Last Spring I wrote an article on America’s weight problem. It was a short piece based mostly on my personal views and observations. Since then I have been reading more on the dilemma and have become a more avid ‘weight watcher’. (No, not my own as I still need to lose some excess pounds to reach my optimum weight.) I have been watching other people a little more closely – making mental notes of what I see – and have been appalled at what I observe in my everyday travels about town. Fat people galore! – especially young people who should never be in that condition.
By young people I mean those between the ages of 15 to 35 years old. From this group the majority of future health problems – and costs – are going to leap upon us as a society. These are the people who should now be targeted for changing their lifestyles to eliminate the causes of being overweight. These are the individuals most moldable now whose behaviors can be modified more easily than older fatties before irreversible harm has been done to their bodies.
While it may not be politically correct to ridicule overweight people, the time has come to fully and publicly recognize the extent of the problem of Americans being overweight. It is apparent that we have reached a near epidemic of fatness and obesity in our society. While this may be an appearance detractor, played to by television advertising for any number of weight reduction gimmicks, more importantly it is a health problem creeping up on us and is going to be pandemic in our country with costly consequences.
How bad is the problem? Very bad according to the Centers for Disease Control and other government agencies and medical organizations monitoring the situation. Factually, more than 65% of adult Americans are currently overweight. More than 20% of our children are similarly affected by this condition. More than one third of adult Americans go beyond being overweight – they are considered obese, fat to the extent it is extreme. This equates to more than 70 million potential health problems which will significantly impact the health care system of the United States in the not so distant future. This is not a problem to ignore as it is predicted by medical experts to be much worse in the near term. By 2015 – a mere six years from now – the percent of adult Americans considered overweight will approach 75% and obesity will increase to over 40%. Alarming, isn’t it?
Obesity kills! The incidences of Type 2 diabetes is growing at an alarming rate, more than doubling over the past 30 years in line with increasing levels of obesity. Heart disease is similarly on the increase as are a number of other ailments related to being overweight. Studies and reports can be easily found in numerous government and medical publications, but they don’t seem to attract the attention of anyone other than medical experts. They certainly haven’t swayed the general public if the fat statistics are to be believed. We get fatter as a nation by the year.
Yet, little is being done to correct the situation and change lifestyles of Americans, especially our youth. Oh, the government has published reports on the problem repeatedly. Who reads government reports? Not many of us – particularly our fast food chomping youth who have been raised on high calorie meals of cheeseburgers and french fries, tacos and lard laden burritos, and other fast food fat producing short cuts to a healthy diet. Our American youngsters have been ‘supersized’ by the fast food industry – and negligent parents – to the extent they are now to an alarming degree overweight, unfit, and, in a significantly increasing number, obese.
Our society – particularly our youth – has become increasingly sedimentary forsaking real exercise for television reality shows and spectator sports – watching rather than doing – and playing computer action games rather than getting outdoors and becoming involved with real action games as in playing rigorously. The lack of any real strenuous daily activities involving working up a little sweat is causing this problem. (That and our poor choices of food in our diets.) Americans, I fear, have become lazy when it comes to getting enough exercise to ward off becoming overweight.
The simple fact that even a good daily walk of about three miles would be highly beneficial if combined with a reduction in calories by eating less fast food. Playing PlayStation for hours on end has no benefit at all in ridding ourselves of excess fat. Neither does hours of couch – sitting while watching the nonsense on television that has become our entertainment.
As Americans, we basically consume too much fat in our daily diet and get too little exercise. The problem is as simple as that – easily curable and reversed. But not without some education, effort, and headship by our leaders.
In a recent column, Morton Kondracke (Roll Call) called upon President – elect Barack Obama to make this a priority early in his administration, to declare a war on obesity, and to encourage Americans to join him in slimming the country down. Kondracke points out that Barack is one who Americans would follow in the battle to eat better, exercise more, and loose the fat now dragging us all into a health crisis. Morton states “…Obama is singularly positioned to lead the charge against excess flab: he’s lean, he exercises, and he can set a great example for getting the nation fit again.”
The new President certainly has enough wars to deal with. But a new war – on obesity -can be easily engaged, promoted, and won. We just need someone like Barack – and perhaps other influential leaders in the sports field – to declare it an ongoing battle and encourage the general populace, especially young people, to join the ranks of all Americans in the fight to rid ourselves of this burdensome and dangerous health concern. The young are enthusiastic over the election of Barack and will undoubtedly follow his marching orders to get up off the couch, drop that cheeseburger, and get fit.
That is an excellent possible solution to an imminent, though silent, disaster looming on our horizon. It would not be costly; it would not take an excess effort, it would be effective and nearly immediate in its taking hold. If Barack simply stated in his first speeches on health care that we can all help solve the problem by diet and exercise, people would understand and get on board. We all know through observing those around us and looking in the mirror that most of us need to shed a few pounds and we all know we need to get involved in a more active lifestyle. We recognize that we spend too much time on the couch and not enough time outdoors. Barack could prompt us to change. After all, he damned the status quo of the health care system and promised change when campaigning. This type of change would be, most likely, the easiest thing to do in his administration. And, one to produce credible, effective, and long lasting benefits.
Parents cannot escape criticism for this problem neither. Parents condone calorie laden fast foods, sodas, and other unhealthy food choices in feeding their children. They allow sedentary behavior. In fact they set the example many times with their own. An active parent is almost always an example for encouraging a child to do the same. As a parent, get your kids up off their chairs, out from behind those computer screens, away from the malls and fast food shops, and instead get them active in action playing requiring physical exertion. Do your part.
As I stated at the beginning, I am an avid weight watcher. And I don’t like who I see walking around the shopping centers while gobbling a fatty snack from a fast food purveyor while quaffing a supersized cola of some sort. Fat people galore!
Yes, we’re too damned fat, America, and we need to do something about it! Now!