Obesity is a hot topic in the health and wellness arena. In my recent research for a class discussion, I found 100,000+ peer reviewed articles written on the subject just in the past decade. It’s a well known fact obesity has become a significant crisis in the United States. Take a quick look below at the growth of obesity rates in the past twenty years. From less than 20% to approximately 36% of the nation is obese!!
Let’s not forget the children, our future. The most current stats show 1 in 5 of children ages 6 to 19 yrs is obese! I find it disheartening to see kids who are overweight because they are at a higher risk for chronic diseases.1 However, while it still remains a major issue, there is positive progress. In the past several years, the percentage of children affected decreased.
Please help in continuing the decreasing trend! Educate yourself and your community to help our children thrive!
Back to my class discussion. This previous week was the first week of my spring semester as a graduate student to earn an MS degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotions with a concentration in Wellness Coaching. I know very wordy but I’m excited to be on this path! Our instructor posed the question “Share Why you think there is an Obesity Epidemic and Provide Original Ideas on how to reverse the situation.”
The first part of the question was easy enough to answer because of the thousands of research articles available to point as to what caused our nation to to be almost 36.5% obese.2 You can probably take a guess as well without having to look at the supporting evidence.
But before I present to you the two glaring reasons why we’re in this state of epidemic, let’s define the term OBESITY. Obesity is defined as the measure of excessive body fat considered healthy relative to the height of the individual. However since body fat is not simple to measure and can be costly, the next best measurement is the Body Mass Index or BMI. BMI is 30 or greater for a person to be considered obese.
Why is there an Obesity Epidemic?
I’m sure the healthy practices for children above (which should also be applied to adults) gave you a clue of some of the causes of the obesity epidemic. There are many causes of obesity from genetics to medications to psychological issues, as well as socioeconomic factors but the two major factors many have cited in their research as well as in my class discussion are –
LACK OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
POOR NUTRITIONAL CHOICES
Technological advances have created a population engaged in sedentary behaviors. We spend more time now staring at a screen whether it’s a computer, smartphone or television rather than time outdoors for movement and play. We rely more on transportation to shuttle us everywhere we go, even at a short distance.4 Here is the current statistic according to StateofObesity.org regarding physical activity:
Among American adults, 80 percent do not meet the government’s physical activity recommendations for aerobic and muscle strengthening and 60 percent are not sufficiently active to achieve health benefits.
On the other end is the unhealthy eating habits brought on by the Standard American Diet (SAD) composed of processed foods high in fat (the bad type as in fast foods) and sugar with only a small quantities of fruits and vegetables. Only 11% of the US consumed the USDA recommended guidelines of 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables daily. 5 If you’re interested in knowing the state-by-state percentages of fruit and vegetable consumption, check out this page on State of Obesity: State Rates of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
How to Reverse this Crisis?
Coming up with an original idea was more complicated to answer. A number of programs are already instituted to combat this epidemic. However, obesity remains high in the U.S. We still have more work to do.
So here’s my OUTRAGEOUS proposition –
You know how every box of cigarette requires a warning label?
SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy. Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health. Smoking By Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight.Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide.
As an experiment, how about including a Warning Label for Beverages containing High Amounts of Sugar?
WARNING: Consuming high amounts of sugar contained in this beverage may cause insulin resistance and increase risk for Type 2 Diabetes. 5
I think the presence of a warning label increases AWARENESS and would make a person think twice about purchasing the beverage. When you’re aware of the consequence of your action, you can make an intelligent decision whether or not you want to accept the consequence. My current Whole 30 experience has instilled in me the habit of checking ingredient labels. It’s comforting to know what I’m putting in my body is helping not hurting it.
Another idea that may work –
Start a television advertisement campaign to promote movement so instead of watching ads about McDonald’s bringing back the McRib, it would be an ad with a person encouraging you to stand up and perform a few exercises during the break.
30 to 50% of ads seen on television are about FOOD! Of course, they’re not about consuming more fruits and vegetables. Most of them are fast food with hardly any nutritional value. I’m sure you’ve heard that exposure to food advertisements motivates many of us to eat. In fact, a study was done that linked a positive connection with overweight and obese individual’s desire to eat more after watching food ads. 6
Would the same psychology work if there were more ads focused on taking a movement break in between shows? Imagine your favorite actor or actress instructing you to get up and dance! Will this persuade you to get up off the couch and try it? Would it then spark up your motivation to do more?
On a more personal level, I think it would help to be a part of a community who have the same ultimate goals which is to get healthy.
In a research conducted, social networks and social support positively correlated to weight loss. Those with support from a community lost more weight and followed through with the program.7
If you’re interested in becoming a part of a group program to lower your sugar consumption, please check out the Less Sugar, More Health Experience. You will receive more details about the program when you sign up to be a part of the Evoke Strong email list.
Is Axiom from Wall-E our Future?
I can’t help but think about the fictional obese characters in Wall-E. The ones where they are in an automated setting staring at screens and sipping shakes. Moreover, they are sitting in hovercrafts transporting them from one place to another without ever having the need to get up. Is this where our world is heading?
I sure hope not!
It’s why this epidemic is such a hot topic. Many are invested in determining how best to solve it. I think overall the mindset of our nation has to shift to truly investing in our health for our future to remain intact.
I would love to hear your thoughts! Any original ideas on how to reverse the obesity epidemic?
4 Clark, M.A., Lucett, S.C., McGill, E., Montel, I., Sutton, B. (Eds.). (2018). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
5 Sonestedt, E., Cecilie Øverby, N., Laaksonen, D. E., & Eva Birgisdottir, B. (2012). Does high sugar consumption exacerbate cardiometabolic risk factors and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease?. Food & Nutrition Research, 561-19.
6 Kemps, E., Tiggemann, M., & Hollitt, S. (2014). Exposure to television food advertising primes food-related cognitions and triggers motivation to eat. Psychology & Health, 29(10), 1192-1205. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2014.918267
7 Knox-Kazimierczuk, F., & Shockly-Smith, M. (2017). African American Women and the Obesity Epidemic: A Systematic Review. Journal Of Pan African Studies, 10(1), 76-110.