According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over one-third of U.S. adults (~36%) are obese and approximately 12.5 million children and adolescents aged 2-19 (17%) are obese. Obesity puts individuals at risk for many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, respiratory diseases, diabetes and kidney disease.
The HBO series The Weight of the Nation, is on YouTube in a number of videos that explore obesity in America and how it affects us all. Watching the videos (even if you only watch the first one) is so informative. It examines how weight affects your body. It talks frankly about how excess weight causes disease as well as how things like heart disease and diabetes can start at a very young age.
The series also proposes solutions and steps we can take to turn things around. So it’s not all doom and gloom, but it is an eye opener that will hopefully wake you up if you are having problems in time to turn things around. It also reminds us that we have to collectively pay attention to what some are calling an epidemic, because it truly affects us all, even those who are not obese.
It may be surprising to know that if you’re overweight or obese, simple steps can make a big difference in heading off disease. The first step is looking at where you are today, reviewing your numbers, and acknowledging any issues before they turn into major health problems. If you have existing health issues, the next step is learning as much as you can about your illness and working with your health care provider to manage and improve your status.
Not That Overweight? You May Only Be Fooling Yourself
You may consider yourself, “not that much overweight” or “not that unhealthy“, but without taking a real look at your numbers, you may be fooling yourself. You don’t have to be extremely heavy to be overweight. If you’re overweight and you don’t know or acknowledge it, you may be setting yourself up for issues down the road. When it comes to your health knowledge is power.
For example, being overweight can lead to obesity. Obesity can lead to disease, and the list goes on. Weight issues resulting from a poor diet and a lack of exercise are factors in type 2 diabetes. While a disease like diabetes affects more than 29 million people in the United States, it’s a bit shocking to know that another 86 million adults – more than one in three U.S. adults have pre-diabetes, and they don’t even know it. Because there are so many people who don’t even know they have a problem means the numbers are even larger than 36% for adults. This is yet another reason why obesity in America is what some are calling an epidemic.
This means that one in three people in the U.S. are going through their daily activities feeling under the weather or slightly strange, and not understanding why. Pre-diabetes is where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. In this case, you could be on the verge of full blown diabetes, and not able to take steps that can head off the disease.
Another good reason to take a look at obesity is because of the sheer number of people this affects. Just think about it… if over one-third of all Americans are overweight, it means that if you’re not overweight, you likely know and/or love someone who is overweight. If you’re not looking realistically at the problem, how can you help your children, parents, friends and others who are suffering from this disease.
Another reason to consider obesity is that even if you’re not overweight today, if you’re not proactive and aware, at some point you may have a struggle with your weight. Now is the time to look at your diet, the amount of exercise you receive on a daily basis and other factors to see if you are at risk.
Obesity is Not Just an Issue for Older People
Obesity doesn’t just affect those who are 60 something and older. Statistically speaking, 17% of children and adolescents suffer from obesity as well. Think about it, they are not overweight, 17% of U.S. children and adolescents are obese.
If you’re not sure about the difference between being overweight or obese, take a look at the chart below from the Mayo Clinic. In this chart, body mass index (discussed below) is used to determine weight status, i.e. underweight, normal, overweight, obese, and morbidly obese. From a health perspective, this is how the numbers break down.
According to Mitchell Roslin, Chief of Bariatric Surgery at Lenox Hill hospital, during a CBS interview, “Obesity is going to surpass cigarette smoking as the leading cause of the cancer deaths in the US,” . According to him, obesity is increasingly a problem among young Americans. “This generation is not going to outlive their predecessors.”
What Are Your Reasons?
There are many reasons why people gain weight, for example a lack of exercise and unhealthy eating habits are common. A common reason for women is weight gain from having children. There are also factors like changes in weight associated with mid life changes, stress, family habits, genetics and economic reasons that limit access to healthy foods.
So in addition to people who are already obese, there is likely another set of people who may be on the border of obesity today. And a major life change, a life crisis, stress or changes in their daily routine can send them over the edge to the world of obesity.
If your reason falls into one or more of the categories above, or there something else that’s causing you to fall out of a healthy weight range, recognizing your reason will go a long way in helping to create an effective weight loss plan.
Obesity is not a major catastrophe like a tornado or flood that you have no control over. Obesity can “feel” like a force of nature, and while it is a big challenge for many people, keep in mind that it is something you can change or manage so that you live a longer, happier life. If you’re not obese today, but you know that you’re living an unhealthy lifestyle, there are proactive steps you can take to help ensure that you stay at a healthy weight throughout your life.
The First Step is Figuring Out Where You Are Today
If the obesity factor affects you, or you want to take steps to stay on track, now is the time to take action. If you’re using the mirror, how you feel in your clothing, or the scales alone to determine whether you’re overweight, consider working with your health professional to get a more accurate assessment of where you are today.
If you have the tools, you can evaluate your status at home and possibly follow up with a health professional once you have determined your status. You’ll want to determine if you’re at an optimal weight, if you are overweight, or if you’re obese. If you’re overweight or obese you’ll definitely want to take steps to lose weight. Age, fitness level, metabolism, diet, family history and other factors can play a role in whether you are prone to being overweight. Even if these other factors are prevalent, there are still things you can do to manage your weight.
To Get the Most Accurate Perspective, Use the Right Tools
One such tool that’s commonly used to help us find and maintain an optimal body weight, is our body mass index (BMI). Weight and height are used to calculate your “body mass index” (BMI). For most people, BMI is a good estimate of body fat. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
When your health professional calculates your BMI, you may be surprised to know that (based on your body mass index) you’re not at an optimal weight. While BMI doesn’t tell your whole story, it is a sign that things may be off track.
Another tool is waist circumference. Take out your measuring tape take an accurate measurement. Make sure the tape goes around your waist at the top of your hip bones in your lower back and go around to the belly button. To help prevent health problems from being overweight, men should keep their waist size to no more than 39 or 40 inches. Women should stick to no more than 34 or 35 inches. If you’re weight, BMI or waist circumference numbers are high, the best bet would be to consult your doctor to map out a plan for reducing those numbers.
To determine whether you are at an ideal weight, take a look at this ideal weight calculator on Healthy Body Weight calculator on HealthStatus.com. This will give you a good idea of what your weight should be based on your numbers. You input height, current weight, age and other factors and it will give you a weight range. Taking steps today to determine where you are will go a long way to help you avoid the leading cause of preventable death.
Once you’ve looked at all these factors, and if you’ve determined that you’re overweight or obese (or someone in your household is overweight/obese), it’s time to take action. If there is someone in your inner circle who is obese, learn to support them so that they can avoid some of the health risks associated with obesity. Improving family habits and creating awareness can really help someone who is struggling with weight issues. For example, if you have a child that is obese, something as simple as changing the family diet, encouraging more physical activity (less screen time) and incorporating healthier food alternatives for snacking can make a difference.
Read the article, I’m Overweight, Now What? that talks about a different view of obesity in America. It provides actions and ideas on how to improve if you find yourself in the overweight or obese category. The article provides ideas on changing your diet, ways to get moving and how you can use technology to make getting your weight under control. It also discusses supportive products that work with what you’re already doing (if you’re a coffee or tea lover) into your daily activity that, along with diet and exercise will help with weight loss and nutrition. Action is needed to improve the obesity crisis and the great thing is that there are positive steps you can take to get your weight on track or help those you love with weight challenges.