Obesity; The Sad State of America

By Melissa Brandon  |  July 23, 2020

There is a looming health crisis in the United States and it is called obesity. The CDC reports that as of 2018, 40% of adults are obese. When you include overweight Americans, 70% are either overweight or obese. These are staggering numbers!  For some perspective, in 1990, the adult obesity rate was 11%. 

While many assume obesity is simply an energy imbalance, obesity is more nuanced. It can be linked to things such as an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, medications, social issues, age and genetics. It can also be caused by psychological issues, stress, lack of quality sleep, an imbalanced microbiome and yo-yo dieting, to name a few. 

Body acceptance is a hot trend on social media. I have read vicious attacks on people who simply say that being overweight is linked to many health conditions and is not ideal. I’m not saying that anyone should be mocked or shamed for being overweight. But I don’t think they should be idealized. If you are obese, your chances of getting a chronic disease is increased and your life expectancy will be shortened.  Obesity is not a healthy lifestyle. 

How do you know if you are obese? The CDC classifies obesity by the body mass index (BMI). A person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters. There are many online calculators that will do this calculation for you. A summary of the BMI chart is as follows:

A BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight

A BMI of18.5 to less than 24.9 is considered normal

A BMI of 25.0 to less than 29.9 is considered overweight

A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese

BMI is not a fat measurement and can be misleading if you have a significant amount of lean muscle mass.

A measurement that does not calculate obesity, but the distribution of fat on the body, and is an indicator for developing serious health conditions, is the waist to hip ratio. Measure your waist circumference, just above the belly button. Then measure your hips at their widest point. Waist divided by height. There are also online calculators for this calculation.

Low Risk (Women) .8 or lower (Men) .95 or lower

Moderate Risk (Women) 0.81-0.85 (Men) .96-1.00

High Risk (Women) .86 or higher (Men) Higher than 1.00

So now what? What is your next step if your numbers put you in the overweight or obese catagories? First, I think you need to determine if you want to make any changes to your current lifestyle. If the answer is an emphatic yes, you need to prepare yourself, mentally, for change. Next, you need to make an appointment with a doctor for a physical. If you are going to be adding exercise to your routine, you need to make sure you are healthy enough to do so. Then, you should start tracking your daily food intake and activity level so you can see what you are currently doing to establish a baseline. Next, you devise a plan. Are you going to do this alone, or are you going to hire a professional? Being a fitness professional, I’m sure you are not surprised that I would suggest you hire someone. They will help you safely navigate the complexities of nutrition and exercise. In addition they will cheer you on and hold you accountable. 

Changing your lifestyle will be the most difficult aspect of losing weight. You need to have a solid support system and your family and friends will need to share your new values. The last thing you need is someone to sabotage your efforts or try and hold you back because it makes them feel better. You are also going to need patience. The extra weight did not appear overnight and it should not go away overnight either. As you are not on a diet, you are changing your life, this weight needs to dissipate slowly and consistently. That is the best way to guarantee that these changes are permanent.

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