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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Food in the US (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Food in the US
Szymon
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I am sure there was plenty about this subject, but forgive me please. I'm European (Polish) and we have these stereotypes about Americans that I personally can only partly confirm or reject as generally true or untrue. I think I can quite confidently confirm that there are far more obese people in America than in Europe (except maybe for the UK). I dont know a reason to this, but I suppose it a general cultural thing that meals are not celebrated in the US as they are in Europe (it is still quite normal for European families to make their meals from scratch, that is to say- go buy stuff, prepare it, eat it, usually together. In my home country we still have a tradition of eating two dishes during our dinner- first being soup, always. For example today, I made myself a tomato soup, which takes like three hours(boiling), requires beef (usually sirloin), a quarter of a chicken, selery, leek, onion, carrots and parsley. And tomatoes obviously, which you have to peel first, otherwise soup has poor consistency. It was only the first dish, and Im 23 three and live alone and believe me, my friends do the same). I am pretty sure that in Italy or France they pay even more attention to food. So, my primary thought, could that be the reason of obesity? If you have really cheap fast-food or normal take-away-food you eat every day, that makes you eat more (because you dont have to spend time preparing it) and it is naturally much less healthy. Could that be the reason?
The other thing, Americans are BIGGER than Europeans. I mean, really bigger. Not obese- just taller and heavier, and more muscular. I weigh 92 kg, that is about 202 lbs, and I'm 184 cm tall (6 ft). I am pretty big in european standards. But I think I wouldnt ne in the US. Is that true? And if yes, why is that so?

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Mucus
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Yep.
"Fattest country in the OECD"
http://www.oecd.org/document/57/0,3746,en_2649_33929_46038969_1_1_1_1,00.html

The trend line doesn't even mix it up with other countries to make it somewhat of a fight to be #1.

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Sphinx
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quote:
So, my primary thought, could that be the reason of obesity? If you have really cheap fast-food or normal take-away-food you eat every day, that makes you eat more (because you dont have to spend time preparing it) and it is naturally much less healthy. Could that be the reason?
That's definitely one of the reasons, but I think there's more to it than that.

One of the reasons for America's obesity that stands out to me from my limited experience with Europe (the U.K. specifically) was that walking (and other kinds of routine exercise) was much more common, whereas driving is much more common here simply because, for lack of a better way to say it, the U.S. is just big.

To give an example, take a look at this. The fifth largest state in the U.S. (New Mexico) is roughly the same size as your country, Poland. The states of Texas and Alaska would be the second largest European countries, behind only Russia. States are smaller in the east, but from about the middle of the country and west the country is just spread out.

For that reason, cities/towns/everything is designed for people who drive; my hometown in Oklahoma for the most part didn't have sidewalks at all, and my home was located on the other side of a major highway with no safe way to cross on foot. It's simply expected that everyone will drive.

I only stayed in the U.K. for about a month, but even staying for just that long I did a tremendous amount of walking. I walked to buy food. I walked to public transportation. I walked to the landmarks I wanted to see. And then I walked back. I don't know if Poland is the same way, but in the U.K. it was, if not expected, at least possible. Just the design of the U.S., at least in some places, makes that kind of everyday exercise incredibly hard to do.

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ZachC
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What you are saying sounds about right. It would make sense that fast foods would promote obesity over home cooked meals. You seem to be right that the UK is about as close to the exception to the rule as you can find in Europe as according to this.
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Lyrhawn
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I think the time it takes to prepare food is a big part of it. Americans feel rushed to squeeze as much productivity out of every single minute as we possibly can, so when we get home from a long work day, spending three hours in the kitchen isn't on our to-do list. So we make whatever is fastest, which tends to either mean eating out, or something prepared that can be easily heated or cooked. Both of those options tend to be less healthy. I think we also tend to not want to make as many trips to the grocery store as are required to keep a lot of fresh healthy foods in the house which are mitigated in Europe by the relatively close access, even within a walkable distance, to those sorts of foods.

I'd be willing to bet there are more gyms per capita in America than any other country in the world. And the diet/exercise/healthy food industry is a multi-billion dollar one. Every gym I've ever belonged to has been packed with people for hours and hours at a time. I don't think it's that we're lazy, or stupid, there's a confluence of structural problems in place in our society.

