Back in the good old days – when feeding yourself meant pursuing herds of buffalo with spears – eating and exercise were interlinked. The more you sweat over tracking, killing and foraging for food, the more of a feast you could expect to enjoy. But modern society has changed all that. First there was agriculture, then factory farming, and now a system so complex and bizarre it produces fluorescent green jello, two aisles down from the rib eye steak.
Human ingenuity has outsourced the procurement, preparation and manufacturing of food to an unprecedented degree. Coupled with countless other trends — like the explosion of service industry jobs which demand next to no physical activity — it creates the perfect storm to disconnect diet and physical health from everyday life. Most of the world today lives in a sort of paradox where “life” isn’t necessarily conducive to (or representative of) “health” the way it once was. Instead, health and fitness often relies on conscious decision-making, and of course, lots of effort to sustain.
That’s where so many people fall through the cracks. Finding the time and energy to pursue fitness is a monumental task in itself, and sustaining it is no easier. But when we compare obesity rates among different countries, it becomes clear that fitness is far more complex than personal decision making. Why, for example, does Sweden have only around half the rates of 0besity of the world’s worst countries, at 16.6%? Or why does Japan have an astoundingly low rate of 4.5%? The only explanation is that a society’s cornerstones —culture, economy and legislation come to mind — all have profound influences on its population’s fitness levels.
The 10 countries listed here represent the worst case scenarios for obesity in 2014. These global-high rates, correlated by the latest Social Progress Index, locate where staggering populations struggle to keep the pounds off around the globe.
10. Trinidad and Tobago: 30% of population
Yes, we begin with a massive rate of nearly 1 in 3 people in this twin island country. Recent studies by the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute show obesity in Trinidad and Tobago, particularly among children, has exploded in a stunningly short time which just happens to coincide with the rise of the fast food industry in this region of the world. Moreover, this is likely just the tip of the iceberg; there are estimates of $5 billion a year (and rising) in obesity medical costs in this, the world’s fattest Caribbean country.