed machine system it works.

                  1. re: mcf

                    We have this conversation before, and if I remember you cited an article which actually supported my point. Remember?

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7788...

                    <Maybe if you're a closed machine system it works.>

                    First law of thermodyanmics applies for a closed or open system. It does not matter. In fact the very statement of "Energy In/Energy Out..." works for either systems.

                    <Metabolic research does not support that notion>

                    Yes, it does. To date there is not a single research done in metabolic disease area contradicts the first law of thermodynamics.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2...

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Honestly, the best part of banging your head against cement is how good it feels when you stop. ;-)

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_la...

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            i'm quite aware that there's an entry for the First Law of Thermodynamics on Wiki. i can also re-read it in any of my science texts or reference books, and probably find it regurgitated in thousands of other places on the web. the piece i linked to, however, offers an eloquent and intelligent critical argument for why the FLOT just doesn't cut it as a simple, dismissive explanation for weight loss & gain. metabolic science ain't simple.

                            oh, and you might take note that the Wiki link you provided discusses the FLOT solely in relation to *closed* systems.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              First, I read your link. Did you read mine? In fact, did you even carefully read your own link because it supports the first law. The reason I send you the wiki link is that I don't think you fully understand the link which you sent. Both mcf and you have sent me links which are supposed to dispute the First Law of Thermodynamics. Instead what? Instead these articles support the first law and only argue that many people do not understand the first law.

                              Unless you understand First Law, it is rather strange to say it is wrong. So I do suggest you read about the first law, understand it, then we can talk about it. Otherwise, we are just talking about what you THINK is the first law -- but not the real first law.

                              Just to give you a taste of an example. In your link:

                              "Balance in an open system, like the human body, is when all energy going into the system equals all energy leaving the system plus the storage of energy within the system." -- your article accepts that the first law is in fact correct.

                              "The energy parts of the equation include: calories consumed (energy in); calories converted to energy and used in involuntary movement (energy conserved, but mostly out); calories used for heat generation (energy out as heat) and in response to external environmental exposures and temperatures (if it is work or heat, then it is energy out); ...." -- get the idea? It is always "Energy in - Energy Out = Energy Gain/Loss"

                              <oh, and you might take note that the Wiki link you provided discusses the FLOT solely in relation to *closed* systems.>

                              No. First law can be applied to an open system -- in fact your link supports that notion just as I have said as wel. As the wikipedia stated that "It is USUALLY formulated by stating that the change in the internal energy of a closed system is equal to the amount of heat supplied to the system, minus the amount of work performed by the system on its surroundings. ..." Usually is not always. It is just easier to talk about a closed system for illustration and for teaching purpose, but the law applies in all cases.

                              In an open system, all you have to do is to account for the exchange of matters/mass in the exchange of energy. It is not that hard.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                The problem with the 'calories in calories out' argument isn't that it's, strictly speaking, incorrect, but that it's generally used as a part of a reductionist argument in favor of eating whatever kinds of food one wants and offsetting that by exercise, as though other factors besides the number of calories in your diet and amount of exercise you do simply don't matter. That's simply and absolutely not so. "Calories in vs calories out" on it's own does not imply that, but that's how it's most often used - and that's a good way to damage your metabolism.

                                I posted about the complex factors in weight control down-thread. But here, consider this analogy to cars. You and I start off with the same amount of gas in our tanks and drive the same distance. Afterwards, will we have the same amount of gas left over? Usually not. Because what car you drive and how you maintain it and the kind of gas you bought and the air pressure in our tires and a host of other factors determine gas mileage. The 1st law of thermodynamics hasn't been violated at all (extra energy for the car with worse gas milage can be accounted for as heat, differences in mass of the car, etc).

                                Of course with people (who aren't at any risk for starvation), you want the opposite of what you want in a car - less gas left in your tank at the end of the day, so to speak. The point is just that reducing the picture to a function only of how much gas you put in the tank and how far you drive only tells some of the story. And more often than not, when someone argues in terms of 'calories in vs. calories out,' it's actually that kind of reductionist thinking that they're trying to advocate.

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  Cow,

                                  Here is my thing. Why not be more truthful? Why not be correct? That is where I am coming. I understand what you are talking about and we have discussed this briefly before. It does not in any way help your position (not you-you) to argue the First Law is incorrect. Think about it like, someone argue against the diet, and next thing you know they bring in President Obama as a "for/against" reason.

                                  You know. I think there are plenty reasons to like or dislike the President, but your weight gain is not one of it. Same here.

                                  Like you said, the actual statement of "Calories In / Calories Out...." is correct. Some people incorrectly use it to suggest "Food Consumption/ Exercise...". Conversely, we also have people who don't understand and argue the Law is wrong. So we pretty much have people on both sides who do not understand the First Law try to explain it, and it is very annoying to read these "authority" statements.

                                  Let me give you a better example. I am sure you are aware that many people use the Second Law (not First) as an argument against the Theory of Evolution, right? Without getting into too far and deep, these arguments are misinterpreting the Second Law. The Second Law is correct. Many people just use it wrong. We cannot say because there are people misusing the Second Law, so we will just have to throw away the Second Law. Conversely, I cannot just say there are people who misuse the First Law (Energy in / Energy out...), so I will just have to discard the First Law and accept the idea that "Energy In/ Energy Out...." is no longer true.

                                  If you read carefully between the above exchanges, then I promise you that you will find I am the one who is scientifically and factually correct.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    "If you read carefully between the above exchanges, then I promise you that you will find I am the one who is scientifically and factually correct."

                                    Only if you disregard human biology and clinical research.

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      <Only if you disregard human biology and clinical research>

                                      Are you implying that human biology is not governed by (exception to) the First Law of Thermodynamics? That the human body can DESTROY/CREATE energy by itself? Because if this is the case, then maybe you should provide evidences for this. If not, then I am correct all along.

                                      I probably know a lot more about biology and clinical studies than you may believe. Here is a previous discussion I have with PaulJ about iron:

                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8436...