Our food infrastructure is a mess. Our work ethic is a mess. Our actual cities are designed for cars, not mass transit and not walking. It's a system designed to produce fat people.

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Liz B
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Plus really ridiculously large soda sizes.
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Lyrhawn
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It's only ten cents more for the extra large at Taco Bell, how can you not partake in that kind of a deal?!
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Samprimary
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The obese parts of america are alien to me. I live in a state which is about the size of Spain, with apparently lower obesity rates than anywhere in Europe other than Italy. So whenever I road trip and stop for gas in MO, I'm always reliably just astounded by how everyone just got ... way thicker. I'm confronted by a larger contrast than one would have travelling from most parts of europe.


I'm in New Hampshire right now and I think it's pretty midway between the South and my home. It's not that terribly noticeable. But you get to someplace like Louisiana and it's just nuts. The south is just fat and unhealthy and the WHO numbers from that region are just ridiculous.

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Szymon
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Sure I dont spend 3h in kitchen, you dont need THAT much time. Say, 45min a day. You prepare soup or whatever, fire and forget. Home at 4, finish preparing, eat at seven, in these two hours homework or movie or whatever.
quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
Plus really ridiculously large soda sizes.

And probably cheap, I guess. This would sum up with the buying a lot of food at once in the US. I do go to Lidl (it's the cheapest supermarket there is Poland and in Europe I guess, west from Belarus) but bread, eggs, milk and stuff I must buy in a corner shop (which are absurdly expensive comparing to our wages, its like 1$ per can of soda, 2$ per loaf of bread, 1$ per liter of milk). But I was to the US and everything is cheaper there! Imagine life level in the US and Poland (although I live in Warsaw, and is 30th most expensive city in the World) [Smile] Although some things are cheaper here I guess, I pay 50$ a month for my gym , that's pretty cheap I guess. Cinema ticket is 5$ for students (only on tuesdays, though;).
But back to subject, I think that really is the reason. It is very comfortable to use public transport in Warsaw and other bigger cities in Europe, while using a car is absurd (first- gas cost 2$ a litre (that's over 7$ a gallon...), second- parking costs (10 $ a day everywhere in Warsaw except for park and ride places but that's quite inconvenient to spend 40min in a bus or tram or subway just to get to it...). Making us walk more. However food prices are going up and up and up, mostly because of the European Union legislative bullsh.t and controlling our market (imagine that Poland, which used to produce like bazilions of tons of sugar now has to IMPORT it because EU foribids us to produce more... this is SPARTA [Smile] ) and I just found out it is more and more comfortable to go out and eat, rather than prepare it home.

[ February 27, 2012, 06:23 AM: Message edited by: Szymon ]

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Dogbreath
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Syzmon: The big/tall factor has to do with a lot of us (myself included) descending from Scandinavians, who are very large people in general. I'm 6'2" and 205 lbs. In my home town I'm not considered particularly tall (maybe on the tall side of normal), though I am abnormally muscular compared with those outside my profession. According to wikipedia, though, average height amoung white Americans is the same as Poles - 5 feet, 10 and 1/2 inches.

I'll agree with other people here that infrastructure is mostly to blame for our obesity problems. We live in a country where it's both cheap and convenient to go through a drive-thru for food on the way home from work. Taking the time to, say, make grocery lists and plan out meals requires additional effort and creativity, and so a lot of people naturally go for the easiest solution available.

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ambyr
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quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
Sure I dont spend 3h in kitchen, you dont need THAT much time. Say, 45min a day. You prepare soup or whatever, fire and forget. Home at 4, finish preparing, eat at seven, in these two hours homework or movie or whatever.

Perhaps longer working and commuting hours are part of the equation. Forget four; being home by seven would be unusually early for me, something I might manage once a week if I'm lucky and well-favored by the transportation gods, and I usually try to be asleep no later than eleven. When I can, I cook big batches of things on weekends and freeze them in single-meal portions for use during the week. It's a common strategy.
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Bella Bee
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One of the things I think is weird here in Spain is that a lot of people to prepare and eat fresh food - but they *fry* practically everything. Thankfully it's in olive oil, which makes it relatively healthy, but you can easily use half a bottle of oil making an omelet.

