I met this young woman the other day and she told me about how her plan to gain 50 pounds after high school had finally paid its dividends. She was actually surprised at the little amount of effort that it took to reach her dream. YEAH, RIGHT! I have yet to meet anyone – male, female, young, old, black, white, or from any walk of life – that has said, “I had this plan to gain weight. I had to learn how to do it, and once I did, it worked!” Nobody says that, it’s not what people set out to do, and yet it happens. Why? Is it your fault? Here are 3 reasons why you (or someone you know) might be overweight.
1. The food supply. The truth is, our food supply has undergone a drastic change in the last couple of decades – and with that change the incidence of obesity has skyrocketed. We now eat more man-made processed foods than ever before, and they are more available to us. Take high-fructose corn syrup (a man-made sugar derivative of corn) for example. This relatively new “food” product has made its way into everything from soda to cereal to ketchup. Look in your cupboards and refrigerator right now and look how many products contain HFCS among dozens of other man-made ingredients you can’t pronounce.
We are told to stay away from all this junk food, but it is everywhere. How much of your grocery store is produce and fresh meat? How big is the soda isle? How big is the alcohol isle? How much of every part of the store is processed food (cookies, sugary cereal, ice cream, candy, processed meat, etc.)? How much is real food (wild rice, oats, vegetables, fruit – all with no additives)? Of course all the junk food outnumbers the real food by a large margin. Then we are told, “Don’t eat it.” It all tastes good, looks good, and it’s right there in front of us, but do not eat it! It’s like telling someone that is trying to quit smoking to just sit in a room full of cigarettes and “Don’t touch.” In situations like this, Right and Wrong seem to find their way to the exit. Enter Temptation – a culprit as old as Adam and Eve. That is where we are at with a lot of the “food” in our grocery stores. It tempts us. We indulge.
2. Advertising. How many soda advertisements did you see this week? What about beer, chips, fast food, pizza, and snacks? How many did you see for an apple? What about grass fed beef, wild salmon, leafy greens, broccoli, and carrots? Junk food triumphs again with millions of dollars spent in advertising to persuade us to buy the products in fancy labeling. Last I checked, it’s working.
We might not think that about advertising when it comes to being overweight, but like it or not, we are influenced by the things we see, read, and listen to. If you happen to watch TV, listen to the radio, read magazines, or view anything on the internet then you are being lured, persuaded, enticed – advertised to. I’m all for advertising, capitalism, and freedom of choice in making purchases. With that, though, comes a barrage of words, sounds, and images that entices our senses and makes us steer toward the Center of the Grocery Store a.k.a. The Processed Food Section a.k.a. The Foods We Shouldn’t Eat that Make Us Fat Section.
3. You. Yes, there are outside influences. Yes, there are hidden sugars, additives, and preservatives in foods you may have thought were healthy. Yes, there are treats and junk food that tempt you. There are friends that will invite you out for beer and pizza, 17 fast food joints between your house and work, candy at every gas station, and so on. Even with all of these things that influence and tempt you, you are still part of the equation. This doesn’t mean that you intentionally gained weight. I know that when I was 50 pounds heavier I didn’t set out to get that way. But ultimately it was I that went out for a few beers multiple times per week, it was I that bought the Hamburger Helper, it was I that brought home the cases of soda (4 for $9.99, how could I pass up that deal?!). It was I making the choices. Was I influenced? Sure. But it was my choices that got me from a fit, weightlifting athlete to an out of shape, fat construction worker.
If you are someone that is overweight and reading this, I feel that it is important to realize that you have played a role in getting to your current condition. I say that not to point a finger, place blame, and attack. I say that to point out that you also have the power to change. The power to take control of your health. The power to live how you want to live and make the choices you need to make. I don’t think that we can change Coke and Pepsi and have them produce less soda tomorrow. I am pretty sure that McDonald’s and Burger King are not shutting down this week. I hypothesize that the majority of your grocery store will be stocked with processed food items next week. I am willing to bet cash money that one or more of these things will be advertised to you in the near future. None of those things will change anytime soon. The one thing that can change is you!