The obesity epidemic, time to be part of the solution

I randomly came across an article ( http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/the-current/raising-rippers/Kids-Lives-Depend-On-Playtime.html ) this morning that inspired me to bust out a quick post. There has been much press in the U.S about the spiraling obesity epidemic. To be sure it is a serious problem not only in terms of economic costs to us as a country, but in terms of human costs. Unfortunately, the debate has shifted into a blame game where personal responsibility is no longer part of the discussion. Like many issues where placing blame becomes the center of attention we are quick to lose sight of the where the focus really belongs. In this particular case that is what can we as individuals do to become part of the solution.
  • Where did we go wrong, how did we as a country get so far off the tracks with our habits to cause such a shift in obesity rates. I will not use this forum to go into detail about the statistics other than to offer the following quick points:
  • Approximately 34% of U.S. adults are obese.*
  • In 2008 the medical cost of obesity was 147 BILLION dollars. For frame of reference, that is a cost of $490 to every man, woman and child in the U.S.*
  • Obesity related health issues such as non Type 1 Diabetes are among the leading, preventable causes of death among U.S. citizens.*
  • No state had an obesity rate of less than 20%!*
  • In 1990 the obesity rate in the U.S. was less than 15%.**

So… Why the seismic shift? Experts argue many factors from eating and exercise habits to poverty levels are to blame. Some cities have even gone so far as to force businesses to limit portion sizes (soft drinks) and post nutritional and caloric information on menu’s. While these efforts may not be entirely off base, one thing has been conspicuously absent from the discussion, PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

In my opinion this epidemic did not happen by chance, more so I believe that it is the sum total of a societal change in attitudes. I don’t believe that we can lay blame on any one aspect of the contributory factors that lead to obesity. This was more of a subtle shift. I would point to small things that at first may have seemed innocuous enough. For example, 1990 represents the start of the home video console sales explosion. The number of these units sold in the U.S. began to skyrocket. It was also in the early part of the 1990’s that the country went on an unprecedented period of economic growth leading to a gross increase in consumer spending. The late 1990’s to early 2000’s saw the arrival and explosion of the internet.

obesity rates

On the surface none of these things by themselves would jump out as the smoking gun. If however we look big picture it would be easy to see how these things might lead us to become more, shall we say “leisurely” as a population. More than ever before recreation moved indoors. Food because a convenience rather than a necessity ( note the rise in “competitive eating” events… I still have to chuckle at viewing these individuals as athletes. Sorry guys, I don’t see it. ). No longer did most children exercise their bodies. Let’s face it you can’t burn too many calories parked on your but utilizing only your thumbs. It is this perfect storm of factors that have been at the forefront of the exponential increase in obesity rates.

That being said, what can we do to help? This is where personal responsibility comes into play. If people are content to sit idly by while they wait for the government to solve the problem we are doomed. The government has consistently demonstrated a stunning ineptitude in dealing with most issues. The solution begins with each and every one of us. We have to begin to shift the landscape towards a healthier lifestyle. We need to once again become active participants in our children’s lives. Give the electronic babysitter a break. GET OUTSIDE, GET ACTIVE! Help young people see there is an actual life awaiting them outside. Encourage them to become participants instead of spectators.

For our own part as adults, the same can be said. We need to shut off the computers, put down the smartphones and just take time to reconnect with the outside world. We need to start to consider the choices we make with regard to our diets. I’ll be the first to admit sometimes I’m just flat out to lazy to cook a health meal. I get it, we are all busy these days. Putting in place better time management techniques where our eating habits our concerned can help. Cook larger portions of food that can be reheated over a period of days. Eat more leafy greens, a salad takes less time to make than a trip to McDonald.

At the end of the day, the march of the obesity (or slow waddle if you will) is apt to continue if we don’t take personal responsibility for our part in the solution. Take some time today to just consider what I’ve written here. I hope that it motivates at least one person to take action and make changes in their own life.

 

Sources:

* – CDC Website ( http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html )

** – Harvard School of Public Health ( http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/an-epidemic-of-obesity/ )