Weight Loss Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4628 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 23  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Health - Nutrition


The United States has been criticized by doctors, researchers and government officials as being one of the fattest and unhealthy countries in the world. Our population currently faces numerous problems regarding health issues, weight loss, and now childhood obesity. Historian Harvey Levenstein (1988) contends that the most dramatic changes in the American diet occurred between 1880 and 1930. These changes were a result of many sociological factors and technological advances, including the development of the modern cooking range; the advent of new ways to preserve food; and the birth of our modern processed food industry. Levenstein (1988) also states that the greatly expanded food supply that resulted from the settling of the American West to be another factor, as well as Prohibition. This paper will examine the problems in the way Americans eat with a brief historical background of food consumption in the United States. It will also address various sub-topics of health and weight loss, including exercise, diets, diet pills, nutrition and food, surgical options and attributable health issues.

Brief Overview of the American Diet

Americans living in the thirty-four years between 1880 and World War I experienced radical changes in the food industry. The Midwest began producing great quantities of wheat and dairy that were shipped via railroad to the East.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Weight Loss Assignment

A greater amount of food production meant the need for new technology to enhance preservation. Giant food corporations emerged and manufactured processed foods that were accepted by all classes. Around 1900 a giant sugar corporation mounted a successful campaign to denigrate brown sugar. Consumers were already convinced that white products were superior to brown ones. Even the poorest farmers gave up their consumption of molasses and homemade sorghum, while workers abandoned their intake of molasses and brown sugar. In the thirty-five years between 1880 and 1915, the per capita consumption of white refined sugar doubled. Historically speaking, these events were the beginning of a sugar-consuming, unhealthy population.

By 1930, Prohibition had been in effect for ten years. Prohibition caused many fine restaurants whose liquor sales provided the majority of their revenue to close down. The French chefs hired by the upper class and elegant restaurants were either living on the streets or buying their tickets to return home. In their absence, small diners catering to the lunch hour market quickly appeared. These luncheonettes and self-service cafeterias served canned foods, soft drinks, salads, cold dishes, and sandwiches on toast. Levenstein (1988) shows the great changes that took place in American restaurants since Prohibition, with the disappearance of the menu with unpronounceable French names giving way to the Americanized menu. Trained chefs were replaced by unskilled laborers could easily open a can and heat its contents. This was literally the beginning of the fast food industry, and changes in the diet were largely due to the economic differences in the upper and lower classes. As a result of the costly refining process, white flour and white sugar were more expensive. Molasses and brown sugar were more common in the middle and lower income families. The upper classes consumed more red meat and other more expensive items than the poorer classes who could not afford the variety of fine meats.

The American Diet Shift

Thus, the shift in the American diet can be attributed to the changes that took place in the various decades. In 1880, people were eating authentic food that was prepared from scratch. In 1930, people were eating more processed food, including canned and fresh vegetables that were unavailable or cost prohibitive in 1880. To be "pleasingly plump" was in style, and it was not until decades later that the super slim models took over the runway, and being thinner was "better." In the 2000's the goal of being thinner became of widespread importance in the U.S., and thin role models and celebrities are plastered all over the television, movies and magazines. Childhood obesity has been raised as a significant problem in the past few years for the first time. Fast food giants such as McDonald's have been blamed as the cause of this epidemic. Miracle diets, diet pills and surgical options to weight loss have appeared out of nowhere and have become a fad. People have followed the footsteps of celebrities, and have turned to fast-remedies such as stomach stapling and liposuction. The United States has turned into an obese country where ironically, everyone is on a diet or trying to lose weight as soon as possible.


Recent media reports have publicized the short-term weight loss that sometimes occurs through the use of low carbohydrate weight-loss diets (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 2006). The theory behind low-carbohydrate diets is that if dieters avoid foods containing carbohydrates, or starch and sugars, they will lose pounds. An example of one such diet is the Atkins diet. This diet drastically restrict the intake of fruit, fruit juice, starchy vegetables, beans, bread, rice, cereals, pasta and other grain products, and all other foods containing carbohydrate, leaving a limited diet of foods that contain primarily fat and protein: meat, cheese, and vegetables. As the diet proceeds, the carbohydrate restriction relaxes somewhat, but fatty, high-protein foods continue to dominate the dieter's plate. For example, one would begin with a breakfast of 4 slices of bacon, coffee, and 2 scrambled eggs. Lunch would consist of 1 bacon cheeseburger, with no bun, 2 slices of bacon, 1 ounce of American cheese, a small tossed salad with no dressing, and seltzer water. Dinner would consist of 3 ounces of shrimp cocktail with mustard and mayonnaise, 1 cup of soup, a 6-ounce T-bone steak, a tossed salad, 1 cup of Jell-O, 1 cup of whipped cream, and a beverage of choice. The maintenance diet would consist of a more relaxed restriction, but still include fatty, high-protein foods.

The Atkins Diet

The Atkins diet has received criticisms over the years, and a review of 107 research studies on various low-carbohydrate, high-protein weight-loss diets concluded that weight loss on these diets is not due to any special effect of restricting carbohydrate; rather, weight loss depended on the extent to which the dieters' caloric intake fell and how long they continued with their regimens (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 2006). Other reports have also found calorie reduction to be the most important factor in weight loss, with no special weight-loss advantage from the restriction of carbohydrates. A review on the safety of low-carbohydrate diets notes that Atkins-type diets are at a greater risk for being nutritionally inadequate and raise the issue of potential long-term health effects (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 2006). Long-term studies of the general population following a variety of diets and short-term studies of individuals on low-carbohydrate diets raise important concerns, such as colon cancer, which is one of the most common forms of cancer in North America and Europe and is among the leading causes of cancer-related mortality. Other concerns include heart disease, since weight loss tends to reduce cholesterol levels, while saturated fat and cholesterol tend to raise them. Studies of the Atkins diet and other low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets have not been of sufficient duration to evaluate their potential to affect kidney function (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 2006).

The South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet is another extremely fashionable nutrition plan based on many of the same low-carbohydrate principles first popularized by the Atkins diet, and named after one of the most-beautifully populated beaches. However, the diet's main selling point is it's comparative flexibility; followers are allowed to eat some grains and fruit, which are strongly discouraged in Atkins (the South Beach Diet Review, 2006). The South Beach Diet still contains numerous restrictions that leave many dieters feeling deprived and depressed a result of carbohydrate restriction. While "good carbs" are allowed with South Beach, dieters must forgo to potatoes, fruit, bread, cereal, rice, pasta, beets, carrots, and corn for the first two weeks, and after that, most of these foods remain strongly discouraged (the South Beach Diet Review, 2006). After a severe 14-day induction phase, banned foods are slowly reintroduced, until the person reaches their target weight, after which a few basic guidelines apply. The diet is based on the observation that Americans are addicted to their carbs. By breaking this cycle, the South Beach diet promises not only to make you want to eat less food, but better food. According to the South Beach Diet Review (2006), not only is it risky to lose so much weight in such a short amount of time, many dieters are likely to go right back to their old favorites once they return to less restricted eating habits.

Diet Pills

Prescription Diet Pills

Diet pills have recently become a new craze for those trying to lose weight, because they are very tempting to those that have tried several other diets without success. However, many diet pills are fraudulent, and even the most natural-sounding diet pills or weight loss supplements can be attributable to dangerous weight loss. There are typically… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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