1. Explain how learning to manage excess or prolonged stress can help prevent obesity. 2. Why do you think that today more men are suffering from weight gain than before? How does culture play a...
1. Explain how learning to manage excess or prolonged stress can help prevent obesity.
2. Why do you think that today more men are suffering from weight gain than before? How does culture play a role in this change?
Obesity is more common now than it was in early parts of human history for several reasons. The first reason is availability of food. For most of human history getting adequate amounts of food was difficult; starvation was far more common than obesity. While the neolithic agricultural transition slowly led to food surpluses at some times and in some cultures, that did not mean that every person had enough to eat for the entire year. Moreover, even when food existed it was not easily available in the same way that fast food is today. Making bread required harvesting grains, milling them, and cooking them, not just driving to the store.
Even more importantly, lacking the modern technologies of food production meant that obtaining food took considerable physical effort. In hunter-gatherer societies gathering food involved walking long distances to hunt animals or find plants. In agricultural societies there was the physical labor of tending and harvesting crops.
Another point is that life before the invention of modern technology was far more physically strenuous, meaning that one tended to burn off whatever calories one consumed. In modern society, on the other hand, food is widely available in large quantities and can be obtained with minimal physical effort. Most work no longer involved physical effort but rather is sedentary, meaning that we do not burn off the calories we consume. Our entertainments have also become more sedentary, as television, video games, and social media replace outdoor sports.
Stress contributes to obesity in two ways. The first is that cortisol, a hormone released when we experience stress, tends to make it easier to gain weight and harder to lose weight. A second connection is what is called "emotional eating." Many people tend to overeat or binge on food as a way of coping with stress or negative emotions. For these two reasons, reducing or better coping with stress can help reduce obesity.