Obesity: The Winnable War at Home

Obesity in America

Photo Credit:  eBaum’s World

Hot off of the fantastic coverage and thrills of the 2012 Summer Olympics, most people are slowly settling back into their normal routines.  Yes, it was fun to watch our favorite athletes as they performed incredible feats, broke records, won medals and made their bodies do things that most of us can’t recall doing recently, if ever.  For many of us, jumping up and down as we cheered them on was the most exercise we’d had in awhile.  And therein lies the problem.  Whether we viewed the Olympic games from our sofa, bed, or the local bar stool, we were watching.  Not only the Olympics, but we watch football, baseball, hockey, tennis, and many other sports from our living room.  All of this watching, along with other lifestyle habits, has led to an increase in health problems in American.  One of the fastest growing threats is…OBESITY.  What an ugly word.  Descriptions like thick, pleasingly plump, curvy, and stout are much more acceptable to the ear.  What is obesity?  According to The Endocrine Society, “obesity is typically defined as a body weight 30 percent over the ideal for a person’s height, at which point it causes health conditions and leads to increased mortality”.

This article, last updated on August 13, 2012, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paints a scary picture.  More than one-third of Americans are obese.  And this leads to a myriad of other health concerns, some fatal.  You can read more of the statistics in the article, including the obesity breakdown by state, socioeconomic groups, and ethnicity. 

With the exception of farmers, construction workers and a few other highly active professions, many of us have a mostly sedentary lifestyle.  We sit as we work in offices, then drive to run our errands.  Quite honestly, I was shocked when I visited Germany a number of years ago to see people of all ages riding bicycles to the store and carrying their packages home in baskets attached to the bicycles.  Oh sure here at home I saw people riding bikes, but mostly for pleasure or in races.  They certainly weren’t a part of our daily activities.  We drive our cars to the store and carry our purchase home in the trunk of the car.  Then after work and errands, we might sit and watch a few hours of TV before heading to bed to prepare to do it all over again in the morning.

So we do a lot of sitting and driving.  That’s no crime.  But in light of the epidemic obesity in our country, not to mention an increasingly aging population, the solution is not to place blame, but to see what we can do to help make things better and increase our quality of life.  To that end, here are some ways we can start to work on our obesity threat.  The key way to change things is to eat less/better and move more.  This list, while not all-inclusive is a good start:

*Get regular physicals.  This is important because every overweight person is not just a victim of too much eating.  There can be underlying genetic predispositions to obesity, as well as metabolic problems.  Find out what’s going on in your body before starting any exercise program or drastically cutting your daily caloric intake.

*Make simple dietary changes.  Moderation is key.  You don’t necessarily have to cut out your favorite foods.  See those huge platters most restaurants serve their entrees on?  Try adjusting your portion sizes.  Ask for a to-go box at the start and try taking the other half for lunch the next day.  Many of these platters are actually two to three times the recommended serving size.

*Build your exercise routine.  Don’t start out trying to win the local city marathon.  Begin by maybe taking a nice stroll before or after dinner two or three times a week.  If you have an hour lunch break at work, get outside for some fresh air and a 20-minute walk.  You will come back in feeling refreshed and still have time to eat your lunch.

*Customize your exercise routine.  Find walking boring?  Then do something that you enjoy.  Some people enjoy structured gym classes.  Perhaps you enjoy dancing, rollerskating, or swimming.  The point is unless you enjoy it, you will not continue with it.  So find your passion, then get up and move.

*Don’t procrastinate.  Sure it’s tradition to make New Year’s Day resolutions.  But don’t be tempted to put off your war on obesity until January.  Take baby steps or crawl if you have to, but please start doing something right now.

Whatever you choose to do, here’s wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and successful lifestyle.  Cheers.

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