Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Apr 25, 2013 02:37 PM

Are we fat because we eat too much crap or just eat too much?


Hi, My name is JuniorBallloon and I'm obese. I'm 5' 11 and 3/4 inches tall and I weigh 225. Technically...obese. I have read recently that America is fat because we don't cook at home and we live in food deserts surrounded by fast food. I cook at home every night. I don't eat fast food. I have the occassional cookie. And I'm obese. I'm obese becasue I have access to as much food as I want and I eat too much and don't excercise as much as I should. I think whether it's good food or bad food America is fat because of abundance. Morgan Spurlock of,, didn't get fat because he ate Mickey D's, he got fat because he ate 3000 calories a day.

I am all for people having access to great food and learning to cook at home, but I don't see it as a cure for the obesity problem in America. I'm not saying it might not help, but I read these stories and I don't see the connection. Am I missing something?


  1. Too much crap.

    I lost thirty pounds once by not eating anything with refined sugar or flour for six months. I ate as much as I wanted of everything else. Since "everything else" doesn't include foods I crave.

    I caved on Christmas Eve that year. I went to the store around 6:30 pm, and the produce aisle was empty of all but some greens on the floor and a couple of grapes. Breyer's, OTOH, was having a sale. I got one half-gallon (yes, this story takes place in the old days) of French Vanilla for Christmas Eve, and one of Strawberry for Christmas Day.

    And, yes, I gained back more than I lost.

    1. Some of both. You could in theory get fat eating 3000 calories of vegetables per day but it would be really hard because that's a LOT of vegetables. Meet the concept of energy density. Energy density is the number of calories (energy) in a specific amount of food. High energy density means that there are a lot of calories in a little food. Low energy density means there are few calories in a lot of food. Raisins have a high energy density — 1 cup of raisins has about 434 calories. Grapes have a low energy density — 1 cup of grapes has about 104 calories.

      You may not be eating fast food or junk food, but still be eating a whole lot of high calorie, low energy density food. I can make bacon and fried eggs at home. Not junk food and home made. But high in calories for the amount of food I'm eating as compared to say 1 boiled egg and a half a grapefruit.

      Junk food and fast food tend to have very low energy density.

      And beyond the energy density issue, there are behavioral issues associated with grabbing a Big Mac on a regular basis. Try reading any articles or books by Brian Wansink about how we tend to overeat because of the way we think about and perceive food. The idea here is that if you cook the food yourself and sit down and eat a meal you'll think more about what you are eating instead of mindlessly shoveling food in your mouth whether you are still hungry or not.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Just Visiting

        Wansink's work is ground-breaking (and very entertaining to read). Eat lots of non-starchy veg, little meat, some fish every week, just the occasional sweet treat, walk 15 minutes or so around the neighborhood after dinner, and you're bound to be healthier. (And just say "no" to processed foods.)

      2. Jr, those latest bodyweight charts are a bunch of BS. my wife saw one at the dietitians office last month and it said I should weigh 150 pounds. I am 6 feet tall and broad shoulders and muscular, think a college linebacker 20 years and 60 pounds past his prime. the only way I could ever possibly weigh 150 pounds again is if I attended the Bataan diet March and summer camp.

        2 Replies
        1. re: PotatoHouse

          I don't know what weight chart you saw that says you SHOULD weigh 150 since generally, there is a wide range. At 150, that puts a person's BMI at 20, or the least a person should weigh at that height, not a weight recommendation.

          1. re: PotatoHouse

            For your height and sex, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a weight between 136 and 184 lbs as "normal." A weight of 200 is just a little overweight. Keeping your weight under 200 is a reasonable goal. That's what I try to do (I'm also six feet). I agree that 150 lbs is not achievable by reasonable means.

          2. There is more than reason why we are fat. Each of us is different. Mr. Sueatmo eats plenty of carb and meat, although he says he eats reduced fat, he does eat processed food. He really does not gain weight. After his heart surgery about 12 years ago, he went hard core with low fat and lost so much weight it alarmed his docs! But now he looks like he did before the surgery. But he doesn't gain more, and he doesn't look fat at all.

            I gain easily and lose slowly. I've discovered that eating reduced carbs is the best way to eat for me. I also think that I need to eat less in every respect, and I am doing mental work on that score.

            So, to answer your question, I think food is widely available; it is often appealing and pretty cheap; it is easy to grab something from the fridge when you are bored; it is easy to move too little, or to get practically no exercise at all; and it is hard to deny yourself if you don't have to, and to do hard work if you don't want to.