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        I will have to go with Chem on this one - with one addendum. Calories in, calories out represents the total of your body mass, while fat vs muscle is another factor. The body tends to be very logical in the way it deals with that mass. The body will also deal with factors such as starvation, if you kick the body into thinking food is not plentiful it will kick into starvation mode. This means that the body will try and store calories as fat, while discarding unused muscle. Muscle is heavier than fat so if not used - it is the first to go. Smaller muscles require less energy, which means less calories are required as part of your daily intake.... which in turn means that the same food intake will be converted into fat not muscle unless absolutely necessary (i.e. exercise - use of muscle "injures" muscle fibre -- which you feel in soreness - and the body then repairs the muscle to be stronger to prevent that).

                                        Basically, every time you kick your body into starvation mode - your calorie requirements will go down (for a lengthy period), while exercise (lifting weights) will build muscle mass - which requires more calories. This is why spreading out calories over the whole day and never letting your body kick into starvation mode is important to the calculation.

                                        1. re: cacruden

                                          This is why fad diets tend to cause you to lose weight quickly - but after ending it you gain weight rapidly -- ending up with more fat than you did during the diet. Body during starvation will also tend to cause more "cravings" which also will have an affect on being able to continue the diet and leads to binges.

                                          1. re: cacruden

                                            There are of course factors in the ability of one person to build muscle - such as muscle type (forget the names)..... which will affect each individuals balance point at any given time - but it is still calories in vs calories out.

                                            1. re: cacruden

                                              All diets stop working when you stop following them. Starvation actually kills cravings, that's one of the characteristics of ketosis.

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                It doesn't just stop working - it lowers your requirement for calories...... which is counter productive in the long run.

                                                If starvation killed cravings - people on fad diets would not crash and binge as is normal in fad diets.

                                                1. re: cacruden

                                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-9fyO...

                                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          you conveniently chose a sound bite from the link i provided that appeared to support your position, yet didn't tell the whole story. it all comes down to the conclusion...

                                          "The pop belief that if all of us ate the same moderate diets and did the same intense exercise, we’d all have the same bodies (namely, slender) is something obesity researchers know is a myth. The pop belief that people can simply eat less and exercise more and control their weight defies the first Law of Thermodynamics. And it’s “at odds with substantial scientific evidence illuminating a precise and powerful biological system that maintains body weight within a relatively narrow range,” said Dr. Friedman. There is not more to “calories in = calories out” than the first Law of Thermodynamics — there is more to the first Law of Thermodynamics than "diet and exercise," popularly referred to as “calories in = calories out.”"

                                          i'm sure we could go around in circles all day, but the fact that you brought the POTUS up for no apparent reason kinda has me done with this discussion. to be clear, i'm NOT saying that the FLOT is invalid, or doesn't exist in humans, or doesn't apply to weight loss. i'm saying that it isn't the singular principle that governs/determines weight balance and body composition in a human being. obviously there's a universal constant to the amount of energy that's consumed and burned. what's NOT constant is the way each individual body responds to and manifests that energy. so it's a *mis-application* or over-simplifaction of the law, not an invalidation. you can keep repeating the FOTL over and over until you're blue in the fact, it won't change the fact that i and my doctors have witnessed and recorded the physical evidence that my own *personal* body weight and composition do NOT respond as expected to basic reductionist arithmetic in terms of calories eaten & calories burned. no quote is going to change that.

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            <you conveniently chose a sound bite from the link i provided that appeared to support your position,>

                                            First, let me say, I didn't chose some sound bites, but second, and more importantly, I have a feeling that you don't know my position.

                                            <The pop belief that if all of us ate the same moderate diets and did the same intense exercise>

                                            <The pop belief that people can simply eat less and exercise more and control their weight defies the first Law of Thermodynamics>

                                            Like I said, I am not responsible for what the pop belief may be. You are using a straw man argument -- attacking a position which I have never said. You cannot hold me on what others have said. In the pop culture, more people may understand the "Force" notion from Star War movies, and not Issac Newton's First Law of Motion. Here, I am talking about the First Law of Thermodynamics from physics, not First Law from the pop culture.

                                            <There is not more to “calories in = calories out” than the first Law of Thermodynamics — there is more to the first Law of Thermodynamics than "diet and exercise," popularly referred to as “calories in = calories out.”">

                                            First of all, I wrote "Calories in - Calories out = Calories Surplus/Deficit.", not quiet the same as "Calories in = Calories out", but that is a not a major point now. Second, I never said First Law of Thermodynamics is the same as only diet and exercise. What the above statement actually said is that the First Law is so much more than just diet and exercise -- a point which I have repeatedly echoed here. I can quote all of them if you want. For example, I wrote to cowboyardee. I wrote: "....Like you said, the actual statement of "Calories In / Calories Out...." is correct. Some people incorrectly use it to suggest "Food Consumption/ Exercise..." Therefore, I clearly said they are different. Again, you cannot keep attacking a position which I do not hold, and expect me to defend it.

                                            <you brought the POTUS up for no apparent reason kinda >

                                            First, that statement was for cowboyardee. Second, yes it was for no apparent reason just like people here for no good reason repeatedly said the the First Law of Thermodynamics does not apply and somehow the human body is not governed by the First Law. For example, mcf wrote <Metabolic research does not support that notion [First Law statement]. Maybe if you're a closed machine system it works.> and I can go on and on about all the unscientific statements which have been written here.

                                            <i'm NOT saying that the FLOT is invalid, or doesn't exist in humans, or doesn't apply to weight loss. i'm saying that it isn't the singular principle that governs/determines weight balance and body composition in a human being>

                                            Neither did I. The First Law is correct, but it is not the only laws. I am very much aware of that. If anything, I know there is a Second Law.

                                            <reductionist arithmetic in terms of calories eaten & calories burned.>

                                            Did I ever say "Calories eaten = Calories burned" or anything like that? That is not my position, and you don't have to explain/discuss a position which I did not write about.

                                            Let's get back to the very first two statements which I wrote to rockandroller1.

                                            <Well, it drives me into a rage when people say it is NOT "Calories in/Calories out" because it is. This is the first law of thermodynamics. Calories in - Calories out = Calories Surplus/Deficit.>

                                            <It does not matter if you are a human, a tree or a rock. It is all governed by the laws of thermodynamics.>

                                            Read them carefully, and tell me exactly what I wrote is unscientific. Don't mis-represent them. Don't change them into what others have said. Read these statements exactly how they are written and tell me that how they are scientifically incorrect. Meanwhile, there tons of crazy things written there, which you did not go after.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              "<Well, it drives me into a rage when people say it is NOT "Calories in/Calories out" because it is."

