Why Didn't Junk Food Cause Obesity In The Past?

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This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Gwen Sawchuk.

I grew up in a semi-rural area, the child of homesteaders. We had food. Food was never good or bad, it was on the table, and you ate until you were full.

We ate very well, but worked for that food. 

My mother had a huge chicken coop, so lots of eggs and chicken.

We planted and harvested about 2 acres of fruits and vegetables of all kinds that could grow in our area. My father had a greenhouse about the size of a single car garage, so we were able to extend a growing season. 

Summer weekends were spent in the bush, picking all sorts of wild berries.  We made our own jams, jellies, cordials, chutneys, different kinds of pickles, canned fruits and berries.

obese Obesity is truly systemic, according to researchers. JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images)

We processed veggies for use during the winter. This involved sterilizing jars, picking and cleaning foods, slicing, dicing, blanching food, boiling sealing jars, bagging and freezing.

My father bought the rest of the food we couldn't grow or source naturally.

Sundays, we always had a huge roast, all kinds of roasted root veggies, and devil's food cake with 7-minute frosting. Most often, dessicated coconut was also put in the frosting.

During the week, a normal meal was soup, meat and 2 veg, salad, some kind of pickle, and dessert. Dessert was usually fruit, either fresh or home canned in heavy syrup, and ice cream. 

When I was young, our home had a wood stove - so fire wood had to be chopped. We didn't have running water, so water had to be carried by bucket. We had a coal furnace, so coal had to be shoveled in, several times a day, outside of the summer months. 

Because we didn't have running water, we used an outhouse, which was in the far corner of the property. Even going to the toilet, you walked half a block each way. 

When I started kindergarten, the school was almost 2 km away from my home (just over a mile). The only time you were allowed to stay at school for lunch is if the temperature was colder than a high of 0F (-18c). So most days, I walked about 8km, just to go to school and back (x2).

The girls all played jump rope at recess. Do children still do that? 

We very rarely ate outside our home, except as guests at other people's homes. When we would go on camping vacations, our first meal out, and last meal coming home would be KFC - the real stuff they used to make with the cream gravy. So if that is the fast food we had, we had it twice a year. 

We used to get a bottle of soda when we went to Grandma's house. That was about every second week. But we used sugar like crazy. Tea and coffee always had at least 2 tsp of sugar in it. Canned fruit was all in heavy syrup. When the large bottles of cola began to be sold, they were terrifically expensive. The 2 quart bottle was over $4. Considering the first apartment I ever rented a couple of years later was $125/month - you can see what a luxury item Coca Cola was. 

Basically, I would say we ate very well. There were plenty of treats, but we were always walking, running and working in the yard. Even the simple things took a lot of work. There was no turning on the tap, that water had to be hauled into the house.

So what I would say is this. Previously, there was little junk food. My mother even made home made marshmallow.  Food was processed at home or in restaurants (eg. no pre-formed patties)  There was no plastic sort of food, such as Cool Whip (introduced in 1966)

People didn't eat away from home very much. People had to work much harder for food. People worked and walked much more in their lives. 

The food of the past is very different than the food of today.

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