Yet no-one here has thought of deep-frying a Mars bar, so that's probably why the UK is fatter. That and the ubiquitous-ness of high fat ready-meals. Those supermarket ready-meals are the UK equivalent of US take out. People eat them way too much.

Old ladies and gentlemen are almost all rotund in Spain. Young people smaller generally than in the UK (and thereby the USA) but they're more active because the weather encourages you to go out and do stuff when it's not too hot - so people do go out walking, swimming, etc. I could never understand how people who live in places like Florida don't get more exercise. Outside of high-summer, it's perfect in the evening for cycling, running etc. And yet so many people don't.

That chart says there is the same obesity level in Spain as Canada which is interesting - since Canada is colder and has similar food outlets and a driving culture outside cities. But I guess Canadians are more active or eat better or something.

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The Rabbit
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The story is a lot more complicated than most people think and if you don't look at the details you can come to very inaccurate conclusions.

First, the percent Obesity varies enormously from region to region in the US. See map. You will note that the obesity problem is greatest in the south and midwest. In the western half of the country, the percent of adults who are overweight or obese is pretty similar to Northern Europe.

There are also rather large differences between racial/ethnic groups. Obesity rates are significantly higher among blacks, native Americans and Hispanics than it is among white non-Hispanic Americans. There are also some curious gender differences. In the US, the obesity rate is higher among women than men while the opposite is true in every country in Europe. Among US women, the obesity rates are strongly anti-correlated with income and education level but there is no correlation among men.

Activity levels are certainly an important factor contributing to the weight problem in the US. While its true that Americans travel further than Europeans, that isn't the only factor. In the US, 67% of all short trips (under 1 mile) are made by car. In Germany, only 27% of short trips are made by car. The areas of the country with the highest rates of obesity are also the areas where people are less likely to walk or cycle even for very short trips.

It's also harder to get an accurate estimate of the real obesity rates in the US because of our dreadful health care system. The obesity rates based on self reported data are significantly lower than those based on measured data. Yes, people lie about their weight but there is also a significant selection bias in the measurements that come from medical records.

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Szymon
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quote:
Originally posted by Bella Bee:

That chart says there is the same obesity level in Spain as Canada which is interesting - since Canada is colder and has similar food outlets and a driving culture outside cities. But I guess Canadians are more active or eat better or something.

According to wikipedia only 2,5% Canadians are black, 3,8% are native Canadians, and far fewer are Hispanic. So that would correspond with The Rabbit's comment:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:

There are also rather large differences between racial/ethnic groups. Obesity rates are significantly higher among blacks, native Americans and Hispanics than it is among white non-Hispanic Americans.

The questions is why Hispanic Americans and black are more likely to be obese. Would that be a cultural thing? Or I dunno, have sth to do with metabolism (not likely, I guess)
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kmbboots
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Too much corn. Thank you, Earl Butz.
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SenojRetep
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quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
The questions is why Hispanic Americans and black are more likely to be obese. Would that be a cultural thing? Or I dunno, have sth to do with metabolism (not likely, I guess)

As Rabbit said, in America obesity (at least in women) is strongly anti-correlated with wealth. So is being black and/or Hispanic. If you want to try and draw a causal conclusion, I think you'll get farther considering wealth as the independent variable rather than ethnicity.

There's a strong belief (see kmbboot's post) that the reason poverty and obesity are correlated is that, due to federal corn subsidies, food laden with corn syrup, vegetable oil, or otherwise produced using corn-based products is extremely cheap, as well as extremely fattening. So poor people looking for cheap calories end up eating burgers, fries and a Snickers bar rather than salads and fresh fruit, cause the healthy food costs more and doesn't fill you up as much.

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pooka
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Non white people are less likely to be ectomorphs. The mongoloid body type is pretty much endomorphic and negroid has a tendency to be mesomorphic.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by pooka:
Non white people are less likely to be ectomorphs. The mongoloid body type is pretty much endomorphic and negroid has a tendency to be mesomorphic.

