The growing prevalence of obesity has become a grave health concern. Do we live for the pleasure of eating, rather than eating as a necessity to live? You are what you eat!
Why is being overweight, even to the point of morbidly obese becoming so prevalent? Especially in America today, it’s almost like an epidemic.
The answer to that question, along with some health facts about complications of being overweight and/or obese are among the things I want to explore in this post.
This is NOT a post about appearances, judging, criticizing or body-shaming people that are overweight and/or obese!!!
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The Prevalence of Obesity
According to the World Health Organization1 in an article published in 2018, Worldwide obesity had nearly tripled since 1975.
Being overweight and/or obese is when a person has accumulated enough body fat that it can impair or affect their overall health.
Determining if someone is overweight or obese is done by calculating their body mass index (BMI). It is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).
Try this online calculator to get your BMI by clicking here. For adults, overweight is a BMI greater than or equal to 25, and obesity is a BMI greater than or equal to 30.
Key Facts and statistics of Obesity
Some recent WHO1 global estimates follow.
- In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults aged 18 years and older were overweight. Of these over 650 million adults were obese.
- In 2016, 39% of adults aged 18 years and over (39% of men and 40% of women) were overweight.
- Overall, about 13% of the world’s adult population (11% of men and 15% of women) were obese in 2016.
- The worldwide prevalence of obesity nearly tripled between 1975 and 2016.
A look at some other resources
The prevalence of obesity has steadily been on the rise for years now. Let’s look at some data and statistics from another resource.
According to the NCBI data and research, we have the following stats and information. The following is quoted from an article you can read in full here.
In 1995, there were an estimated 200 million obese adults worldwide. However, by the year 2000, the number had grown to 300 million and has continued to increase since then. The trends for increasing obesity are broadly repeated throughout Western Europe and a similar rise has been observed in the United States. In 1986, 1 in 200 adults in America were morbidly obese; by 2004, the figure was 1 in 50. Currently, 1 in 5 adults are morbidly obese in America. The rates of obesity have similarly increased in the United Kingdom since the 1980s, this rise is projected to continue.2
Why I Chose to Write About Obesity
Obesity and being overweight have been on the rise among society for years now. So why have I chosen to write about it now?
The first reason would be that I only recently started blogging seriously with a purpose. That purpose is to provide information and awareness about health and issues I have personal experience and knowledge about.
This leads to the second reason and the fact that I have dealt with being overweight, verging on obesity all my life. Even as a very active child, I was still the “chubby kid”.
Also, I’ve chosen to write about the prevalence of obesity because of the hazards of remaining overweight or obese.
There are many conditions and complications related to being overweight, as I have experienced several personally.
Stigmas of being Overweight
Fat-shaming or body-shaming is NEVER OK! It is never acceptable under any circumstances! It is nothing but hateful, mean and judgemental.
People find it very easy to judge others. We also find it easy to criticize things we do not understand. We do not understand people and their conditions when we do not know all the facts.
We should never criticize or say anything to someone about their being overweight unless we can say it out of compassion and concern for helping them with their health.
Even so, we still have to ask ourselves if it’s our place to say anything at all to that person.
Do You Think We Like Being Fat?
Honestly, think about it logically. Do you really think anyone enjoys being fat? Everyone wishes for something in life that they don’t have.
Be it money, a car, or a bigger house. Everyone dreams of having something. So don’t you think an obese person would ever dream of having that slim, athletic or at least a healthy attractive body?
I know I always have!!! I have dreamed of not being fat for as long as I can remember! Being “skinny” has been my major dream/goal since I was around 10 years old.
My body has been put through every exercise routine, fad diet, “magic pill”, and even prescription medicines and healthy diet plans that you can possibly imagine.
Of course, I’d lose some weight and then I’d gain weight. I’ve see-sawed back and forth all of my life. From age 10 to now age 58 I’ve weighed in ranges from 135 to 276. I’m only 5’6″ tall.
