We spoke to the experts to find out what they see as the reasons behind the global obesity epidemic.
Recent studies suggest that by 2030, there will be 26 million people in the UK who are obese a rise of 73 percent from the current 15 million. Over in the US, it's predicted that there will be 65 million more obese adults by 2030, if trends continue. Here in Australia, one in four women are obese, while you'll probably be surprised to learn that a shocking seven out of 10 women in Tonga are obese.
We take a look at the reasons why we're getting fatter.
If an elderly relative or neighbour has ever regailed you with stories about how the youth of today have it so much easier, they might have a point many experts believe our increasingly sedentary lifestyles play a large part in the rising obesity rates.
"Lifestyles in general are becoming more and more sedentary," says Sara Dwyer, boot camp fitness instructor. "There are fewer people employed in physically demanding or manual jobs, and the situation is unlikely to change."
The processed problem
If last night's dinner consisted of a microwave meal, you're not alone.
"It's processed foods that cause most of the problems," says fitness consultant Kevin Witham. "For example, many people think breakfast cereals are healthy and yet they're often loaded with junk and are very processed, just like spreads. Additionally, low-fat diets usually make people fatter as fats are replaced by sugar. Take processed fizzy drinks there are recent studies showing that low-fat diet drinks make people more hungry so they eat more."
When was the last time you walked to the postbox, visited the post office or popped over to a friend's house just for a chat? With social networking and smart phones, we're able to carry out all these tasks without getting up from the sofa. "With the internet and other forms of communication such as social media and smart phones, more people are becoming dependent on this form of communication, which then leads the individuals away from an active lifestyle," points out Austan Torson, owner of the Utah Live-In Fitness Camp.
"They find themselves eating and snacking on unhealthy foods because of the convienence, and will consume more calories than they burn throughout the day.
We all know that too many carbs can leave us feeling bloated, but the bad news is that today's foods contain more processed carbohydrates than ever before. "In my opinion the rise in obesity is simply because we're eating way too many highly processed carbohydrates that have a high GL (glycaemic load)," says Tina Michelucci, author of The GL Diet.
"These, combined with saturated and trans fats are a deadly combination for our health. It's fine to eat lots of high GL foods if you're an athlete or training hard daily as you'll be using up all the glucose and energy these carbs provide, but if you have a high GL intake and are not burning these carbs off you'll gain weight."
Kebabs, burgers and takeaway pizzas may all look more appealing when we're short on time, but the decline in popularity of the home-cooked meal spells disaster for our waistlines, says dietician Nathalie Jones.
"People eat outside of the home more often," says Nathalie. "There's a shift away from homecooked meals that can be made healthier (with less added fat and more vegetables, for example), towards grabbing a ready-made sandwich for lunch or a takeaway on the way home from work both of which can contain two or three times as many calories as the home made versions."
According to Robert Houtman, managing director of National Slimming and Cosmetic Clinics in the UK, while the majority of overweight people would love to shed a few kilos, the problem is that they simply don't know how to. "Lack of dietary information is a huge problem," says Robert. "Very few diets actually teach you what you should be eating.
Instead they focus on the 'fast' weight loss. All these fad diets counting points or eating only protein or just cabbage soup have no educational value whatsoever. So, as soon as you stop the 'fad' diet you simply go back to your old eating habits."
How do you get to work? If it's under 15km, cycling to the office would probably take less than an hour, and save you huge amounts of cash while the health benefits are endless. "People are less active in their daily lives," points out Nathalie Jones. "Although many people have a gym membership, this only really covers around three hours of exercise a week for most people who would consider themselves regular gym users.
"I see more and more people who hardly walk anywhere, drive to their work, sit at a desk and then drive home again. Therefore their calorie expenditure is markedly reduced."
You only need to peer into a McDonald's and watch the hordes of teens chowing down on salt-laden fries and burgers to realise that too many people simply aren't aware of the effect such food can have. "There's a lack of education on the type of food to consume and the amount of those foods we should be eating on a daily basis," says boot camp director Iain Reitze.
"This education should start at a very young age so it can continue into the teens and eventually be passed on to their children also. For example, on average a male should consume around 2,500 calories a day to maintain weight but in the USA the average calorific consumption is currently 4,000 calories a day."
The evolution issue
Millions of years ago, organising an evening meal was a much more strenuous affair, while these days, microwaves, fast food outlets and takeaways mean preparing our food has never been easier or required such little effort. "Our bodies are still hardwired for a different and far tougher world, one where survival required finding food, a world when there might be periods of famine, followed by feast," points out nutritionist Angela Walker.
"In that type of environment, it's pretty helpful to have the type of hardwiring that favours storage during times of excess or feast that will help you survive through times of famine. In our current world, the food we are surrounded with doesn't necessarily meet the needs of the bodies we have."
According to nutritionist Victoria Wills, increasing numbers of people are relying on food as a crutch, and it's this area that the government needs to focus on. "The focus of the media and government is on education," points out Victoria. "There may be 1 percent of the population remaining for whom it will come as news that a carrot is a better choice for your health than a chocolate bar. The issue is not one of education. The issue is a much more emotional one than that.
"So many people use food to change their mood, to change the way they feel and to help themselves to feel better. Therefore the focus needs to shift away from education about food to education about different tools to help people manage moods and stress levels without using food."
The portion problem
Whether it's super-sized soft drinks or extra-large burgers, there's no denying that we're cramming more onto our plate than ever before. "Globally, there's a proven rise in portion sizes," says Jeffrey Lawton, a San Francisco-based nutritionist and personal chef who's worked with several high-profile celebrities. "Whether at home, a local eatery, or a fast food spot the sizes keep getting bigger. On a recent trip to Mexico I observed an obese eight-or-so-year-old boy carrying two 3 litre bottles of Coca Cola to the register with his family. Aside from the toxic ingredients in these products, they are designed to keep you wanting more.
The body needs balance and huge doses of sugar, fat, or salt keep us in a state where we are unable to truly identify food cravings. People want more bang for their buck but in turn they are actually getting more bang on their waistlines."