I think that's true of African Americans but not Africans as a whole. There is an enormous diversity of body types in Africa but most slaves came from a relatively small region in west Africa where there does seem to be a genetic predisposition toward getting fat, particularly among women.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
As Rabbit said, in America obesity (at least in women) is strongly anti-correlated with wealth. So is being black and/or Hispanic. If you want to try and draw a causal conclusion, I think you'll get farther considering wealth as the independent variable rather than ethnicity.
That data is available and both economics and race/ethnicity are important for women. Among men economics aren't a factor, it's solely race/ethnicity.

I think there is evidence suggesting that both genetic and cultural factors are involved. A lot of ethnic groups (such as Pacific Islanders, some Native Americans, some Africans) seem to have trouble gaining excessive weight with the carbohydrates most common in a western diet (bread and potatoes).

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Dogbreath
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I'd argue one of the reasons weight varies depending on income for women but not for men is that athleticism in men is heavily emphasized in our culture, regardless of race or class. Also, men seem to be far more likely to engage in sports as a recreational activity than women. So the extra exercise men get could offset the effects of cheap, fattening foods among low income groups.
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Aros
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It's all about chips (both potato and tortilla varieties), sugar, and our giant fridges / freezers. Poor people in the US consume massive quantities of chips, junk food, and ice cream (candy bars, chocolate, licorice, etc).

One of the bigger areas of concern is the value proposition. Americans have much larger fridges than Europeans, and we generally buy in bulk. Most of the foods are also MUCH lower quality. So the typical family will generally have a large amount of inexpensive, high-carb food on hand (chips, 5-gallon tubs of ice cream, etc). Many people start to "graze", or constantly eat throughout the day. People with these unnatural snacking habits tend to become the very morbidly obese.

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Lyrhawn
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I'll admit my eating habits, more so than the actual food I eat, are incredibly unhealthy. My first meal of the day rarely comes before noon or 1pm, and then I often don't eat again until 9pm or later. Sometimes, however, I'll just snack all throughout the day. Both are terrible eating habits, but I'm trying to improve them by at least making my snack foods healthier. I'm going through a lot more fruits and vegetables now than I used to.
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Annie
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by pooka:
Non white people are less likely to be ectomorphs. The mongoloid body type is pretty much endomorphic and negroid has a tendency to be mesomorphic.

I think that's true of African Americans but not Africans as a whole. There is an enormous diversity of body types in Africa but most slaves came from a relatively small region in west Africa where there does seem to be a genetic predisposition toward getting fat, particularly among women.
The theory behind those body types has been pretty universally debunked.
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Annie
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As you can see, this is a hugely complex, but hugely real problem.

As far as the ethnicity/SES factors go, a lot of that has to do with food distribution in urban areas. Inner city areas where large proportions of the black and hispanic population live are not well-connected to good food sources. Many of the stores that people have access to are small bodegas that carry LOTS of processed food (because it has a longer shelf life) and very little in terms of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, those areas tend to have lots of fast-food facilities, probably because whole foods are so hard to procure. Makes it very difficult for those on the lower end of the SES spectrum to eat well, not just because they can't afford whole, healthy foods, but because they don't live close enough to the places that sell them.

Processed food in general is to blame in the larger society as well - Americans eat a lot more of it than Asians and Europeans. I read one article suggesting a link going back to our food industry during and after WWII. With the disruptions in supply lines in Europe, innovations there were in ways to raise and distribute food locally. At the same time, the US had troops strung out across the globe and revolutionized new methods for preserving and shipping food. Then, in the decades that followed, Europe got better at providing locally sourced foods to its urban residents while America got better and better at exporting and transporting canned and boxed food. It seemed really great and scientific at the time, and this is the era my parents grew up in. There was a huge push towards using prepared products and that's what they grew up with. That generation is a lot more likely to share recipes that call for things like cans of Campbell's soup and boxes of bread crumbs and frozen chicken breasts.

