Some experts in the medical and scientific communities believe that is indeed the problem. Others have linked our fat epidemic to something a little closer to home - a lack of sleep.
There is growing evidence that not getting proper sleep is one of the primary culprits for our growing national waistline. It appears that not getting enough sleep will literally drive you to eat.
Nothing makes me crave sugary or salty carbs more than sleep deprivation. Even though I know better, whenever I have not had my proper rest, I look for that quick jolt that only a satisfying piece of chocolate can deliver. Of course the boost is temporary. I crash shortly thereafter and look for the next quick jolt - until I come to my senses and just go to sleep.
You might be surprised to know that as our waistlines have expanded, there has been a significant decrease in the number of hours that we sleep. Despite all of our purported productivity gadgets, we're less productive and spend more hours awake trying to get things done than in the past.
According to the latest research, we've lost about 90 minutes of total sleep a night. In the 1900s, on average, people slept for nine hours; now it's down to less than seven hours.
What's fascinating is that about 10 years ago, researchers discovered that getting less than six hours of sleep per night significantly increased the likelihood of obesity. When sleep levels fell below seven or eight hours, participants' body-mass index (BMI) crept up.
In 2006, researchers in Britain discovered that sleep deprivation increased child and adult obesity twofold. The University of Warwick study looked at 28,000 children and 15,000 adults and found that diminished sleep not only increased participants' BMI, but also increased their waist circumference and left them at greater odds for becoming obese over time.
Apparently, sleep deprivation increases the appetite and plays havoc with our hormones. Lack of sleep produces the hormone ghrelin, which increases the appetite.
When you think about it, this makes sense. Our bodies have a natural clock called the circadian rhythm. As the sun comes up we are at our strongest; when the sun goes down, so do we.
Despite our best efforts, we simply cannot override Mother Nature. Well, we can, but there are consequences.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average American male standing just under 5 feet 10 weighs 194.7 pounds, with a waist of 39.7 inches. The average American woman, just shy of 5 feet 4 inches, is 165 pounds, with a waist of 37 inches.
It appears that the keys to our obesity and health problems lie in low-tech solutions like getting proper rest. Lifestyle choices everything.
On a lighter note, isn't it refreshing to know that if we create the right conditions, our bodies' internal wisdom has the ability to restore and heal us? This spring, let's create the right conditions and let the healing begin.
Body After Baby Week 5
If you are tight on time, as many moms are, here's a routine that will not only get your fat engine burning, but work on your strength, too. This routine is simple but challenging.
_ Begin with 10 to 20 squats.
_ Next, do 10 to 20 push-ups (you can do the modified version on your knees or against a wall).
_ 10 to 20 crunches.
_ Wall-sit for 10 to 20 seconds.
_ Hold yourself in plank position (top of a push-up) for 10 to 20 seconds.
_ Do 10 to 20 side-to-side crunches.
_ Do 10 to 20 alternating lunges.
_ Follow with 10 to 20 chair dips.
_ Finish with 10 to 20 mountain-climbers. This is an old-fashioned exercise that works the core, abs, hamstrings and quads.
You begin in the plank position, and the upper body remains in this position throughout the exercise. The fun begins when you alternate bringing one knee to your chest, letting the foot rest on ground and then quickly change feet, hopping the other knee up to your chest. A modified version takes out the hop, so you simply alternate the feet up and back.
If you are a beginner, start with a set of 10 reps; intermediates do two sets of 15; and if you're one tough momma, do three sets of 20.
Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1
ultimate fitness.com). Email her at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears Thursdays in Yo!