You’re Obese Because You’re Lazy, Not Because You Eat Too Much

Obesity from lack of exercise, not what we eat
A report by Stanford University researchers, set to appear in the American Journal of Medicine’s August issue, shows a remarkable correlation between a dwindling amount of time spent exercising and the worrisome rise of obesity among Americans. Somewhat surprisingly, the study also found no significant increase in daily caloric intake. The study is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, beginning in 1988 and continuing until 2010. A dramatic shift is evident in the percentage of adults who reported completely avoiding exercise in their free time. Among men, this number grew from 11 to 43 percent, and for women, it increased from 19 percent to 52 percent. The same study reports a change in obesity from 20 to 35 percent in men and 25 to 35 in women.

Dr. Uri Ladabaum, Stanford professor of gastroenterology and lead author of the study, said of the results, “We suspected there was a trend in that direction, but not that magnitude. People can get exercise in other ways, but most people don’t walk or bike to work, and most people are not in jobs that require physical activity.”

The data, however, was collected by self-report, and Ladabaum says, “It is possible people were not recalling correctly what they ate, or not reporting correctly.” He notes the study measures trends and shows possible correlation, but it is unable to prove a definite cause and effect. Additionally, he states his desire to point out a lack of change in caloric intake as not necessarily being indicative of healthy habits to begin with.

Despite the limitations to the study, the new information may still prove relevant to the obesity epidemic which plagues the Unites States. American Journal of Medicine editor Pamela Powers said that she, “…wants sedentary folks to get off the couch and exercise, but my public health background cautions me to go beyond the data tables and look at the lives of Americans today.” She states single mothers are a good example of the hectic lives many lead, and why it can be challenging to find the time and energy to exercise.

As the nation struggles to tackle the growing problem, questions are constantly raised about what is right and wrong when it comes to policy-making concerning obesity. Just how to fight the issue is uncertain. Definitive or not, Ladabaum feels confident that this report can play a helpful role in this process, saying, “Even though it is very difficult to prove directly that public health interventions promoting physical activity will make a difference, I think they will. This study should serve as a reinforcement of the message that we need to think of a multi-component solution.”

(Photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver)

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4 Responses to You’re Obese Because You’re Lazy, Not Because You Eat Too Much

  1. Rui De Oliveira Lima says:

    Or maybe youre obese because of the drugs your medical doctores say you have to take… search for the side efects in google for everything they say you have to medicated and be, amusingly sad, surprised

  2. LDNP says:

    Perhaps people are taking all those medications because they are so obese that their bodies are failing and need help to keep their blood pressure down and arteries clear. Just a thought.

  3. Gailete says:

    The first commentor is correct in that many medications do cause weight gain, especially those given for mental health. Some people have medical conditions, problems with their thyroid for one, that cause the weight gain. Some people can’t exercise due to medical condidions as well. I’m sitting here in agony due to rheumatoid arthritis. I would love to take a walk outside but since I can barely walk from one part of the house to another, it isn’t possible.

    While much weigth gain can fall at the feet of overeating, it isn’t the only reason and those who make value judgements about why a person is fat (I’m not talking about a doctor discussing the problem with you) should be ashamed of themselves. Do they really think that obese people want to be obese? Since we have to eat food, eating is a hard habit to break just like smoking, drugs, etc.

  4. Cara says:

    First of all this article makes me angry because it is the general view taken by thin people, and I’m one of the thin ones. Or at least I have been thin all my life but now that I’m taking Lyrica for nerve pain ( from an injury ) which causes rapid weight gain it is a daily struggle to keep my weight down.

    My daughter is a RN in a hospital. She has worn a pedometer and walks 5 miles in a shift and often lifts heavy patients. She does not lack exercise but she is obese. She is obese because her thyroid was destroyed by benign tumors. This article does not consider medical conditions at all and I would guess that the percentage of obese people who have medical problems is somewhat significant.

    While I do agree that many people are fat from eating the wrong foods and not exercising I don’t think exercise is the total answer. I’m a retired nutritionist and if you consider the fact that many people eat way too much processed food and very convenient snacks I’d say our Standard American Diet and fast food has as much to do with the problem as lack of exercise.

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