Categories: Interesting Stuff

The below graph shows the changes in overweight/obesity rates in the US from 1960 – 2010. Although a U.S graph, Australia and other developed countries saw similar trends, as it was the significant lifestyle changes and developments of the 1980’s that would completely change the world’s health forever.

obesityscaleOur environment, lifestyles and emotional health have changed so much over the decades that there was even a study finding that people today that eat and exercise the same amount as people 20 years ago are still fatter [1]. So why is this the case?

Well the 1980’s brought with it a number of things:

1.     Fast Food

Before the 1970’s most people cooked at home. Over the last three decades fast food accessibility has dramatically increased. A time when the only option was fish and chips has now turned into everything and anything that you can imagine, available at your fingertips.  You can pick up your next fix at the movies, supermarkets, stadiums, at schools, airports, there are now even doughnut shops inside clothes stores, and service stations. This change has meant more fat, more salt, and more sugar entering our diets and since then our addiction for these ingredients has only increased.

2.     More Meat, More Preservatives, More Hormones, More Oil

The world is eating more meat now than ever before. Many animals are treated with antibiotics and hormones to promote growth, and influence taste and texture. Our food also has more preservatives to ensure it can stay fresh for as long as possible (try keeping a McDonalds hamburger for a year and see how little it changes). Our food has much more processed oil in it than ever before, mostly driven by food scientists cleverly manipulating the taste and texture of foods.  Artificial sweeteners have also wiggled their way into most beverages and food products. One often unspoken about and underestimated consequence to all of this is how these additives, hormones and unnecessary ingredients have been changing our gut bacteria slowly over time. We may have as many microbes in our body (bacteria, viruses, funghi etc) as we do body cells, and we do not fully yet grasp the full importance of these microbes on the state of our health.  However it is undeniable that our gut bacteria changing and being damaged by our food, is one of the big things contributing to us becoming more overweight, sick and unhealthy.  There is certainly research that cravings, food preferences and certain illnesses are influenced by our microflora.

3.     Lifestyle Changes

The introduction of longer working hours and women entering the workforce saw a decrease in home cooked meals and an increase in fast food spending. More people purchased cars, meaning less exercise was being done, while TV and advertisements manipulated our choices and spending habits.

There are many things that have caused our change in health and it’s important to consider the effect that each of these things is having on us in order to best promote our own individual health and wellbeing.


[1] Brown, R et al. 2015. Secular differences in the association between caloric intake, macronutrient intake, and physical activity with obesity. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice.

[2] Science Museum, London. UK, 2015

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Posted on Apr 8, 2016 - Last updated on Apr 9, 2016

About the Author

Lisa Cutforth is the founder of Size Fantastic. A nutritionist and foodie with a degree in Nutrition with Psychology and a passion for health, Lisa’s ambition is to take health off the “too hard” shelf and restore her clients confidence in themselves and their ability to heal and be well… Size Fantastic to us means: looking and feeling great, inside and out!