While obesity has been present since prehistoric times, as evidenced by early drawings, never before has the problem reached such epidemic proportions. Overweight conditions and obesity are rapidly increasing throughout the world, afflicting adults and children alike. In the United States, tens of millions of Americans are classified as either overweight or obese, with 20 percent of men and 25 percent of women falling into the obese category. These percentages have increased dramatically since the 1960s, with most of the gain seen in the 1990s. Ironically, despite the advent of diet centers on practically every corner and a national obsession with the rail-thin model look, the average American weighs eight pounds more than a decade ago.
All age groups are affected by this trend, and of particular concern is the frightening rise in childhood obesity. In a recent study of four- and five-year-old girls, for example, 10 percent were found to be overweight, which is almost double the amount found in 1971. Another investigation, this one focused on New York City grade-school children, found a third of the subjects to be overly fat. Adolescent incidence of this problem has gone up too; in fact, the number of overweight twelve- to seventeen-year-olds has more than doubled in recent years. These figures are particularly disturbing, as overweight children and adolescents tend to become overweight adults who run an increased risk of medical debilitation and premature death.
Socioeconomic factors seem to play a role, with women in less advantaged groups exhibiting obesity twice as often as women in higher socioeconomic brackets do. Black American women have a particularly high rate, at 40 percent. These differentials are probably due to a greater emphasis on being slim in more affluent groups as well as to differences in education, the availability of wholesome foods, and even housing. If you want to create wholesome meals you need good access to decent cooking and refrigeration facilities. If these facilities are less than adequate, people are more likely to rely on fast food and processed or junk < items.