                                              that's your statement - you quoted it yourself. all i'm saying is that while it may be a FACTOR, i've experienced firsthand that calories in/calories out is not the ONLY principle that governs weight balance in an individual.

                                              you then went on to say "It does not matter if you are a human, a tree or a rock. It is all governed by the laws of thermodynamics."

                                              but it does matter, in the sense that there are living, changing systems in the human body - specifically in this context the endocrine and adrenal systems - that ALSO impact the way an individual stores & burns energy, and gains & loses weight.

                                              so i'll say it yet again. i don't disagree that the laws of thermodynamics apply. but i DO have a problem with the dismissive explanation that if someone wants to lose weight, ALL they have to do is exercise/move more or eat less and the weight will consequently drop off.

                                              FWIW, i never said that anything you wrote was unscientific - not sure where you got that one.

                                              anyway, this discussion doesn't seem to be going anywhere useful at this point, so i'm bowing out. i've stated my position every which way from Sunday, and you can certainly feel free to debate it and disbelieve it all you want but i've LIVED it. that's all the proof i need.

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                ghg, I'd like to learn more about what you've done, things you've figured out that help you maintain your weight given your health and wellness experience.

                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                  J, i'm happy to share, though the most important thing i've learned through my professional and personal experience is that metabolic science is extremely finicky and highly individualized, and no two bodies are alike. so i approach each client/person as a unique case and build my recommendations and plans from scratch. and even then, what works for someone at one point may suddenly become ineffective if his or her metabolic status changes [due to any number of hormonally-regulated functions]. i'm the perfect example of that - i can be humming along at a steady, lean body weight for a stretch, consuming the same number of calories and proportions of macronutrients, and doing the same amount and intensity of exercise daily, weekly, monthly...and within a month, with absolutely NO changes to my regimen or lifestyle, i'll be carrying around 15-20 extra pounds. it's pretty frightening (not to mention incredibly frustrating), and it's all due to compromised thyroid and adrenal function. unfortunately there's no way to predict when it will happen, and over the years my thyroid has proved to be a moving target, so it typically takes at least 6 months of adjusting my meds before my hormone levels are "normal" again.

                                                  so, when i'm dealing with a hormone imbalance it's all i can do to prevent additional gain - and what i have to endure to accomplish that is NOT pretty. once things have leveled off, it's a different process to take off the weight. and once the weight is off, i have to adjust yet again to maintain...because once that weight starts coming off, it'll keep going unless i actually do something to stop it (and there was time in my life when i chose to just keep going, and i almost died as a result). and then at some point, the roller coaster starts all over again. fun, huh?

                                                  so wait, what was it you wanted to know? ;)

                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    oh you nailed it! I asked for myself but also to get your point across more effectively. Thank you.

                                                2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                  <while it may be a FACTOR, i've experienced firsthand that calories in/calories out is not the ONLY principle that governs weight balance in an individual.>

                                                  This is why you really need to read the article you sent to me because your article in fact say it is true. "Calories in - Calories out = Calories Surplus" is absolutely correct. What is questionable is "Diet in - Exercise = Weight Gain or Weight Loss". Two completely different statements. Just because the second statement did not apply to you, it does not mean the first statement does not.

                                                  The First Law of Thermodynamics is correct, and I am sick and tired of people talk about the First Law is incorrect because their personal diet did not work for them.

                                                  Do you know some people do not believe in the Theory of Evolution? Some of these people use the Second Law of Thermodynamics as the reason why the Theory of Evolution cannot be true. If you have not heard of this, then here is an example:

                                                  http://carm.org/second-law-thermodyna...

                                                  Now, let's say you do believe in the Theory of Evolution. It does not make any sense to throw away the Second Law of Thermodynamics just because there are people mis-using the Second Law. Conversely, just because diet and exercise did not work for you, it does not make any sense to say the First Law of Thermodynamics does not apply or does not govern.

                                                  If you (not you-you, but the general you) don't think "diet and exercise" works, then just say that. Do not start saying silly things like "The First Law of Thermodynamics is wrong" or "Energy conservation is wrong" or "Energy In - Energy Out = Energy Surplus is wrong."

                                                  <i never said that anything you wrote was unscientific>

                                                  Well, given how many UN-scientific statements have written here on this thread ((like the First Law of Thermodynamics only applies to a closed system), I find it difficult to understand why you kept addressing me if you think I am correct. Obviously, you must find something seriously wrong with what I wrote.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Even if calories in - calories out is valid, it may be of limited value for an individual, because it is hard to get an accurate measure of either part. Self reporting on food intake is often way off. And who knows whether the calorie measures for various foods are accurate, taking into account how the food is prepared, and digested? And calories-out needs more than simply listing the miles you walked.

                                                    Does anyone know how calories in food are measured. I'm aware of calorimeter, that burns a sample in a sealed chamber. But that probably gives the same count regardless of whether the wheat is whole grain, or flour, or baked into bread. Surely those must contribute different amounts of simple sugars when eaten.

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      <Even if calories in - calories out is valid, it may be of limited value for an individual>

                                                      Agree. However, the First Law should be thrown away or dismissed as incorrect just because it is difficult to use or difficult to understand. I spent many years study quantum mechanics. It is a very difficult subject for me (even I got A's in the classes). I don't go around and say quantum mechanics is incorrect just because I don't fully understand it.

                                                      <Does anyone know how calories in food are measured>

                                                      Bomb calorimetry in most cases. I have used one before to calculate something simple.

                                                      <But that probably gives the same count regardless of whether the wheat is whole grain>

                                                      Most likely yes. I agree. In fact, a 1kcal of fat works differently than 1kcal of glucose for a human body. For one, it is much easier to absorb glucose than fat. So while, they are the same, you may not absorb both of them equally. Still the First Law of Thermodynamics is correct. What you don't absorb is "Calories Out" :)

                                                      The crazy thing I often hear here is "What I can absorb from sugar or metabolize sugar is different than that of protein. Therefore 'Energy In - Energy Out = Energy Surplus" is no longer correct. The First Law of Thermodynamics is wrong."

                                                      No, it is not wrong. You just don't understand how to read the First Law.

                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      good lord this is exasperating.

