OBESITY. What are the primary causes?


This could be your grandchildren in 20 years. Want to join the FIGHT?

Animal foods or refined carbs?

Why are so many people overweight or obese these days? Probably a combination of four things; two of which are far more important than the other two:

  1. Not enough whole, plant-based calories
  2. Too many calories from meat, dairy, eggs, oil, sugar and other highly-processed carbohydrates.
  3. Not enough physical exercise
  4. Bad luck a.k.a. bad genes

I have ranked the four “fat culprits” in the order of importance — in my opinion. And, we designed our 4-Leaf Program to take care of #1 — which will pretty much negate the fat-producing qualities of the other three. You see, the typical American these days gets far less than ten percent of his/her daily calories from whole plants.

Leveraging the simple, yet powerful concept of maximizing the percent of your calories from whole plant foods -- still in nature's package

And when they move from 7% to over 80% of their calories from whole plants (on the 4-Leaf Program), they will be getting ten times more whole plant calories than they did in the past. Hence, they will be getting at least five times as much fiber and, unless they’re loading up on avocado, olives and nuts; they will be satiated long before they eat too many calories. Without even trying — meaning they can eat all they want — they’ll be consuming far fewer calories in total.

Yesterday, I received an email from Bill K. on the topic of obesity while traveling. He was thoughtful enough to provide photos of early 20th century cruising along with modern-day cruising about one hundred years later. The first photo is from 1901 and he writes:

I have this photo set as my background on my computer and probably looked at it 10-15 times before I realized something.  None of the people in this photo are overweight.  I blew the picture up and looked at as many people as I could view and only found one guy who might have a small belly. (Pictured walking toward the camera holding his lapels)  Now either this was a convention of thin people on a boat cruise or something has happened to our diet (and possibly exercise routine – note bicycles in picture) in the last 100 years.  Compare this to the people who are loading onto a Carnival cruise ship today – Yikes. (Photo provided here in full size so you can check out the picture — Scroll down to the next picture for Bill’s photo of the modern day cruiser.)

1901 -- Steamboat Cruising out of Detroit, MI

Bill goes on to make the point that most people in the 1901 photo probably ate some meat, dairy and eggs but had far fewer calories from highly processed carbohydrates loaded with sugar, fat and oil.

It is likely that the people in the 1901 photo ate meat and drank milk so that probably is not the big difference.  My guess is that it is mainly the processing of our foods which has made the biggest difference as most of the foods eaten in 1901 were straight from the garden and their cows were still raised on grass instead of corn.  Not really sure what the full answer is but would be interesting to see what the average diet was in the beginning of the last century.  Personally, I still believe that animal foods are not correct for humans but I am not sure that they represent our biggest threat to obesity. Regards, Bill K.

I agree with what Bill is saying about the animal foods not being the correct foods for us to eat. That’s because there is a preponderance of scientific, clinical and physical evidence that suggests that we have strayed far from what Nature intended for us to eat. We covered all of that evidence in our book and then designed the 4-Leaf Program to make it real simple for people to at least know what a near-optimal diet looks like. And, it’s even got a little flexibility built in — which makes it far more likely to be even considered by the masses; most of whom would never even consider becoming vegetarian or vegan.

As we know, many vegans and vegetarians eat a very unhealthy diet — loading up on anything that they can find that is NOT meat, dairy or eggs. Unfortunately for them, many choose the highly-processed carbs over the whole plant foods. They they try to fight their obesity by going to the gym.

With shows like Biggest Loser, Michelle Obama’s primary emphasis on exercise, and the common belief that working out is the answer to weight-control; it’s no wonder that people are missing the main point. Quite simply, we’re eating the wrong food. We were designed to eat whole plants, and when we do, controlling our weight becomes a thing of the past — along with diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, most cancers, and a host of other problems. We also do some marvelous things for the environment, world hunger and the very future of life on this planet as we know it.

Yesterday a reader posed the question, “Is it better for a very few to eat a pure diet or for billions of people to eat a mostly healthy diet?” I think the latter and actually made an attempt to quantify it in this recent post:  “All or nothing” doesn’t fly for most people.

Authors J. Stanfield Hicks and J. Morris Hicks , working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page.

And if you like what 4-Leaf eating is doing for you and your family, you might enjoy visiting our new “4-Leaf Gear” store. Blogging today from sunny Naples, Florida – Be well and have a great day.

If you’d like to order our book on Amazon,  visit our BookStore now.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com

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About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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5 Responses to OBESITY. What are the primary causes?