Things I Personally Hated About Being Fat
As a kid, I hated being the fat kid because I was always the slowest kid in the race. Have you ever watched a fat kid run? Head threw back, arms pumping, giving it all they got, and yet they are barely going anywhere.
Yep, that was me. I had the determination and lots of steam but no speed. Also, I had to find two friends to see-saw with me just to help balance it out.
Throughout my life, it has always been difficult to find trendy clothes that fit me correctly or comfortably.
So not only did I always feel bad about how I looked, but I felt uncomfortable with how my clothes fit.
Not to mention the physical limitations such as always short of breath, hard to reach my toes, and struggling to tie my shoes. Try getting into a small car when you weigh almost 300 pounds. It’s not easy or comfortable.
People Don’t Choose to Be Fat
For people who have never been overweight, or never had to worry about easily gaining weight, it’s very easy to judge those of us that are fat.
However, people that are overweight do not choose to be fat! It’s not like we set out with a plan to see how much weight we can gain. Even when we are just a little overweight we don’t ignore the fact or decide not to diet.
Some people simply can’t lose weight. There are a number of underlying reasons why they can’t lose weight, and I’ll discuss those reasons in a minute. But until the root of the problem is addressed the weight will not come off.
Don’t be too quick to judge
The next time you see someone who is obese, don’t be so quick to judge them.
You don’t know their whole story. Remember the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, the same is true of an overweight person. You don’t know their inner struggles.
All of the “skinny” people out there simply do not know just how lucky you are. Especially if you do not have to “work” to stay at a normal weight.
Causes of the Prevalence of Obesity
The basic cause of being overweight or obese is an imbalance in energy expenditure. In other words, when you take in more calories than you burn off.
According to an article1 by the World Health Organization (WHO) it stated
Globally, there has been:
- an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat; and
- an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.
Society as a whole is more about convenience while also becoming a more sedentary lifestyle. Jobs today don’t require as much physical labor as in years ago.
Also, we, especially us Americans, love our fast foods! We have busy lives so grabbing fast food or take out for dinner is much more convenient than cooking dinner at home. Sugar-laden sodas are also a huge culprit!
More Contributing Factors
Sadly, another contributing factor to being an overweight society is the fact that healthier foods actually cost more. Yes, you read that correctly.
Healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, and items to prepare healthier meals at home cost way more than grabbing fast food.
Therefore a single parent struggling to make ends meet and feed his/her children will quickly grab the least costly item. And there starts the cycle of raising overweight children, that grow into unhealthy, overweight adults.
Other factors can also include costly or lack of health care. Lack of support or access to exercise opportunities or gyms. Time and motivation for exercise are big factors also.
Underlying health conditions such as Hypothyroidism, PCOS, or lipedema just to name a few can also affect the ability to lose weight and cause obesity.
Hazards and Complications
Simply stated, being overweight is unhealthy! Being overweight to the point of becoming obese can shorten your life span.
Remaining overweight does not come without complications or hazards to your health!
Let’s look at some complications
Excess weight may increase the risk for many health problems, including
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- heart disease and strokes
- certain types of cancer
- sleep apnea
- fatty liver disease
- kidney disease
- pregnancy problems, such as high blood sugar during pregnancy, high blood pressure, and increased risk for cesarean delivery (C-section)
Personally, I developed high blood pressure by the time I was 19 years old. I have developed type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, and suffered from sleep apnea.
Fortunately, I have survived 3 heart attacks and a major stroke. I do not have to sleep with a C-PAP machine for sleep apnea now that I’ve finally lost weight.
Let’s talk about hazards
In the list of complications I mentioned “certain types of cancer”, so let’s expand on that.
According to NIDDK3, it isn’t known exactly how being overweight is connected to cancer.
That same article states, ” Fat cells may release hormones that affect cell growth, leading to cancer. Also, eating or physical activity habits that may lead to being overweight may also contribute to cancer risk.”
