Without meaning to be disingenuous, there seems to be a lot of very strangely shaped people around, much more than thirty years ago when I was a child. For example, I saw a young woman the other day (ordering her soy-latte with artificial sweetener!) who was very slim but had the most unfortunately shaped calves and ankles -- the definitive "cankle". Many years ago when someone was considered fat they were of the "Friar Tuck" or "Billy Bunter" mould, i.e. rotund, but not strangely shaped.
This has got me thinking that there must be some causal link between the type of food one consumes and the resulting body shape and composition. My suspicion is that foods such as refined fast-growth wheats, HFCS and soya are prime candidates for not only putting on the pounds but also distorting the body as it tries to cope with the onslaught of unhealthy compounds.
What are the likely causal links, is there any sound research on what different food types can do to the body's composition? Can we derive advice about what foods to avoid over and above their weight gaining properties?
(Please note that this is not an invitation to bag or disrespect anyone of a not perfect body shape; I'll happy delete my question if we end up going down that route.)
I tend to agree, but I think its a function of how overweight people are. Before people were just overweight. Now we are talking obesity. I know a lot of supposed research states there isn't much we can do as to site storage, but I just can't bring myself to agree with it. If certain fat (abdominal) storage has a higher correlative value with disease then I have to come to the conclusion that this sort of storage is at least to some degree dependent on lifestyle factors.
I have noticed this too, but mainly when I step outside of my normal world: I teach at an expensive private university, I live in a small town with very highly educated, health-conscious residents, and I shop mainly at co-ops and (by occasional necessity) Whole Foods. Everyone here does yoga, Pilates, eats their local organic veggies, belongs to meat CSAs or is vegetarian (which even though we don't think is optimal, at least they tend to not eat processed junk), runs, bikes and hikes.
But when I drive south and go to a big box store, or stop in the much poorer town to the west, I see people who look deformed in a way that I don't remember when I was a kid. I don't just mean their bodies, but also their faces. I know what a strong correlation there is between income/education and poor diet. Maybe now the choices for someone with less money are so overwhelmingly just crappy food, that combined with little nutritional knowledge or will, they consistently choose packaged junk. Since we ultimately are the product of our habits and in fact, of our parents' habits and theirs before them, it makes sense that this might happen. Especially, as I think Dr. Cate Shanahan (Deep Nutrition) says, we are born with whatever genetic robustness our parents had as a starting point. In the 1950's even if people were poor, maybe they were more likely to be healthy because they still bought real food and perhaps even grew it themselves. So their children's health wasn't compromised at birth. The farther we get from that generation-wise, the more messed up a person is likely to be. I am totally paraphrasing here, but it was a human example of Pottinger's cats.
I don't know if anyone has read Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickled and Dimed," but it explains very clearly why someone trying to get by on minimum wage would not have the time or ability to cook real food. They are most likely working two jobs, hence have little time, and may live somewhere with no kitchen, or not ever have the money all at once to invest in pots and pans, etc...And perhaps most importantly, they might not have the example from their parents of feeding themselves real food. Given how much one's diet effects one's mind, this is just incredibly sad.
I know that the OP is not just talking about poverty/education and I will say that some portion of my wealthy students seem to get fatter and fatter each year too, though they do not look deformed which could be because they are getting fatter on better food. I think there is a cultural laziness that has crept in as well that just makes things worse. Then there are people like us who actively care deeply, and sometimes fanatically, about our well-being and will do what it takes to optimize it. Perhaps over time we will see a dramatic health polarization in the population.
Pretty much all of the research suggests that there is very little we can do to change where and how we store fat.
Some modern research has shown that certain macros will encourage visceral fat loss, but it's a fairly small enhancement.
First, we as a people are fatter than we were 30 years ago, that's indisputable. So simply the fact that we are fatter gives a higher likelihood that you would see someone who is fatter than they were 30 years ago.
Second, women wear yoga pants, skirts at or above the knee, etc as socially acceptable attire (and btw, thank you for that). 30 years ago, it was socially acceptable to wear ankle length skirts/dresses which would have covered the cankles.
I would suggest that modern dress is much more likely the reason you have experiences a higher rate (that and perhaps differing observations due to your age)
I am always looking in people's carts or at their plates to see what they eat and how it affects their body composition. Not to disparage, but it doesn't look all that good most of the time.
I've wondered about the same thing myself. Perhaps it's because it's only been in recent years that there have been so many of these people to observe, but I see I lot of really strangely shaped overweight and obese people. Like women who could probably fit their thighs into my pants, but right at the waist and stomach they balloon outwards with an astonishing amount of fat.
Although we can't really change our programming about how we store fat by changing what we eat later in life, I think it's plausible that what we eat early in life could influence how we become programmed to store fat. So in that sense, eating a crappy diet as a child could predispose one to having an odd or undesirable body composition.
Cankles though, I think that's a phenomenon that's always existed. I've seen them in old photos, even on thin women.
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