In today's society there always seems to be something controversial; gun laws, gay marriage, and abortion are all big ones, but the LARGEST issue is obesity. Obesity is becoming a huge problem in the United States right now leading us on our way to becoming one of the unhealthiest nations in the world. People are constantly pointing their fingers at the cause of obesity, most recently the finger has been pointed at high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is commonly used in food and drinks to add and preserve sweetness. The finger can be pointed at any one thing, but there are a million factors that cause obesity whether it be the convenience of going through the drive through at McDonald's or sitting at a desk all day, as a society we can not change the fact that we have people sitting at the desks and it will be a long time to come before we see McDonald's and other fast food restaurants go out the door, but we can change the way people see obesity. We can encourage health awareness in schools, in the job fields, and even at home. Better health awareness can lead to a change in the way we eat and exercise, leading to a leaner, healthier America.
Obesity Risk Factors
According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity occurs when you consume more calories in a day than you burn through exercise and normal daily activities. Your body stores all of these extra calories in your body as fat. Obesity can result in a combination of many factors, including:
- Genetics: Genes can play a role in how efficiently your body converts food into energy and how your body burns calories during exercise. My advise: eat healthy, consume a healthy amount of calories, and work your butt of at the gym!
- Inactivity: You must be active to burn of calories, therefore if you are sedentary then you will most likely consume more calories than you can burn off in a day. My Advise: Go for a walk, plant a garden, go swimming, just do something!
- Unhealthy diet and eating habits: A diet to high in calories, skipping breakfast, eating oversize portions. My advise: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, find something quick and easy for breakfast yet healthy at the same time, watch your portion sizes, avoid McDonald's and other fast food restaurants!
- Family lifestyle: Obesity tends to run in a family, not because of genetics, but because every member of the family has the same eating styles and activity habits. My advise: Parents, feed your children healthy foods introduce them to a healthy lifestyle early, they are more likely to follow through with it as they age, take them for a bike ride or to the local swimming pool for entertainment instead of playing video games!
- Quitting smoking: Quitting smoking can lead to a weight gain of several pounds a week for months. My advise: Even though you may be gaining weight, eat healthy and exercise, who knows your next craving may be 50 sit ups instead of that one cigarette. Remember that in the long run you are still healthier, weight gain or none, if you stop smoking!
- Pregnancy: Many women find it harder to lose the weight they gained from pregnancy post birth. My advise: Before you get pregnant start eating healthy and exercising, continue that throughout the pregnancy, if you keep unnecessary pounds off it will be easier to lose the weight after baby comes!
- Lack of sleep: Not getting enough sleep can lead to weight gain due to increased appetite for high calorie foods and carbs. My advise: Being a college student I understand that sometimes it is hard to get a full nights sleep, instead of staying up to watch that late night TV show or have a Netflix marathon, relax for an hour by reading a book and drinking a hot cup of tea and you should be ready to hit the pillow!
- Certain medications: Some medications such as antidepressants steroids, diabetes medication, and beta blockers, can lead to weight gain without the proper diet and fitness activities. My advise: As said many times before, eat healthy and exercise!
- Age: As you age, hormonal changes and fitness levels changes can lead to gaining weight. Also, as you age your muscle mass decrease leading to a decrease in your metabolism. My advise: Make sure you start eating healthy and exercising right at a young age, making it easier to continue that lifestyle when you get older!
- Social and economic issues: Many people are not taught how to eat healthy, how to exercise, or they simply don't have the money to buy healthy foods. Along with this you are more likely to be obese if you're friends and relatives are obese. My advise: Start a social change! Spread the word about eating right and exercising so that everyone is aware of it, if you do not know how to do either of these things just ask your doctor, your school nurse, or anyone, the internet is a great source for getting new workouts and recipes!
- Medical problems: It is very rare that you can connect obesity with a medical condition such as Cushing's syndrome. Some medical problems can lead to a decrease in activity levels causing obesity. My advise: Just because you are inactive does not mean that you can't eat healthy!
Body Mass Index
|Body Mass Index Chart|
The Body Mass Index or (BMI) is a measure for human body shape based on an individuals weight and height. As you can see from the graph above a BMI between 12-18 is underweight, 18-24 is normal or healthy weight, 25-29 is overweight, 30-39 is obese, and above 40 is dangerously obese or morbidly obese. Using a BMI chart does not apply to everyone to determine what range they are in due to muscle mass and different body builds.
Health Risks of Obesity
According to WebMD, if you are obese and inactive and have unhealthy eating habits you are at a greater risk for many diseases including but not limited to:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol and triglycerides
- Coronary artery disease
- Sleep apnea
- Cardiovascular disease
America's Economy and Obesity
Media and Obesity
In the past the media has always been bashed for using underweight models for their advertisements, causing women to have eating disorders to look like these models. Recently they have been getting bashed for using overweight people to advertise different fast food products, encouraging the obese community to continue being obese. Dr. Rebecca Puhl, of Yale University, told CBS New, "These images greatly influence people's quality of life, both psychologically and in terms of physical health, they can lead to unhealthy behaviors that reinforce weight gain. They can lead to binging and avoidance of physical activity, and even lead people to drop out of weight-loss programs. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics children and teenagers who watch more TV tend to consume more calories or eat higher-fat diets, drink more sodas, and eat fewer frutis and vegetables.
Help America Shrink
The biggest way to change the obesity rates in America is to spread the word! We need to get healthy as a community to impact as many people as we possibly can. We need to spread the word in schools, in our work places, and in our homes. Live Healthy Iowa is a a program of the Iowa Sports Foundation, is a health initiative that brings together friends, families, businesses and communities in team-based wellness challenges designed to promote positive lifestyle change. This program started in 2002 and has helped 230,000 participants lose a total of 925,639 pounds. Their goal is to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation, they didn't just stop there it has spread to Live Healthy Iowa Kids, and Live Healthy America. I believe that this is the best health promotion program in the country! One of their biggest challenges is the 10 Week Wellness Challenge, over 10 weeks, teams of 2 to 10 people track their activity minutes and their weight loss through the Live Healthy Iowa website. It combines fun and competitiveness to really get people out their watching what they eat and exercising regularly. First Lady Michelle Obama started a campaign for childhood obesity called Lets Move!. This campaign "is a comprehensive initiative, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. Campaigns such as Live Healthy Iowa and Lets Move are both very creative and helpful programs to help people of all ages stay healthy, but us as individuals can help change America, we can help our families stay healthy by educating them on the dangers of obesity, keeping them active, and feeding them healthy foods. According to Robert H. Eckel, "Treating obesity is a lifelong goal, not just for a season." Remember that as you work towards becoming a healthy individual it takes a lifetime of hard work to stay healthy, don't give up!
Video from YouTube
Video from YouTube