                                                      i never said it applied only to a closed system. i pointed out that the *link* you posted to support your argument only *discussed* it in terms of a closed system when mcf challenged you on open vs closed.

                                                      okay, for the last time...

                                                      eat less + exercise more does not always = weight loss
                                                      eat more + exercise less does not always = weight gain

                                                      *however,* many people believe both of those statements to be true without exception, and those people typically offer the statement “it’s as simple as calories in/calories out” as support/explanation.

                                                      capisce?

                                                      i'm out.

                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                        <i never said it applied only to a closed system>

                                                        I am not arguing. I am not saying you did. I said other people did, and that I find it confusing (for me) that you argue with me when there are plenty others who are literally and scientifically wrong.

                                                        Remember that I wrote <given how many UN-scientific statements have written here on this thread ...I find it difficult to understand why you kept addressing me if you think I am correct.>

                                                        <that the *link* you posted to support your argument only *discussed* it in terms of a closed system >

                                                        Actually I have already explained that the link did not ONLY discussed in term of a closed system. You have the link and you can read it at your spare time.

                                                        I have said everything I have said. I assume same for you.

                                                        So I am out for now anyway. Cheers.

                                                        :)

                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      The idea that we're all per-disposed to be at our existing weight is a comforting thought but one that's easily dispelled for most people.

                                    3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      See, the thing is, with dieting and body image and health, there are so many different things that people like to consider in an attempt to "control" these processes. Often, we can't, as they are as you point out, governed by biological and physical laws. Some of these laws include: if you don't drink water or liquid with water content for more than a month (usually 14 days) you will die. Period, end of story.; if you don't eat for more than 5 or 6 weeks (usually a month) you will die. Period, end of story. If you don't have enough of your essential nutrients both micro and macro, you will become ill; and, like it or not, life is a matter of calories IN vs calories OUT (this is why anorexics eventually die, and why there are no Breatharians out there).
                                      Now, with the details, there are no end of theories, all of them generally inconsequential in the WEIGHT LOSS arena, and I highlight that because we are talking about WEIGHT LOSS here, not the management of illness nor how to achieve optimal health nor about how to maintain weight.

                                      As someone who has actually lost a significant amount of weight and kept if off (plus or minus 10 lbs) for over 5 years (which makes me a rarity), I can tell you it IS a matter of sustained effort with respect to calories IN vs calories OUT. For years, I blamed everyone and everything else. Only when I got down to basics, followed the one immutable law: calories IN vs calories OUT ; and worked within it (how to maximize food volume and quality given my intake; how to exercise and what to do; and so on...) did I succeed.
                                      I tell you, it isn't and hasn't been easy. The truth really hurts -- I so wanted my weight issue to be hereditary, metabolic, the fault of the food industry, television advertising, the medical industry, you name it. But only when I assumed responsibility for my right hand that held the fork and was brutally honest about the one immutable law (what was I REALLY eating? what was I REALLY doing? What WERE my TRUE calories IN vs OUT) did I become successful.

                                      However, I know my POV irritates some people. Dietary regimes become a religion for many people, and we all know you can't argue religion as such people are so heavily invested in their beliefs that they will absolutely disregard any other potential point of view or immutable law and will argue to death anything contrary to what they are so invested in. It is a religion for them. And by discarding the experience and wisdom of those who succeed (go to the National Weight Loss Registry to see and read the experience and wisdom of other successful weight loss people aka calories IN vs calories OUT plus exercise for maintenance), it validates why people are they way they are and what they believe. Argument becomes self-validation, if you will.

                                      All I know is that I speak from experience and the POV of one who has succeeded where most fail with respect to weight loss and maintenance (87 lbs and still going strong!) And I know that no matter how many times anyone tries to tell me that their theories trump the basic immutable laws and that I am all wrong, all I need to ask is simply "How much weight have you lost and maintained off?" The answer will speak for itself.

                                      1. re: freia

                                        < there are so many different things that people like to consider in an attempt to "control" these processes.>

                                        Now, that I agree. I have no problem of this thought.

                                        My point is not just about "Energy In/Energy Out....", but people who don't understand the first law of thermodynamics claim it is same as "Food intake/ Exercise..." No one ever said that. I didn't.

                                        Unfortunately, this debate is getting out of hand with three people talking to me at the same time. All I want to say is to ask yourself (not you-you) if you really understanding one of the most important laws of science: First Law of Thermodynamics. If you don't, then don't you think it is very dangerous to claim it does not apply?

                                        <I so wanted my weight issue to be hereditary, metabolic, the fault of the food industry, television advertising, the medical industry, you name it. But only when I assumed responsibility for my right hand that held the fork and was brutally honest about the one immutable law>

                                        As my professor once said, "Yes, those may be all true, but what are you going to do about it". He was talking about something else, but the idea is the same. Yes, maybe it is true that the food industry is targeting me, and maybe it is true that for the genetic part too, but there are only view variables I can control, and if I want to do something about the situation, then I better work the ones which I have control.

                                        What is POV?

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          POV = point of view.

                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            Oh. Thanks.

                                        2. re: freia

                                          freia, your weight loss is quite an achievement, and absolutely something of which to be proud. and you're fortunate that *in your case* it did turn out to be a simple matter of calories in & out. however, for those of us who struggle with health conditions that affect our endocrine and adrenal systems (both of which govern metabolism), it's far more complicated, and not just a matter of POV. that's all i'm trying to say.

                                          (BTW, i hope you didn't take my earlier comments personally - they weren't directed specifically at you.)

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            The other thing, goodhealthgormet, is that I do have a medical issue, a macroadenoma of which the first sign and symptom is obesity. My macroadenoma is inoperable, and I'm on serious meds to try to control its growth and its effects on me. It is a significant endocrinhe issue that I deal with daily. It affrects my metabolism, my vision and my balance (which wreaks havoc on my yoga practice, always falling over LOL).
                                            However, it was only when I stopped even considering my macroadenoma as an obstacle and just got down to basics that I saw the scales budge significantly and stay there.

                                            :)

                                            1. re: freia

                                              i never said it was an obstacle, i said it was a challenge - there's a difference. believe me, i don't use my illness as an excuse. it just means that i (and others like me) have to work harder and be more diligent than a "normal" or "healthy" person just to maintain a steady weight/body comp, let alone lose. so i do work harder than most. *a lot* harder. yet at the end of the day, sometimes that's still not enough. so i'm glad that just "getting down to basics" worked for you. honestly, i am - i'd take that in heartbeat. i've often said that i wouldn't wish this miserable roller coaster of a battle on anyone, so it's great that you found a simple solution. but for *me* it's not so cut and dried.

