A Less-Active Lifestyle
So what is behind this weight gain epidemic?
Our bodies are designed for manual labor and long-distance walking. Many of us, however, enjoy door-to-door motorized transportation to and from a desk job followed by hours of television or other passive entertainment. Such a lifestyle not only burns few calories but can also encourage us to eat more than we would if we were busy with physical activities. The Fattening Food Environment Before processed foods became the norm,our ancestors filled their dinner plates with minimally processed vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Meats were unprocessed and lean. These natural foods, combined with an active lifestyle, promoted a slim, healthy body. In contrast to the healthy foods enjoyed by our ancestors, the foods on our grocery store shelves today are often highly processed and have added fat and sugar. These processed foods are packed with calories and are so convenient and tempting that it’s easy to eat too much of hem.2,3 As a result, the average adult today eats more calories than in past decades, with most of the extra calories coming from carbohydrate-rich foods such as sweets, soft drinks, potato products,
pizza, bread, pasta, and white rice.4,5
The average adult today eats more calories than in past decades.
There are ten important aspects of our food environment that encourage us to eat too much.Foods that Don’t Satisfy Food processing produces calorie-heavy,low-nutrient, low-fiber foods that digest quickly. These foods leave us with loads of calories, soon-empty stomachs, and cravings for more. Highly Palatable Foods Highly palatable is a term used by scientists for foods that taste so good that we are tempted to eat them even when ourstomachs are full. Most of these are processed foods high in fat, sugar, or refined flour. Such foods have become more abundant and affordable in recent decades, resulting in greater temptations to overeat. We often eat these foods for comfort or pleasure, not because we are hungry. Highly palatable foods affect the parts of the brain that are responsible for drug addiction and cravings. The authors of a scientific study of the brain’s response to highly palatable foods concluded that “overconsumption of palatable food triggers addiction-like … responses in brain reward circuits and drives the development of compulsive eating.”7 In other words, junk food can be addictive.