The Nutritarian

Healthy Eating Insight

Obesity Imbibes America

Written By: The Nutritarian - Feb• 12•13

What Is Obesity?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, obesity means having excess total body fat and differs from just weighing too much (being overweight).

A person being 20% or more above normal weight would classify as obese.  A common measure of obesity is the body mass index (BMI). A person is considered overweight if BMI is between 25 and 29.9; with a BMI over 30, the person is considered obese.

“Morbid obesity” refers to a person 50%-100% over normal weight, more than 100 pounds over normal weight, having a BMI of 40 +, or being sufficiently overweight causing interference with health or normal function. Source:


Obesity prevalence varies across states in 2011:

  • By state, obesity prevalence ranged from 20.7% in Colorado to 34.9% in Mississippi in 2011. No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. 39 states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states had a prevalence of 30% or more: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
  • The South had the highest prevalence of obesity (29.5%), followed by the Midwest (29.0%), the Northeast (25.3%) and the West (24.3%).
  • Between 1988–1994 and 2007–2008 the prevalence of obesity increased in adults at all income and education levels.


Causes of Obesity:

Consuming more calories than the body burns causes excess weight gain, and eventually obesity. This is often a matter of consuming too many calories and too much fat while exercising too little. Other factors can also play a role in obesity. Besides age, gender, genetics, environmental factors, and physical activity, these may include:

  • Psychological factors. Psychological factors also influence eating habits and obesity. Many people eat in response to negative emotions such as boredom, sadness, or anger. People who have difficulty with weight management may be facing more emotional and psychological issues; about 30% of people who seek treatment for serious weight problems have difficulties with binge eating. During a binge-eating episode, people eat large amounts of food while feeling they can’t control how much they are eating.
  • Illness. Although not as common as many believe, some illnesses can cause obesity. These include hormone problems such as hypothyroidism (thyroid problem slows metabolism), depression, binge-eating disorder, and in rare cases; Prader- Willi Syndrome.
  • Medication. Drugs, such as steroids or antidepressants, may cause excessive weight gain.

The Problematic Weight of the Nation

  • Today, 1 of every  3 children and 2 of every 3 adults are overweight or obese compared to 2002
  • Half the population is pre-diabetic, have type two (preventable), or have the disease and remain undiagnosed.  37% of adults are pre-diabetic, 8% of adults have type 2 diabetes , 3% have it and remains undiagnosed

Other Obesity Related Health Concerns

Cardiovascular disease

Type 2 diabetes

High blood pressure

Sleep apnea


How much are we willing to pay?

$190.2 billion; estimated annual cost of obesity-related illness

21%; annual medical spending on obesity related illness

$4.3 billion; annual losses to businesses because of obesity related job absenteeism.

What has gone awry?

Lack of physical activity

  • Almost half as many people are walking to work or school these days as compared to 1977.
  • Only 19% of Americans hit the recommended amount of physical activity.

Out of control eating

  • Portion size and calorie consumption has increased.
  • 30-40% of children and adolescent eat fast food. Who has seen Super Size Me from 2004?

Poor choices

  • 20% of the weight increase in the U.S. between 1977 and 2007 is attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages.  Many large food corporations are trying to join the health solution bandwagon.  But, are they sincere?

Media consumption

  • 87% of food and beverage ads seen by children ages 6-11 on TV are for products high in sugar, saturated fat, or sodium.
  • Children consume more than 7.5 hours of media each day.


  • Many health care providers feel unprepared or uncomfortable discussing weight with patients.  Professionals in the education field follow suit here.  Where else do we turn? Half of children’s waking hours are spent in school, and many families entrust doctor’s with health concerns.

Recognizing the Severity

Jeff Stier*, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research writes, “Food and soda companies are at all times the villain, while people, adults and children alike, are mindless zombies unable to withstand the lure of a Super Bowl halftime show.” He continues to say, “If public health groups truly seek to help Americans deal with obesity, they should seek higher ground and abandon the attacks. Instead, they should take a seat at the table with anyone willing to have a constructive dialogue, with the focus on helping people, rather than on battering companies.”  Many would likely agree that it’s not that simple.  Some still have not realized that at this point, encouraging healthy dialogue has been done and we still need help.  *Quoted from: Forbes online

Gradual Changes:

An easy way to begin forming healthy  habits is to make small changes.  Dining habits can be a great starting point.   Try to avoid buying items that will sabotage your goals.  Look for satisfying replacements for big problem foods.  Take a look at pizza for example.  It is often loaded with fat and cholesterol while lacking nutrients.  Instead of sacrificing things you love to eat, try asking for light cheese with veggie toppings when eating out, or try this favorite healthy recipe: Robust Rustic Roasted Veggie Pizza.  You will find this healthy pizza is easy to make and will leave your tummy perfectly full of superfood fuel.  It is a vegan pizza recipe, but can be made with regular cheese if you prefer.


  1. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation”
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine – The World’s Largest Medical Library

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