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  • Writer's pictureLouise Atkinson

The food industry is making us fat

Psychologist, Dr Meg Arroll explains why the modern world makes it so hard to stay slim

It is frightening how fast the worldwide obesity epidemic is growing. Right now nearly one third of the world’s population is obese or overweight but the experts predict rampant and widespread obesity by 2030.

How can this be happening?

While top scientists argue back and forth about just how little we should be eating or how much we should be exercising, and whether we should be shunning fats or sugars or both, the world is getting fatter and fatter.

The truth is, obesity is a highly complicated issue – we humans are complex beasts and we live in a complex world. There are so many factors conspiring against us that it is actually MORE surprising that every single one of us isn’t struggling with our weight.

Here’s why:

The power of Big Food

The food industry spends millions of pounds each year on advertising, food science and development to keep us buying junk. Processed food is far more profitable than freshly picked fruit and vegetables as it has a much longer shelf-life, can be transported easily and its ingredients are cheap. Scientists are well paid to engineer foods to hit a ‘bliss point’ – a magical combination of fat, carbohydrate and sugar in products like donuts – that triggers and addictive-like response in our brains, it really is no surprise that’s it takes a huge amount of willpower to resist tempting treats.

Advertising allure

Even though we know obesity is one of the most significant conditions facing the health service, junk food is still heavily advertised. And this food advertising does have a powerful impact on life-long food choices. Associating unhealthy food with fun times and feel-good images gets us hooked from early on. When later on, if life gets a bit stressful, the brain will automatically seek out the foods for that boost mood.

24/7 food

We don’t even have to leave the sofa to bag a delicious foodie treat – with a swipe of the finger, in most big cities any number of fast food options will arrive at your door in less time that it would take to cook something from scratch. If your emotional needs can be met with the serotonin-boosting impact of chocolate or pizza why would you need to stop for a moment and ask whether you’re actually hungry?

Survival of the fattest

Our bodies are programmed to survive. When you go on a diet, your body automatically thinks there’s famine and to survive this time of scarcity, your metabolisms will slow so it can see through the tough times. This was brilliant, and adaptive, when our ancestors had a harsh winter with barely any food. But now, in the western world food is seemingly never ending.

We haven’t adapted. Physiologically, we are programmed to bunker-up for any future lack of food, which is why once dieting starts it can become harder and harder to shift the weight. Each successive diet plan is another famine, and every single calorie above the bare minimum will be helpfully stored away as protection against for the next one.

So it’s NOT your fault!

With so many factors stacked against us, the question shouldn't be 'why do so many people struggle with their weight?' but rather ‘why are we still blaming individuals for their weight gain?’ Sorry to say this, but there’s no chance a magic pill, cure or fad diet will every be able to halt this health catastrophe in its path. Just as the medical profession is discovering that ‘one remedy doesn’t fit all’ so it is unrealistic to expect any one weight loss or obesity solution to work unanimously across the board.

Obesity is a problem that involves our society, our psychology and our physiology. So any feasible solution needs to address all these layers.

It is only by tackling the psychological approaches to eating alongside the physiological factors that we are going to be able to meet this major international health challenge.

We believe that by dividing everyone into one of six categories according to food and eating preferences and associated behaviours, we can get closer to a viable solution that has a better chance of working.

This is the Shrinkology Solution – and it works.

You’ll find more expert information in The Shrinkology Solution or take the QUIZ to find which one of the six Shrinkology eating types you are.

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