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Abstract

The percentage of Americans who are obese has doubled since 1980. Most attempts to explain this “obesity epidemic” have been found inadequate, including the “Big Two” (the increased availability of inexpensive food and the decline of physical exertion). This article explores the possibility that the obesity epidemic is substantially due to growing insecurity, stress, and a sense of powerlessness in modern society where high-sugar and high-fat foods are increasingly omnipresent. Those suffering these conditions may suffer less control over other domains of their lives. Insecurity and stress have been found to increase the desire for high-fat and high-sugar foods. After exploring the evidence of a link between stress and obesity, the increasing pace of capitalism's creative destruction and its generation of greater insecurity and stress are addressed. The article ends with reflections on how epidemic obesity is symptomatic of a social mistake—the seeking of maximum efficiency and economic growth even in societies where the fundamental problem of material security has been solved.