Why are 42% of Us Obese? Can an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Help?

While numerous complex factors influence the obesity epidemic, when addressing the “big two”—diet and exercise—the devil is in the details.

In This Article

Obesity Levels Rise to All-Time High 

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Have you noticed a rise in obesity in the past few years? 

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), between 2017 and 2018, the US rate of obesity was a whopping 42.4%—the highest ever reported!  

To make matters worse, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) projects that within the next eight to nine years, adult severe obesity in America will reach 48.9%. In 29 states, that number will exceed 50%, and it will be over 35% in all states.  

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), being overweight is linked to numerous health concerns. 

Health Concerns Linked to Being Overweight 

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  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Heart disease 
  • Strokes 
  • Certain types of cancer 
  • Sleep apnea 
  • Osteoarthritis 
  • Fatty liver disease 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Pregnancy problems, such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and increased risk for cesarean delivery  

Assess Your Weight Status 

  1. Assessing your weight and obesity level is based on an evaluation of body mass index (BMI), which is your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. Use this simple BMI chart to determine your BMI.

Adult Body Mass Index Categories3 

  • BMI <18.5 = underweight 
  • BMI 18.5-25 = normal range 
  • BMI 25-30 = overweight 
  • BMI >30 = obese 

Obesity is frequently subdivided into categories: 

  • Class 1: BMI 30-35 
  • Class 2: BMI 35-40 
  • Class 3: BMI >40. Class 3 obesity is sometimes categorized as “extreme” or “severe” obesity. 

In the prestigious journal The Lancet, more than 900,000 individuals from 57 studies were evaluated to assess the link between all-cause mortality and body mass index. They determined that for every five point increase in BMI, there was a 30% increased risk of dying!5 You can see why keeping your BMI in the healthy range is so important. 

Digging into Diet + Exercise 

While numerous complex factors influence the obesity epidemic, when addressing the “big two”—diet and exercise—the devil is in the details.7 

Diet includes many factors, including increased portion sizes in commercially marketed food items, inexpensive food sources (such as fast food), increased availability of vending machines with calorie-dense items, increased use of high-fructose corn syrup, and shelf-stable highly processed foods.6,7  

Highly Processed Foods + the Obesity Epidemic 

Finally, a study digs into the science of highly processed foods: 

“There is a rising obesity epidemic, corresponding chronic diseases, and increases in ultra-processed food consumption. In mice and in vitro trials, emulsifiers, found in processed foods, have been found to alter microbiome compositions, elevate fasting blood glucose, cause excessive hunger and overeating, increase weight gain and adiposity, and induce hepatic steatosis.  

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“Recent human trials have found ultra-processed foods as a contributor to decreased satiety, increased meal eating rates, worsening biochemical markers, and more weight gain.  

“In contrast, Blue Zone, indigenous South American, and Mediterranean populations with low meat intake, high fiber, and minimally processed foods have far less chronic diseases, obesity rates, and live longer, regularly over 100 and disease-free.”6 

Many of us have strayed far from the traditional, minimally processed diets recommended by this study, and we are paying the price. 

Healthy Weight Rule #1: Whole Unprocessed Foods (Organic Whenever Possible) 

While diet is an extremely controversial topic, the Mediterranean Diet, much like the traditional Ayurvedic diet and the diet of centenarians, is still one of the most well-studied diets. It has indisputable benefits and is inexpensive. It favors unprocessed foods: fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and small amounts of meat, fish, eggs, and poultry.  

We recommend "Making Sense of the Diet Wars": https://lifespa.com/vegan-keto-ayurvedic-diets/

Physical Activity 

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Researchers blame a growing sedentary society and resultant obesity on institutionally-driven reductions in physical activity.7 While many have turned to gyms, yoga, and the outdoors to offset jobs that require sitting for hours and a home life relaxing in front of a tube with hundreds of channels, still almost half the country has not been able to fill the sedentary gap. 

