THE BLOG
06/06/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why Are We Americans So Fat?

Obesity is epidemic in our country. To give you a visual, here are two maps for you to look at and compare.

2009-05-05-obesitymap.jpg
This is what our country's rates of obesity looked like in l989.

2009-05-05-obesitymap2008.jpg
This is what our country's rates of obesity looked like in 2007.

This is not a pretty picture. Since obesity puts one at risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes, our country is not well.

The two most important questions I have on this subject are:

1) Why is this happening?
2) What can we do about it?

Recently I was lucky enough to attend a conference on this very subject. The keynote speaker was Dr. Kelly Brownell from Yale. Dr. Brownell was named by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world in 2006. I will be sharing some of what I learned from him in this and my next few blogs.

To begin to answer the question as to why this is happening, Dr. Brownell talked about the food industry marketing unhealthy food to kids. By January 4th the food industry had already spent 100 million dollars marketing unhealthy food to kids during kid TV time (like Saturday morning cartoons). That works out to 25 million dollars a day selling kids frosted pop tarts, sugary cereal and candy. As a parent, I know that once your kid wants something they see over and over again on TV, it can be very hard to keep saying no.

Not only does the food industry push unhealthy foods and drinks through commercials, there are also product placements that seep into almost everything. Those of you who watch American Idol are watching a continuous Coke commercial. Coke paid 30 million dollars to have cups with the Coke logo in front of each of the judges. Ever notice how the logo is always facing the camera? Coincidence? I think not.

I was flipping TV channels the other day and noticed the baseball game had a huge banner advertising McDonald's on the stands. Every time the camera was on the batter, it was like watching a McDonald's commercial.

The fact that the food industry makes and sells unhealthy food, that happens to be cheap, is part of why we have the obesity problem we have today. The fact that the food industry targets children seems almost criminal to me.

More on why we are so fat and what we can do about it, coming up. Don't touch that dial.

Some of you are old enough to remember when in order to turn the channel on the TV you actually had to get up, turn the dial, and then go back and sit down. Now, just don't touch that remote.

For more information on Dr. Brownell and his work please visit http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/.

If you'd like to participate in the research for Irene's new book about the process of weight loss please visit http://www.eatingdisordertherapist.com/ and take the survey.