Causes of Obesity: 12 Sources of America’s Epidemic

I read this article about the causes of obesity, “12 Graphs that Show Why People Get Fat,” and had to share the results and add my input on how you can combat these issues.  Knowledge is power, and if you are struggling with your weight, you might better understand how your personal challenge is reflected in our national challenge.  I encourage you to read the full article and associated graphs with links to the studies from which the findings were derived.

Causes of Obesity


1: People are Eating More Junk Food Than Ever

Causes of Obesity - Junk Food We are eating more calories in general, but that is made exponentially worse by the source of the calories.  Processed, sugar and additive filled, chemically preserved foods are harder for our bodies to deal with properly.

Personal Fix: Eat more home cooked, clean meals.  Less fast food, fewer pre-packaged meals.

2: Increasing Sugar Consumption Causes of Obesity - SugarSugar is ubiquitous in American cuisine.  Did you know that other countries don’t have sugar as a standard ingredient in their bread but we do?  The recipe for white bread is shockingly similar to regular cake, but we slice it and put meat on it and call it bread. Added sugar = added calories = added pounds.

Personal Fix: Pay attention to ingredient labels, avoid extra sugar

3: The Holiday Bulge that Doesn’t Budge Causes of Obesity - Holiday WeightWe love to overeat during the holidays.  It’s fun! It’s delicious! There are so many opportunities!  The holiday pounds often stick around from year to year, and after a decade you might be looking at 10-15 extra just from winter parties alone.

Personal Fix: If you have a lot of parties on the schedule, try not to indulge at every single one, and work in some extra gym time. 

4: Low-fat Misinformation Causes of Obesity - Low Fat The “low fat” craze of the late 70’s has only worked to spread incorrect information about how our bodies work.  Not all fat is equal, and living a “low fat” lifestyle might mean eating too many processed chemicals and not enough healthy fats like Omega-3s.

Personal Fix: Learn where to keep healthy fats in your diet, and if you’re trying to lose weight don’t focus on “low fat” choices.

5: Food is Cheap! Causes of Obesity - Food is Cheap Let me rephrase that, BAD food is cheap.  I can get ten times the calories per dollar in a fast food cheeseburger than in a dollar’s worth of strawberries.  That is very hard to resist especially for low-income families.

Personal Fix: Try stocking up on healthier options when they are in season or on sale.

6: Drinking Our Calories Causes of Obesity - Sugary Drinks As a country we are drinking more soda and sugary drinks than ever before.  It’s addictive and CHEAP! (See #5.)  A can of sugar cola per day can lead to an extra 10-15 pounds per year. 

Personal Fix: Keep up your water intake to quench your thirst, and limit sugary drinks as much as possible. 

7: So Many Tempting Options

Causes of Obesity - Variety This goes well with the holiday weight.  Picture that seasonal spread with twelve kinds of desserts.  We want to try them all!  It’s normal, but when we are presented with those choices regularly (think vending machines,) we tend to overeat.

Personal Fix: Find healthy options you enjoy and keep them on hand rather than having cookies and junk in the pantry. 

8: Sedentary Jobs Causes of Obesity - Sedentary We aren’t hunters and gatherers anymore, and people like me end up sitting a lot during work hours.  If you’ve ever heard, “Well my great granddad never exercised a day in his life and he was skinny as a rail and lived to be 175,” you can ask what he did for a living. Chances are, it was something physical.  Burn less, eat more, gain weight.

Personal Fix: Track movement with something like a FitBit so you have an actual understanding of how much you can/should eat and how much you should exercise to stay healthy. Fitbit makes activity tracking easy and automatic.

9: More Vegetable OilsCauses of Obesity - Oils Hand in hand with the low fat craze came vegetable oils and non-food like margarine. In processed foods these oils are often hidden and boost calories unnecessarily.

Personal Fix: More meals at home that you cook yourself so you know what’s inside. 

10: Group Overeating  Causes of Obesity - Group Eating It’s hard not to grab a few hundred extra calories from shared appetizers.  Dining out with a group can increase your calorie intake per meal by 72%!

Personal Fix: Be the example and order a healthy option.  If the calories aren’t visible on the menu, Google it!

11: Not Enough Sleep

Causes of Obesity - Sleep Deprivation I’ve harped on this point before, and it’s as true as ever.  Not enough sleep leads to poor food choices and deprives our bodies of the chance to process food properly and reset.

Personal Fix: Set a bedtime, and keep it. 

12: Eating More Calories  Causes of Obesity - Calorie Intake The most basic rule of weight gain/loss is “calories in vs. calories out.”  If you bring in more than you burn off, you will gain weight.  As a country, we are eating substantially more calories per day AND burning less per day.  It’s simple math.

Personal Fix: Calculate your BMR, and keep that basic number of how many calories you need per day in mind when deciding what to eat.


Again, I encourage you to read the full article with the fascinating graphs and charts by clicking HERE. 

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About Sarah McMullin

Mother of two, Bachelor's and JD, married to a crazy high school teacher.
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One Response to Causes of Obesity: 12 Sources of America’s Epidemic

  1. First, start keeping a diary everything that you eat during the day. Do not wait until the end of the day and fill it from memory, take it with you and write you eat. Keep track of calories, fats and sugars. Since each gram of fat contains 9 calories and each gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories, it’s pretty easy to understand why keeping fat decreases so important.

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