Since the 1960s, obesity has become an epidemic in America, and its rise is clearly linked to increases in diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and in some cases mental illness. In fact, obesity increases the likelihood of all causes of mortality — and a notably low quality of life.
Now the quickly growing obesity trend is trickling down to our children, along with all its corresponding risks to their overall well-being. This has to stop.
Here’s good news: We already have the tools to stop it.
Why Is Obesity Trending?
The U.S. has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world. It affects more than a third of the population (approximately 78 million people), and there are several reasons why:
1. Decreased food quality
In an effort to reduce costs and increase shelf life, much of our food supply now comes packed with artificial ingredients, preservatives, added hormones, and genetic modifications. These ingredients are known to disrupt endocrine and metabolic processes, leading to testosterone decline and thyroid disease. Type 2 diabetes, which is also linked to endocrine disruption, is also rapidly increasing, especially among children.
2. Portion sizes
It’s no coincidence that, just like our waistlines, our meal sizes have also grown significantly since the 1960s. Compared with France, American portions of candy and soft drinks are about 50 percent larger. Even relatively healthful foods like yogurt are up to 80 percent larger. We also eat those larger portions faster, power-eating through the average meal almost twice as fast as most other countries.
3. Lack of activity
The number of manual labor jobs in the country has dropped dramatically compared with the mid-20th century, and many people don’t supplement their desk jobs with extra exercise. With so many video games and mobile apps available, kids are less active on average than ever before. Most people even outsource their lawn service, so the few hours a week people used to spend in the yard is almost completely a thing of the past.
What Does This Mean for Our Future?
Those who live with obesity are familiar with the personal consequences of it, but its effects are farther-reaching than many of us realize. Obesity is one of the greatest drivers behind preventable chronic diseases and contributes to staggering healthcare costs at over $150 billion a year and rising.
The epidemic is also affecting people’s attendance at work, their overall productivity, and even the rate of long-term unemployment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity-related absenteeism from work costs the nation between $3 billion and $6 billion annually. That statistic is made worse by the fact that obese employees incur more than double the amount in healthcare, workers’ compensation, and short-term disability of healthier employees.
According to research from Yale University, overweight applicants are less likely to be hired. In fact, the study revealed that weight discrimination was as prevalent as racial discrimination during the initial hiring process.
The costs of obesity-related illnesses, combined with the higher costs of healthcare for obese people who are unemployed, are already beyond challenging. If we don’t stem the tide, the costs may become more than we can handle — on both a personal and national level.
Breaking the Pattern of Obesity
Maintaining a healthy weight requires different things for different people, depending on their specific lifestyles, genetic makeup, and more. Nevertheless, any individual can still implement some tricks to start moving in the right direction. Here are four ways you can stop the pattern of obesity in your own life:
1. Make healthy eating a lifestyle
Fad diets are quick fixes. They might contribute to a little weight loss, but they’re never sustainable — and are rarely healthy. When healthy eating doesn’t make up 80 to 90 percent of your weekly consumption, your weight and health cannot be optimal.
2. Eliminate processed foods from your diet
Processed foods lack valuable nutrients and have negative effects on blood sugar, leading to weight gain. Processed foods are also likely to contain artificial ingredients that cause hormonal imbalances, further increasing the risks of obesity and other health issues.
3. Reduce your carbohydrate intake
Obesity is almost always indicative of insulin resistance from too many carbohydrates. The best way to improve insulin sensitivity is to reduce your intake of carbs, which has been confirmed by almost every low carb study ever conducted. An increase of high-quality, pasture-raised proteins and fibrous vegetables will further improve insulin sensitivity and body composition.
4. Get up and move more
Exercise in all its forms will burn extra calories and positively impact fat loss. Weight training can have the biggest impact on fat loss and longevity because of its positive effects on insulin sensitivity, and because you continue burning calories for hours after your workout. For best results, shoot for a minimum of three hours of exercise per week.
Whether we realize it or not, our country’s unhealthy relationship with obesity isn’t one to ignore. We deserve a healthier, happier future, and our children deserve for us to set the example on how to create one.