Obesity is a problem. It's a real problem.
Today, 34% of the US adult population is obese and roughly 18% of US youth aged 2-19 years are obese. It is well established that children who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults, putting them more at risk for health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, asthma, and osteoarthritis. The burden of obesity on the healthcare system is tremendous as billions of dollars are spent annually on prescription drug, emergency room and outpatient visit healthcare costs.
The Framingham study has demonstrated data that obesity rates have gone up 2% per year and they project that by the year 2050, 42% of the US population could be obese. And that’s the best-case scenario.
Possible Theories for Climbing Obesity Rates
There are several theories that attempt to explain obesity and it's rise to "epidemic" status. Theories can range from obesity being the result of food purposefully manufactured to be addictive, to nutrient imbalances, to environmental, psychological, and genetic factors to name a few.
There has even been research done to investigate whether obesity is “contagious” or something that we can “catch”, similar to the flu or other infectious diseases. This research was centered on studies that have demonstrated those who have social connections to obese individuals are more likely to be obese themselves.
The reality is the cause of obesity is multi-factorial and there are likely many reasons for obesity with very individual considerations. While there are many factors that will raise one’s risk for obesity, it’s important to recognize one key factor in the prevention of obesity - the body is programmed to regulate body weight.
So how can Americans - who continue to get fat even with the increased prevalence of dieting – regain control over body weight regulation?
Low energy expenditure and sedentary lifestyles are the cause of body weight dysregulation. Meaning, lack of exercise or low energy expenditure is the MAJOR limiting factor in the ability to properly control body weight.
Yes, nutrition makes a difference but we see athletes who eat poorly all the time without becoming obese. Why?
Their high activity level keeps body weight regulation tighter. Nutrition is important for energy balance and is responsible for physical change. However, no amount of calorie control will help until the genetic switch is turned “on” by appropriate levels of physical activity.
But who has time for all that exercise, right?
The most recent National Human Activity Pattern Survey and American Time Use Survey have found people watch, on average, 30-35 hours of TV per week or almost 5 hours a day!
This is a drastic increase from 2007, as these surveys reported American’s watched 19.5-21 hours of TV per week or almost 3 hours a day on average.
Most Americans move too little! Period.
Put a Plan into Action
Here are some steps and strategies you can use to better regulate your bodyweight, fight the battle of the bulge, and reduce your risk of obesity:
- Build muscle with properly designed strength training and conditioning program. Incorporate regular, proper progression to encourage new stimuli and promote muscular and metabolic adaptations to fuel post-workout energy expenditure.
- Increase “non-exercise” physical activity. Simply put, sit less and move more. Get out for a walk, do some yard work, or ride a bike. Pick something you enjoy that gets you up and moving.
- Stay consistent with your nutrition and eating habits. Developing unhealthy or unsustainable nutritional habits can have disastrous consequences on your body’s body weight regulation. Avoid the tendency to "hop around" with your eating habits and change them based on what some celebrity or your friend is doing. Avoid extreme diets as these come with the risk of long-term overcompensations that can be challenging to change.
- Nutritional habits must be sustainable or they will not be successful. Sustainable actions produce optimum results. Your eating habits should be developed around practical application and science, not cookie-cutter planning or gimmicks. This is where individual considerations must be made and working with a professional has tremendous value.
- Sleep 7-9 hours each night. Sleep is an incredibly powerful tool in promoting an optimal hormonal environment for proper bodyweight regulation.
- Develop strong social support networks. Surround yourself with people who are like-minded and will support your health, fitness, and wellness goals.
- Realize you are responsible for you. Despite having the best training program or the best nutritional program or the best support network possible, you are ultimately in the driver’s seat and results will not come unless you put those plans into action. Commitment to consistent, sustainable action is the key. This is not an 20-day or 12-week fix. These are habits that are meant to last a lifetime. Recognize your responsibility and commit to it.
We must eat, move, and live better if we are going to prevent unwanted weight gain and control our bodyweight. The health and fitness world can sometimes be a confusing place, but it doesn’t have to be. Let us help you make sense of it all and achieve the goals you desire. Gallagher Performance is here to develop the best eating, exercise, and lifestyle strategies — unique and personal — for you.
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