Obesity in the US
Obesity in the US is an epidemic. Nearly 70% of Americans fall into the overweight category, and of that 70 %, about 36% of U.S. adults fall into the obese category.
Yes- too many people are severely overweight, both adults and children. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it is important to acknowledge the issue and take steps towards living a healthier and ultimately happier life.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying everyone ought to be a size zero, healthy comes in a great variety of different shapes and sizes and we should all embrace our individuality… in the same breath, everyone should strive to be the best version of their self. Being excessively overweight brings with it a plethora of health issues taking those who suffer from obesity even further away from living a healthy, happy life.
When I talk about “being healthy” I’m not saying every single person should be able to run a marathon or lift three times their body weight… I’m saying you should be able to chase after your dog or kids and not get winded in the first minute. I’m saying you should want to choose a homemade salad with grilled chicken over fast food (most of the time- balance) because you can feel the difference. I’m saying you should be able to live comfortably and enjoy life rather than struggle through each day because an excess amount of weight (and with it higher risks for diseases) is holding you back.
This article is in no way meant to body-shame any one type of person. I just want to bring awareness to the epidemic that is obesity, the health and financial burdens it can cause, and some starter steps on how you can begin to truly care for your personal health.
Without health, we can never truly live the life we envision for ourselves.
Obesity is defined as “grossly fat or overweight.”
… Not the best definition. First of all, no one is fat, they have fat. A more appropriate definition would be something like “the degree to which an individual holds excess adipose tissue.”
You are not defined by the amount of body fat your body carries… that’s simply the amount of fat you carry on your body! And- no matter how much you have, you can always lose it. Always, as long as you stay consistent with healthy activity and meal changes.
Second, there is a difference between being a little overweight and obese. To understand where you fall in the weight class, you should understand what BMI is…
BMI stands for Body Mass Index. This index is a very popular way to categorize an individual as underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. BMI is a measurement of fat based on your weight in relation to your height. Where you fall on the BMI chart can be easily found by dividing your weight in kg by your height in meters squared:
BMI = Weight(kg)/Height(m²)
You can use the chart below to see where you fall on the BMI scale without even doing the math!
If you’re BMI is under 18.5, you would be considered underweight.
Normal/healthy is between 18.5-24.9.
Overweight is between 25-29.9.
Obese is divided up into three groups, Obese I, II, and III(morbidly obese).
Obese I is 30-34.9
Obese II is 35-39.9
Obese III, or Morbidly Obese, is any number over 40.
The moment any persons BMI hits above 24.9 their risk of developing diseases is increased. The higher your number, the higher your risk of disease. Being underweight can pose some increased disease risks as well.
Now, BMI may not be the best measurement tool if you’re a bodybuilder- but that’s a topic for another time!
Let’s take a look at the increased health risks associated with being overweight…
Obesity is linked to a wide range of diseases commonly known as “comorbidities”. It is very common for more than one comorbidity to be present in an obese person… so, unfortunately, it is common that they have multiple other health issues and problems alongside obesity itself. With those additional health issues, the probability of developing yet another disease is greatly increased.
Here are some of the most common comorbidities found in obese individuals:
•Type II Diabetes Mellitus
In addition to the side effects and issues that these health problems pose, the medications prescribed to combat them have their own list of negative side effects. These can make starting on the path to health and fitness more difficult if you don’t know how, or where, to start.
It’s clear that being overweight and obese can be linked to a slew of debilitating diseases and conditions. Without steps being taken to improve one’s health, quality of life will continue to decline more rapidly with time and can even lead to an early, and albeit unnecessary death. It is far more common than not to see negative symptoms improve after starting a consistent physical activity regimen. Most of the time you can feel the benefits before any type of physical change is even measured! We’re talking things like improved mood, cognition, alertness, mobility, and motivation- just to name a few! Simply having a positive outlook on the future can make you so much more likely to reach your goals.
These positive side effect of exercise on the health status of an overweight or obese person is reason enough to begin and stick with a fitness program!
Stats and Health Costs:
Did you know, that in 1995 not one state in the US reported obesity population levels greater than 20%? In 2010, just fifteen years later, not one state reported obesity levels below 20%!
What happened in those 15 years?
Technology advances- cars, computers, machines, other labor-saving devices, and the convenience of digital toys- phones, computers, games, and gaming consoles. Accessibility to fast food, processed foods, candy, and snacks has also greatly increased.
During that same time frame, the number of Americans meeting the minimum requirements for physical activity (set by the Department of Health and Human Services) increased but we still saw a climb in obesity! Why? Because the guidelines set by the government for expending 1,000 kcal per week to is not enough! This means people are eating WAY MORE than they actually need to fuel their body.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed into other types of energy. So, if you’re eating bags of chips while sitting on your hiney hour after hour, day after day, and you’re not moving around… all those calories get stored as fat to be used later as fuel. If you never use that fuel, guess what? Your body will just keep storing it until it can’t any longer… Boo.
When you get down to the “nitty-gritty”, weight loss is all about calories in (consumption) versus calories out (expenditure). This is commonly referred to as “Energy Balance”. Exercise is a crucial factor in losing weight while maintaining muscle mass, but alone statistics show that it will not be enough to significantly impact weight loss efforts, especially for beginners. (This is due to low energy levels and needing to build up stability, strength, and stamina first so eventually, they’re able to complete a more energy demanding routine.) The combination of a balanced diet with exercise is where you will see the best results- no matter if you’re a little overweight or morbidly obese! Focus on eating lean proteins, TONS of veggies, some fruits, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. The less processed the better!
While you should definitely talk to your physician and a person trainer
There are many common roadblocks and excuses that can get in the way of beginning on the journey to health. Some of these include body image and self-esteem issues, low confidence and self-efficacy, stress, having a negative outlook, general unhappiness or even depression, and negative social stigmas and biases.
Unfortunately, there are people (both health professionals and friends/family members) that can make those who suffer from varying degrees over excess weight feel worse. If you know someone who needs to make healthy lifestyle changes, an encouraging and supportive tone while suggesting taking the first steps can be a lot more motivating than a negative one. The first step would be to visit a primary care physician as each person is different and faces different challenges, especially when comorbidities and medications are added to the mix. Without consulting a doctor the myriad of risk factors can increase far beyond safety.
If you are dealing with negative people but know you need to make a change in order to improve your quality of life, start anyway! The best thing you can do is fight through being uncomfortable, nervous, and embarrassed. Make a call to your doctor and set up an appointment to get started on your journey to health and a better quality of life. Being open about your feeling can help people understand what you’re going through, so don’t be afraid to open up and ask for support and help.
Additionally, if you have trouble finding support from your friends and family there are tons of online communities and groups who are going through the same thing! Seach through Facebook and other popular social media platforms and sure enough, you’ll find a group of people who will not only welcome you but encourage and support you through every step of the way- both the hard times and the easy. Sometimes all you need is someone to turn to and ask for advice, support, or just vent about your current hardships or frustrations to get yourself back into the right mindset. Don’t give up!
You should never feel bad about making positive changes for yourself and wanting a better life.
*Before starting any type of diet or fitness routine, consult with your primary care physician to ensure the utmost safety and precautions are measured and met.*