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                I know so many diligent, disciplined folks with adenomas who gained hundreds of lbs eating nearly nothing, gaining due to exercise, including one who has had her pituitary, both adrenals out and radiation and still has active hormone secreting tumor. I have Cushing's but am not obese, usually not overweight by more than a bit... using diet alone. It's not character, it's dumb luck if you're able to control your weight with these conditions; cases vary enormously. My friend was on a Nat Geo special about obesity due to the hundreds of lbs her adenoma put on her 140 lb body with no increase in eating, 1300 calories per day.

                                                1. re: mcf

                                                  Of the entire obese population of the United States, I wonder how many have Cushings disease and of that how many face the obstacles your friend faces.
                                                  Unfortunately, shows like this feed in to the general extrapolation that ALL people with weight issues face the same challenges as your friend. I see this daily, with my significantly overweight friends. To them, it isn't the Hagen Dazs at night or the Mac and Cheese or the Double Downs at Burger King, or the fact that they eat refined sugar and highly processed foods routinely in excess. To them, it's a "glandular disorder" or "my metabolism is slow" or "I saw a show with someone my size and it is just impossible to lose weight".
                                                  I am sorry for your friend, and indeed there are the RARE cases where metabolic issues and endocrine issues play a huge role. No doubt about it. It should be noted that these are the RARE cases. The vast, vast majority of people with weight issues need to look at their fast food consumption, their beer/alcohol consumption, and their inactivity as the source, rather than holding the "one of" tragic case and extrapolating it to fit the issues of all overweight Americans.

                              2. re: Bacardi1

                                Yes, it is too simple, and Dr. Lustig explains why.

                                1. re: Bacardi1

                                  Ha ha ha. Pretty much you dead on.

                                  1. re: Bacardi1

                                    That is true, plus you can't turn on the tv without seeing commerciasl of skinny people gorging on food, then we run to the fridge to see what was left over.

                                  2. There's an interesting discussion of this phenomenon on this week's America's Test Kitchen radio. Check out the podcast.

                                    1. This article doesn't get to the heart of the problem, which has been explained by Dr. Robert Lustig in a 90-minute lecture which can be found here:

                                      "UCSF Lecture on Sugar & Obesity Goes Viral as Experts Confront Health Crisis"

                                      http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2010/03/3222...

                                      1. Another source of Why is the book 'Why we Get Fat, and What to do about it' by Gary Taubes. He makes it easy to understand. Changed my life and eating habits for the better, and I'm down 22 lbs and still losing.

                                        1. Calories In >+ Calories Out?

                                          Yay for math!?!

                                          22 Replies
                                          1. re: MonMauler

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8446...

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              Ha. I must've glossed over your post when I read through the article and post. Sorry 'bout that.

                                              Still, I must respectfully disagree.

                                              If a human consumes significantly fewer calories than they expend, they will lose weight. This, as far as I can tell, is undisputed by the wide majority of the medical and scientific communities.

                                              Of course, everybody is different. All of us have inherent physical and mental aids and obstacles in regard to weight loss/gain. So it's not a bright line. I could eat 200 fewer calories/day than how many I expend/day for a month and not lose a pound. Someone else could consume 200 more calories/day than they expend over the same time frame and lose weight. Everybody is different, but the principle holds: if you consume significantly fewer calories than you expend over a long enough duration, you will lose weight.

                                              That's why Baby Jesus invented exercise and restraint. Exercising and practicing restraint ain't easy. Either alone or both in combination may even be uncomfortable. But it ain't easy being beautiful.

                                              1. re: MonMauler

                                                It isn't that the energy input/output model is wrong, but that it is not the best way to look at the problem of obesity. "Eat less, move more" is a simplistic prescription for losing weight which doesn't work in practice. It matters in what form the calories are consumed, and Dr. Lustig explains why.

                                                1. re: MonMauler

                                                  So it's not a bright line. I could eat 200 fewer calories/day than how many I expend/day for a month and not lose a pound. Someone else could consume 200 more calories/day than they expend over the same time frame and lose weight.
                                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                  precisely. so it's NOT just about calories in/calories out, so the principle *doesn't* necessarily hold. i'm walking, talking proof that someone can "consume significantly fewer calories than you expend" over a period of months or years *without* weight loss.

                                                  exercise and restraint are easy for me. but they don't automatically translate to weight loss when there are compromising hormonal or genetic issues involved.

                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    My experience as well. And that of lots of people depending upon biochemical status, from thyroid to adrenal steroids, to ghrelin, leptin, etc.

                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                      Sorry, GH, goodhealthgourmet and mcf, perhaps I'm just dense or not up on the current nutritional fads out there, but I'm not sure I understand:

                                                      Are you guys trying to say that you can consume a certain number of calories and expend a certain number of calories for an extended time period, and then, over the same amount of time, consume the same number of different calories (let's say twinkies vs. oats) while expending the same amount of calories and end up gaining/losing significantly different amounts of weight under the different regimens?

                                                      Because that flies in the face of everything I've ever learned about weight gain.

                                                      1. re: MonMauler

                                                        Yes, I'm saying that. We are not machines with closed systems. You'll find studies that document my own personal experience: low carb dieters eat 50% more calories while losing nearly twice as much weight as high carb low fat dieters. I maintained my weight on 800 cals hc/lf and on 1200 when I moved to low carb. No other changes.

                                                        1. re: MonMauler

                                                          I'm not saying that; I am saying that I find Dr. Lustig's argument persuasive. I'm not going to summarize it here — it's a 90-minute lecture aimed at medical professionals.

                                                          1. re: GH1618

                                                            I've seen it. Long ago.

                                                          2. re: MonMauler

                                                            My understanding: in the MOST basic and technical sense, if you and I both consume the same amount of calories and expend the same amount of energy (calories), we will have basically the same weight loss or gain (to the extent that it's not dictated by water, bone density, etc). That's dictated by physics.

