Overweight People:
Stop Beating Yourselves Up!

What is the technical definition of "overweight"?

Physicians measure obesity using a scale called the Body Mass Index (BMI). All individuals with BMIs greater than 25 but less than 30 fall into this category.

How common is the problem?

According World Health Organization (WHO) data and other respected surveys:

  • 1 out of 6 people alive today is overweight/obese.
  • That’s over 1 billion human beings!
  • That figure includes 97+ million Americans.
  • 3 out of every 5 Americans over the age of 20 are overweight/obese.

What are the costs to the American economy?

Staggering. When you total up the direct and indirect costs of obesity, the final price tag has been estimated at over $100 billion per year.

Why is being even slightly fat bad for you?

Being just a few pounds heavier than you should be puts you in a higher risk class for developing health problems such as diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes), cancer, stroke, atherosclerosis, tooth decay, and depression.

What has been causing the fattening epidemic that’s been ravaging the world since the 1980s?

This is the $64,000 question. (Or is it the $100-billion-a-year question?) The problem of obesity has befuddled epidemiologists, nutritionists, and medical authorities in equal measure. Theories abound. One of the most popular ideas is the so-called "toxic environment" theory. Too many people lead sedentary lives and overeat these days; thus, we're getting fatter. This hypothesis is championed by most high-placed figures in the field.

A competing hypothesis focuses less on psychology and more on physiology.

This theory suggests that in the years since the “low fat diet” started being recommended (late 1970s, early 1980s), Americans have cut down on dietary fats and replaced them with extra carbohydrates. Whereas in the 1950s, carbs were considered by medical authorities to be uniquely fattening; by the 1980s, carbs--especially so-called “good” carbs, such as are found in whole grain bread and quinoa--had become “health food.”

The alternative theory blames the obesity epidemic on our over-consumption of dietary carbs.

Biochemically, the rationale is that eating carbs drives up insulin production, and the extra insulin in our systems causes us to fatten.

Can cutting carbs help you lose weight?

Obviously, you should speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet. But research suggests that restricting the carbohydrates you eat--particularly the simple carbs and sugars--may yield a wealth of health benefits.

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