The world is expanding, or should I say the world’s waistlines are expanding. It’s a sad story. The figures are staggering, the death toll of Americans who are dying of preventable obesity related illnesses and is close to 400,000 a year. 400,000 people a year are dying because of what they are eating and the fact that they aren’t moving their bodies. Our bodies were designed to move, keeping them still and sedentary goes against nature itself! According to recent statistics for 2005 from the Center for Disease Control 25.4 % of U.S. adults 20 years and up were obese. Not just overweight… obese. This number is a significant increase from the 1997 figures which showed the obesity level of the American people to be at 19.4%. And the problem is just getting bigger…. No put intended. There are an estimated 93 million people in the U.S. who are obese and this number is expected to rise over the next few years to reach a possible 120 million people.
If you consider the number of people in the states who are overweight the numbers skyrocket even more. In 1999, 61% of adults in the U.S. were overweight or obese according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, if you consider that this number has grown at least as quickly as the percentages for obesity you cannot deny that this is a huge problem.
So what is the difference between being overweight and being obese? One of the most common methods for determining if you are overweight or obese is by finding your Body Mass Index (BMI). The number that you get is derived from a correlation between your height and weight. The basic guidelines for BMI are as follows: below 18.5 – Underweight, 18.5-24.9 – Normal, 25-29.9 – Overweight, 30+ Obese, 40+ Morbidly obese (at least 100 pounds overweight). The more overweight or obese you are the more at risk you are for a wide variety of diseases and even early death.
This is serious stuff. It’s not a laughing matter. The obesity rate in the states isn’t just affecting adults either. The numbers for children’s obesity levels are rising rapidly as well. Today there are well over 9 million adolescents who are overweight, these children and adolescents are at a much higher risk of developing obesity and morbid obesity. They are at a much higher risk for developing diseases early on in life. They are at more risk of being teased in school, being left out, and having low self confidence and poor self image.
The list of diseases that are obesity-related and in many cases preventable with healthy diet and exercise are many. They include but are not limited to: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, breast cancer, colon cancer, endometrial cancer. Think of how losing weight can also improve orthopedic problems (the majority of people who are overweight and obese suffer from lower back pain, knee problems etc. simply due to all of the excess weight and pressure being placed on their joints). Think of how losing weight can improve self confidence, self image, decrease stress levels, and more importantly increase not only the quantity of life but also the quality of life.
So what are the causes of overweight and obesity? There are a few factors that are the predominant reasons for obesity. The number one factor is behavior. Behavioral choices such as what you choose to eat and what you choose to do for physical activity are the two biggest influences on whether or not you will be overweight or obese. We live in a society that revolves around food, it is available in massive quantities on nearly every street corner. Americans have become increasingly overindulgent and are consuming far more calories than their bodies need for a day. The calories that are being consumed tend to be very low in nutritional value, high in fats and sugars and in general just unhealthy. The choices that a vast majority of the American population is making when it comes to food are literally killing them. The choices that a huge population of Americans are making when it comes to using their bodies in the way they were intended, by moving and being physically active, are literally causing pre mature death in our country. An estimated 40% of Americans don’t participate in any kind of extra curricular physical activity. They lead sedentary lives.
The environment you live in contributes to your chances of being overweight or obese. This is why it is so important for parents to set a good example for their children by eating healthy and being physically active. The growing numbers of overweight and obese children is rising due to the fact that they are being raised in a sedentary environment. The environment of our country in general has made it easier for people to lead sedentary lives. You can drive your car instead of walking, no matter where you need to go. Many times you can get your food in a drive through, you can take the elevator or escalator instead of the stairs, it’s less and less necessary for us as Americans to “move” our bodies. It’s no wonder that it is so tempting to take advantage of all these amenities to make life “easier”. But consider this, is life truly easier if you are suffering from overweight and obesity, if you have developed a number of diseases or conditions due to overweight and obesity, if you have to go and see the doctor more often, if it is painful to walk, if you can’t fit into your clothes, if you suffer from low self confidence and self image due to your weight. Do these things really make life “easier”?
The last predominant factor when it comes to obesity is genetics. Many people like to use genetics as the ultimate excuse for overweight and obesity. A lot of people will claim they have no control over their weight problem because it is genetic. Can obesity be genetic? The tendency towards obesity can be genetic, in these cases one must be even more diligent with their exercise and nutrition in order to prevent overweight and obesity to occur. When it comes down to it, only about 30% of obesity is related to genetics and around 70% is related to nutritional choices and behavioral choices when it comes to physical activity.
It’s truly not a laughing matter. This is a major issue that has to be addressed and changes have to be made. It’s not just about telling someone to lose weight or go on a crash diet though. For many people the root of the problem is emotional, food is filling a void in their lives. It is a comfort, it is a friend, eating is what the entire day revolves around. It’s important to address the underlying issues of overweight and obesity such as the “why” behind the overeating. Many people who have reached the point of being overweight or obese may feel that there is no hope, they may be frustrated which is just going to make the problem worse, not better. There is hope! Changes can be made, progress can be made, it isn’t a hopeless cause!
It’s time to take control of overweight and obesity in the states. It’s time to get physically active. It’s time to use your body the way it was intended to be used! It’s time to start moving. That doesn’t mean you have to run out and buy a gym membership and pumping iron. If you are having trouble with being overweight or obese take baby steps towards developing a fit and healthy lifestyle. For example, start just by reducing the amount of calories you are taking in per day. Cut out one fattening snack or treat for the day, you would be amazed at how fast the calories add up just by cutting back slightly.
Start moving. If you enjoy walking or exercising start with small sessions of around ten minutes and increase from there. You can even think of starting to get more activity in your day by doing things like garden work, cleaning the house, taking your child out for a walk in the stroller, raking leaves, shoveling snow, washing the car. Whatever it may be just start moving, your life may literally depend on it! Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart. Let’s fight this battle against obesity with our whole hearts and we can prevail.
Diana Chaloux is the co-founder and owner of Destined 2 Be Fit (http://www.destined2befit.com). Diana is also a certified personal trainer through ACE, AFAA and FPI, a certified Fitness Coach through Wellcoaches, and NPC National Level Figure Competitor (http://www.dianachaloux.com) and Fitness Model.
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