to eat in a healthy way and maintain a healthy weight?
At my place of employment there is only one person who is not overweight. He doesn't eat all day long. I can't say what he does before and after work, but he doesn't eat 10 hours of the day.
Two of my best friends of 20 years have always been thin. Since I have known them, I have always seen them eat normally and regularly, in my presence. Both (separately) admitted to me in the past few years that they presently and have always had to starve themselves or take diet pills at least a few times a year to maintain their weight. I was shocked because I have known them for so long and it seemed so effortless from the outside.
Is it the US culture? Is it just the fact that food is available nearly at all times for most people? Something else? Combination?
There are many fit people at my work, and they eat (many of them, multiple times during the work day). I don't think you can put it down to US culture.
It is probably a variety of things, the size and habits of people you interact with, available food choices, sedentary lifestyle etc. I am old enough that I remember a time when most people in the US were not overweight. It is shocking how much bigger the population has become over my lifetime.
I think the problem lies in boredom, at least for me. People have trouble discerning the difference between boredom and hunger, and then eat to relieve the boredom. It's easy to do this by accident. I've found myself halfway to the kitchen before catching myself. Another problem is what we eat. If you overindulge on lettuce it's not a major problem, but most Americans would much rather pig out on chocolate, which will make you fat a lot more quickly.
I read a study where the daily calorie expenditure of a currently existing, primitive hunter- gatherer tribe in the jungle used the same number of average calories as we do in a day. The point? Our bodies are probably physiologically programmed to expend about the same number of calories we always do. What has changed is the availability of food.
I think of it as a ratio. Calories expended to get calories to consume. We need to expend 2 calories to go to the fridge and get a 100 calorie apple, while our ancestors had to invest a few hundred calories to find the tree, climb, pick, find a safe place to eat... 2:100 vs 300:100. It isn't sensible to burn all those calories for a little meal, so I imagine our ancestors didn't eat three balanced meals a day. They probably ate once, ate lots, and favoured foods with rib-sticking properties (like pizza! LOL)!
Your friends have managed to find a way to sustain a better energy expended for calories consumed ratio. I guess we calorie counters are too, one way or another!
I have no idea what the solution is for a whole society. I mean... how would you purposely go about making food less available or harder to get?
(Link to the study - http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F1 0.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0040503 )