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America in the 50's & 60's America in the 50's & 60's

Do you remember, as I do from my youth, that overweight people were a relative rarity in the 1950’s and 60’s?

What happened to us that sixty-six percent on the nation is overweight?

This is especially true for those over fifty.  However, after age eighty, that drops off sharply. 

Why?  Because overweight people die early and do not make it past eighty.

Well, what happened to us in the decades since 1960? 

To answer that, let’s try to remember what life was like when we were young.

The Way it Was The Way it Was

As a youth, I was outdoors most of the day when not in the classroom.  People walked places; they took a bus to work.  Automobiles were one to a family, if that.

There was no remote control – if you wanted to change the channel, you had to get up.

But TV didn’t occupy that much of our life anyway.  Maybe a couple of hours a day at most.

I remember that most adults were, if not thin, of normal weight and proportions.

Many men were described as “wirery”, which meant lean and strong, like Gary Cooper’s character in “High Noon.”

Women worked physically hard in caring for the home. Clothes were hung on a clothes line for drying.

Men, most of whom were blue collar, worked at jobs that kept them physically active as well.

At the beach, most people looked in good shape and teenagers were often skinny and concerned about putting some weight on.

Our diet was different too.  Food was more expensive, as a percent of income, and people did not eat to pleasure themselves in the way they do today.

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

The late Dr. Robert C. Atkins created a storm of controversy by insisting that carbohydrates were the enemy more than fat in our food intake.

He duly noted that since the start of the low-fat food revolution, obesity rates have risen steadily and dramatically.

Atkins claimed there are two main unrecognized factors about Western eating habits, arguing firstly that the main cause of obesity is eating refined carbohydrates, particularly sugar, flour, and high-fructose corn syrups; and secondly, that saturated fat is overrated as a nutritional problem, and that only trans fats from sources such as hydrogenated oils need to be avoided.

Consequently, Dr. Atkins rejected the advice of the food pyramid, instead asserting that the tremendous increase in refined carbohydrates is responsible for the rise in metabolic disorders of the 20th century, and that the focus on the detrimental effects of dietary fat has actually contributed to the obesity problem by increasing the proportion of insulin-inducing foods in the diet.

Who’s Sorry Now? Who’s Sorry Now?

Sadly, perhaps the present young generation will grow up believing that being seriously overweight is normal. 

Perhaps for them it will be normal, and people with healthy ideal weights will be the peculiar ones.

But those of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s know the truth.  We look at the “then and now” photos placed on the class reunion websites and we know.

It all happened so gradually.  And it happened to so many.  We’ve adjusted to the idea that it’s nobody’s fault.

But there was a major change that swept the nation and most of us were too busy to take stock of it.  Now we don’t exactly know what to do.

Was it a conspiracy of the food manufactures to make us fat; addicted to their processed, high caloric, refined carbohydrates?   Was it changes in our American culture and workplace that did us in?

Whatever it was, how do we reverse this dreadful condition that has stolen our dreams?




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