There's a lot more behind it too - portion size, our mistaken approaches to nutrition research, lobbying by huge international food industries affecting science and policy. I'd really recommend the book In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan if you want to get into some more of these issues.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
I'd argue one of the reasons weight varies depending on income for women but not for men is that athleticism in men is heavily emphasized in our culture, regardless of race or class.
I don't know that American men are any more or less athletic than men in other developed countries. I think a more likely explanation is that low income men often have physically demanding jobs such as gardening, construction, moving or freight handling. That could easily counter other the other factors that tend to favor obesity in low income groups.
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The Rabbit
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It's interesting to me that rising obesity is happening all over the world, even in many under developed countries. There is mounting evidence that lifestyle and culture are not the only factors involved. One key factor might be that we've screwed up the ecological balance in our guts by using too many antibiotics. Over the past 5 years there have been a large number of studies documenting changes in the types of bacteria we have growing in our guts that are associated with a variety of diseases -- including obesity. It's hard to say exactly which is the cause and which is the effect, but its clear that we need to start paying a lot more attention to our bacterial friends.

It's possible that the biggest reason the US is ahead of Europe in the Obesity pandemic is that we've used more antibiotics both in meat production and in medicine. We're also more "germ phobic" in general. Europeans are more likely to eat things like yogurt, unpasturized cheeses and raw foods. Those things which are considered "too dangerous" in the US, may be protecting Europeans from a range of diseases.

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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
I don't know that American men are any more or less athletic than men in other developed countries. I think a more likely explanation is that low income men often have physically demanding jobs such as gardening, construction, moving or freight handling. That could easily counter other the other factors that tend to favor obesity in low income groups.

I'm not comparing them to men in other countries, I'm comparing them to American women. I'd argue that American men (of any class) are far more likely to engage in athletics as a form of recreation than American women, especially those in low income brackets.
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Aros
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Carbs are cheap. Carbs make you fat. . . and fried food (oil).
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
I am sure there was plenty about this subject, but forgive me please. I'm European (Polish) and we have these stereotypes about Americans that I personally can only partly confirm or reject as generally true or untrue. I think I can quite confidently confirm that there are far more obese people in America than in Europe (except maybe for the UK). I dont know a reason to this, but I suppose it a general cultural thing that meals are not celebrated in the US as they are in Europe (it is still quite normal for European families to make their meals from scratch, that is to say- go buy stuff, prepare it, eat it, usually together. In my home country we still have a tradition of eating two dishes during our dinner- first being soup, always. For example today, I made myself a tomato soup, which takes like three hours(boiling), requires beef (usually sirloin), a quarter of a chicken, selery, leek, onion, carrots and parsley. And tomatoes obviously, which you have to peel first, otherwise soup has poor consistency. It was only the first dish, and Im 23 three and live alone and believe me, my friends do the same). I am pretty sure that in Italy or France they pay even more attention to food. So, my primary thought, could that be the reason of obesity? If you have really cheap fast-food or normal take-away-food you eat every day, that makes you eat more (because you dont have to spend time preparing it) and it is naturally much less healthy. Could that be the reason?
The other thing, Americans are BIGGER than Europeans. I mean, really bigger. Not obese- just taller and heavier, and more muscular. I weigh 92 kg, that is about 202 lbs, and I'm 184 cm tall (6 ft). I am pretty big in european standards. But I think I wouldnt ne in the US. Is that true? And if yes, why is that so?

As to the last question, the American diet is typically higher in protein than some other diets. I live in Czech republic, where the protein in diets actually does approach the same, or even surpasses it, and Czechs are not surprisingly typically taller and more rotund on average than poles or even Slovaks.

For size you have to look at a ton of factors. We also have a much, much better developed system of school athletics in the US than is typical in European countries. Despite poorer and poorer funding, American kids still get more physical education than many Europeans, and are more familiar with fitness as a concept. That accounts for some difference in size and proportion. Being skinny is generally less socially accepted in America, especially among men, who are encouraged to bulk up to compete, as early as their teen years.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Annie:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by pooka:
Non white people are less likely to be ectomorphs. The mongoloid body type is pretty much endomorphic and negroid has a tendency to be mesomorphic.