                                                            BUT, that's NOT a useful way to think of controlling one's weight. Because:

                                                            - What/how we eat can determine how full we feel. If you're hungry all the time, you're much less likely to keep up a low caloric intake than if you're satiated.
                                                            - What/how we eat and our body composition, metabolic health, and genetics can determine how much energy we naturally expend during the day, even doing the same exact activities.
                                                            - The above factors determine how much energy you 'feel' which helps you burn more calories by being more active. Some foods trigger processes in your body that cause the energy they contain to be more easily stored as fat, while other foods cause you to both feel more energetic and/or to burn more calories during the course of the same activities by increasing your basal metabolic rate.
                                                            - The above factors along with the manner in which you exercise can determine to what extent you burn muscle vs fat when you burn calories. Conversely, if you and I both gain weight (eat more calories than we expend) but I add mostly fat while you add mostly muscle, you will be in much better shape in the long haul and have better chances of keeping slim and fit. Having more muscle means you burn more calories doing the same activities.

                                                            There's a reason that any serious trainer of athletes or bodybuilders insists that a good diet is an absolute must if you're going to be in good shape, even though their trainees might be burning a lot of calories via exercise. Eating 2000 calories of twinkies/day and then trying to out-work that diet is a surefire recipe for failure in the long run.

                                                            1. re: MonMauler

                                                              I found this very interesting:
                                                              http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/...
                                                              The infamous study where the Nutritionist Professor cut his calories but ate virtually junk food. He wanted to prove that when it comes to losing weight, it is a matter of calories, not the quality or type of calorie. He was proven right.
                                                              Turns out, he lost 27 lbs and all his blood markers went from abnormal prediet to normal. The latter fact is what threw him for a loop.
                                                              Makes one think.
                                                              I used to weigh 250 lbs. I now weigh 163 lbs. I used to think, when I was heavy, that it was genetics, that it was the way I metabolized foods, that it wasn't my fault, that I was active and didn't eat much.
                                                              I was seriously delusional about my diet and my activity levels.
                                                              I suspect most people with weight issues are. This isn't a value judgement as it makes no difference to me personally what anyone else weighs. It just IS. If you put a person with these claims in a lab setting and carefully monitor what they are eating (aka weigh, measure, deliver food in a sealed setting), they will lose weight when their calories are reduced. This has been proven over and over and over again.
                                                              I can also guarantee you that if I cut your daily intake to 500 calories, you will not only lose weight you will most likely die of malnutrition/starvation. It may take some time, but you can't sustain yourself on 500 calories a day. This is what happens to anorexics. I've never heard of anyone, nor have I found any legit evidence showing that a person can take in 500 calories a day, be physically active, and maintain a healthy body weight.
                                                              Just saying...

                                                              1. re: freia

                                                                What many overweight people don't consider is that if you "starve" yourself by lowering calorie counts to where you are certain to lose weight- you lose muscle as well.

                                                                If you keep calorie counts up, fat up and protein up- and cut only carbohydrate- you just lose fat. Just fat. That is where the difference between losing fat and losing weight really counts.

                                                                1. re: freia

                                                                  If you put a person with these claims in a lab setting and carefully monitor what they are eating (aka weigh, measure, deliver food in a sealed setting), they will lose weight when their calories are reduced. This has been proven over and over and over again.
                                                                  ~~~~~~~~~
                                                                  it's also been disproved. before my hypothyroidism was diagnosed, i was adhering to a strict 1200-calorie diet (everything was weighed & measured), running 25 miles/week, taking several spin classes per week, AND doing pilates & strength training several times a week. and i was *gaining* weight. and a DEXA scan confirmed that it was NOT lean tissue. so we took a measurement of my resting metabolic rate - in a controlled lab setting - and it turned out that my faulty thyroid function had slowed my metabolic processes so much i was burning just under 400 calories/day. which meant that in order to simply maintain my weight, i had to burn at least 800 calories per day through exercise while adhering to a 1200-calorie diet.

                                                                  that first time it actually took several years to get things revved up again, and to this day - nearly 20 years later - it's still not stable. things can hum along just fine for 6 months to a year, maybe 18 months if i'm lucky, and then WHAM. it doesn't matter that i keep a *scrupulous* eye on my intake and exercise for 10-12 hours every single week without fail, the pounds can still start to pile on out of nowhere...and then the docs & i have to play with my meds - usually for at least 6 months - until we begin to get a handle on it again. it's a sucky way to live, and frustrating as hell when people make assumptions that make me feel as though i have to defend myself.

                                                                  just sayin.

                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                    Hi cortisol prevents weight loss and increased fat storage. And exercise raises cortisol, which also catabolizes muscle, so benefits of exercise are lost or worse. People with high cortisol gain incredible amounts of weight no matter how little they eat if they cycle high.

                                                                    I documented my calories with measuring, weighing and documenting every crumb for years. 50% more calories to maintain on low carb vs. high carb, low fat.

                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                      i know all of that. we went through every possible assessment - diurnal testing, morning testing, ACTH stim, blood, saliva, urine...i actually wasn't running high.

                                                                      (of course i'm convinced that i *currently* am, so i'm actually starting a salivary kit tomorrow.)

                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                        I know you do, I was tagging on to add that there are various biochemical determinants of weight having nothing to do with food and exercise. Have you had your CBG tested? If it's high, VERY hard to get serum or urine results. If it's low, harder to get serum results. When I run high, I run VERY high, but cycles can last from 12 hours to 85 days between.

                                                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                      And isn't it also possible that some people just don't "burn" calories the same way? I mean, some people can't digest certain things, so I'm quite sure that means that they don't get the full benefit of the calories that are in those foods. Also, I've heard all my life about "plateaus" that occur in dieting, where if you're not eating enough or not varying your exercise, you stop losing weight because your body has decided to store fat. And otherwise why would people find that they gain weight as they get older, even though their habits have not changed? Obviously, this is not a straightforward mathematical formula. As a general rule, you can lose weight by eating less and increasing your exercise, but to pretend those are the only two factors involved is ridiculously obtuse.

                                                                      1. re: Heatherb

                                                                        "And isn't it also possible that some people just don't "burn" calories the same way?"

                                                                        Yes. Hormonal activity is what determines appetite, metabolic rate, and rate of fat storage vs. burnoff of calories. Different calories have different efficiency rates in all cases, too. Protein, fat and carbs each stimulate or fail to stimulate, different hormonal responses, so macronutrient breakdown also changes the caloric equation.