            I don't think there is one answer for any of us. But, food is available relatively cheaply, whether it is junk or the good stuff. And it is awfully easy to find and eat it.

            19 Replies
            1. re: sueatmo

              We are all different. Remember the "Eat Right for Your Type" way of thinking?

              1. re: sandylc

                I think that this is so important. There are lots of diets around that are not bad for your health (aka not the cabbage soup diet or other crash weight loss diets), but what will or won't impact whether or not they work is if they fit for you. While strict low fat/portion control isn't the most "in" diet now - if that's the kind of diet that's easiest for a person's life/diet/eating issues - then it's not a bad choice.

                For others portion control is really difficult, so elimination diets (Atkins style-diets) are easiest. Personally - my mother is a dietician - so my "diet problems" have never been about eating bad food. I just eat too much food. So I do best combining no-carb style diets for breakfast/lunch while I'm at work - and allowing whole grains/less restrictions for dinner. It's what works for best for me, but it's required a lot of guess and check.

                1. re: sandylc

                  Thank you so much! The problem is with the ERFYBT diet is it's not 'PC'. When you acknowledge that your blood type must dictate what you eat you also must acknowledge that 'certain' races' must also come to the same conclusion.

                  1. re: Puffin3

                    For this type A, the diet seems overly restrictive although not radical. The problem is the whole concept of relating diet to blood type is regarded as junk science.

                    1. re: grampart

                      A lot of things that don't generate profits for pharmaceutical and insurance companies are regarded as "junk science".

                        1. re: carolinadawg

                          No, it's an observation gleaned from years of learning, observation, and experience. If you disagree, fine. I don't have to respect your opinion, either.

                        2. re: sandylc

                          If it was for real, it would generate profits, but when there's just one guy making the claims.......Hell, maybe it is a conspiracy. Nothing surprises me any more.

                      1. re: Puffin3

                        People's different body chemistry has nothing to do with race. Since humans are all *one* and the same race.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          Thank you. I hate the misuse of the word "race", as well. And yes, we are ALL different than one another, and it is NOT racist to notice.

                          1. re: linguafood

                            The government certainly does not agree with this.

                          2. re: Puffin3

                            The blood type thing is not merely junk science, it's pure quackery.

                            1. re: GH1618

                              Twenty years ago when I was taking probiotics purchased at a health food store, I read about what "junk science" and "quackery" they were.

                              Now they're all over the news as the next great thing and pharmaceutical companies are pumping out their own crappy versions of them.

                          3. re: sandylc

                            You mean, for your blood type? I looked into that, but I think it is not valid. Virtually no medical authority believes eating according to your blood type is valid.

                            1. re: sueatmo

                              I don't really know about whether the blood type thing is valid or not. It is interestiing, but I don't really have any experience/opinion.

                              However, I have a LOT of experience with the stupidity of "medical authorities".

                              1. re: sandylc

                                There are nowhere near as many stupid medical authorities as there are gullible people taken in by quackery.

                                1. re: GH1618

                                  That smells suspiciously like an opinion.

                                2. re: sandylc

                                  I am blood type B and if memory serves, I should eat lots of dairy and sub turkey for chicken. (Its been several years since I read the initial book recommending this, and my memory might be incorrect. So if someone knows more, feel free to correct me.) I fail to see how this makes me healthier than if I restrict dairy and continue to eat chicken.

                                  I've tried to do a little independent research on characteristics of the different blood types, but I don't find much on the internet. I just don't think eating for your blood type has a lot of substantiation. And I don't want to base my entire eating program on assumptions about diet that sound iffy.

                                  Also, are there any recs from the good doctor for diets for the blood groups that aren't as common? Those are groups not the A, AB, B, or O?

                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                    No clue. As I've said, I don't know that much about it. I read the book years ago and am intrigued but not convinced.

                          4. Not just crap, but specifically too much added sugar in all its forms (sucrose, "cane juice," and HFCS). Also, refined flour. And alcohol, of course.

                            French fries are ok — ketchup is the problem.

                            22 Replies
                            1. re: GH1618

                              The average medium sized order of fast food french fries has 427 calories. One tablespoon of ketchup has 20 calories. One would have to put a lot of ketchup on each fry to make ketchup the problem.

                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                It's the sugar in ketchup that's the problem, not merely the calories. Calories represent energy. You need energy to live. As long as you are consuming only the calories you need, you will not gain weight. The problem with sugar is not merely the calories, it is that it stimulates the appetite so you are likely to eat more. Also, sugar is half fructose, which is used less efficiently than glucose (the other half). The fructose gets stored as fat and the glucose is used as fuel.

