The obesity epidemic and associated chronic diseases are often attributed to modern lifestyles. The term "lifestyle" however, ignores broader social, economic, and environmental determinants while inadvertently "blaming the victim." Seen more eclectically, lifestyle encompasses distal, medial, and proximal determinants. Hence any analysis of causality should include all these levels. The term "anthropogens," or "…man-made environments, their by-products and/or lifestyles encouraged by these, some of which may be detrimental to human health" provides a monocausal focus for chronic diseases similar to that which the germ theory afforded infectious diseases. Anthropogens have in common an ability to induce a form of chronic, low-level systemic inflammation ("metaflammation"). A review of anthropogens, based on inducers with a metaflammatory association, is conducted here, together with the evidence for each in connection with a number of chronic diseases. This suggests a broader view of lifestyle and a focus on determinants, rather than obesity and lifestyle per se as the specific causes of modern chronic disease. Under such an analysis, obesity is seen more as "a canary in a mineshaft" signaling problems in the broader environment, suggesting that population obesity management should be focused more upstream if chronic diseases are to be better managed.