The scourge of obesity has reached such gigantic proportions across the world that it is now termed as globesity. The obesity is now accepted as a global epidemic and governments are pouring in money and resources to fight this menace, which is quietly swallowing the economic gains of a country.
Obesity is a relatively a new disease which has become widespread only in the past 50 years. Research in US indicates an increase of 1% obesity levels every year for the past 20 years and this rate 100% of US population would be overweight by the year 2040. Rest of the world is not far behind what with globalization. The work culture, global fast food chains, carbonated colas and beverages having spread across every country in the world corrupting the good food habits of the world.
One must understand the underlying historic causes and trends that have brought about obesity to combat it effectively individually as a society.
What are the trends that have resulted in obesity to reach such proportions?
The changing work culture:
Industrial revolution ushered in the automation and assembly line cultures where people were required to perform tasks with the least waste of movement, assembling maybe a single part or piece of an equipment or product possibly throughout their working tenure.
Extra and unwanted movements were strictly controlled even to the extent of limiting breaks for rest and restrooms. This resulted in low physical activity.
The 9 to 5 fixed work culture with strictures on leaves and holidays further brought about a reduction in social interaction to the minimal. Performing mechanical tasks for most part of the day, the employees were mentally tired with no social outlet. To make up for an uninspiring and mechanical work environment people began to find snacking and watching endless soap operas and sporting events as an alternative.
Improvement in Transportation
Improvement in the mode of transportation speeded up life to an extent that people spent more time working and commuting longer distances to find work. There is little need to walk distances. The improvement in transportation from cars to subways to flying sometimes even on a daily basis leading to insufficient physical and metabolic activity. The pace of life became accelerated thousand fold compared to the laid-back 18th century lifestyles. This resulted in high stress leading to an increased craving for carbohydrates and high-energy foods. This slowly created the high calorie high-energy fast food culture, which though provided instant gratification and energy was however devoid of nutrients. Such a fast food culture created increasing weight and high levels of obesity
Development of Technology
Technology has affected the way we live and work. From cooking to computers, everything is just at the touch of a button involving very little physical activity. This sedentary lifestyle resulted in low metabolic activity and calorie burning. Physical activity has been reduced to exercising in gyms or at home again with equipments, which may not really exercise all parts of the body uniformly resulting in the increasing weight and obesity.
Role of Information Technology
Information technology has again influenced the work culture. No more the need to visit customers or prospects and business associates for meetings. You do everything using computers, internet and intranet, video conferencing and teleconferencing. You do not even need to walk down to your boss to hand over a file or discuss issues regularly. You do everything through the computers or intercoms. Even commuting to work is now being dispensed with telecommuting and work delivered to your home. Technology has even enabled the work to be outsourced to different countries with no physical contact needed. The trend is only likely to accelerate creating less physical movement and accumulation of bigger waistlines.
Fast food business model
The fast food business model has affected our lives like nothing else before. The fast-paced technology driven lifestyles created an extremely stressful work culture, displacement of family, low physical activity all resulting in the inability of the body to break down sugar has lead to an increased craving for instant and quick absorbing, cheap energy foods. Fast foods and sugared beverages quickly emerged to take advantage of this evolving need and rake in the moolah at an immense economic cost to the individuals, the governments and society. These fast food companies glamorized and spread the fast food culture worldwide as the cheap alternative to time consuming home cooking. By the time realization dawned of the ill effects of the junk food being dished out, it became too late. The fast food industry has now developed adequate financial muscle to even buy legislation favoring it especially in economically weaker nations. The generation X is now totally sold over on these fast food (if they can be called food at all) with all the advertising glitz and glamour.
The wheel has come full circle. If we need to escape the scourge of the technological advance, we need to redesign the way the planet earth lives. Technology has to be an enabler of better health and lifestyles and not be the source of destruction of the humankind. People have to start going back to the basics in at least in matters of diet, physical activities and spend more time in pursuits, which will result in better health. Obesity and overweight needs to be tackled by designing a new lifestyle that will integrate technology with natural living.