The term obesogenic has been around for a while, but I haven’t seen it being used in mainstream media until recently.
What is an obesogenic environment?
A publication from the University of Nevada indicates that an obesogenic environment is one that helps or contributes to obesity.
In other words, how our neighborhoods are set up, the food in schools, the availability of food, the number of restaurants, the cost of food, our sedentary lifestyle, etc. all contribute to obesity. In thinking about this term, I thought a lot about the cultural environment we live in and pondered how our environment does contribute to the obesity rates in the United States and in other parts of the world.
I read some of the book “Reversing the Obesogenic Environment” by Rebecca Lee and she said:
. . .No sudden genetic shift is to blame for our obesity. What has changed in recent history is our environment.
I was obese from about 1988 to 1998. I think that the environment that we are in now is even more of an obesogenic environment than it was in the late 80s and 90s. In other words, it is easier now to be overweight than in any other time in our history.
Increase in Fast Food
Americans spend more on fast food meals than they do on “movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music – combined,” according to the book “Fast Food Nation.” The fast food industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that caters to our desire for cheap, easy, “no thinking” food.
Fast food is notoriously unhealthy and although there are healthier choices at most fast food restaurants, a lot of people I know choose not to eat a salad at a fast food restaurant, but instead choose a cheeseburger and fries. It’s tastier to them, easier, and more appealing because of its magic combination of fat, sugar, and salt.
Cost of Healthy Food
A study found that eating a “healthy diet” costs about $1.50 per day per person. Like I wrote about here, that can be a detriment to weight loss because cost is often a factor in the food choices we make. Add to this the fact that many people do not know how to cook healthy food, source healthy foods, or understand the importance of healthy eating and you’ve got a definite problem.
Unless you live in a big city, you probably drive a lot. It would take me an hour to walk to a grocery store and that’s without a sidewalk or jogging path. I’d be right on the busy road. So I drive almost everywhere and I’m not alone. Our environment of living away from the town center makes it necessary that we deliberately get exercise because exercise is not built into our life like it was in years past.
Research shows that people who live in underprivileged neighborhoods have more fast food restaurants per capita than other neighborhoods. That could go a long way toward explaining the tendency for people in low socioeconomic situations to struggle with obesity because good food isn’t even readily available to them.
We have more ways to sit down and watch a screen than in years past. With phones that play movies, tablets that occupy your time, game consoles that let you play without moving off the couch, and televisions that do nothing for your physical fitness level, it’s no wonder so many of our struggle with staying physically fit and at a healthy weight.
Acceptance of Obesity as the New Normal
I know it’s not popular to talk about, but there is an inherent acceptance of obesity in our society to some extent. When most people are overweight or obese, most people begin to think about obesity as being normal. After all, if most of your friends look like you — why change? (That’s probably why I loved having friends who were as big as I was. I didn’t have many, but there was one.)
There are a lot of factors that come into play with regards to our obesity crisis and I do think our obesogenic environment is one of them.
Do you ever think about the impact our current environment has on obesity? Does it make it harder than ever to get to and stay at a healthy weight? Diane