                                                                        That's why the bigger weight loss in low carb dieters compared to high carb low fat dieters... with 50% more calories eaten in the higher weight loss groups.

                                                                  2. re: MonMauler

                                                                    you sure can...though not everyone WILL. metabolism and nutritional response are more highly individualized than most people think.

                                                                    assuming my thyroid & adrenals are behaving themselves (which unfortunately is NOT the case right now) and my exercise regimen and the number of calories i consume remain constant, if my intake is composed of mostly lean protein, healthy fats & vegetables, i'll stay stable or lose weight. but if more than 35% of my total calories come from carbohydrates (not sugar, total carbs), i'll gain. it's happened before.

                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                      There was a recent study in which folks made only one change, eating low carb two days per week, but not altering calories or activities, etc. They lost weight.

                                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                                        i saw that a while back:
                                                                        http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45587821/...

                                                                        i had to laugh at "We came up with the idea of an intermittent low-carb diet..."

                                                                        no you didn't. bodybuilders & figure competitors have been cycling carbs for ages! i cycle in the occasional high-carb day to shake things up in my system, and it does make a difference.

                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                          Yep, cyclic and targeted ketogenic dieting was a huge topic on the bodybuilding forums when I read them many years ago.

                                                        2. Follow a thin person around for a few days and watch what they eat. (Almost all of them eat way less than the average American.)

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                            That's not true of the folks I've observed.

                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                              Speaking for myself, as a thin person, yeah right. The reason that I'm not fat is not because I eat a small amount of food; because I eat like a pig, all damn day.

                                                              The reason that I'm thin is primarily due to a combination of strenuous physical activity over the past 20+ years (Join the Infantry, we'll road march the fat right off of your big ass), a genetic predisposition for being tall and lanky (my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents on both sides of the family were tall and lanky), and because I've tweaked my metabolism by munching on snacks like jerky, nuts, fruits, and veggies all day long.

                                                              Whenever I let up on my activity levels and stop my munching, I always gain weight.

                                                              That said, what works for me may not work for you...

                                                            2. Instead of "fight or flight" we've devolved into "stew and chew"...

                                                              1. My point of view (and personal experience) would be:
                                                                - Too many calories through things like fruit juice or soda pop (fruit is different) - personally I could easily drink 1000+ calories of juice in a day.... I try to keep it down by keeping a pot of green tea at my desk.
                                                                - high calorie sauces - that people just omit from there thinking - I remember going to teriyaki place in food court and people will ask for two (huge) scoops of thick teriyaki sauce (easily 400+ calories just on the sauce part).
                                                                - eating large meals and eating too quickly. Grazing - with many small meals will keep you fuller and fewer calories typically since when you eat - it takes 20+ minutes for your body to register (meaning 20 minutes after your finished your feeling more bloated than you would normally) - a nibble here and there would be better (more often).
                                                                - oils - salad dressings and overdressing (and slurping up the remainder). 1 tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories. I have seen people put 3+ tablespoons of (350+ calories) of salad dressing on a simple salad and think they are eating almost no calories.

                                                                Couple that with a relatively sedentary lifestyle ..... and that makes for a nation of super sized beach balls (I would have said Sumo wrestlers - but they have more muscle hidden in there bodies :o )

                                                                1. Calories in vs. calories out is true in so much as human beings are subject to the laws of physics. It is also an incredible oversimplification, as others have pointed out. The problem with the in/out advice is that calories out is widely variable and constantly changing. There are many factors that influence the calories out side of the equation, and it appears the source of calories is one of those factors. The really sticky part of this is figuring out all of the factors at play, and how the interact with each other. Individuals can figure this out for themselves through trial and error.

                                                                  Personally, if I follow a 1600 calorie/day diet of whatever I want, I can lose weight, as long as I exercise at high intensity for 45-60 minutes a day, and even then the weight loss is slow going and I'm hungry all the time. I could reduce my calories even more, but would be even hungrier. On the other hand, if I stop consuming refined sugar and limit myself to 1-2 servings of whole grain and one serving of fruit per day, I can eat 1800 calories a day and lose weight without exercising (I exercise anyway because I enjoy it, and just lose weight faster). For whatever biological reason, I burn more calories when those calories come from protein and fat than when they come from sugar.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: mpjmph

                                                                    Great illustration mpjmph. I'm a small frame and as I've gotten older I've noticed what foods trigger even a small weight gain so I watch what I eat week to week; I plan ahead. But, I've also realized that keeping up with my runs, rides and workouts strengthens my body and calories are less the culprit than allow my muscle tone time to backslide. There is no way around it. Moving is important. Especially for people who enjoy food.

                                                                  2. To gain, eat more, exercise less. To lose, eat less, exercise more. All else is nonsense. Radical, I know, but it works.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: beevod

                                                                      Whoa, nobody's ever said that before. Not even on this thread, not even a few times.

                                                                      You da man, beevod. Thanks for the clarification.

                                                                      1. re: beevod

                                                                        No, it's not radical — it's the conventional wisdom, and it's simplistic. It doesn't answer the question raised by the original poster, which is why "we" (the general population, not individuals) are overwight. A theory which attempts to explain this must account for the dramatic rise in obesity in the last 35 years or so, and for the problem of obesity in small children.

                                                                        What is nonsense is the statement by Thomas A. Farley quoted in the original post, who believes that we weren't obese a century ago because there wasn't enough food available to overeat. He just made that up out of this air, and it doesn't work.

                                                                        Dr. Lustig has explained how changes in commercial food, and especially the increase in sugar content, account for the obesity epidemic. Ignoring his theory, or calling it "nonsense" doesn't cut it. Show precisely where he has got it wrong and why, and present an alternate thory which accounts for the obesity epidemic in the general population, or you're just blowing smoke.

                                                                        1. re: GH1618

                                                                          i'm pretty sure beevod was using the term "radical" with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

                                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                            No doubt, but the post presented another opportunity to promote the one theory which makes a serious attempt to answer the question originally posed in this thread: "Why we're overweight," so I took it.

