Why It Was Easier To Be Skinny In The 80’s

October 2, 2015

A study published recently in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice found that it is harder for adults today to maintain the same weight as those 20 to 30 years ago, even at the same level of calorie intake and exercise. 

The researchers examined the dietary data of 36,400 Americans between 1971 and 2008, along with the physical activity data of 14,419 people between 1988 and 2006.  They grouped the data sets together by the amount of food and activity, age, and BMI.

Here’s where things get interesting: A given person in 2006, eating the same amount of calories, taking in the same quantities of macronutrients (protein and fat), and exercise the same amount as a person of the same age did in 1988 would have a BMI that was about 2.3 points higher.  In other words, people are about 9-10% heavier than people were in the 1980’s, even if they are following the same diet and exercise plan. 

What can we learn from this?  Essentially, this study indicates that there may be other changes contributing to the rise in obesity beyond diet and exercise.  But what are these changes, and what can we do about them? 

  1. People are exposed to more chemicals that could potentially be weight-gain inducing.   Substances in food packaging, pesticides, and flame retardants made their way into our foot in the 1990’s/early 2000’s.  These things might be changing our hormonal processes and tweaking the way our bodies gain, maintain, and even lose weight.
  2. Gut bacteria.  Some scientists believed that micro-biomes of Americans might have slightly changed between the 1980’s and today.  Some gut bacteria can make a person more prone to weight gain and lasting obesity.  This could be due to the increased treatment of animal products (particularly in meat) as well as the creation of artificial sweeteners.

For now, these changes are only hypotheses.

What do YOU think is one of the main causes to the staggering weight gain we have seen in the last 20 years? 

And most importantly, what can we do about it?   

8 responses to “Why It Was Easier To Be Skinny In The 80’s”

  1. Monilee Pearson Conrad says:

    Supersizing at fast food places.
    We need to cook our own meals with healthier choices and control portions that we consume.

  2. Brandee Anderson says:

    This is depressing. I’m going to commit to only shop at Whole Foods for anything going into my body.

  3. Stewart Jenson says:

    More traffic, constant advertisements, lack of affordable family housing, constant alerts all hours of the day and night from phones, higher expectations from society, fewer people have time to spend 3 hours a night cooking up a meal from scratch.

  4. Cali Jones says:

    I agree people might be busier these days, with less time to prepare good food, thanks to things like telecommuting as well as just differing cultural norms. It might also be added sugars to normal foods that didn’t have them back in the day. But I will try to buy my groceries at Whole Foods from now on too!

  5. Jody Wojtasek says:

    Time and communication, I feel is a huge part of weight gain. We need to slow down, unplug and take time to enjoy

  6. Jody Wojtasek says:

    food. Take time to cook good, nutritional food. Let’s go back to the fifty’s and sit down as a family and have dinner conversation and enjoy what you put into your body. put the phones, ipad, tablets away at the same time every evening and get plenty of sleep.

  7. Brittney Sheldon says:

    I think portion control is a huge problem especially in the US. We don’t know we’re full until it’s too late.

  8. Taylor Brown says:

    Too many energy drinks and fast food places in the world. Meal planning and cutting sugar/carbs is the only thing that works for me.

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