  1. John Root says:

    I wondered if the diets of the people in the two photos might have had something to do with the apparent leanness of those in the earlier photo. Certainly there are a multitude of factors that have an impact however I share some of the interesting food developments over the years that could have been one of the major contributors to our current state of affairs.
    The people in the 1901 photo probably enjoyed an abundance of unaltered natural foods like raw unpasteurized milk, home grown or wild meats, freshly ground flour and veggies straight from their own gardens.
    Since then over the last hundred years our governments have formally approved the addition of chemicals into the food supply. At the same time food producers and manufacturers typically have created more problems than were solved in one way or another.
    Virtually all of today’s foods contain fewer nutrients, more energy, toxic chemicals that make the mainstays of conventional diet calorie restriction and exercise totally useless. In a practical sense it is awkward if not impossible to find natural foods that remain unaltered with chemical additives and/or processing. Out of convenience or default we eat processed foods that have been stripped of their nutrition and often contain toxic ingredients like MSG and aspartame. “Fortified foods” have some nutrients added back to them, but not all. To add insult to injury, the fresh, whole foods that do contain the needed nutrients are often genetically modified GMO and/or have chemicals like MSG.
    Consequently the Standard American Diet (SAD) has evolved chronologically something like this:
    The 1900s White flour (Degermed) became standard in the late 19th century because without the germ, flour cannot become rancid. In this process flour lost most of its nutrition and all its fibre. (Less Nutrition and more Calories)
    The 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act prohibited interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs. The Food and Drug Administration is the federal agency responsible for regulating the use of food additives and any new additive must be approved by the FDA before it can be marketed. (legitimizing chemical food additives)
    The 1910s From 1910-1970 traditional animal fat consumption dropped from 83% to 62% and consumption of vegetable oils increased 400% and sugar and processed foods increased by 60%. (Less Nutrition and more Calories)
    The 1920s Pasteurization of milk became “widespread” in the 1920s. Raw milk has also been shown to influence the immune system with a protective effect. Pasteurization destroys antimicrobial properties along with many of the vitamins within the milk itself. (Less Nutrition and more Calories)
    The 1930s The U.S., regulation of food additives has its roots in the 1938 Food and Cosmetic Act. The intent of the law is clear: “…to protect the public health, to prohibit the use in food of additives which have not been adequately tested to establish their safety.” (legitimate chemical food additives)
    The 1940s The food additive monosodium glutamate is used in quantity in the US. (legitimate chemical food additives)
    The 1950s Meats contain growth enhancers. The first hormone product was approved for use in beef cattle in 1954. An estimated two-thirds of the nation’s beef cattle were treated with hormones in 1956.
    In the 1950’s America welcomed fast foods and processed, prepared meals that tend to be high in calories. Quick-serve restaurants such as McDonald’s and Burger King become popular and expand quickly. (More Calories)
    It was in or about 1957 that truly large-scale production of glutamic acid and monosodium glutamate through fermentation began. (legitimate chemical food additives)
    The 1960s People eat whatever they want, the food is still generally healthy, and there’s still a lot of manual labor so everyone pretty much stays skinny.
    The first published report of the toxic potential of monosodium glutamate in the United States appeared in 1968 (legitimate chemical food additives)
    The 1970s High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in soft drinks replaces some consumption of natural water and/or fruit juices. HFCS was rapidly introduced to many processed foods and soft drinks in the U.S. from about 1975 to 1985. (Less Nutrition and more Calories)
    Food manufacturers learn the secrets of chemical warfare by creating chemicals that mimic food flavors and while the tastes are appealing, the food is of less and less nutritional value. (Less Nutrition)
    The FDA grants aspartame its first approval for restricted use in dry foods.
    FDA approved six hormone growth promotants (HGPs) for use in beef cattle. (More Calories) (legitimate chemical food additives)
    The 1980s The European Union and others banned the use of all hormone growth promoters.
    FDA scientists advise against approval of NutraSweet, stating on the record that the Searle tests are unreliable and not adequate to determine the safety of aspartame.
    The first carbonated beverages containing aspartame are sold for public consumption. (legitimate chemical food additives)
    The 1990s MSG is used as a component of plant growth enhancers, fertilizers, and fungicides applied to growing crops. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established exemptions for “glutamic acid” and “gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA)” in or on all food commodities when applied as a plant growth and crop yield enhancer. (legitimate chemical food additives)
    Food producers begin to solidify their stranglehold on the supply with CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).
    Health clubs see an explosion in membership as we say to ourselves, “No Pain. No Gain.”,
    FDA approves injection of American dairy cows with Monsanto’s rBGH. (legitimate chemical food additives)
    The 2000s MSG could be found in and/or on fresh fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables.
    Unrestricted use of monosodium glutamate (called L-glutamate) and AuxiGro had been approved for use on all agricultural products. (legitimate chemical food additives)
    The 2010s Today, there are six anabolic steroids (HGPs) given to nearly all animals entering conventional beef feedlots in the U.S. and Canada: (More Calories) (legitimate chemical food additives)
    To date, there is no scientific evidence that HGPs pose a risk to human health
    People start giving the evil eye to governments for not providing food warning labels. Canada and US fail to label chemically altered foods (eg: may contain HGPs, antimicrobial drugs, Aspartame, GMO, MSG etc)
    FDA believes overall weight of evidence supports the conclusion that using medically important antimicrobial drugs for production purposes is not appropriate.
    To date, no MSG-containing product has been regulated by any agency of the US government. (legitimate chemical food additives)
    Dr. Russell L. Blaylock in his book Excitotoxins. According to animal studies, MSG creates a lesion in the hypothalamus that correlates with abnormal development, including obesity, short stature and sexual reproduction problems. Dr. Blaylock makes other interesting points about the American obesity epidemic, and possible explanations of “why some people cannot diet away their obesity.”
    Parents start giving the evil eye to government for not providing healthy school lunches. 13,000 U.S. schools are now offering more nutritious foods and physical activity in an effort to fight childhood obesity.
    US government assistance has helped Farmers markets achieve a steady increase since 1994. In 2011, the USDA counted 7,173 farmers markets, a 17 percent increase from 2010.
    Researchers from the University of Texas confirms that not only do diet sodas not help with weight loss, but they actually cause both weight gain and health problems
    Environmental Sciences Europe confirms that “several convergent data appear to indicate liver and kidney problems as end points of GMO diet effects.” The authors point out that livers and kidneys “are the major reactive organs” in cases of chronic food toxicity.
    Medical and Insurance costs continue to zoom into the Stratosphere.

