Obesity is a global problem. The word “epidemic” is increasingly
being used when discussing it. Warnings are being sounded about
the huge medical costs of having an overweight population. Cathy
Newman, senior writer for National Geographic, takes a look at the
causes, scope, and price of the growth in obesity, as well as possible
solutions. Her focus is on the United States, but sidebars
address the problem from a global perspective as well.
Statistics abound in this article: nearly a third of Americans
are obese, 15 per cent of American children are overweight and the
number is climbing, a quarter of Americans get no daily exercise at
all. A map of the world provides a picture of the global problem,
making it obvious that the more “westernized” the country, the higher
the incidence of obesity.
What exactly is meant by the term “obese”? To answer that, Newman
produces the old body mass index (known as the BMI) – a chart which
uses your height, weight, and age to peg where you are and where you
should be weight-wise.
Why are we fat? We eat too much and exercise too little.
Too much of what we eat is fast food, and fast food is usually fat
food. Newman goes into the details of portion control, nutrition,
and calories. She also talks about the role of genetics, the
tendency to store energy too efficiently in the form of fat.
What can be done about the problem? Research is ongoing to help
those genetically predisposed to be calorie-storers to become
calorie-burners. The article takes a close look at gastric bypass
surgery, a procedure to reduce the stomach so that the person feels
full faster and eats less; while the procedure is often successful, it
can be risky. Newman also compares the Atkins Diet, where dieters
avoid carbohydrates in favour of fat and protein, with the low-fat
diet, which encourages dieters to consume complex carbohydrates and
reduce fat intake. She also takes another look at
And then there’s exercise. We all know it’s good for us, but how
many actually do it? And just how much is necessary?
The consequences of obesity are serious, not just in terms of health
and medical costs, but also in psychological terms. Fat people
often just don’t feel good about themselves. This article takes a
look at that as well. It is a thorough and enlightening look at a
problem that is more frequently making headlines across the globe.