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America's Obesity Problem

Posted on May 17, 2012 at 10:30 AM

  One of the greatest freedoms we enjoy in America is the right to choose. This is evident from the millions of food products lining the shelves of our supermarkets, countless restaurants ranging from fast food to fine dining, as well as take out food, catering, and even vending machines. We even have a cable channel devoted to the preparation and consumption of food. We want for nothing when it comes to our choices in food items. And it shows.


The Centers for Disease Control released the sobering announcement last week that the number of states where at least 30 percent of the population is obese has climbed to twelve. Just four years ago only one state fell into that category. It is also little comfort that the one state with an obesity rate under 20 percent, Colorado, would have been considered the heaviest in 1995.


So what happened? At what point after 1995 did America begin the slippery-slope into adjustable waistband pants and sensible shoes? The blame ranges from our habits, lack of exercise, additives in food, poor diet, supersized portions at restaurants, so-called "healthy" foods with deceptive labels or marketing, and social and economic status. Lack of personal responsibility is often the biggest culprit, but food companies and government also play a role. The following is a list of my personal thoughts of what contributes to this problem as well as my pet peeves regarding reckless marketing schemes.


We don't know that we don't know:

 Unless you happen to be a dietician or someone who is fit and has really brushed up on the most current data regarding healthy eating, chances are you're not alone in your confusion over what really constitutes a healthy diet. Most of us get our information from the news or an article in a magazine. We follow the advice only to find out that the latest study does not support the initial claims that were reported as gospel in the first place. With so many contradictory statements and information, how do you know what works and what doesn't? With the information changing all the time, it's no wonder so many people give up.


We haven't identified the habits that keep us unhealthy:

 Do you skip breakfast, or worse, do you start your day with a donut and soda? Is your idea of exercise texting with the opposite hand? Maybe you're eating out several days a week. Whatever the reason is, our minds have come to accept certain rituals and habits as normal but our waistlines think otherwise. In order to truly live a healthy lifestyle, you must identify what has made you unhealthy. Sometimes it's not always obvious. Sugary drinks are a culprit that can even sabotage people who genuinely try to eat and live healthy. I will go into this more when I talk about vitamin water


 Eating healthy is an acquired taste:

 All the health rags preach that adults need at least five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables a day. In addition, we're supposed to supplement this with servings of nuts, fish, and other lean proteins. What they almost always fail to mention is that if a person's diet has mostly been fast food and sodium or sugar-laden snacks, they will still want those things and the flirtation with healthy food will end. A good way to reduce the shock is to introduce these foods gradually by  replacing an unhealthy food with a healthy one. For example, swap chips for baby carrots or a crunchy vegetable that you like, candy for grapes, or a fruit for a donut. It won't happen overnight, but the body will acquire a taste for these things and, along with reducing portion sizes and exercise, one lays the cornerstone for a healthier lifestyle.


 So many choices. So much temptation:

 Remember that little neighborhood grocery store where you could just run in and get all your meat, dairy, produce, and dry goods and bypass all those snack foods? Neither do I. What was considered a supermarket 20 years ago would be a general store by today's standards. Many of the aisles in the stores now would not be necessary were it not for so-called convenience foods that have replaced the made-from-scratch nutrition found in home cooking. Add to this the snack aisles jam-packed with those sneaky "mini" treats that actually make us consume more than had we just bought the regular size. Why have three full size Oreos when you can rationalize that it's better to eat a whole bag of minis? Which leads us to...


 Deceptive marketing. Buying what they're selling:

 One of the biggest tricks that food manufacturers have pulled on consumers is convincing us that certain things were healthy when in fact they were not. Nowhere is there a more glaring example of this than the product called Vitaminwater. First of all, vitamins are not naturally found in water. Neither is flavoring. Yet, the marketing gurus behind Vitaminwater convinced the public that the product was all natural without ever having to come out and say it. The truth of the matter is that Vitaminwater contains a pinch of synthetic vitamins with no known benefits and as much sugar as some soft drinks. This should come as no surprise since Vitaminwater is produced by soft drink giant Coca-Cola. Similarly, trans fats have come under attack and food companies have found ingenious ways to get around having to identify them in their product. Trans fats are associated with heart disease and obesity. They differ from other fats because the body recognizes trans fat as saturated which raises bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers the good (HDL).  Many foods may list partially-hydrogenated fats on the label which are the same as trans fats. To help avoid the trans fat trap, look for foods that contain Poly and Monounsaturated fats.



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1 Comment

Reply Michelle Vogt
4:53 PM on July 18, 2012 
Kim, thank you for posting this on your blog. After spending time in Atlanta airport, the busiest airport in the world, I can say that obesity is a problem. You must be proactive with your health. I am blessed to work with ViSalus Sciences in the war on obesity. As a country we are spending unnecessary money on health care that is directly tied to obesity. If someone you know is struggling with this, please encourage them to get help and find a support group that can cheer them on to their weight loss goals.