Our Big Gulp

Big Gulp

Perhaps the most obvious consequence of our national diet of calorie-rich, nutrient-poor processed food is the ongoing obesity epidemic.

Over one third of all Americans are now clinically obese, as our nearly 20% of our children.

In 1996, no state in America had an obesity rate of greater than 20%. But by 2010, a mere 14 years, every state in America had an obesity rate of over 20%. And in 12 states the rate exceeded 30%. Americans today are nearly three times more likely to be obese than we were just a mere 30 years ago.


The costs are enormous. On average an obese person spends $1,500 more per year on health care than a person of normal weight. The CDC estimates that the amount spent on medical care to treat obesity-related illnesses in the U.S. is about $147 billion per year. By comparison, the United Nations estimates that we could end world hunger for about $30 billion per year, about 1/5 of what we spend to treat illnesses caused by eating too much.

Not only does obesity diminish the quality of life, it significantly increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and chronic illnesses like cancer. The American Society of Clinical Oncology reports that obesity is now poised to overtake tobacco use as the leading preventable cause of cancer in our country. One study concludes that nearly 1/5 of all deaths can now be linked to obesity.

Of course there can be a complex set of reasons for obesity–including cultural, environmental, and genetic factors. But at its core is an increase in caloric intake. The USDA estimates that Americans consume on average 500 calories more per day than we did 40 years ago, with nearly all those additional calories coming from grains, starches, sugar and fat.

This epidemic is so widespread and pervasive that it’s difficult to discuss, especially while trying to remain careful not to shame or judge those who are victims of it. The reality is that we have a food system hell-bent on selling processed junk food to us, regardless of the consequences of eating it. They have multi-million dollar advertising budgets and an army of chemists and food scientists designing chemicals and flavorings intended to create a form of addiction to the stuff they sell. And to make matters worse, we’re an increasingly sedentary society–we’re eating more and exercising less, making obesity inevitable.

There are lots of excellent reasons to break industrial food’s grip on our society. There are no shortage of reasons to favor nutritious ethically-sourced food, consumed in moderation. But surely ending the obesity epidemic has to be one of the most urgent.

14 comments on “Our Big Gulp

  1. Aggie says:

    Well stated, and the graphic is shocking.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bobraxton says:

    doughnut Obese watch’um watch’um …


  3. Sue says:

    It is shocking viewing the transformation of the American society.
    It’s most clear when watching shows from the 70’s and early 80’s—particularly “crowd” or “city” scenes. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone overweight, let alone 2 or 3 hundred pounds overweight—a VERY common sight in our nearest town.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I remember when I was a kid and there might be one or two “fat” kids in the school. Now nearly a third of the kids in every classroom is clinically obese.


  4. smcasson says:

    Well said Bill.
    It’s disgusting, isn’t it? Both the modern food system and society’s tolerance/addiction to it.
    Great image, too.


  5. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, you would think that a farming agriculture state would not have an obesity problem and I suspect that 50 years ago when I was growing up on a farm there wasn’t. We are nearly at the op of the chart for Nebraska. Quite frankly we didn’t have the slightest notion about food nutrition all those years ago. We just ate what we wanted which was usually bacon, eggs, sausage, etc. All the foods that are strictly off the list for today. Back five decades ago the farm work was bent on draining our calorie intake so we had large lunches and big snacks in the afternoon while taking a break in the fields. Our dinners (suppers as we call them on the farm) we massive with meat, potatoes, gravy, etc. We never had to worry about dieting. The work load alone took care of the calorie intake. The food came from the garden less than 100 feet from the house; out of hen house for the eggs; from the feed lot for bacon, sausage, and beef; even the woods provided venison, berries, mushrooms, and many other things.

    Yesterday the conversation was about a sharing economy. We had the epitome of a sharing economy and lost it to big business. The homesteaders of today are trying to replicate that era. I’m really not an advocate of turning back the clock 50 years. I kind of like inside toilets and hot showers as long as I want. The sharing economy is in the process of being re-invented. As I stated yesterday, I have the faith in the young American kids to figure it out.

    Have a great non obese day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      The lack of exercise is a major contributing factor, as is the increased consumption of junk food–loaded with sugars and fats. Soft drinks are probably the single biggest contributor to the problem.

      I grew up with eating at a farm table crowded with food. We ate a lot (and most of it wouldn’t be considered health food) but we worked it off. But just as important, it was real whole food, not processed crap loaded with additives and chemicals. Real food doesn’t fatten a person the way processed food does.

      Let’s hope our society turns back to real food soon. There’s not enough money in the country to pay for the medical care coming down the pike if 30% plus of the population is clinically obese.

      Liked by 1 person

      • nebraskadave says:

        Bill, unfortunately the other side to the coin is that the medical and drug companies thrive on an unhealthy society. They continue to make billions of dollars because of a sick population. I seriously doubt they would want that to end. Very sad.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. EllaDee says:

    What now? Junk food laws like for cigarettes and alcohol? Minimum age 18 or 21? Surely by now it’s accepted processed processed, sugar laden products are a drug too. But no, they won’t stop until someone makes them.


    • Bill says:

      Whatever the merit of laws like that, it won’t happen here in the States. Industrial food is just too powerful.


      • nebraskadave says:

        Ah, well, it has happened in the school lunches. Not too long ago there was a big upheaval about lunches sent to school for kids. Chips and other snacks were confiscated from their lunches. Then either New York or New Jersey wanted to limited the sale of soda drinks to only 16 ounces. I don’t think either one stood up to the test of the masses but it has been tried.


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