NIDDK article states:
Being overweight increases the risk of developing certain cancers, including the following
- breast, after menopause
- colon and rectum
- endometrium (lining of the uterus)
Daily hazards and inconveniences
Let’s talk a minute about a few things other than major health problems. Have you ever stopped and thought about some of the simple things in life that you may normally take for granted? Things that being overweight can prevent you from doing?
At my largest weight, my seat belt in my truck did not fit properly. That was a safety hazard to me. But wait, there’s more. My stomach was so big that I had to tilt the steering wheel up and move the seat backward for me to fit.
Remember I said earlier that I’m only 5’6″ so with the seat moved back it was difficult for me to reach the gas/brake pedals. Now it was not only a hazard to myself, but it was also a hazard to other people for me to be driving.
While growing up, I had an aunt that was overweight. She weighed just below 300 pounds, yet didn’t look overly fat because she was 6’3″. Yet she broke the back of a car seat once just getting in the car. Imagine if we’d been in a wreck. She would not have been safe or protected by a seat belt. I don’t think I would have been protected from her coming back on to me in the back seat either. She also had to have a bed and frame specially made for her.
Yet one more hazard many may not think of is infections. When someone is overweight or obese circulation becomes a big problem.
Consider the fact that when you become larger the blood has further to travel. It’s just logical that the heart pumps harder yet the blood still moves slower to get everywhere.
This not only overworks your heart but it causes poor circulation. So even if the person hasn’t developed diabetes yet, sores and cuts heal slower and become infected easily.
One last inconvenience many may not think of is that obese people cannot use some public transportations. And if they can they are charged double. They have to purchase two tickets on airplanes for example.
How to Stop the Prevalence of Obesity
Over the last couple of years, I feel that society has been making an attempt at becoming more health-conscious. We see more social media posts and influencers promoting exercise and healthy eating.
However, we also see social media flooded with diet plans, diet pills, and fat burners. We also see a plethora of metabolism boosters. People spend thousands of dollars on all of these things.
Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble! But there really isn’t a magic pill! I too, have tried all those things and spent way too much money on them. I still have left-over pills and supplements in my cabinet right now.
Some of them may have helped, but I did not really lose the weight I needed to lose until I honestly did the math and did the work.
By doing the math I mean I put pen to paper. I added up how many calories I was taking in each day and how few I needed if I wanted to lose weight.
Make a plan
Start your plan by reducing the calories you take in each day. Then increase the calories you burn each day. Cleaning house burns calories! Just get up and move! Don’t eat out of boredom! Drink more water!
It’s really very simple. But also see your doctor. Make sure there aren’t any underlying causes that are preventing you from losing weight.
Although, even if you have an underlying cause, that is not an excuse to stay fat! Your doctor can help address that cause and help you with your diet plan.
Make Healthier Choices
Create new habits and make healthier choices. Not only will you be helping yourself, but you will be helping your family.
Each time you make a healthy choice or create a new habit that is good for you it sets an example for your spouse and kids.
Teach your children to eat healthily and be active. Help them create healthy habits now so they don’t struggle with it later in life.
Ask for Help
Do not be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. Make it a family affair! Be upfront and honest with your significant other, spouse, and kids.
Your family cares about your health and wants to help you. Perhaps they have been concerned about your weight but didn’t know how to approach you about dieting.
Go ahead and give them the opening and opportunity to talk about it and help you with it. Plan meals and grocery shopping together. Include the kids in these tasks.
Plan family outings and exercise. The entire family can benefit from the exercise, so why not include them?
We can’t dismiss eating disorders
The growing prevalence of obesity can also be in part attributed to eating disorders. There honestly is such a thing as over-eating disorders.
Compulsive overeating is an umbrella term that is used to describe loss-of-control eating behaviors. Compulsive overeating includes, but is not limited to, the following behaviors:4
- Night eating
- Eating past satiety (continuing to eat even when you feel full)
- Impulsive eating
- Other compulsive food behaviors like hiding food or eating food out of the garbage.