                                                                        2. re: beevod

                                                                          A wee bit of detail - exercise should include anaerobic exercises. Building strength in leg muscles (especially) will help because large muscles require more calories - so when doing aerobic exercises it will consume more. When exercising you will find you will actually eat better anyways naturally. Second most important thing - is cook your food yourself. You will know what goes in, and will learn more. I did not realize how much fat was in liver pate until I made it myself - and then it was an OH MY GOD revelation. Sure there are exceptions to the rule, but we did not have all these obesity problems when we were an agrarian society and therefore were forced to exercise hard daily - which caused the body to crave better food.

                                                                        3. http://mediamatters.org/research/2012...

                                                                          flap over a recent NYT article disputing the existence of 'food deserts' (i.e. the link between obesity and access to healthy food).

                                                                          1. Here's a link to an article from NBC Chicago which gets to the crux of the problem — sugar:

                                                                            "Why Doesn't Baby Formula List Sugar Content?" 

                                                                            http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/health...

                                                                            "In Europe, concern over childhood obesity led to a ban on sucrose in baby formula. Dozens of countries do not allow the kind of sugar we found in the two Similac brands."

                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                            1. re: GH1618

                                                                              On the previous Lustig thread I looked at this 'baby milkshake' claim. What I found on the labels fits with Simlac's statement:

                                                                              "Similar to breast milk, most milk-based infant formulas contain a carbohydrate called lactose, which is the sugar found in milk. In some formulas, corn syrup solids, maltodextrin, or sucrose are used to replace some or all of the lactose to maintain a carbohydrate level, similar to human milk. Corn syrup solids are NOT the same as high-fructose corn syrup.

                                                                              Source: http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/health..."

                                                                              Regular formula uses lactose. It's the dairy-free versions that have to use some other carbohydrate such as corn syrup solids. It's the unqualified claims like this about 'baby milkshake' that make me see Dr Lustic as more of an evangelist than a scientist in the video talk.

                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                This latest post isn't about Dr. Lustig, however. Europeans, it seems, have figured out that sucrose doesn't belong in infant formula and have banned it, without any reference here to Lustig.

                                                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                                                  "2.2 Types of carbohydrates
                                                                                  For infant formulae only lactose, maltose, saccharose, maltodextrins, corn-syrup solids, precooked and gelatinised starch are permitted. Starches must be free of gluten by nature."
                                                                                  p82
                                                                                  http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/sc/scf/ou...
                                                                                  2003 formula standards

                                                                                  http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/labelli...

                                                                                  Curiously here's a study that worries about the protein level of formula, not the sugar level.
                                                                                  http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NC...
                                                                                  "Childhood obesity is a major public health problem and is an identified priority concern for the health care. Infants fed formula are more likely to become obese than breastfed infants. The higher protein content of infant formulae, compared with breast milk, could be a causal factor."

                                                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                                                    Many of the European countries are worried about obesity. Rates might higher in the USA, but the issue is not a uniquely American one.

                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                      The issue is mostly related to availability of food and the lack of discipline. Japan has the availability but they are very disciplined through education on what makes a balanced nutritional meal and pretty well stick to it.

                                                                                      America is only made worse than average by the fact that the design of new cities makes it more convenient to hop in a car and drive than walk a short distance. Cities have to focus on making liveable communities (of any size) where the market is within walking distance than having a house in a community with no sidewalk - and making it more difficult to walk 500 metres than drive through detours of around 5km to get to a bloody market.

                                                                                      1. re: cacruden

                                                                                        I just saw a bit of the PBS show this week that focused on transportation systems in the USA. That touched on driving v walking issue. BBC Supersizers Go ... Fifties, also contrasted walking, then and now, in the UK.

                                                                                        How we use the calories we ingest isn't the whole issue, but it certainly is an important part.

                                                                                        1. re: cacruden

                                                                                          A superficial analysis. The per capita consumption of sugar in the US is more than twice that of Japan. It isn't that the sugar is equally available and the Japanese have the discipline to pass it up at the consumer level, it's that sugar is in practically every commercially processed food in the US and in much higher quantities than necessary. The discipline needs to come up front, by reducing it in prepared foods and eliminating it entirely in foods targeted at small children, especially in infant formulas.

                                                                                          1. re: cacruden

                                                                                            <Japan has the availability but they are very disciplined through education on what makes a balanced nutritional meal and pretty well stick to it.>

                                                                                            Partially agree with you. Japanese do have the availability of sugar, but they do not like sweet very much due to cultural preference. This is why you will find Japanese or even Chinese bakery goods are very mild. Most Americans will find them bland. Meanwhile, Asians find Americans baked goods too sweet. So I won't say it is a discipline -- since they are not acting against their own desire. They are in fact following their desire.

                                                                                            This is also why many Americans complain that Japanese and Chinese have no good desserts. It isn't that Japanese and Chinese do not have desserts, but their standards of what makes a good dessert is very different. Often time these desserts are not even sweet but savory.

                                                                                            This is not much different than say average Indians can eat much spicier foods than average Americans.

                                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                              At the same time Japanese are freer with the use of sugar in savory items (e.g. seasoned vinegar, tonkasu and terriaki sauces, tamago).

                                                                                              While people warn about the sugar in 'processed food', and complain that sugar (or HFCS) does not belong in tomato sauce, I wonder just how much of the excess (American) sugar intake occurs in 'savory' processed items. Should we worry about the sugar in BBQ sauce and salad dressing, or is that eclipsed by the sugar in cake, iced tea, and breakfast cereal?

                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                Yes, we should worry about the sugar in BBQ sauce and salad dressing ...because combined with the sugar in everything else we consume, it is surprising that we don't melt when it rains. It all adds up.

                                                                                          2. re: paulj

                                                                                            Here, I agree with you. I have never written that obesity is uniquely an American problem.

                                                                                    2. Here's an article from the Boston University School of Public Health on increasing obesity in Japan: 

                                                                                      "The Fat's on Fire: Curbing Obesity in Japan"

                                                                                      http://www.bu.edu/themovement/2011/05...

                                                                                      "Finally, the popularity of the American lifestyle led to hamburgers, French fries, milkshakes and donuts permeating the daily diet, a change further exacerbated by the introduction of the American fast food industry in the 1970’s[v]."

                                                                                      Meanwhile, some Americans like myself started eating sushi.  If only it were cheaper!

                                                                                      1. Folks, this argument is just going around in circles at this point, and not covering anything that hasn't been said before on many other threads. We're going to lock it now.