As a nation, we are obsessed with weight management. There are the calorie counters, the fitness fanatics, the constant dieters, and to the extreme, the anorexics. Why then is obesity an epidemic in this country?
STATISTICS ON OBESITY
Obesity was declared an epidemic in the U.S. back in the late 1990s. However, that does not seem to have slowed down the increase in obesity rate. In May 2012, the Centers of Disease Control, the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, hosted the Weight of the Nation TM conference. The goal was to draw attention to this growing health issue.
According to the World Health Organization's Obesity and Overweight Fact Sheet, released in May 2012:
Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980.More than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight, in 2008. More than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010.This is no longer just a wealthy-nation problem.Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths - attributed to 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden, and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens.
In the U.S., the statistics is alarming as well. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control,
Over 35% of adults and 12% of those below 20 are now obese.In 2010, there were 12 states with obesity prevalence of over 30%, compared to zero state with that measure in 2000.It was estimated that medical needs associated with obesity cost over $147 billion in 2008.
Looking ahead, the obesity rate is expected to increase to 51% in 2030 using a linear time trend forecast, according to a study published in PubMed.gov.
WHAT CONTRIBUTES TO OBESITY?
I am sure you have read about the reasons that contribute to this healthcare epidemic. The high saturated fat and high sugar content of our food and drinks are commonly blamed to be the villains. But are they the true cause of obesity or the unfortunate effect? It is true that many of us have a sweet tooth and fatty food does taste better. However, the growth of our fast and processed food industries did not happen without any reason. The reliance on fast and processed food is not an independent event, but rather a response to our gradual change in lifestyle.
In this age, we value speed, the ability to multi-task, the capacity to be available at any time at any place. The scheduled family dinner with home-cooked quality food is often viewed as a hindrance to success. Fast food and prepared snacks become a necessity for survival.
At the same time, we marvel technologies. The hype of recent technology IPOs is a hint of our new paradigm. Technologies bring new frontiers but also create a new sedated lifestyle. First was the TV, then computer games, and now internet and social games. According to a January 2010 Bloomberg Businessweek report, the amount of time an 8-18 year old spend on media, such as watching TV, playing video games or surfing the Internet, was 7 hours 38 minutes. That is close of half of their awaked hours! No wonder childhood obesity is on the rise.
It also does not help that we have long accustomed to the pop-the-pill health care approach. Limited attention has been given to disease prevention and long-term health. We are not trained to think that what we eat or do will eventually impact our health. Doesn't "garbage in, garbage out" sound familiar?
THE DARK SIDE OF WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
Undeniably, weight is an important part of our life. Managing weight is more than looking pretty. Weight affects our physical health, our ability to function, and unfortunately our psychology. If you have seen the "Biggest Loser", you would have heard the contestant's tearful testimonies. I felt the burden of the shadow that was casted on these contestants by those around them as well as by themselves.
Combating weight cannot be done with willpower alone. It takes a lot of encouragement and support from friends, family as well as the acceptance of the society. Paradoxically, the psychological barrier can be so strong that those who need help most actually shield themselves away from those who want to help.
This month, we will be exploring weight management. We kicked the series with May is Mediterranean Diet Month by Dr. W. Clower. The article emphasizes the importance of our lifestyle to our health. In the next few weeks, we will present tips for managing weight holistically, and discuss how to break through the psychological barrier created by this sensitive issue to achieve long-lasting results. Hope you will enjoy the discussions and chime in with your own experiences.