                                The notion that all calories are equivalent, so it doesn't matter what you eat, is what makes maintaining a diet so difficult for most people.

                                I get the small fries, and I don't eat fries very often.

                                See Dr. Lustig's lecture for more details.

                                1. re: GH1618

                                  The way to lose weight, and keep it off, (for a vast majority of people) is to eat less and move more. Period.

                                  Dr. Lustig isn't the end all, be all authority.

                                  1. re: carolinadawg

                                    The snake oil diet scumbags will be very angry at you

                                    1. re: carolinadawg

                                      <The way to lose weight, and keep it off, is to eat less and move more.>

                                      Such a simple prescription but it's amazing how many people are just not able to do it.

                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        Oh, I never said it was easy. I need to lose a few pounds myself, but am unwilling (right now) to really do what I need to do to make it happen. Perhaps if my weight issue was greater I would be more motivated to do what I need to do.

                                      2. re: carolinadawg

                                        A treatment plan that 90%+ cannot follow and makes the problem worse is useless. Can you think of a treatment for any other disease (coronary heart, cancer, multiple sclerosis) with this failure rate that you would continue to recommend?

                                        1. re: mwhitmore

                                          Huh? Who says 90% lack the willpower to eat less and move more. Anyone can do so, they just have to decide they want to. Taking chemo and radiation isn't easy either, but you either are motivated to go through with it or you aren't.

                                          Besides, its not my "recommendation", its just reality.

                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                            Well over 90% of people who go on the 'eat less, move more' diet lose weight---then gain it all back (sometimes *and more*) when they inevitably go off the diet.I have done so myself. Also, yo-yo dieting makes it more difficult to lose weight on the next diet.

                                            1. re: mwhitmore

                                              Source for your claim?

                                              I'll ignore the fact that you agree eating less and moving more is an effective way to lose weight. Those who gain the weight back are clearly eating more and moving less. There is no magic pill or silver bullet for most people, sorry.

                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                  The first link you posted also confirms that consuming more calories than you expend results in weight gain, which makes the reverse also true.

                                            2. re: carolinadawg

                                              My two major weight gains came from prescription drugs that I was scared into taking. I was previously naturally slender. We're talking 30 pounds in four weeks each time, and they won't come off. I was always naturally very slender before.

                                              There is the factor of chemical confusion caused by doctors, things in our air, water, and food, etc. It messes with people and it is the elephant in this particular room.

                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                HeeHee! Big boned, don't forget big boned!

                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                  My two major weight gains came from going off prescription drugs that I was taking I got pregnant both times.;-)

                                                  People do have different metabolisms and I think there is so much we don't know about it. I'd read about a town in Europe during WWII and how there was famine. When they studied people who had been in vitro during that time, they were heavier as adults than average. They don't know if the people ate more as adults, something being triggered from the starvation, or their bodies adapted to famine, in utero.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    I watched something fascinating a while back about how we can change our genetic makeup with lifestyle.

                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                      I think our genes can make us predisposed to some things but it's not completely inevitable. Things like cancer, diabetes, etc. can be affected by lifestyle, sometimes. We might be predisposed to be heavier (I am) but lifestyle can make a big difference in that. Yes, it's far more work than for someone who is predisposed to being thin but it's do-able.

                                                  2. re: sandylc

                                                    I agree about chemicals in the food, and air what to they do to us in terms of weight and there is an awful lot of junk food in North America.
                                                    A friend of mine when to Italy, remarked they ate very well, wine, bread, cheese, pasta but no junk food as it is apparently not readily available. She was amazed that weight issues were not evident in Italy.

                                        2. re: GH1618

                                          I am always surprised to find people who eliminate white sugar, but accept honey or agave syrup. Those things are sugar in a different form! We seem to want our sweet flavors no matter what, in my observation.

                                          Well, I do too. But I've learned that I have to limit myself drastically in that regard.

                                          1. re: GH1618

                                            I don't think we are all created equal. Wheat is more of a problem for me than sugar. I quit eating any wheat for a few months; at my last checkup had only dropped 5 lbs. but my cholesterol had dropped 63 points for the first time ever! I have continued to not eat wheat, (just wheat, not gluten), the weight is still reducing slowly. I'm not overweight, but could still happily live with a few less pounds.

                                            1. re: Cam14

                                              Exactly. And when I was VERY skinny, I ate a ton of cheap white carbs. We ARE all different.