Phil Carville: Why weight? |

Phil Carville: Why weight?

Phil Carville
Fitness Columnist
Phil Carville

Fifty years ago, we were a rather lean nation. Today we are a fat nation.

In the last century, our national obesity rate jumped tenfold — from one in 30 a hundred years ago, to one in three today.


All kinds of theories have been advanced: the “built environment,” “a car society,” “lack of willpower,” et cetera. While all these are contributing factors, there is one overriding factor that is fundamental to our national obesity pandemic — the packaged food industry.

In the 1960s most meals were prepared at home. The average housewife spent hours each day shopping, preparing, and cooking food.

In the 1970s there was a revolution in the food industry. Technological advances allowed manufacturers to mass prepare and distribute “foodstuffs” for immediate consumption. New preservatives, artificial flavors, flash freezing, vacuum packaging and a relatively new national transportation system allowed them to mass produce ready made edibles, which had an enormous competitive and financial advantage over fresh and perishable foods.


We could look at hundreds of examples: Coca Cola, the Big Mac, et cetera, but let’s just take at two examples.

The Twinkie: If my mother wanted to bake cupcakes in the 1950s, it took considerable time and effort… and they were good. But today, the sugar and fat filled Twinkie cupcake sits in its unrefrigerated, plastic package as an impulse item at the grocery shelf and the checkout counter. Its price is less than a dollar — its health cost is incalculable.

The Potato: In the 1960s French fries were made from scratch with all the peeling, cutting and grease splatters. They were a limited treat at home, or a delicacy served occasionally with a lunch meal at a French restaurant. Today they are mechanized, massed produced, and distributed at -40 degrees to a million fast food stores and grocery frozen food sections.

The increase in potato production since the 1970s is all in French fries and potato chips.


Why has the food industry foisted dangerous foodstuffs upon the hapless consumer and made us so unhealthy? Did you guess the answer? Profits?

Natural foods or simple processed items like canned beans are referred to in the food business as “commodities.” They have slim margins and are often sold as “loss leaders” at below cost to attract shoppers into the store — with the hope that those shoppers will then buy “value-added” products with higher margins.

Those “value-added” items are the over-processed, fatty, sugary and salted concoctions with artificial flavors, preservatives, additives and excessive calories. The cost of these “value-added” items is artificially low because we, taxpayers, give billions of dollars in subsidies to the sugar, corn and soybean industries.

These subsidies are changing the way we eat. The meat, egg, dairy, corn oil, soda and other industries have made processed foods so cheap that natural foods find it difficult to compete.


We too often blame ourselves for being overweight — insecurities, fat-shaming and loss of self-esteem are the results. But we are also victims of the food industry.

Our national rise in obesity is directly related to the rise in consumption of refined grain products and added sugars and fats in our national diet. Added sugars and added fats are now the major sources of calories in the American diet.


Once we recognize the causes of our individual weight problems, we can do something about it.

The answer is to change our diet to more natural foods. Yes, it is hard to change. More fruit and salads! Fewer packaged and frozen meals! Your own broiled chicken instead of a bucket of KFC nuggets!

These are new habits are difficult to create, but you can do it. Eat well and exercise. Your life will change. You will be happier, more vital, more physical, more active, and less sick.

Next month, I will tell you how not to approach the weight loss epidemic — the $50 billion/year “diet industry,” which is primarily built on bald-faced lies.

Wishing you, all the best.

Phi Carville is a co-owner of the South Yuba Club. He is happy to respond to questions or comments. He can be reached at

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