Thursday, April 30, 2009

Is There an Obesity Epidemic?

I was going to write about some specific people today, and how they are influencing prejudice against those who are overweight, but while doing research, I saw the phrases "health crisis" and "obesity epidemic" come up over and over again, and I found that those were what I really needed to write about!

As soon as I heard the term "health crisis", I started looking into life expectancy data.  I had thought that people were living longer every year, and I was correct.  Life expectancy goes up every year.  The death rate from cardiovascular illness in particular goes down every year.  Matter of fact, it is down over 60% since 1970.  I would think that this data would show that people are in better health than ever before.

Then I started looking particularly into the obesity epidemic.  It is a fact that Americans have gotten a bit heavier every year since 1970.  Whether this is a bad thing or not really has not been shown though.  It could possibly even be a good thing.  When stating that someone is overweight or obese, arbitrary standards have been set.  Obesity has actually been redefined throughout the years to be lower and lower.

Obesity is a risk factor for some health problems.  This does not mean that you will get sick.  This does not mean that you will die.  It just means that you have one risk factor that increases the likelihood of developing certain conditions.  Being obese does not mean that you are unhealthy.  High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, physical inactivity, and genetics are other risk factors.  They are actually stronger risk factors for cardiovascular disease than obesity is.    High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and physical inactivity are easier to improve than obesity.  They are also common in the thin and average weight population as well as in the obese population.

Stress is a very strong risk factor in cardiovascular disease.  Worrying chronically about your weight is a source of stress to many.  I have been worrying about my weight since I was 11 years old and had my doctor tell me that I could lose a few pounds.  I weighed 120 lbs. and was 5'2" tall.  He asked me what I liked to eat (obviously expecting me to say candy or cookies or something), and I answered oranges.  He was somewhat at a loss for words finally stammering that I needed to just eat less in general.  I am certain that stress is my biggest risk factor at this time.  I am so glad that I have chosen to focus my life on positivity, passion, and play letting go of my weight worries.

If health is our concern, we need to start focusing on health.  Eating foods that make us feel great and moving with joy throughout the day are things that are easy to incorporate into ones life.  Weight is a very visible characteristic.  There is far too much focus on weight in our society and far too little focus on the things that really matter.

Coming soon:
Does being overweight provide any health benefits?
What are the consequences of being underweight?
Who benefits when people worry about their weight?
How are cultural icons damaging our self perceptions?

1 comment:

Michele said...

hello, I have a blog where I kind of write my random thoughts but for the next few months plan on tracking my weight loss. Was wondering if you'd be interested in a link exchange? You can check it out then let me know!