The Link Between Depression and Obesity

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The China Study" by Colin Campbell. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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The most famous disease of Western affluence is obesity, a symbol of our privilege and the excesses it fosters. Why are Americans so fat?

Many people want to blame sugar or fat, and the American sweet tooth and addiction to refined foods certainly play their parts. But are there other, more significant reasons Americans are overweight? As we’ve made a collective effort to cut down on sugars and fats, our rates of obesity have continued to climb. Why are Americans overweight? Learn the surprising factors.

America’s Obesity Problem

More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight, and one-third are obese, and this isn’t just a problem for adults. Obesity in children is on the rise as well. Of children ages 6 to 11, 18% are overweight, and of children ages 12 to 19, 21% are overweight. A further 15% are at risk of becoming overweight.

Aside from making many everyday tasks uncomfortable or painful, obesity is a problem because it’s linked to numerous health issues, including diabetes and heart disease.

How We Treat Obesity in America

Going on diets and popping weight-loss pills have become national pastimes. In 2006, we spent $147-$210 billion on obesity-related medical treatments and an additional $60 billion out-of-pocket on weight-loss programs and supplements. So why are Americans so fat?

Problem #1: We rely on gimmicks.

Everyone wants a quick fix, and companies know that to get customers, they need to promise rapid results.

And sometimes, we can lose weight quickly from certain diets, pills, and methods. But these programs often damage our health (and our waistlines) in the long run.

Problem #2: We think of obesity as independent of other diseases.

This takes the issue of obesity out of its context. If we try to treat obesity without taking into account the diseases linked with it, we’ll end up less healthy overall, and probably still won’t weigh less than before.

Problem #3: We place too much emphasis (and blame) on genetics.

Researchers have identified several genes thought to be related to obesity. Their aim is to control weight by developing a drug that inactivates these genes.

But blaming obesity on genes is unproductive. At the moment, we can’t control these genes, and believing that obesity is our fate keeps us from adopting healthy lifestyle changes that minimize our disease risks and help us lose weight.

Problem #4: We eat too many animal products.

Let’s see why cutting them out may be the secret to solving the obesity epidemic.

The Solution to Our Obesity Problem

As we’ve all heard before, diet and exercise are the keys to weight loss. But we may not have tried a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet.


Studies show that a plant-based diet is effective for long-term weight loss. For example, vegetarians and vegans weigh five to thirty pounds less than their meat-eating fellows. Additionally, BMI decreases the longer you’ve been a vegetarian or vegan.

Participants in intervention studies who ate low-fat, whole-food, primarily plant-based diets:

  • Lost two to five pounds in 12 days.
  • Lost ten pounds in three weeks.
  • Lost 16 pounds in 12 weeks.
  • And lost 24 pounds in a year.

Our insistence that meat be part of every meal may answer the question, “Why are Americans so fat?”


Studies show that exercising for 15-45 minutes a day, every day, will help you lose 11-18 pounds and keep those pounds off. Daily chores like grocery shopping and vacuuming count—you can burn 100-800 calories per activity.

As we change the way we approach weight loss and start transitioning to diets that are plant-based, the world may eventually stop asking, “Why are Americans overweight?”

Why Are Americans So Fat? 4 Reasons You Haven’t Considered

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of "The China Study" at Shortform . Learn the book's critical concepts in 20 minutes or less .

Here's what you'll find in our full The China Study summary :

  • Why animal proteins (meat, milk) might cause cancer, diabetes, and other diseases
  • Why the medical institution is structured to hide the truth about disease and food
  • The precise diet you'll need to eat to live longer and feel happier

Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn is a writer and reading specialist. She’s published dozens of articles and book reviews spanning a wide range of topics, including health, relationships, psychology, science, and much more. Amanda was a Fulbright Scholar and has taught in schools in the US and South Africa. Amanda received her Master's Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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