Sadly, economics play a major role in both a healthy diet and getting the required amount of physical exercise. In the NEJM study, low-income individuals were at a significantly greater risk of obesity and related health concerns.2 

Healthy Weight Rule #2: Get the Required Amount of Exercise 

In an average week, adults 18-64 should do 150-300+ minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes+ of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.8 

Ayurvedic Weight Balancing 

To antidote the epidemic of overeating, many forms of intermittent fasting, calorie restriction, and time-restricted eating have become very popular. According to Ayurveda, eating smaller portions and less frequently is a main premise of health and healthy eating.  

My favorite Ayurvedic saying on diet says it all: 

One meal a day is for a yogi, two meals a day is for a bhogi (heavy laborer), and three meals a day is for a sick person (likely hospitalized). 

Health Benefits Linked to Eating Smaller Portions + Less Frequently9 

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  1. Decreased diabetes risk 
  2. Decreased cardiovascular risk 
  3. Improved longevity 
  4. Protection against cancer 
  5. Reduced risk of neurological concerns 
  6. Decreased inflammation 
  7. Balanced lipid levels 
  8. Reduced blood pressure 
  9. Reduced oxidative stress 
  10. Balanced weight 

But Don’t Skip Breakfast 

It is common practice with intermittent fasting to skip breakfast and eat only lunch and supper. This fits more comfortably into most people’s lifestyle, but it breaks the circadian rhythm and science rules. Studies find our circadian clocks are geared to digest, break down, and assimilate breakfast and lunch, instead of lunch and dinner.10 

We recommend "10 Compelling Reasons to Not Skip Breakfast": https://lifespa.com/10-reasons-not-skip-breakfast/

Quick Glance at Dr. John’s Ayurvedic Weight-Balancing Plan 

  • Step 1: Eat three meals a day, no snacks. Relax when eating and make lunch the biggest meal of the day. 
  • Step 2: (Move to Step 2 only if Step 1 is comfortable.) Make supper lighter—soup or salad. 
  • Step 3: (Move to Step 3 only if Steps 1 and 2 are comfortable.) Make supper earlier, before 6pm. If breakfast is at 7am, that gives you a 13-hour fat-burning fast from supper to breakfast. 
  • Step 4: Three to seven nights a week, skip supper. Drink water or herbal tea in the evening and get to bed early to avoid hunger pangs. Practice Step 4 for two to four weeks and then go back to Step 1 as maintenance. Revisit Step 4 as needed to attain desired weight loss. 

What has your experience been with your weight? What has helped and what do you plan to do in the future?  

References

  1. CDC: Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity Among Adults: United States, 2017–2018 
  2. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1909301#:~:text=Our%20projections%20show%20that%20the,with%20large%20variation%20across%20states. 
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html 
  4. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/health-risks-overweight 
  5. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60318-4/fulltext 
  6. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11938-019-00246-1?shared-article-renderer 
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2932668/ 
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK305058/#:~:text=Adults%20aged%2018%E2%80%9364%20should,%2D%20and%20vigorous%2Dintensity%20activity. 
  9. https://lifespa.com/ayurvedic-intermittent-fasting/
  10.  https://lifespa.com/10-reasons-not-skip-breakfast/ 

3 thoughts on “Why are 42% of Us Obese? Can an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Help?”

  1. Love this article! Came right in time for me:) I was trying out IF by skipping Bkfst but it wasn’t working out for me. So I recently switched to skipping dinner instead and it’s been great! This article explains why…lol!
    But after a long IF….would love to know your thoughts on how to break the fast. Will fruits be too much sugar at once for the body?

    Thanks much
    Mel

    Reply
  2. I only gained weight, after 55 years of skinniness, when my thyroid failed and my temp dropped 2 degrees so my metabolism could no longer burn fat. I do eat organic whole foods and don’t snack but with such a low temp my body thinks it is in famine and won’t burn fat. It doesn’t matter how or how much I exercise.

    Reply

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