The Ecology of Humans (61-1) Overeating, Obesity


A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch. ~ American chef James Beard (who was fat and fond of tarts)

Obesity was once a symbol of wealth, but never of health: at least not to those who knew what health was.


Body mass index (BMI) is a rough way to assess the healthiness of body weight. BMI is derived by dividing weight (kg) by height2 (m2). BMI does not actually measure body fat. It is only a gross approximation.

16 to 20 BMI is by far the healthiest BMI. Women naturally have more fat than men, so a slightly higher BMI is expected for a healthy woman.

A person with a BMI over 25 is overweight; 30 or above indicates obesity.

Developed in the 1830s by Belgian polymath Adolphe Quetelet, BMI became popular in the early 1950s, as obesity became more common in prosperous Western societies. The singular cause: overeating.

A better indicator of health regarding weight is the waistline. A waist that measures less than half one’s height is healthy. A bulging gut is a surefire formula for health problems.

The best way to know if you have an unneeded padding of fat is to feel the abdomen for it, front and back. The less fat the better.


Gaining weight is easy. Just 10 extra calories a day drove a 9 kg (20 lb) gain in the average American’s weight from 1980 to 2010. Not exercising surely helps. People in the Collective who live for comfort habitually overeat and do little otherwise to stay healthy.

Converse to the ease of eating too much, losing weight is an exercise in discipline that the overweight seldom possess. As extra flesh is added, a person’s maintenance diet creeps up correspondingly, as does appetite. A 9-kg gain comes with 220 more calories for daily maintenance. Losing weight means consuming much less.

Short bursts of weight loss are typical of dieters, who then relapse into old comforts, and eventually resign themselves to being heavier: living the ancient Chinese curse: “may you gain a few pounds each year.”

Overeating in childhood spawns more fat cells. Even if an adolescent later slims down, the extra fat cells remain.

As a habitual practice, overeating has a dulling effect on the senses and activity, both physically and mentally. This is readily apparent observing the effects of a single meal of overconsumption.

Habits have cumulative effect. The human body pays an enormous fat tax: a stunted existence that contrasts with the girth. Being fat provides all sorts of disadvantages. Excess weight makes one slow in every sense: physically and mentally, limiting both mobility and acuity.


Contemporary lifestyle is associated with a tide of metabolic abnormalities characterized by a core of excessive body fat accumulation. ~ French geneticist Emmanuelle Le Chatelier et al

The rate of obesity worldwide doubled in the 3 decades from 1980 to 2010. The rate of global child obesity rose 60% 1990–2010. 1/3rd of Americans are obese, and over 70% are overweight. Brits are not far behind. Over 30% of the people in the world are foolishly fat.

In the last 3 decades, not one country has reduced obesity rates. ~ American physician and health economist Christopher Murray in 2014

Obese children more often develop sleep apnea: pauses in breathing while sleeping. This happens when thicker tissues in the throat and neck sag, partly blocking the windpipe. Sleep apnea starves the brain of oxygen and heightens the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Less oxygen gets to the brain if overweight, dumbing one down. Further, obesity adds pressure on the fluid around the brain, lowering mental acuity as well as impairing vision. Obesity subtly diminishes memory and other facets of thinking and reasoning, even among otherwise seemingly healthy humans. A likely mechanism for these cognitive deficits is deterioration to the white matter sheathing that interconnects the brain’s information processing regions. The more obese, the greater the damage.

A thick layer of abdominal fat insulates and heats internal organs, cooking them. Such chronic overheating accelerates aging and promotes cellular dysfunction.

Fat deposits in the chest wall press against the lungs and diaphragm, making it harder for the lungs to expand and suck in oxygen. Obese people can feel out of breath standing still.

Obesity affects both the function and structure of the heart. Excess weight expands total blood volume, forcing the heart to work harder. Over-exercised, the heart muscle thickens. The heart’s pumping action becomes even more difficult.

High blood pressure is a common facet of being overweight. Overexertion leading to heart attack is the #1 way that fat folk die.

The body’s regulatory system goes awry in the overweight, as does the sense of taste. Lean people can taste the oil and fat in food. The body provides feedback of such rich-food intake. But the obese do not get the message. They are desensitized to fatty foods, and do not receive healthy hormonal feedback to stop consumption.

Insulin, manufactured by the pancreas, regulates metabolism, and thus provides energy to cells. Insulin fails to work normally in the obese. Fat people require more insulin, leading to diabetes, which inflames blood vessels and shortens life. Humans with type-2 diabetes can expect only 20 years of life left.

Obesity causes gallstones. Gallbladder metabolism is affected, increasing the cholesterol in the liquid bile that digests fats in food.

Fatty liver disease is commonly found in adults who are boozers or indulge in high-fat diets. The disease is also common in the obese. Fatty liver disease causes recurrent abdominal pain, infection, and fatigue. Long term, fatty liver disease scars the liver, causes cirrhosis and, ultimately, liver failure, if not liver cancer in the meantime.

Not only are Americans eating too much, they are eating garbage. 1/3rd eat more packaged food than fresh. 25% get sick at least once a year from what they eat. It’s no wonder considering that Americans eat, on average, 4 kilos of chemical food additives each year. High fructose corn syrup is the common sweetener in soft drinks and packaged foods. Over half of that syrup is laced with mercury.

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The biological dynamics of overeating are strong. The human system is programmed to overeat, although not to the point of obesity. Overeating not just an evolutionary hangover from leaner times; it is also an important aspect of spiritual evolution.

Discipline is an essential aspect of enlightened existence. The path to enlightenment is blocked by fat. Staying sharp and gaining personal power requires staying lean and keeping in shape. Biology is an imperative to the Collective, but an obstacle to one seeking holistic understanding and contentment. One on the path to enlightenment tempers biological drives with the will toward a healthy, full life.