There are many reasons behind loss-of-control eating behaviors like these. Some individuals may eat out of boredom. Compulsive overeating may simply be a mindless habit for others. For many individuals, compulsive overeating is a coping mechanism that helps one avoid underlying emotional issues. This can include depression, anxiety, or trauma-related distress.4
Compulsive Eating Disorder
Binge Eating Binge eating disorder (BED) is a widely misunderstood mental disorder — despite the fact that it affects millions of Americans. This illness, which involves frequent episodes of overeating marked by distress and lack of control, has long been underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Binge eating goes beyond feeling “stuffed” or overeating on occasion. With binge eating disorder, binges become a regular occurrence, feel out of control and are followed by distress, shame, and embarrassment. Binge eating disorder is commonly confused with bulimia because it involves bingeing. However, unlike bulimia, sufferers do not compensate for the binge by vomiting, abusing laxatives or diuretics, or over-exercising.
Over Eaters Anonymous or Food Addicts
Ways to get help:
Food addiction can take many forms. Symptoms include obesity, anorexia, and bulimia. People often think of the term “eating disorders” when describing the disease of food addiction. Food addicts are obsessed with food, body size, and weight.5
Although Prader-Willi Syndrome is considered a rare genetic condition, could it contribute to the prevalence of obesity?
Let’s look at what this Mayo Clinic article has to say about Prada-Willi Syndrome.
Prader-Willi (PRAH-dur VIL-e) syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that results in a number of physical, mental and behavioral problems. A key feature of Prader-Willi syndrome is a constant sense of hunger that usually begins at about 2 years of age. People with Prader-Willi syndrome want to eat constantly because they never feel full (hyperphagia), and they usually have trouble controlling their weight. Many complications of Prader-Willi syndrome are due to obesity.7
Signs and symptoms of Prader-Willi syndrome can vary among individuals. Symptoms may slowly change over time from childhood to adulthood.
Symptoms in infants can include:
- Poor muscle tone.
- Distinct facial features. Children may be born with almond-shaped eyes, a narrowing of the head at the temples
- Poor sucking reflex. Infants may have a poor sucking reflex due to decreased muscle tone.
- Generally poor responsiveness. A baby may seem unusually tired, respond poorly to stimulation, have a hard time waking up or have a weak cry.
- Underdeveloped genitals.
Other features of Prader-Willi syndrome appear during early childhood and remain throughout life, requiring careful management. These features may include:
- Food craving and weight gain. A classic sign of Prader-Willi syndrome is a constant craving for food, resulting in rapid weight gain
- Poor growth and physical development. The underproduction of growth hormone can result in short adult height, low muscle mass and high body fat. Other endocrine problems may include underproduction of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism)
- Cognitive impairment. Mild to moderate intellectual disability, such as issues with thinking, reasoning and problem-solving, is a common feature of the disorder
- Delayed motor development.
- Speech problems.
- Behavioral problems. Children and adults may at times be stubborn, angry, controlling or manipulative
- Sleep disorders.
- Other signs and symptoms. These may include small hands and feet, a curvature of the spine (scoliosis), hip problems, reduced saliva flow, nearsightedness, and other vision problems, problems regulating body temperature, a high pain tolerance, or a lack of pigment (hypopigmentation) causing hair, eyes, and skin to be pale.
The prevalence of obesity or being overweight is growing worldwide and especially in America. In fact, just yesterday a news article from CNN stated that more than half of America will be obese within 10 years. And 1 in 4 Americans will be severely obese if their habits don’t change.
We can change this growing prevalence of obesity by changing our unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. Make healthier food choices and exercise more.
Costs and lack of health care contribute to the crisis of people being overweight and becoming obese.
The Prevalence of Obesity Brings Complications
Obesity brings many complications to the public’s health. The concern is not cosmetic or merely about appearances. Being overweight is dangerous to our health.
By not trimming the extra fat from our bodies we are actually cutting years off our life expectancy. We can avoid or limit the risks of several life-threatening conditions just by losing the extra weight.
Now it’s your turn!
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Until next time,
SharonReferences and citations: