A description of the biggest plague in the United States of this century: obesity.
We Americans have a problem that we have been very slow to recognize the danger of. This problem is obesity, and its prevalence and effects are shocking and deadly. According to nationmaster.com, we lead the world with obesity, measuring 30.6% of our population at the last count. Obesity is not the same as overweight. Obesity is defined as having a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or greater. To put this in perspective, an individual standing 5'7" and weighing 191 pounds or more is considered obese. Nearly a third of our nation exists in this state! Many individuals refuse to recognize that they fit within this category, don't understand the detriment to living with obesity, or refuse to care about their weight. However, many preventable health problems plague individuals with obesity with predictable frequency, and the disease can certainly be held to partial responsibility for rising health care costs in our country.
The first key to staying healthy is having a motivation to do so; there are a plethora of reasons to avoid obesity. To name a few, obesity can cause heart and cardiovascular issues, increase risk of cardiac arrest, decrease sexual libido and self-esteem, cause depression, and generally decrease life span. There is a laundry list of negative effects of obesity, and while some contain elements of physical appearance, there are many terrible consequences to it. One example is diabetes, which in some cases is preventable, and in other cases is not, but diabetes is universally aggravated by obesity.
Teenagers and young adults represent the working population of a nation, and they are the producers and go-getters of the country.The fact that such a high percentage of our working population is already obese or well on its way makes a statement about our culture. This statement is not inevitable! In fact, the years from birth to around 25 or so represent the years in which proper dieting and exercise can have the greatest effect. While every individual has slightly differing genetics and basal metabolic rate, the proof remains that proper eating and exercise has positive results in every situation. We as Americans are remarkably talented at finding excuses for obesity, and the popular one here seems to be thyroid conditions. Even in the rare case that a thyroid condition is causing unavoidable weight gain (which the webmd.com link below indicates is "not as common as many believe"), diet and exercise still have positive benefits.
Unless a doctor has told a patient otherwise, they are probably not among the rare few that cannot avoid gaining weight. This is a positive thing, because it means that individuals from the ages of 0-25 have every opportunity to change a few bad habits for good and lose tons of unnecessary weight.
Portion-control: One of the most famous businessmen of all time, John D. Rockefeller, was described by his doctor in the following fashion:
"His health is perfect. He will live to be 100 years old, for three reasons: First, he avoids all worry. Second, he takes plenty of exercise in the open air. Third, he never overloads his stomach and always gets up from the table a little hungry."
The physician turned out to be off by a little over two years: Rockefeller only made it to 97. But, the wisdom of Rockefeller's behavior (his life habits, not his business practices) should be emulated by each and every one of us. The trouble is, restaurant portions are simply too large. The great American pastime of going out to dinner wouldn't be so bad for us if we didn't eat it all. There are a few tips to avoiding some unnecessary wait gain at restaurants: first, avoid appetizers. Appetizers are usually tasty foods (often fried), that contain large amounts of fat and cholesterol. Second, ask for your salad dressing on the side, don't use it all, and avoid creamy dressings if possible. Salad is good for you, but dressing quickly mounts up the calories. Third, if given a choice, get a lunch portion, and don't even eat all of that. The average person should be consuming less than 2,000 calories per day, and many full dinner portions can exceed that in one meal. Fourth, and above all, no dessert! However bad all the previous foods can be, when the waitress asks if you have kept room for dessert, the answer is no. Dessert is full of empty calories and lots of fat, and it goes even further toward loading the top of the American food pyramid up.
If you can eat less calories than you burn in a day, you will lose weight. This means, and you guessed it, that you will be hungry. Starving yourself until dinner is not a good tactic, either; spread the calories out over the course of the day to keep your metabolism moving and your body energized. Otherwise, your body will store the fat. Exercise is a metabolism booster, as well, and burns more calories both during and after it.
Simply thinking about your eating and exercise habits and making small, slow improvements can lend to quicker results than you might expect. Here are a few suggestions: try substituting regular chips for baked chips. Then, baked chips for pretzels. And finally, a snack bread with a great deal of fiber for pretzels. Making simple substitutions like this over time can radically alter the calories that your body receives, and make for a healthier diet.
The information above is taught in every health class and every "lose weight" article ever written. There is no magic formula to dropping weight. Simple consistent improvement can and will do worlds for improving our weight and bringing us closer to our fitness goals. The knowledge is out there, but it must be sought after and applied if any use is to be made of it.