by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Move over tobacco. Obesity is competing for the top preventable cause of death in the United States …
Not many reasons motivate us into action like the fear of death. As a community of wellness seekers, we may be very aware of life before health became our priority. Perhaps a heart attack, osteoporosis, or diabetes was the catalyst for a healthier lifestyle. It might have been chronic pain from weak core muscles. Or cycling, squats, and pumping iron may be the result of high cholesterol.
Ongoing research gives another threat to combat on the Exercise Floor– severe obesity. According to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, poor diet and physical inactivity caused 400,000 deaths in the United States, more than 16 percent of all deaths. This placed obesity as a preventable killer second only to tobacco use, which was the underlying cause of 18 percent of deaths.
A decade prior, the gap was more significant with inactivity/poor diet and tobacco accounting for 14 and 19 percent, respectively. Interestingly, fatalities from tobacco use dropped slightly. Perhaps this reflects the success of aggressive antismoking campaigns. Health experts knew obesity was a serious health threat. Recent research continues to prove the extent of this with severe obesity’s link to fatalities.
Data collected from 20 previous studies found severely obese individuals to be more at risk for early death from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes compared to those of healthy weight. The severely obese, defined by a body mass index (BMI) over 40, are in danger of losing up to 14 years off their life as per studies mentioned in HealthDay news.
Followed an average of 30 years, study participants who were severely obese had more than double the death rate of their counterparts. Heart disease was the main cause of these premature deaths, followed by cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease.
These statistics are alarming, yet motivating. These individuals likely would have increased their lifespan if they lost weight. The risk of death from obesity-related conditions increases with the degree of weight gain. Unlike genetics, many diseases, and accidental fatalities, achieving a healthy weight is attainable for everyone. The means to accomplish it are as unique as the individual. Yet, it is always possible.
Severe obesity is the most dangerous weight threat. Health experts are focusing on preventative measures since an individual’s weight should not have to reach this advanced status. According to a report in the journal PLOS Medicine, approximately six percent of adults in the United States are severely obese. The impact goes beyond the individual, with the economic cost in the United States well into the billions.
According to the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), a group that studies thousands who lose weight and keep it off, there isn’t one perfect diet or exercise program. In an attempt to find it, Americans spend more than $33 billion annually on weight-loss products and services. Commitment to healthier eating and increased physical activity is often the conclusion reached for success. Despite the large number of people trying to lose weight, only a small fraction of them are following the recommendation of reduced calories and increased exercise.
What to Do
Avoid a rigid scheme to lose weight quickly. Allow yourself to experiment. Make healthy choices that are realistic and appealing. Seek the advice of a personal trainer to determine a fitness plan that evolves with you. Shoot too high and you’ll fall short, discouraged. Aim too low and you won’t see results, discouraged again. Learn what works to improve your body and mind. Usually, these discoveries indirectly lead to weight loss.
When you get comfortable with a workout program, it will be time to change it. Eight weeks is usually the “expiration date” for a fitness routine. Then, it is time to reevaluate. Meet with the Center nurse and personal trainer. These free reevaluations are optimally timed to provide feedback when needed.
Discover improvements that transpire behind the scenes. You may not have dropped a clothes size over the eight-week period. However, the nurse can determine other physical improvements, including body fat percentages and blood pressure. Monitoring progress is essential to weight loss, whether trying to lose 10 pounds or 100. It reflects payment for your efforts, especially when not yet seen on the bathroom scale.
Don’t go it alone! Take advantage of the Center’s fitness professionals, health experts, and supportive community. There is more to weight loss than you and the scale. A bathroom scale cannot give a true measurement of our health, including mass body fat. One discouraging shift in the wrong direction, and the scale may cause all attempts at health to be abandoned.
Skip a scale trip. In its place, take a minute to imagine yourself in a healthier place. Positive affirmation is probably more motivating. Or, drop to the floor and execute your best exercise. Take a walk up and down the stairs. Action trumps scale watching.
Thoughts to Motivate
If you’re struggling with weight issues, clearly you are not alone. The Center helps grow a healthier community. Many facilities are about losing pounds. Here, we guide you to a healthier life where weight is only one factor of your being.
Don’t be overwhelmed. When loss is recommended or desired, experts emphasize a mere reduction of 15 percent of your current body weight can be helpful. Even if not considered obese, many find shedding that extra five or ten pounds improves energy level and overall well-being.
Healthy living feels good. It offers its own rewards, even ones that surpass fresh-cookie euphoria. Small, practical changes set in motion a healthier lifestyle. Satisfaction in eating well and joy in movement will start to come naturally.
As you embark on this journey, realize you have succeeded in other major life changes. It may have been a new job, relocation to a different area, getting married or divorced, having children, or struggling through an illness. You can manage what it takes to lose weight. Your health depends on it. With each positive change, know you are possibly extending your life. You are strong. You can do this.
Focus weight loss efforts more on becoming healthier than looking better in skinny jeans. Perhaps that motivation is the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. (Notice, it is referred to as “healthy weight” not attractive, stylish, or sexy weight.) Emphasize the health benefits of losing excess weight. Any additional confidence boost you accomplish by a positive body image is an added perk.
Obesity does not have to lead to a death sentence. Take small steps and achieve your healthiest weight.
“CDC: Obesity Approaching Tobacco as Top Preventable Cause of Death,” www.doctorslounge.com.
“Secrets to Successful Weight Loss,” by Paige Waehner at www.about.com.
Donut burger (introductory photo): www.flickr.com/photos/flyingsaab/4940189371/
Hilly stairs: www.flickr.com/photos/29792566@N08/6163939170/