I think that's true of African Americans but not Africans as a whole. There is an enormous diversity of body types in Africa but most slaves came from a relatively small region in west Africa where there does seem to be a genetic predisposition toward getting fat, particularly among women.
The theory behind those body types has been pretty universally debunked.
I wasn't even going to go after that- thanks for posting.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Dogbreath:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
I don't know that American men are any more or less athletic than men in other developed countries. I think a more likely explanation is that low income men often have physically demanding jobs such as gardening, construction, moving or freight handling. That could easily counter other the other factors that tend to favor obesity in low income groups.

I'm not comparing them to men in other countries, I'm comparing them to American women. I'd argue that American men (of any class) are far more likely to engage in athletics as a form of recreation than American women, especially those in low income brackets.
It would explain why American men are less likely to be fat than American women, but it doesn't explain two other things. It doesn't explain why the lack of education and money are correlated with obesity in women but not men. Men in the middle income groups are more likely to be obese than either poor or wealthy men.

It also doesn't explain why men in other developed countries are more likely to be fat than women while the opposite is true in the US.

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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
It would explain why American men are less likely to be fat than American women, but it doesn't explain two other things. It doesn't explain why the lack of education and money are correlated with obesity in women but not men.

Women in middle and upper income groups have access to better quality foods, typically. Also, this is purely anecdotal, but it's my observation that middle and upper income women typically have gym memberships and exercise fairly frequently. I say this because I work nights, and when I go to the gym around 8 am it's almost exlclusively filled with women on treadmills/stair machines. Poor men have just as much access to basic athletic facilities (basketball courts, soccer fields, etc.) as any other income group, but there aren't as many opportunities for physical activity for poor women. Anecdotal again, but I used to live in a poor urban neighborhood, and a lot of the teens and young men in that neighborhood would spend 5 or 6 hours a day every weekend playing basketball at the park across the street. The women (when present) would usually just sit around and watch the men play, or sit at the park benches and talk amoung themselves. I never saw any of my female neighbors going out for a run, or riding bikes, or playing games, or even horsing around like all the guys would.

quote:
Men in the middle income groups are more likely to be obese than either poor or wealthy men.
Video games? Longer work hours? [Dont Know]

quote:
It also doesn't explain why men in other developed countries are more likely to be fat than women while the opposite is true in the US.
Body image issues, maybe? Just about anywhere you go it's more socially acceptable for men to be fat than women. (or rather, a chunky man can sometimes marry a really hot girl, but the inverse almost never happens) Once you get rid of the lack of exercise and really fattening food aspects, perphaps social pressure is what's keeping those women skinny.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
quote:Men in the middle income groups are more likely to be obese than either poor or wealthy men.
Video games? Longer work hours? [/quote]

Not in my experience. Education and wealth tend to promote better eating and exercise habits for both men and women. The trend holds for women at all income levels and men with moderate to high incomes. The only exception to this is among low income men. Low income men are much more likely to be employed doing physical labor.

If you don't believe me, go to any Walmart and observe who is lifting boxes, stocking shelves, and carrying heavy loads and who is sitting behind the cash registers.


The next most likely explanation is that its racial/genetic. Because a higher percentage of poor people are black and hispanic, racial factors can skew the economic trends. Obesity rates are about the same in white men and women, and about the same for men of all racial groups, but black women and hispanic women have significantly higher obesity rates than men or women from other racial groups.

There are very likely cultural factors involved but it is worth noting that the same gender differences in obesity among blacks are observed in the Caribbean and West Africa where the culture is very different from US black culture.

Two genes have been identified on the X chromosome that are highly correlated with obesity in Americans with African ancestry regardless of their ethnic identity. Because these genes are located on the X chromosome, they would be expected to affect women more than men. Genes have also been identified that are correlated with obesity in Americans of European ancestry but these genes are not on the X chromosome so are unlikely to result in a gender difference.

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Ryoko
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My 2 cents:

It seems to me that there are some further sub-groupings required:

A) People who have been overweight/obese since childhood
B) People who become overweight after becoming adults

For group A, it would seem that social and genetic factors would be the primary reasons. (The rise in numbers for this group is what worries me the most.)

For group B, it would require further sub-grouping into what triggered the weight gain. For example, pregnancy and other medical issues, life style changes (sedentary jobs, etc.)...

