For the last few years, it seems that "the obesity epidemic" has been one of those hot topic issues. You read about it everywhere and hear about it on the news with some regularity. And now that it's January again, it seems like you hear something new every day. I guess it's not so surprising after all. If you do any research on the matter, obesity health-related issues are problems facing most developed and developing countries. According to the World Health Organization there are One BILLION overweight people in the world, and at least 300 million of these are clinically obese. Overweight is defined here as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25 and obesity is having a BMI over 30. Imagine that, 300 million clinically obese people... That's the equivalent of the entire population of the United States. (You can find a BMI Calculator here.)
The most effective way to combat obesity is to modify your diet and to begin an exercise regime. You know, common sense... eat fewer calories than you expend and you'll lose weight. But the global trend of wealthier and denser populations has lead to a change in the way we live. As humans, our diets are comprised of more refined foods, foods which are high in saturated fats, trans-fats, sugars, and over processed grains stripped of their nutrients. And food is omnipresent. There is food for purchase at almost any event you might attend, including plays on Broadway!
In addition to the dietary changes we have also experienced significant changes in the way we live over the last century. More and more labor saving devices allow us more leisure time, and more time to socialize - which is usually a food-centric event. It seems like home cooked meals are becoming a rarity. The computer, television, and electronic games have all but replaced the physical pursuits we used to participate in during our leisure time. Most of us spend our days behind a desk in front of a computer. All this adds up to a sedentary lifestyle, which coupled with the above mentioned dietary changes, has led to our ever expanding waistlines.
One of the ways to combat this problem is to shift to a vegan diet. Most doctors and health organizations recommend that people should increase their intake of fruits and vegetables while reducing their consumption of saturated fats. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal products (with the notable exception of coconut oil).
The major killers of Americans—heart disease, cancer, and stroke—have a dramatically lower incidence among people consuming primarily plant-based diets. Weight problems—a contributor to a host of health problems—can also be brought under control by following the New Four Food Group recommendations. -- The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Of course, being vegan doesn't guarantee that you will lose weight. If you eat nothing but potato chips or Soy Ice Cream, you'll most likely be eschewing animal product, but you won't lose weight. Generally vegan meals are less calorie dense than those centered around animal product. If you've been following this blog at all, you'll know that I've lost 20 pounds and my wife has lost 11 over a six month period. That may not sound like a lot if you're looking to lose 100 or so, but we haven't done anything else. We haven't stepped up our exercise; we haven't cut our consumption. We just changed what we were eating, for other reasons, and had this very nice byproduct. And we're not the only ones. Apparently, a veg*n diet will result in a 1 pound per week average weight loss, as reported in a study by Nutrition Reviews.
For further reading see:
- A New Food Guide for North American Vegetarians (pdf)
- Veganism: A Weapon to Fight The Obesity Epidemic -- John Livesey PhD, Scientific Officer, Department of Endocrinolog, Christchurch Hospital, New Zealand
- Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet