glenn ellis

Glenn Ellis

*More than seventy percent of Americans struggle with weight that they find impossible to take off.  It is the biggest medical epidemic that we face today.

A 2005 CDC study estimated that approximately 112,000 deaths are associated with obesity each year in the United States, making obesity the second leading contributor to premature death.  (That’s the equivalent of a jetliner full of 300 people crashing every day.)

The CDC reports that 90-95% of diabetes is type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to diet and weight. Between 50% and 80% of diabetes cases are associated with unhealthy eating patterns and sedentary lifestyles. The average health-care costs for a person with diabetes are more than $13,000 per year compared to $2,500 for a person without diabetes.

Obesity is simply fatness in a degree higher than being overweight. The energy intake coming from food is stored as fat because the body does not use it.

There was a time, not so long ago, that obesity was considered a sign of health, wealth, and beauty.  It is widely known today that this is not the case.  Obesity has many dangerous side effects such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.  At no other time in history has obesity been as widespread as it is right now.

Why? What is the reason for this spike in obesity?  Is it lifestyle?  Is it laziness?  Do we just not care about ourselves anymore?  What is the problem?

Obesity occurs when a person intakes higher amount of food, which do not burn and is stored as fat in the body. Obesity can greatly have an adverse impact on a person’s health. It may even have a worse affect on a person’s mental health.

There are many more people in Philadelphia who are overweight or obese (900,000) than who are at a healthy weight (600,000).

In 2008, 64% of adults and 47% of children were overweight or obese.  In North Philadelphia, nearly 70% of children were overweight or obese.

Nationwide, the rate of obesity has tripled in the past 20 years.

Obesity is a leading preventable cause of death worldwide, with increasing prevalence in adults and children, and authorities view it as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century.

The crisis is obesity. It’s the fastest-growing cause of disease and death in America. And it’s completely preventable.

Think of it this way: statistics tell us that for every 20 people reading this column, at least two will die because of a completely preventable illness related to overweight or obesity. Because of overweight or obesity, two of you will spend less time pursuing your dreams, serving in your communities, and enjoying your children and grandchildren.

An unprecedented number of children are carrying excess body weight. That excess weight significantly increases our kids’ risk factors for a range of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and emotional and mental health problems.

Looking back 40 years to the 1960s, when many of us were children, just over four percent of 6- to 17-year-olds were overweight. Since then, that rate has more than tripled, to over 15 percent. And the problem doesn’t go away when children grow up. Nearly three out of every four overweight teenagers may become overweight adults.

Our children did not create this problem. Adults did. Adults increased the portion size of children’s meals, developed the games and television that children find spellbinding, and chose the sedentary lifestyles that our children emulate. So adults must take the lead in solving this problem.

Benjamin Franklin was absolutely right back in the 1700s: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But more than 200 years later, prevention is still a radical concept to most Americans.

For the meals we eat, both at home, and the meals we eat out, it’s ultimately, our decision what we eat, where we eat, and how much we eat. This is part of what I talk and advocate about with Americans of all ages, races, creeds, and colors: increasing our health literacy.

Health literacy is the ability of an individual to access, understand, and use health-related information and services to make appropriate health decisions.

Every morning people wake up and, while they’re sitting at the kitchen table, they read the newspaper and the cereal box. Throughout the day they read the nutritional information on their meals and on their snacks. But do they really understand the information they’re reading?

The labels list grams of fat. But do you know how many grams of fat you should eat in a meal? Or in a day? Or how many is too many? Or too few? These are seemingly simple questions, but we’re not being given simple answers.

The amount of obese people in the world is currently estimated at being approximately one billion, which is a phenomenal statistic, so where did it all go wrong and how have we become this way, over the years.

We now use computers more than ever before the Internet starts taking over television as the most popular sitting down activity ever. We now have an abundance of machines that we can use at home that don’t involve much moving about, PlayStations, X-Boxes, etc. People use e-mail in organizations rather than talking to their colleagues or getting up to speak to them, we can now use phones anywhere we want to and see and talk to people for hours and hours, where ever we are, and will be mostly doing this while we are sitting down.

The big problem is with all of this is that due to all of the industrialization, that we have around us we tend to think that we should just go everywhere in our cars. Rather than walking or buying fresh produce, we have let ourselves become a bit too comfortable with our lives and relying on technology to do everything for us so in the long run we tend to do less rather than more.

Walking briskly for just an hour a day is enough to cut the effect of tendencies toward obesity, according to new research.

As we attempt to get our kids to make healthy choices, we should not forget that we need to make them for ourselves.

James Baldwin captured the essence of this when he said: “Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

Glenn Ellis,  is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist. He is the author of Which Doctor?, and a health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, and is an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics.

His second book, “Information is the Best Medicine”, was released in 2012.

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