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Szymon
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
As to the last question, the American diet is typically higher in protein than some other diets. I live in Czech republic, where the protein in diets actually does approach the same, or even surpasses it, and Czechs are not surprisingly typically taller and more rotund on average than poles or even Slovaks.

For size you have to look at a ton of factors. We also have a much, much better developed system of school athletics in the US than is typical in European countries. Despite poorer and poorer funding, American kids still get more physical education than many Europeans, and are more familiar with fitness as a concept. That accounts for some difference in size and proportion. Being skinny is generally less socially accepted in America, especially among men, who are encouraged to bulk up to compete, as early as their teen years.

I should agree about the Physical Education in Europe, in Poland at least. It's only about playing soccer when it's warm and volleyball when it's cold.

Why poles and Slovaks !? [Smile]

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odouls268
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I think the people who have mentioned that it is not just a matter of the foods we eat have it right. When I was in the military, I traveled to ever continent except Antarctica. I've been in more countries than I can count, and one of the HUGE differences I have noticed about people in most other places in the world is that they walk and ride bikes as a matter of transportation at a rate so much greater than Americans that it would take scientific notation to record it accurately.

So it isnt just a matter of what we choose to eat, but also a matter of what we choose to do with our time.

Of course, I can't really talk because according to the height/weight BMI scale, I am overweight borderline obese.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
As to the last question, the American diet is typically higher in protein than some other diets. I live in Czech republic, where the protein in diets actually does approach the same, or even surpasses it, and Czechs are not surprisingly typically taller and more rotund on average than poles or even Slovaks.

For size you have to look at a ton of factors. We also have a much, much better developed system of school athletics in the US than is typical in European countries. Despite poorer and poorer funding, American kids still get more physical education than many Europeans, and are more familiar with fitness as a concept. That accounts for some difference in size and proportion. Being skinny is generally less socially accepted in America, especially among men, who are encouraged to bulk up to compete, as early as their teen years.

I should agree about the Physical Education in Europe, in Poland at least. It's only about playing soccer when it's warm and volleyball when it's cold.

Why poles and Slovaks !? [Smile]

My iPad capitalizes Slovak, but not pole. As you can see. Sorry, Poles, and Slovaks.
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Dogbreath
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The height/weight BMI scale always makes me question how exactly the "30% of America is obese" figure was reached. I'm around 6% body fat - skinny enough that veins stand out on my abdomen and above my chest - yet I am overweight according to the height/weight BMI. A friend of mine who was a football player before joining the Marine Corps is obese according to his BMI. (he tapes around 10% body fat)

It leads me to wonder how many of these "obese" men are actually muscular guys who are 15-20 lbs overweight or so. Of course, that doesn't account for the large number of obese women.

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Aros
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quote:
Originally posted by odouls268:

So it isnt just a matter of what we choose to eat, but also a matter of what we choose to do with our time.

It looks like you put a lot of work into it.

Tangentially, I'd like to say that genetics / health care are pretty heavy factors. I was lifting daily and eating well for a year, with VERY little gains. A few years later, my doctor diagnosed me with low testosterone and started me on injections. In the past three months I've realized gains that I never thought possible -- and I've only been lifting two / three times a week.

But that brings me back to food quality. I know there are a lot of concerns about American meat / eggs / milk and hormones. The American economy is based on driving toward super low cost. Maybe our food is just crap compared to a lot of the rest of the world? Or maybe it's just the food at Walmart.

Then again, there are many foods that are staples in the US that aren't really consumed elsewhere. Sugary breakfast cereal and peanut butter spring to mind.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by odouls268:
I think the people who have mentioned that it is not just a matter of the foods we eat have it right. When I was in the military, I traveled to ever continent except Antarctica. I've been in more countries than I can count, and one of the HUGE differences I have noticed about people in most other places in the world is that they walk and ride bikes as a matter of transportation at a rate so much greater than Americans that it would take scientific notation to record it accurately.

So it isnt just a matter of what we choose to eat, but also a matter of what we choose to do with our time.

Of course, I can't really talk because according to the height/weight BMI scale, I am overweight borderline obese.

