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01-02-2013, 12:39 PM
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But the notion that Americans ever ate well is suspect. In 1966, when Americans were still comparatively thin, more than two billion hamburgers already had been sold in McDonald’s restaurants, noted Dr. Barry Glassner, a sociology professor at the University of Southern California. The recent rise in obesity may have more to do with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles than with the quality of our diets.

“The meals we romanticize in the past somehow leave out the reality of what people were eating,” he said. “The average meal had whole milk and ended with pie.... The typical meal had plenty of fat and calories.”
Scientists now believe that each individual has a genetically determined weight range spanning perhaps 30 pounds. Those who force their weight below nature’s preassigned levels become hungrier and eat more; several studies also show that their metabolisms slow in a variety of ways as the body tries to conserve energy and regain weight. People trying to exceed their weight range face the opposite situation: eating becomes unappealing, and their metabolisms shift into high gear.

The body’s determination to maintain its composition is why a person can skip a meal, or even fast for short periods, without losing weight. It’s also why burning an extra 100 calories a day will not alter the verdict on the bathroom scales. Struggling against the brain’s innate calorie counters, even strong-willed dieters make up for calories lost on one day with a few extra bites on the next. And they never realize it. “The system operates with 99.6 percent precision,” Dr. Friedman said.

The temptations of our environment — the sedentary living, the ready supply of rich food — may not be entirely to blame for rising obesity rates. In fact, new research suggests that the environment that most strongly influences body composition may be the very first one anybody experiences: the womb.
According to several animal studies, conditions during pregnancy, including the mother’s diet, may determine how fat the offspring are as adults. Human studies have shown that women who eat little in pregnancy, surprisingly, more often have children who grow into fat adults. More than a dozen studies have found that children are more likely to be fat if their mothers smoke during pregnancy.

I always felt that the guidelines about 'what' to eat were going in the wrong direction. It always seemed that the sedentary lifestyle was the culprit from my perspective. Within 2-3 generations, people went from an agricultural or even urban lifestyle that required a lot of walking or moving around in general. The advent of cars and cities not designed for walking or even mass transportation was an initial step away from routine movement just to get through your typical day. Factor in the type of work we moved to (office/seated) and home entertainment, and it becomes a bit clearer about the imbalance. How often do we comment on how kids today play inside vs the days when they ran from home as soon as mom and dad weren't looking?

Now, if they could only figure out a way to tell us our perfect weight range, we could remove one more stress factor from our daily lives.

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