According to the World Health Organization, obesity has gone up nearly three times since 1975. By 2020, about 39 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese.
But looking back, the one thing that has changed tremendously between 1975 and now is technology. So you might wonder, “Is there a correlation between technology and obesity?” Keep reading to find out some of the ways technology and bodyweight intersect.
Technology Encourages a Sedentary Lifestyle
Technology has afforded us convenience to levels nobody could have imagined. You can do almost anything from the comfort of your home. For instance, if you need to research a new project, you no longer have to walk to the library. All information you might need is on the internet.
People no longer have to go out to meet friends and family — there are all forms of applications that support virtual meetings. Then there are video games. Kids no longer go outside to play as they used to in the past. Instead, they spend hours on end glued behind the screens, playing games or watching TV shows.
These extended periods of low energy expenditure contribute to obesity. It can, in turn, lead to other serious conditions such as joint pain, sleep apnea, and the risk of stroke.
Food Processing Technology – Hit or Miss?
The world’s population is growing by the day. That has necessitated the use of technology to ensure that people have enough to eat all year round. That’s where food processing comes in.
Ideally, food processing slows or stops food spoilage through ways like irradiation, freezing, and pickling. The processing goes a long way in enhancing the shelf life of food due to microorganism control and the removal of oxygen. However, nutrients are sometimes lost during processing and storage.
The increase in consumption of processed food is partly responsible for the rise in obesity cases. However, it’s almost impossible to separate Americans and ultra-processed foods. Most people work long hours, so they want a quick meal – preferably ready to eat or heat. So they pick foods like frozen pizza, soda, breakfast cereals, and salty snacks.
Besides, the pandemic drove a change in people’s purchasing behaviors. They wanted to shop less frequently since everybody was staying indoors. That meant shopping for items with a longer shelf life, such as macaroni and cheese and canned soups.
The pandemic period was tough on many people, so they turned to comfort ultra-processed foods. It is worth noting that eating more ultra-processed food is linked with poor diet quality and a higher risk of conditions like obesity. Luckily, there are professionals out there, like this site, that have dedicated their lives to helping people overcome obesity.
Social Media and Obesity
About 4.7 billion people use social media today. That’s about 59% of the world population. While social media platforms have made it possible for people to connect, despite geographical barriers, they have shortcomings. One of those shortcomings is obesity. There are so many ways to look at it.
To begin with, some people spend hours scrolling and hopping between one social media app to the other. This is the time they would otherwise spend on physical activities, like walking or swimming.
So that takes us back to the implications of a sedentary lifestyle-obesity. Most people will have some snacks nearby while scrolling — another problem.
Secondly, social media is a rabbit hole. The algorithms are so advanced that what you see is more interesting than the previous post — logging into social media before sleep ruins the chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
That’s because you get the sudden urge to keep scrolling. Besides, the blue light emitted by screens makes it even harder to fall asleep. Consequently, sleep deprivation causes irregular secretion of hormones like insulin, cortisol, and leptin. All these play a role in one’s appetite.
Then there is the issue of the overbearing presence of unrealistic body ideals on social media. Almost everyone on social media is “picture perfect”, which means skinny by the prevailing societal standards.
Perhaps these images are meant to reinforce the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. But in some contexts, they do more harm than good. Some social media users end up feeling dissatisfied with their bodies, and their self-esteem takes a hit. Consequently, their stress levels go up. Low self-esteem and high-stress levels are proposed to be antecedents to obesity.
Advertising Technology in the Food Industry
While marketers are not psychologists, they sure manipulate human behavior. Billions of dollars are pumped into digital marketing, so it’s safe to assume that it’s part of our lives now. Some of the messages these ads send are subtle yet powerful.
A good example is junk food advertising. And it goes beyond the conventional commercials on TV. For instance, you must have come across snack packaging with superheroes and popular movie characters. People, especially younger children, are vulnerable to these antics.
That’s not to mean that adults are safe from junk food advertising. Social media platforms are filled with ads from food and alcohol companies. It doesn’t end there. Fast-food joints have irresistible offers, such as free delivery and massive discounts on products.
The ads are so personalized with technology that you can’t miss them. Therefore, it becomes incredibly hard to avoid processed foods and other snacks.
Can Technology Fight Obesity?
Technology is a double-sided sword – it cuts both ways. While it’s true it affects obesity, technology can also help prevent it. For instance, technology can help people track their fitness goals.
Devices like smartwatches and smartphones can remind people to be active. Fitness information is also more readily available than ever before. Some fitness coaches go as far as sharing routines for free on the internet.
Others share nutritional advice to whoever is willing to listen. However, we can’t ignore the fact that there is an imbalance between healthy campaigns and junk food advertisements.
Thanks to technology, we also have convenient fitness equipment – with ease of use and portability. That means working out is not a reserve for a particular class.