BMI is a load of crap. I was "overweight" with 11% body fat when I was 21. Now I'm probably "morbidly" obese, despite having a 38 waist and enough upper body muscle mass to bench 300 pounds, or squat 400. I'm not *skinny* but damn, to fall within my "normal" range according to the BMI chart, I would have to be pretty damn slender.

I've been told a healthy weight for me is 215 at 6"1. That's already obese according to the antiquated BMI.

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odouls268
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I agree. BMI is, in fact, a load of crap. But it still added 33% onto my life insurance bill each month.
In spite of the fact that they had their own medical staff weigh me, test my urine, pull my blood, check my cholesterol, do a bodyfat caliper test, AND take a picture of me.

"We apologize but in spite of the other test results, we still have to go by our BMI chart, it's our policy."

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Traceria
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quote:
Originally posted by ambyr:
Perhaps longer working and commuting hours are part of the equation. Forget four; being home by seven would be unusually early for me, something I might manage once a week if I'm lucky and well-favored by the transportation gods, and I usually try to be asleep no later than eleven. When I can, I cook big batches of things on weekends and freeze them in single-meal portions for use during the week. It's a common strategy.

I was thinking that's a big reason as well. While theoretically it would be great to work literally around the corner, meaning one could walk or bike to work, it's just not possible, even if you work in the same town as where you live. (Though, if you bike in NJ, you'd be taking your life into your own hands.) I work one town over, and it takes me twenty minutes on a good day to get to work by car. If errands are in the equation after work, I don't get home until at least 6 pm (leaving work at 5 pm). By that point, whether you love to cook or not, often it means there's just not much time to devote to it. Soup is a good plan in the winter, but it just doesn't work in the warmer months.
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Annie
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Though we do tend to live far from our workplaces in the US, there are a lot of people who commute by bicycle. I get around town on my bicycle and while I don't live very far from my campus at all, I also go shopping and run errands on it. I have a friend who is student teaching who commutes 15 miles each way by bike every day.

My experience is that while there are indeed many people who do live too far to commute by bike, there are also a lot more people who could be cycling who don't. Especially for short trips, errands, etc. And a lot of that is just culture and "convenience."

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Samprimary
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http://www.livescience.com/18886-obese-cities-list-2011.html

YUP

You just really never see fat people here. It is extremely difficult to live here and not either lose weight or feel self conscious and leave because you are so, so out of place.

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Bella Bee
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I have a limited sample group that I've met and have never actually visited, but everyone from Boulder I've ever come across has been skinny as all get out. Though some of them had some horrific ski-accident scars and mis-aligned bones.
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Samprimary
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Sounds pretty Boulder to me. We're all skinny and/or athletic. Fat doesn't exist, or if it does, it hides.
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Annie
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There's also a city ordinance saying you must wear brand name outdoor clothing at all times. Pretty sure. You don't see hardly anyone walking around in Boulder without NorthFace plastered somewhere on their body. [Wink]
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Rawrain
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I'd have to say each and every individual is to be blamed for their weight.. their choices, and their genetics are all on them.....

I blame evolutionary decline on the rise in obesity, in nature most fatties (besides the rather healthy strong one's that do exist) would most likely get eaten by wolves or large cats, or get taken by disease much faster but in modern times even the most crippled (genetically speaking) are allowed to have children and pass it on.

So I am also blaming everyone's sexual history too :D

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coppertoe
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When I left the US in the 80s, people still made food from scratch and sat down as families to eat. Obesity was not an epidemic. The health care system was probably the best in the world. (I've lived in several countries and you can't compare socialized medicine to the top class medical care system the US had pre-Billary.)

By the end of the 90s, my family was telling me I wouldn't recognize the place--the place being Southern California. By my visit there in 2004, the rush hour was 24 hours long, the place was packed--PACKED--with illegal aliens, a commute that had been 20 mins in 1985 was now 2 hours.

As far as I could tell in my 1.5-year visit, people still make dinner from scratch and sit down together (just not in Hollywood movies), but obesity is indeed epidemic.

Meat pumped full of hormones, junk food, and lack of exercise are huge contributors to the obesity epidemic in the US.

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TomDavidson
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Poor baby.
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