  2. Linda says:

    American obesity impacts economics in some ways that probably don’t occur to most of us. For example, I read yesterday that the owners of small tourist boats around the country are losing money every day due to overweight/obese passengers. The boats have a weight limit, of course, and the number of passengers they can accept per trip continually declines.

  3. Jean Myers says:

    My husband and I had a similar experience when looking at a picture of the audience at a kids’ matinee movie from our hometown in the fifties. All the kids were skinny and some sat two to a seat!! Imagine a similar movie theater today!

    Our species’ appetite controls evolved on whole, unprocessed foods. High salt, high sugar, high fat processed foods are addicting and are difficult to avoid in our processed culture. Every meal can be a choice for health, however! Keep up the good work of educating more & more people.

  4. rick says:

    It is true we ate animal products in 1901, but we eat far more than we used to today. For example, cheese and chicken consumption have more than doubled. We also eat far more oils and sugars. Adding to the mix fast food, processed foods and lack of exercise. No wonder we can’t afford health insurance.

    I would add advertising and corporate greed and indifference to the list. They start by pushing candy for breakfast (kid’s cereals) to kids and pizza and hamburgers to the rest. Most of us have been brainwashed to believe that we need animal foods for protein and dairy for calcium. Industry also has way too much influence the way nutritional guidelines are written up.

    I would also add convenience, availability and social norms to the list. It is quick, easy and normal to eat the way most Americans eat. Fast food restaurants are on almost every street and junk food is pervasive in every grocery store. You can easily eat horribly even at Whole Foods. Recently you wrote that you were happy eating 3 leaf while you were traveling. That’s because we often have to take drastic measures to eat healthy or even semi-healthy while traveling or attending social functions. Many people with active social lives have trouble eating healthy because they don’t like to stick out from the crowd and just eat whatever is served.

  5. Jim,
    I was born in 1926 of Sicilian immigrants and I can tell you that we ate meat and dairy everyday also with plenty of pasta and vegetables. My mother and sister were fat, my father and I were thin.
    My mother and sister liked cake, candy, and ice cream, so maybe that’s why they were fat.

    From my crude gathering of statistics, I would say that here in Queens, NY the obesity rate is greater than 50% and the overweight is more like 70% plus. Just look at people in restaurants, fast food junk emporiums, shopping malls, etc. What is most disturbing is the obesity rate amongst seniors. In my Silver Sneakers class at my gym, the obesity rate is more than 70% and even the instructors are overweight.

    There is no help for Americans-obesity is as American as apple pie and McDonalds. No matter how loud the animals cry from the pain of our brutality towards them, we are still slaughtering and butchering them, then eating their carcass’s without remorse even as their blood drips into our arteries.

    World, you have sinned, there is no salvation.

    sligg (eat more broccoli)
    Sal Liggieri

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