Why has the rate of obesity increased over the years?

Dr. Ramani Durvasula, PhD
Psychology Specialist

When you look at obesity trends in this country, obesity has been steadily rising.

What happened? We've heard it all—lots of chatter about inactivity in kids, inactivity in adults, the proliferation of processed foods, the affordability of bad foods, the loss of the family dinner table, two working parents, reliance on prepared meals, the toxic food environment. Data supports some of this but not all. I would also throw in stress and psychological factors.

But our best health lessons come from history. The 1980s were a mind game. Restraint and excess were being sold to us simultaneously. Our vices were taken away—no more ads for tobacco and booze. AIDS made quick work of casual sex. And Reagan's war on drugs made it a little harder to get high in other ways (though cocaine made a strong showing in the 1980s). Thinness came back into vogue. Eating disorders proliferated in young women. At the same time, the message of conspicuous consumption, greed and inequitable distribution of wealth was everywhere. This set the tone for an economic zeitgeist that persists to this day.

I don't endorse smoking, drinking, drug use and casual sex as antidotes to weight gain. But I wonder if taking away all of our vices has left food as the lone acceptable vice left standing (other than reality TV—and people tend to eat while they watch it). Look at a magazine now—the ads alternate between Lapband and fast food. Restraint and excess.

Source Type - Web

What you need to focus on is what’s happening in your environment. What is your food culture, what are you eating, are you exercising, what is your metabolic rate and things like that. These are things you can actually change, and are the primary causes of obesity in the United States.

Television watching, working in cubicles, having access to energy-dense foods and not moving all play a huge role in why obesity is increasing.

Dr. John E. Ellis, MD

The rate of obesity has increased dramatically in recent years for many reasons, but sedentary lifestyles and poor diets are mostly to blame. Watch as anesthesiology & critical care specialist John Ellis, MD, explains why obesity rates have gone up.

Continue Learning about Obesity

Shocking Facts About Obesity You Haven’t Heard Before
Shocking Facts About Obesity You Haven’t Heard Before
You may know there’s an obesity epidemic, but you might not know how truly shocking the numbers are. A 2017 study published in the New England Journal...
Read More
What is normal weight obesity?
Heidi Skolnik, MSHeidi Skolnik, MS
Normal weight obesity is when you look like you're a normal weight, but you actually have more fat t...
More Answers
How much weight should I lose if I am obese?
Nicole Florence, MDNicole Florence, MD
Everyone has different starting points and therefore may initially have different goals. Ideally, a ...
More Answers
How Does Obesity Affect Children?
How Does Obesity Affect Children?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.