Obesogenicity & Broken Things: Why America Won’t Solve the Obesity Problem

I learned new words yesterday.


An “obesogenic environment” supports gaining weight by promoting indulgent overeating. It’s the opposite of a “leptogenic” environment which would promote leanness or weight loss. An environment’s obesogencity can be measured by the use of ANGELO, the ANalysis Grid for Environments Linked to Obesity.

Whatever ANGELO’s rating system is, I think the entire United States would be off the scale.

If you’re in your forties or younger in the United States, you’ve lived your entire life in the world’s most obesogenic environment. You were likely given soda while you were still drinking from baby bottles. Ketchup was a vegetable in your school lunch. Pizza and fast-food were staples of your teen-age diet. You grew up to consume a large percentage of your daily calories as sugar-laced coffees and ostensibly “healthy” smoothies. The USDA Economic Research Service reports that the average American diet is 62% processed, food for profit that is increasingly engineered to hit the brain with addictive properties.

American culture is so obsessed with eating that even weight loss methods are marketed with a focus on food gratification and an entitlement to indulgence.

If your brain and your genetics and your physiology make you one of those people with a predisposition to gain weight and be heavier, living in the American Food Theme Park makes it practically a self-fulfilling prophecy that you will be fat and you will spend much of your life at the far end of the weight bell curve.

It’s time that we face what really drives obesity. Bias assumes it’s a weak character. Demons. Excessive self-medication. Emotional wounds. Psychological trauma.

You’re not broken. The American Food Culture is.

If you want to reclaim your health and take control of your body and your weight, reject the bias. Spit out the Kool-Aid.  Look hard at your daily life, your habits, your routines. You’re consuming addictive substances and you’re hyper-sensitive to their effects. You’ve believed you’re weak but you’re very, very strong. You’ve been fighting a long time but you can’t face off against a tough adversary until you have the right weapons in your hands. If you’ve been thinking it’s all in your head, you’re looking in the wrong place. It’s in our grocery stores. It’s in our restaurants. It’s in our media. It’s deeply entrenched in the most obesogenic culture on earth.

If you’ve spent years believing you became fat because of emotional weakness, it’s time you take a look around you. We live in a culture that glorifies both thinness AND indulgent eating. A culture that vilifies weight and assumes it’s all your own failure while you’ve struggled to lose weight eating addictive processed foods that are marketed with “health halos.” Release yourself from shame and blame. I’m tweeting with the hashtag #bodytruth.