Eating too much is the other extreme. In fact, overweight and obesity has been declared one of the biggest causes for deadly heart diseases or stroke in the world! Obesity is not just a problem in rich countries; even in poor countries, one can find obese and undernourished people living in the same household. By 2015, the World Health Organization projects that 2.3 billion people will be overweight and 700 million people will be obese.
Too many food choices and the conveniences of modern life are now endangering our very lives. This is particularly true in the United States. On one hand, good and safe food products are relative inexpensive, available everywhere and served in large portions. On the other hand, everyday conveniences have enabled most people to spend as little physical energy as possible. TV and computers can be found in most households and usage is very high (children as well as adults sit on an average 4 hours or more in front of screens, with very little physical activity). And even for those willing to walk or bike, there are not enough walking or biking trails in many cities or towns. As a result, 63% of people in the United States are overweight (these are 195 million people) and of these, 26% are obese (these are 78 million people). Although the United States has the most overweight and obese people, this trend has caught up in many other nations around the world, among them Canada and Germany.
To be sure, environmental factors are also influencing people's eating choices and behaviors. In low income areas of major cities, the availability of supermarkets with fresh foods and healthy food choices is limited, while fast food restaurants are abundant. In many schools, students can obtain high-calorie snacks, sodas or school lunches, but don't have enough hours of physical education to release all the food energy. Food companies or fast food restaurants are often blamed for the obesity crisis because they produce foods with unhealthy ingredients, offer oversized portions, or advertise unhealthy food choices on TV programs for children. (In response to this criticism, many food companies and fast food restaurants have recently added healthy food choices to their product assortment or menus and limited food advertising to children).
However, the debate about healthy and unhealthy foods may be misguided. In the end, it is up us as individuals to decide, what foods we like, how much we eat, how convenient we want to live and how much energy we want take in or release. Mindful eating makes a difference.