Who Dunnit?

I just read "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taub and am working my way through The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I'll post my review in a bit. In the meantime, I've been pondering the great mystery, why did Americans start getting much fatter starting around 1980? What happened? I'm looking for suspects that become significant around thirty years ago, when the curve really took off.

Here are some of the suspects, in no order:

1. Automation/lack of physical activity
2. Climate control
3. Late nights/poor sleep
4. High fructose corn syrup
5. Steep rise in soda consumption
6. Diet soda/artificial sweeteners
7. "Fat free" mania
8. Social norming
9. More two income families=> no time to cook or engage in active play
10. Shorter lunch times-- 20 minutes to eat?
11. Climate control
12. Decline of family meals/eating on the run
13. Corn in everything
14. Rise of Omega 6 vs Omega 3 fat
15. Estrogen-like chemicals leaching from plastic
16. As mothers get fatter, our kids get preprepared for fatness in the womb
17. Rise of Internet, Xbox, DVDs and DVRs
18. Indoor versus outdoor play sets the stage for more fat cells in childhood, which means fatter adults
19. Explosion of easily available, cheap, heavily advertised, hyperpalatable foods
20. Fewer people in the middle class
21. It was my fault. I hit puberty in 1978 :)

Did I miss any? Who do you think the major culprits are? Tomorrow we'll board the luxury railroad car, I'll take up my Miss Marple-style tatting, and tell you who I think is responsible for fattening the body in the library.


  1. I would like to add fast food, and school lunches are AWFUL!
    Thank you so much for your comment on my blog!!! I am not going anywhere! ( :
    Have a pretty day!

  2. Fast food, too many video games and a society that thinks if your kid is outside playing he or she is neglected. Oh, and the Entitlement Attitude- I see it, I want it, I deserve it, I must consume it now.


  3. I LOVE the Michael Pollan books. I found the Taube book difficult to read, but good info.

  4. My money is on #1, 4, 7, 9, 17, & 19, with #21 as a distant possibility. :)

  5. Very good! I see most of them, and I really feel two income families, rise of inside games, social norming and less eating at home in a family setting are high on those lists.

    I also think the "ME FIRST" and getting everything we want is really high up there. Pizza can be a fine dinner, but not if you eat as much as you want and every time you want it. God forbid we say "no." anymore.

    I've also been pondering when things took their turn for the worst in this area, but I haven't done any serious research on it yet.

    I look forward to what else you come up with. Read a Gary Taube book and it was hard for me to follow, but I found good information in there.

  6. Ooooh, can I blame you? That would be so nice to have someone to squarely place the blame on. Thanks!

    It's been a long time since those long ago days, says she who hit puberty a couple years before you, but I dimly recall that parents weren't really confirmed in their role of full-time after-school chauffeur. Why, some days I used to walk to school! Uphill both ways, through snowdrifts... oh, it was tragic.

    Um... well maybe one snow drift. Okay, so maybe one snowflake that drifted overhead. It's hard to get any sympathy re: weather when you grow up in San Francisco. Can I claim that I walked to school with earthquakes both ways? Maybe?

  7. (Merry cracks me up...)

    Excellent list. I think they all play a factor (sans #21).

    I'm relatively recently just learning to cook basic meals from scratch. My parents didn't really know how to cook; I wasn't taught. A fancy meal would be chili-mac: a packaged box of macaroni and cheese with a can of chili. Voila! I'm surprised how many of my cookbooks have recipes that include "a box of this, a can of that, a packette/bottle/mix of something" instead of simple, basic ingredients.

  8. I think you pretty much covered the gamut of changes!

  9. I think they all played a factor - except 21 of course ;-)

    What a great topic!

  10. No no no.... it is my fault!

    My money is on HFCS and fast food.



  11. hey!! you have a wonderful blog. thanks for sharing your weight lost progress here. keep it up and never give up. you can do it.

  12. The only thing that I think you may be missing is the vast rise in food additives, including many endocrine disruptors. Pesticides work by disrupting metabolic pathways in insects. A dose that is strong enough to kill an insect is not enough to make a person sick - but to disrupt the delicate appetite balance, hmmm...? Please see: Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills; and Hard to Swallow: The Truth about Food Additives. I do not believe that two thirds of our population has emotional issues (entitlement attitude, etc.) significant enough to create the huge rise in obesity - especially obesity among children. I think an environment where the AVERAGE newborn has 288 testable trace exogenous (externally created) chemicals (according to the Center for Disease Control)is much more plausible as a culprit. The Blog software would not allow me to provide my e-mail - so to reply, try lindac.grace@gmail.com). Thanks - great blog!

  13. If all the various culprits was a box on a roulette table, and I had only one chip to lay down, I'd put it on bovine growth hormone. Research has shown that in large quantities, it has no effect or a reverse effect on weight, but in the quantities we consume, it is linked with weight gain. I just don't see how we can pump hormones into our fellow mammals to make them fat, then consume their meat and milk and not expect any ill effects.

  14. This is a very poignant post you've written and it really highlights the epidemic.

    It is really important for people like you and I who need to lose weight to so -- for quality of life, and avoidance of serious diseases like diabetes.

    Good on you for your excellent progress so far.


  15. Good list. I agree. I remember hearing in "Food, Inc" - a farmer said that "everyone knows that if you want to fatten a cow up quickly, you feed him corn" - and that stuck with me. LOTS of corn in almost everything - coupled w/ inactivity...a recipe for disaster.
    Nice blog!


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