Alyssa sent me this Wall Street Journal article this morning, which lays out some eye-popping stats on obesity rates in America. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the obesity problem among Americans has become one of the worst problems we face today.
Quite simply, Americans are way too fat, way too sedentary, and way too ignorant about what it takes to live a healthy life. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found, through a 2009 survey, that 26.7% of Americans are obese. This percentage is up from 25.6% in 2007 and 19.8% in 2000! Given that modern humans have roamed the Earth for about 200,000 years, you would expect any human growth trend to be very gradual. Yet, the obesity rate has increased 35% in under a decade. Excuse the annoying buzzword, but that is unsustainable.
If we keep up this trend, we’re going to eat ourselves into extinction. It’s a HUGE problem that people don’t give enough attention to.
The article goes on to explain that these results are based on adults who self-reported their body measurements. The CDS’s January 2010 report, which was based on actual measurements, found the obesity rate to be 33.8% (however, the sample size was considerably smaller; only 5,500 people were measured vs. 400,000 responses for the new study).
How is obesity calculated? The standard is the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale. You can find a good one HERE. The critical flaw of the BMI is that it doesn’t take into account muscle mass; the two input variables are simply height and weight. Thus, at 6’0” and 185 lbs., I’m considered overweight. If you know me personally, you know that I’m anything but overweight. At 8% body fat, I have a decent amount of lean muscle mass, which weighs more than fat, which puts me into the “Overweight” category.
However, despite the BMI’s chief flaw, the scale has been used for decades, so we can compare apples to apples when looking at obesity rates over time. Sure, the number (1 in 3) is staggering. But just as bad is the rate of increase in obese Americans. There’s no end in sight. We’re getting fatter every single year, yet knowledge and information has never been so freely available to us. So what gives?
It all boils down to education. We are responsible for educating ourselves about our bodies and how best to treat our bodies. Why is it that we are so knowledgeable about how to feed and take care of our dogs or race horses, but we haven’t a clue how to take care of our own bodies? We change the oil and tune up our cars like clockwork, but we don’t visit a doctor regularly for a check up. Why?
We need to get to know our bodies better. We need to think more about what we put into them, how we treat them, whether we sleep enough, exercise enough, what’s good and what’s bad for our bodies. Like anything else, this takes effort. We have be proactive about the way we treat our bodies, not reactive to mass consumer marketing campaigns that tell us what to eat. We have to take control, take responsibility. We need a hunger – not for Big Macs, but for knowledge about our own bodies.
It’s time to wake up, to stop making excuses. Stop sitting around. Get out there an exercise. Go read a health magazine. Join a gym. Lace up those dusty sneakers. Just do something. Be the other 2 people, not the 1 in 3. Please. Your life depends on it.