5 Reasons America Has a Weight Problem

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Americans really are getting fatter, to put it bluntly. The average person is roughly 23 pounds heavier than he should be, according to WebMD. Obviously food is a big player in America’s weight problem, but it isn’t the only cause. Scour through these top five causes of weight gain to see if any of them look familiar to your lifestyle.

5 Taking Medications

Americans are overdrugged, taking pills for every single thing. If you take steroids to decrease inflammation, for example, you may be prone to gaining weight. Certain antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiseizure, diabetes and hypertension medications are also likely to make that number on your scale spike, WebMD reports. You might have an especially hard time managing your weight if you’re taking multiple medications. Some of them increase your appetite, some affect the way your body stores fat and others impact your insulin levels. In severe cases, you could gain as much as 10 extra pounds a month, just by taking prescription medications.

4 Lack of Activity

Think about your daily routine: You go to work—where you sit at a desk all day—eat your lunch in your car after hitting the drive thru, go home, throw something in the microwave and sit in front of the television. That’s pretty typical for Americans. Virtually zero exercise throughout the day. If everyone in your family and your circle of friends follows that same basic daily plan, you’re all likely to be on the heavy side. This is why being overweight can be, in a sense, contagious.

3 Cutting Back on Sleep

You’re working overtime at the office, taking care of your parents, managing your household and taking night classes at the university. Clearly you’re not getting enough sleep. If you believe in the idea that you’ll sleep when you’re dead, you’ll probably be plump while you’re alive. Your body needs sleep. When you’re not well rested, you’ll be grumpy and stressed the next day. The result? You’ll be more likely to grab an extra snack or an extra serving at dinner to help calm your nerves. Plus when you’re stressed, your body stores more fat—hence a bigger waistline.

2 Mega Sizes

Junk foods aren’t a new thing. Bagels, burgers and sodas, among others, were around 20 years ago and even 40 years ago. It’s the portion size that has changed the most. Look at bagels. Back in the 1980s and ’90s, a bagel was only about 3 inches in diameter and 140 calories, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states. But today the bagel magically doubled in size—and calories. Now it’s 6 inches in diameter and around 350 calories. The cheeseburger is another big offender. Back in the day, an average drive-thru cheeseburger was only 330 calories. In the 2000s though, the mega-sized cheeseburger provides almost 600 calories. Plus, you went from drinking a 6.5-ounce soda as a kid to a 20-ounce soda as an adult—and that’s if you get the “small” size. You may be eating the same foods, but you’re getting double the calories now.

1 Indulging in Fast Foods

There’s no doubt that the boom in fast food restaurants, quick service eating establishments and grab-n-go foods at gas stations are some of the leading causes of weight gain in America. You may have no idea exactly how many calories you’re consuming from a single meal. That double bacon cheeseburger with mayonnaise has close to 1,400 calories, while a foot-long sub sandwich with chicken and cheese sounds light, but it has around 750 calories. Not horrified yet? Having an extra-large beef burrito provides nearly 900 calories, a drive-thru chicken pot pie gives you almost 800 calories and a personal 9-inch pepperoni pizza contains roughly 1,300 calories. No wonder your pants are getting tighter.

Melodie Anne Coffman has been writing for various online and print publications since 1996, specializing in human and animal nutrition. After receiving her master's degree in food science and human nutrition, she opened up her own nutrition consulting business in the New England area.

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