This Can Be Very Expensive For Any Obese Person!

Obesity, particularly in childhood, has crept into America. I will discuss causes and definitions as well as the alarming statistics.

Let’s start with definitions, then move on to the causes. In the simplest terms, being overweight means excessive body weight for one’s height. Obesity means excessive body fat.

When we compare the statistics of 40 years ago to the present, there has been an increase of over 50 percent of American adults who are overweight or obese. Now, 2 of every 3 adults weigh more than they should and fall into one of those categories.

The Journal of the American Medical Association, in 2008, estimated that 32.2 percent of men and 35.5 percent of women are overweight. It is projected that by 2030, over 44 percent of adults will be overweight. And the problem is growing in all population groups.

Another study of 288,498 Europeans, claimed that lack of physical activity was the main reason for people putting on extra weight. In addition, the study stated that the additional weight was added to the abdomen, where it is the most harmful.

What Are The Causes Of Obesity?

When I was a child, I can remember my mother saying it was a“glandular problem”. She was referring to the fact that being overweight may be attributable to one’s genes and hormones resulting in a slower metabolic rate. That may have been true, but the explosion of people overweight can now be traced to two predominate entities.

  1. Poor diet
  2. Lack of physical activity

As waistlines continue to expand, a change in diet must be considered. I am a believer of the “calories in, calories out” philosophy. That is, if we take in more calories than we burn off with physical activity, we will put on weight. I understand that that is a rather simplistic point of view. But, for me, it is a place to start this discussion.

Our foods, in general, include more high-fat, high-caloric snack foods as well as those “Oh, so tasty foods” available from the fast food restaurants. Add to that those sugar-sweetened sodas and the calories add up quickly.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 1960 approximately one-half of the private sector jobs required some moderate physical activity. By 2010 that had decreased to only 1 in 5 jobs. Add that fact to the many hours that children and adults (“couch potatoes”) spend in front of the television and the reasons for the explosion of obesity seem more clear.

How Expensive Is Obesity?

I guess that will depend on how the expense is measured:

  • The annual medical costs, due to obesity, have doubled in less than a decade. According to one report, in 2008, the annual cost is $147 million.
  • Since obesity typically increases blood pressure, blood sugars, and triglycerides, the cost could be a shorter life expectancy.
  • Quality of life is another way of measuring the costs. Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort are common for those overweight.
  • Probably the greatest expense for the parents of obese children is that an obese child’s life span is likely to be shorter than his parents.

Are There Solutions? 

Yes. But, it requires changing habits. The short answer is: “Eat more fruits and vegetables. Get more exercise.” However, there must be strong motivation to change habits. Maybe your physician will say the right words to get you to change. Maybe wanting to be around longer to see your children or grandchildren grow up will motivate you.

Sometimes motivational speakers can push the right buttons. But, change (real change) must come from within. The quote, “If it is to be, it is up to me” (William H. Johnsen), come to mind.

Here are several solutions:

  • Eat less, sit less, less TV.
  • Eat healthier (see Mediterranean Diet).
  • Increase physical activity.
  • Calculate calories taken in.
  • Eliminate sugar-sweetened sodas.
  • Reduce portion size.
  • Frequent the local farmer’s market and buy their fruits and vegetables.
  • Remember, gradual weight loss will be easier to keep off.

How To Read Labels!

  • Note the size of the package. It will be listed as weight or volume.
  • View the number of servings and the size of each serving.(Ex. 2 tablespoons or 1 cup)
  • Observe the calories per serving.
  • Next is fat content (monounsaturated fats are better than saturated of trans fats)
  • Cholesterol, sodium, and carbohydrates should be limited.
  • Fiber and protein are good.
  • The label may list vitamins.
  • Check the ingredients. Keep in mind that the sugar content and the total carbohydrate content may not be identical, because the manufactures carefully disguise the non-sugars such as corn syrup.

Hunger and Food Insecurity Affects Obesity

The Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that hunger and food insecurity affects 30 million Americans each year. Because poor families have very limited cash to purchase food and need to stretch their food dollars as far as possible, there may be times when buying less expensive food is necessary.

The trade off is that less expensive food may not be as nutritious. So, quality is sacrificed for quantity. This may contribute to obesity. As a result, food security (and possibly hunger) occurs more often with the poor. Acquiring food may be limited or uncertain.

The chronic ups and downs in the availability of nutritious food can occur frequently. As one’s body becomes more efficient at storing calories to compensate for times of food insecurity, fat is stored.

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