Whip the battle of the bulge with these steps: Experts

More Americans are overweight than ever. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 35 percent of all Americans are considered obese, a problem that costs $190 billion per year, according to at least one estimate.

But why?

"It's not any one big thing," Sam Kass, former White House Chef, tells CNBC's On The Money in an interview. Instead he cited several factors, including "fast food on most corners" that facilitates weight gain.

"We've seen an explosion in portion sizes. We're eating more sugar and snacks, and more overall calories," Kass said. "It's hard for people to make healthy choices, when they're surrounded by easier, bad choices."

Kass, who served as a nutrition policy advisor to President Obama said that "we're not setting ourselves up for success surrounded by unhealthy options. If it's too hard for people to eat better, they're not going to be successful," he said.

"That's what you're seeing time and time again: They try and they fail."

Against that backdrop, the health implications of the nation's growing waistline are expanding the cost on society.

Cornell University Professor John Cawley told CNBC that "$315 billion dollars is spent treating obesity in the United States every year." According to his earlier study, that accounts for 21 percent of medical care costs.

Many consumers have adopted sustainable eating habits, spending a record $39 billion on organic food, according to the Organic Trade Association. Yet too many are still eating all the wrong foods.

"We're bombarded by the "what', what you're "supposed to eat, more fruits and vegetables, whole grain, eat less, all this stuff," Kass said. Still, the population hasn't "focused on the 'how,' how you actually fit this (healthy eating) into your busy life."

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Structure

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Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | Getty Images

Therein lies the rub, according to Dawn Zier, CEO and president of diet company Nutrisystem. "So many people have a hard time losing weight on their own," she told CNBC in an interview.

Nutrisystem sells and delivers pre-packaged, portion-controlled meals for about $300 a month. Among their rivals are commercial diet programs including Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and MediFast.

Zier said that for Americans, "our single biggest competition is procrastination. It's always 'let me start tomorrow. Let me start after the party'. We really advocate structure."

Kass added that most people don't have a plan when it comes to thinking about their diet, which is an added risk factor to attaining a healthy weight.

"Most of the decisions we make when we eat are mindless," Kass said. "We're not actually consciously thinking about them. So we end up defaulting to whatever is on our plate. Or whatever is in front of us and that gets people into trouble."

Kass, who was also executive director of "Let's Move," the initiative by First Lady Michelle Obama to help teach kids about food and nutrition, said that signs suggest the next generation is getting the message.

"We're seeing numbers start to come down in terms of childhood obesity in our youngest kids," Kass told CNBC. However, that retreat is coming from a very high plateau: Center for Disease Control data shows that child obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years. As recently as 2012, more than a third of kids were classified as overweight or obese, the CDC says.

According to Kass, he recently asked a group of 11 year olds this week how they would make changes to their diet. "This little girl raised her hand and said, 'I propose to eliminate Pizza Friday.'"

When he asked why, she cited a litany of factors, including genetically modified ingredients and other health factors. Kass says he "couldn't believe it" when half the group of 50 children agreed with her.

"It blew my mind about just how much more sophisticated this next generation is" about their food. Unlike prior generations, the current crop of children is more exposed the idea of healthy eating.

"This is their normal, these expectations and that's a powerful thing."

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturday at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.