Oh, Oh, Obesity

Ugh, this is making me woozy just thinking about it. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is set to release a forecast study that indicates that as much as 42% of the United States will most likely be obese by 2030. Eighteen years from now. That seems like a long time. It isn’t, but it seems like it is. The sad thing is that the 42% is really a conservative guess. It doesn’t factor in children, and as with any prediction, there are many factors for which it can not account.

What it does factor in are trends. The most alarming trends are fast food prices, ease and convenience of fast food, alcohol prices, and even internet access, among others.

The current obesity rate is 35% among adults, and approximately the same for children– 1 in 3 children are considered obese.

One major problem with this is how we define obesity. According to the CDC, obesity is defined as:

Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.

When we read this, too many of us run screaming to our scales and leave heartbroken. Others do the same with BMI (body mass index) calculators, readily found online. This definition only assumes the minimal amount of muscle mass, among an assortment of other possible overlooked factors. The military once used a similar method of calculating body fat which involved neck and waist measurements. Oh, how many times did my daily gym brothers have to stand in front of their Commanding Officers, flex a little, and ask, “Do I really look fat?

Another problem is our perception of body size; especially here in America where the cliche “bigger is better” was born and is constantly re-nurtured. How many times have you heard of a larger than average kid described as having a “healthy” appetite? How many times is the extreme opposite of tragically scrawny described as “healthy?”

Just because obesity is tough to define doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It does. A lot. Look around. Fast food chains, unrealistic lunch breaks, convenience stores whose entire body of nutrition labels are pleasantly stuffed between swine and high fructose corn syrup, catastrophic shortages of time, video games cleverly disguised as exercise, astronomical TV viewership ratings, internet co-dependence, broken hearts, low self esteem, drugs that do everything under the sun except solve the problem . . . everything leans towards making our waistlines bigger, our attention spans smaller, and time for ourselves obsolete.

We know that obesity, or sometimes even that small amount of excess fat we carry around can lead to a host of problems. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease are just a few, but if those few don’t scare you . . . not much will.

Another factor this study overlooks is our ability to educate, get educated, and overcome.

As much as I love my fitness magazines, they tend to be misleading and discouraging. It’s natural to look at a cover model and wish you looked like that. For many of us, it is not practical to look at those models and expect that we must look like that. Yes, many of them have more time to train, and easy access to a nutritionist, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that they aren’t out there working their arses off to get those bodies. They are. The same tools they have are also available to you– determination, motivation, and hard work.It’s just a question of priority. Do you make your well-being a priority?

I hear too many people reference those magazines and say something like, “I’ll never look like THAT, so why try?” as if the only goal in life is a month of fame on the cover of a fitness magazine. The goal is to take care of what you got. Very simple. Not too complicated. Make yourself a priority. Think of food in terms of energy for your body, not what tastes best, or what you can squeak by with. Think of exercise as playtime for grownups, not a chore you shuffle to the back of the list, something you’ll do tomorrow. Because inevitably, tomorrow never comes. Think of health as a process, not a final destination. Above all, know your body and treat it with love and consideration. It’s the only one you get.

Self body image is the most crucial weapon we have against obesity. You know whether or not you are carrying around too much fat for comfort, and you probably recognize the same in your friends and family. What we also need to know is that harsh words rarely convert anyone to any cause. Calling someone fat then encouraging them to exercise does not promote a healthy environment for change or self improvement. Showing people the benefits of clean eating and regular exercise are much more productive.

Start slow. Take a few minutes and go for a walk on that beautiful path you pass on your way to work. Take your dog to a park and let her control you for a few minutes. Play with your children. Yes, some of these will be tough at first, and might only last all of 5 minutes. Good. Now you know where you’re weak. Find something that is fun for you, something that readily inspires you and stick with it. Pretty soon you’ll be out there for 10 minutes, an hour, half the day, etc.

Do the same with your food. No one is nominating you for Sainthood, just make improvements where you feel comfortable. Replace your breakfast biscuit with oatmeal, maybe even add some peanut butter for flavor. The truth about food is that your body has a great memory, so build healthy memories slowly. Fad diets and magic pills might be a good catalyst in some cases, but the trick is to replace something you once liked for something that likes you. Don’t be fooled by the make-up, cupcakes are NOT your friend.

This 42% the CDC speaks of is a forecast, a prediction, an assessment based on current trends. You have the power to discredit their research. You have the power to push back. You have the power to fight. Best of all, you have the power to win.

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