There are still women out there who are being told they only need 1200 calories a day to get by and be healthy. These same women are told to have meals with "healthy" whole grain wheat products and skim milk.
Men are being told to go low fat to avoid cardiovascular disease, and consequently, they are going high carbohydrate (translation: high sugar). Strangely enough, heart attacks are in the increase.
People are told that it's just a matter of "calories in versus calories out" and therefore, if you gain weight or can't lose weight it's because you're weak, slothly, and lack inner motivation.
Sugars Make You Fat
Fat doesn't make you fat. Sugars make you fat. The idea that you could absorb dietary fat and it would just float into your system and stick to your belly and thighs is a really simplistic view of human digestion and metabolism. And while simplistic is nice for the layman, that is just not how nature created us.
Most have heard that insulin spikes in response to sugar intake (and when I say sugar, I mean ALL soluble carbohydrates, from table sugar, to high fructose corn syrup, to starch, to any wheat or grain product). Insulin is a storage hormone, so this higher it spikes, the more of what you eat is going to be pushed into storage cells. Since the liver and muscles can only hold so much glucose, the rest is going into your fat cells.
Sugars Are Addictive
Studies in the past five years have shown that sugar, and anything sweet, activate the same brain receptors as cocaine and heroin. And just like those illicit drugs, they give you sense of well being immediately after consumption, but over time you need more and more to reach that same "high". People eat emotionally the same way someone with a drug habit will turn back to the rock when things get tough in life.
Funny thing is, many will also experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit cold turkey. The cravings get intense. Mood disorders come on strong, some people get shaky and queasy. And since poor eating isn't illegal and seen as morally corrupt as drug use, it's much easier to get your next fix at the nearest gas station or vending machine. It's HARD to quit!
It Is Less the Number of Calories as it is the TYPE of Calories
We see over and over how people in low income neighborhoods, people who are less than poor, people who can barely get enough to eat are obese. These are also often the people with hard working, blue collar jobs, so they are plenty active. These people aren't eating too many calories, these people are eating the wrong calories, which unfortunately, are usually the cheapest calories.
In the documentary "Killer at Large", a person goes into a grocery store with a dollar and the mission to get as many calories as possible. They could only get a few hundred calories in the form of carrots, but they could get nearly a thousand calories in the snack isle. If you have little money, and a family to feed, where are you going with your dollar?
This is only getting worse, as many of these cheap foods are chock full of HFCS. These "foods" are cheaper than the real deal. Our country is battling an obesity epidemic. And the government is subsidizing corn farmers. What the what? Yeah, the same government that is trying to get us to eat healthy, albeit usually in the wrong way, is also subsidizing the industry that is aiding our epidemic in the first place.
I'm going to write a follow up on this, but in the meantime, here are some resources to follow up on.
If you want to know more about how sugars and other carbohydrates not only make you fat, but wreck all kinds of havoc on your health, I recommend the following books:
1) Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes
2) The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
3) The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson