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Obesity Blitzkrieg

We don't need a research panel to tell us what we can see with our own eyes; most of the population is overweight and doesn't get much physical activity. Nonetheless, more research has shown that we're still getting fatter. A recent study in Naples, reported in the October issue of Diabetes Care revealed something we can't see with our eyes: overweight children's arteries are shown to be thick and stiff - 7 year old kids with cardiovascular disease!

OK, so most of the population is overweight, and we're getting fatter. So who is doing something about this? What must an overweight person overcome in order to lose the fat?

The overweight person, child or adult, must endure double jeopardy; one, being subjugated and scorned by society through "thin is in" thinking. Two, they are most likely to suffer from or are beginning to develop life threatening cardiovascular disease complications due to being overweight.

The solution to losing fat has been known for some time, and is 100% effective; eat less and exercise more. More precisely, we need to eat only the amount of food we require for the day, this food needs to be healthy, and exercise should feel like a daily reward we give to ourselves. While these actions and the healthy lifestyle that surrounds them are simple in nature, they amount to being only distantly idealistic to most who are not accustom to healthy living.

The psychological paradigms that allow a person to justify 10-ounce steaks, junk food, and in many cases moderate but life long overeating, lack of physical activity, and other unhealthy actions are like a rock. I know because I have been working with overweight persons for 15 years and the largest challenge I face is helping them disassociate from the long-term habits, emotions, and belief structures that are intertwined with being overweight and unfit.

October, 2004 - Starting healthy living habits young is important. In Detroit Washington, named the fattest city in America by Men's Fitness for 2004, schools are getting a whack of cash from the US Department of Education through something called the No Child Left Behind Act. The money is to be spent on expanding or improving physical education as reported in the Detroit Free Press. Thunder Bay Ontario has the "fattest city in Canada" status with 59.8% of its population being overweight.

September 30th, 2004 - A report by the Institute of Medicine commissioned by US Congress, Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance lays out a comprehensive approach with the focus on preventing childhood obesity, that includes more research, and roles for parents, schools, media, and industry. The report suggests a significant reduction in the prevalence of childhood obesity is a decades long project since what is really being changed are the underlying social dynamics that produce overweight children including familial, community, and advertised concepts of what healthy nutrition and exercise are. Some specifics from the plan:

  • While in school, all students to be engaged in 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day
  • Food and beverage industry to voluntarily set guidelines concerning advertising food products to children
  • Restaurants to provide children's menus complete with nutritional information such as caloric content of meals
  • Communities and local government to prioritize capitol investments in roads, bicycle paths, and playgrounds: Invest in things that promote or facilitate physical activity
  • Health care professionals take a more active role in discussing obesity with children and parents

The only part of the recommendations I don't agree with is further training on the use of BMI charts. The charts are overly simplified height -weight charts and do not address the real measurement in assessing obesity; body fat percentage.

In 2002 , the Public Health Agency of Canada launched Canada's Physical Activity Guide for Children. The guide makes many of the same conclusions as its American equivalent described above, with many of the same "include everybody" blitzkrieg offensive, and specific exercise and dietary recommendations. The Canadian version includes bumping up exercise time from 30 to 90 minutes daily after children have had several months to adapt to regular activity, while simultaneously reducing TV and video game time by 90 minutes.

We don't need a separate report or action plan for adults since the basic principals of health and fitness apply to all us of regardless of age. All the recommendations set forth for reducing and preventing childhood obesity can be directly applied to adults. Adults are more in tune with the concept of national debt and large-scale economics, and our obesity/ inactivity woes are put into fiscal context by Health Canada:

"indirect costs such as time lost due to long-term and short-term disabilities, and the present value of future productivity lost due to premature mortality and illness in Canada represents an estimated economic value of $129 billion -- nearly 21% of the GDP. Reducing the number of inactive Canadians by a further 10% would result in an additional saving of $5 billion." Reference

Obesity and inactivity hurt us emotionally, physically, and financially.

We are beating the crap out of ourselves with our misplaced concepts of what "rewards" are (fatty deserts, cheesy pizza's, all-you-can-eat buffets), and through playing out our own personal drama's on why we can't exercise or live healthily.

We have got to escape the blame-game, and the sociological juxtaposition of "couch potatoes" and "fitness nuts" and understand that we have adopted beliefs and habits that literally kill us, or at least measurably reduce the quality of our lives. There is nothing stopping us from living healthy but us. While its true that emotional turmoil and social trends add challenges to losing fat, the bottom line always comes down to individual personal responsibility and employing the two golden rules of fat loss; eat less, exercise more.

It will most likely take a few generations for our society to adapt to healthy living. The primary roadblock to healthy living is attitude and beliefs. We need to replace the society wide promotion and acceptance of unhealthy living with healthy living. If we can do that, we will be able to put all this crap behind us. Wouldn't it be nice to have that weight lifted off our shoulders?

- Cris LaBossiere

2004 Cris LaBossiere Rhino Fitness www.rhinofitness.ca



Copyright 2004 Rhino Fitness. All rights reserved.
For more information contact: clabossiere@rhinofitness.ca