The Truth Behind America's Obesity Epidemic

Hint: It's not candy, soda, and fast food. 

November 6, 2015
Thinkstock

For years, science has speculated over the true cause of obesity in America. Could it be the lure of fast food or the addictive properties of soda? Actually, not so much. Now, a new study from Cornell University is busting many of the previous myths. 

According to researchers from the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics, junk food, fast food and soda are not the reason behind obesity. In fact, the true cause behind the rising obesity rates could be a misunderstanding of portion sizes. 

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

More: 8 Small Changes for Major Weight Loss

The study, which was published in the journal Obesity Science & Practice, showed that soda, candy, and fast food were not liked to the Body Mass Index (BMI) for 95 percent of the American population. 

"This means that diets and health campaigns aimed at reducing and preventing obesity may be off track if they hinge on demonizing specific foods," says David Just, PhD, co-director of the study. "If we want real change we need to look at the overall diet, and physical activity. Narrowly targeting junk foods is not just ineffective, it may be self-defeating as it distracts from the real underlying causes of obesity."

The researchers explain that limiting—and even eliminating—these indulgent foods will not exclusively help a person lose weight, but that navigating and perfecting portion control could be the true solution to successfully losing weight and maintaining a healthy BMI. 

More: 4 Environmental Factors That Affect Your Waistline

Ready to get your portion sizes under control? Follow this handy (pun absolutely intended) serving size simplifier from Yuri Elkaim, a registered holistic nutritionist and author of The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, to better understand portions:

Thumb = Fit Fats
For fat-dense foods like oils, butters, nut butters, nuts, and seeds, use your entire thumb to determine your serving size. Elkmain recommends one to two thumb-size portions of fats with most meals for women and men, respectively. 

Palm = Protein
"Whenever possible, choose animal proteins from organic, wild, free-range, or grass-fed sources," Elkaim says. Shoot for two healthy palm-sized serving of any of the following proteins per day: hemp seeds, almonds, beans, chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, game, pork, eggs, and salmon.

 

More: 7 Simple Ways to Eat Less & Feel More Satisfied

Fist = Starchy Carbs and Fruit
Healthy starchy cabs and fruit should be roughly the size of your closed fist. Feel free to include two fist-sized servings of the following, per day: sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, tomatoes, bananas, apples, pears, berries (all types), figs, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, melon (all types), pineapple, mango, and papaya. 

Hand Bowl = Fibrous Veggies
Here's a little secret: There's actually no maximum serving size for fibrous veggies—salads, green leafy vegetables, or cruciferous vegetables. They're loaded with amazing nutrients and very few net carbs and calories, meaning you can eat as much of them as you want.

That said, there is a minimum. For the biggest effect, load up on veggies, and try to eat quite a bit more than the bare minimum, or about two hand-bowl-servings per day. (For easy reference, a hand bowl is the bowl formed when you cup both hands together; 2 hand bowls equals the size of a small bowl of salad.)