As you look at the way majority of people consume food, it’s easy to see that if we don’t change not only the way we eat food, but the way we view food on a whole spectrum, we are truly in for a rude awakening. We’ve made a mess of our food system to say the least. All you have to do is look at your local grocery store shelves to see that the food that’s being consumed in abundance isn’t really food at all.

 

Take a look next time you’re out and about and pay attention to the softness you see all around that’s become the social norm. Obese individuals outweigh (pardon the pun) normal weight individuals, and the numbers continue to go up as time goes on. People are bigger and sicker than they’ve ever been before from lifestyle related, and largely preventable, diseases.

 

Heart disease is now the leading cause of death in the world, and not just in developed nations but the developing nations have also started to see the effects of modern western culture. Heart disease attributes to 1 out of 4 deaths in the US alone and 1 in 3 individuals are considered to be overweight or obese. The sad part, excess weight and metabolic diseases are preventable through lifestyle related practices such as changing your diet and starting to exercise. We have the tools right in front of us, so why isn’t it working?

 

How exactly did we get here? How did the world become so incredibly sick that people die from consuming too much food compared to people dying from too little food? How did we create such a catastrophe? 

 

Professor in the department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, Barbara Laraia explains in the food documentary The Skinny on Obesity, that there are many contributing factors explaining how we got to where we currently are in regards to weight gain and obesity including: sleep patterns, stress, how we’re feeding the animals we eat, nutrients in the soil and the over 24000 different foods on grocery store shelves that we devour on a daily basis.

 

Elissa Epel, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco is involved in the research of mindful eating, changing our relationship with food, and helping to make women aware that what they eat and the health of their bodies will dramatically impact their offspring.

“It starts before conception” she explains, and states that “women’s health effects future generations”.

 

Birthweight continues to go up which will contribute to the baby’s own adiposity (fat tissue). If a woman gains excessive weight while pregnant or is heavier to begin with, not only does it put the fetus at risk, but the baby could be born with a larger birthweight than normal. We know from research that childhood obesity continues to climb year after year as we see children as young as 6 months old struggling with obesity. Not only does childhood obesity pose serious health risks for the child, but will continue to increase their risk of metabolic disease through to adulthood. Epel suggests that obesity prevention starts with women at childbearing age. If women are obese, they unequivocally begin programming their offspring to be brought up with the same tastes and behaviours that the mother has.

 

Food addiction, and all the hormonal alterations that accompany it, will change gene expression. The same genes that were switched on or off, and the instructions for those genes will be passed down to future generations. If the mother is addicted to processed, sugary food, her offspring inherits not only the taste for those specific ingredients, but also her own fat cells.

 

Pam Peek, MD and author of The Hunger Fix states that fetal health isn’t just about the mother passing conditions down, but dad’s lifestyle choices also affect the offspring as well. While the baby is developing, it can taste the specific flavours of what the mother eats and studies have shown that the baby will prefer those particular foods after birth. Dr. Peek finishes by saying “Junk Food moms produce junk food babies”.

Just like drug addiction, food addiction comes with the same physiological changes in both adults and children.

 

Excessive intake of processed foods, unhealthy fats and sugar down-regulate dopamine receptors because of the dopamine flooding that happens upon consumption. The brain makes less receptors to avoid excess absorption, which makes us need more of those dopamine stimulating foods to make us feel happy. This is the same with drugs in that tolerance is built up from excess use and down-regulation of those dopamine receptors. We don’t just want more, we need more. Children experience this with sugar. They build up a tolerance in a very short amount of time. One lollipop or one cookie soon isn’t enough for little Johnny and he’ll do anything he can to get another hit of that sweetness he’s craving.

 

If we want to start changing our culture, it starts with changing the toxic mindsets and behaviours we have towards eating. The importance of healthy eating can’t be stressed enough, and I believe that most, if not all, ailments, disorders or conditions spawn from poor eating habits either from what you were exposed to in the womb, the health of your mother before your conception, or the personal choices you’ve made in your life. Food matters on an entire spectrum of health. Food should be taken seriously and considerably. What you eat not only affects you, but affects who's to follow in your footsteps.

 

Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, lipid problems, stroke and heart disease make up metabolic syndrome. Heart disease is the number one killer, not obesity. Obesity usually goes hand in hand with metabolic dysfunctions but there are just as many normal weight individuals that are unhealthy and sick with these diseases. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease effects 1/3 Americans, polycystic ovarian syndrome effects 10% of American women, people die from cancer, from dementia, metabolic disease, not from obesity. Obesity isn’t our issue; metabolic syndrome is our issue. This is so much bigger than just exercising more and eating less. 

 

It’s become a societal norm to assume that people are overweight from their own doing, and although there is always some degree of onus on the individual, there is just as much responsibility that should be put on the food industry and government. As Dr. Lustig talks about in his book Fat Chance, there is an ever growing rise in toddler obesity and as young as 6 month olds are being classified as obese. Do they have the personal responsibility to manage their diet and make sure they get enough exercise? How can it be the individual’s responsibility if they don’t have a choice?

 

While the topic of personal responsibility always comes up with obesity, there are some cases where personal responsibility isn't a factor, like the obese 6 month old. In the majority of the population though, we all have a choice because we are all equipped to be powerful human beings, regardless of our upbringing, or circumstances.

 

Obesity isn’t so black and white, and it’s not just a factor of eating too much and exercising too little. You can't outrun a bad diet. There are many contributing factors playing a pivotal role that have nothing to do with what you or I as an individual have control over. Genetics, the health of the mother before the baby is born, where we were born, availability of food, selection of food, finances, education. All of these factors influence our make-up and the way we eat.

 

It’s up to society as a whole, not just each individual who struggles with their health and weight, to make better choices. Your choices affect me and my choices effect you.  You don’t want to be told what to eat when you hear about soft drinks being taxed, you fight tooth and nail saying you’re an adult and don’t want to be treated like a child, yet you eat exactly what "they" tell you to eat. You're apart of a Nanny State that's totally killing you every time you buy into their products. And those products will kill you over time.

 

This is not just about what you or I can do, but more about who you or I need to stop listening to. Become a free thinker. Refuse to be marketed to, and become more powerful than you've ever been before by voting with your forks and knives against an industry that lacks integrity, lacks morals, and an industry that will place financial gain above your health any day. The health of you, and the health of your offspring depend on it.

 

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