Why is obesity such a serious problem?

Our waistlines started increasing after World War II (WWII).  The end of the war marked an end to manual exertion and an increase in technological development.  The car started replacing the bicycle and the corner store or the farmers’ market were seriously challenged by the Co-Op chains which started sprouting all over the place.

Change of lifestyle post WWII

In 1954 television started entering households and physical activity started on a downward spiral.  By the eighties TV was transmitting round the clock and leisure activities plummeted even further. The birth of the microwave in the early 1980s brought plenty of ready-made, frozen foods available at very cheap prices.


  • a high supply of convenience food
  • the advent of fast food chains
  • lack of physical activity and
  • an increase in a sedentary lifestyle (brought about with the birth of the computer at work and at home)

resulted in a surplus of energy intake and lack of its expenditure.


How do you gain weight on healthy food?

This is not the whole picture.  A recent study, undertaken by an American insurance company in March 2018, shows that it is not just our lifestyle which is contributing to our expanding waistlines. Our lack of knowledge and awareness of nutritional values is another contributing factor.

The study worked with a sample of 1000 Americans from various walks of life.  They were asked to guess the nutritional values of a number of foods – healthy foods as well as ‘junk’ food.  Results show that, in the majority of cases, the respondents got their facts wrong. Why?

We tend to think that, as long as we eat healthy food – raw almonds, avocados and such like – we can eat as much as we want.  This is not the case.  Weight gain is a result of greater energy (calories) intake than expenditure.  You can get your calories (energy) from healthy food – nuts, fruit, fish, grains, olive oil … the list is endless – however, if you take in more energy than your body is using for your lifestyle, you still gain weight.

Roger Highfield of The Telegraph quotes Jane Wardle, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University College London as saying; “… most obese people don’t overeat by a lot, but an energy excess of only 70kcals a day – no more than a ginger biscuit – adds up to 70lbs (31.75kgs) of extra weight in 10 years; enough to turn a slim 25 year old into an obese 35 year old.”

What is portion distortion?

This brings me to the famous “portion distortion”. You can gain weight on a very healthy diet and you can lose weight on a very unhealthy diet.  Weight loss is all about calorie deficit: energy in < energy out = weight loss.  Similarly, if energy in > energy out it results in weight gain, irrespective of where the energy comes from.

Example:  100g of walnuts contain 654cals whereas 100g of pizza margherita contains 275cals.

Am I suggesting you eat pizza instead of walnuts to lose weight?  No.  I’m just highlighting the importance of moderation and an awareness of the nutritional value of the foods we eat.  Nowadays, food labels are obligatory.  Benefit from them.  Take the time to read what they say.  True, your pizza delivery does not come with its nutritional value on the box, but there are ways to check it out.

Alternatively, go back to roots and base your diet on foods which come from the soil.  Like the pizza, they do not come with a label either, but they guarantee you a smaller waistline.

My thanks go to:

Insurance Quotes and their sources

The Telegraph (online)


The State of Obesity.org

Image:  credit to Insurance Quote who were the inspiration behind this article







Published by

Colette Cumbo

Welcome to my little corner on the world wide web from where I share my cooking experiences with you. My home country is Malta – a tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean. In 2016 I created this space as part of a web writing course assignment. But, in no time, it evolved into a little place from where I share with you nutrition tips as well as recipes for you to try out and enjoy. Read more…

2 thoughts on “Why is obesity such a serious problem?”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.