There is a buffet of bad information in the news today about what causes obesity. (The economy. Fast food. Television commercials.) Take a deep breath, folks: The truth hasn’t changed with the news cycle. Weight loss, gain, and maintenance have always been about the balance between "calories in" and "calories out." Unfortunately, simple addition and subtraction haven’t stopped some of the generals in today’s food wars from trying to convince you otherwise.
"If your bank account has just tanked, you’ve lost your job, and you are worried about keeping your house, you’re not going to be spending a lot of money on food if you can avoid it," says notorious food cop and NYU professor Marion Nestle. "McDonald’s is doing really well now as people have flocked to it, because the cost is low, they know what they’re going to be eating, they like the taste of the food, and they’re not concerned about whether it’s too high in fat sugars and salt."
The problem is that she’s blaming so-called fast food when rice, beans, potatoes, and fresh produce are some of the cheapest items at the grocery store. These items are not exorbitantly priced, and they’re not inaccessible. They also don’t fit Nestle’s argument — so she ignores them completely.
And elsewhere online, the author of a study that erroneously suggests banning food ads will cure childhood obesity even admits that " a lot of people consume fast food in moderate amounts and it doesn’t harm their health."
The food police should quit pinning the blame on burger joints and start noticing other factors in our daily calorie math. Dr. James Levine, a professor at the Mayo Clinic, once remarked that relying on modern conveniences, such as washing machines and remote controls, creates a daily calorie surplus of 100 to 200 calories per day. That alone could account for the entire national obesity problem.
"To reverse obesity, we need to develop individual strategies to promote standing and ambulating time by 2.5 hours per day and also re-engineer our work, school and home environments to render active living the option of choice," Dr. Levine now advises.
That’s pretty much the same common sense we’ve been doling out for years. It may not make the same sensational headlines as blaming the economy or fast food for the extra weight around our middles. But then again, since when is the truth so flashy?