To say that Americans are obsessed with dieting is an
understatement! Pick up any magazine, tune-in or turn-on any
source of advertising and you're bombarded with the latest diet
schemes and food fads. More often than not, they are endorsed by
some familiar Hollywood celebrity, or promoted using some other
It's no mystery that the weight-loss industry has built a
thriving empire. In America, for example, we spend about 35
billion dollars every year on an assortment of weight loss
products and plans. In addition, we spend another 79 billion
dollars for medication, hospitalization, and doctors to treat
obesity-related problems. Even with this, the obesity epidemic
continues to spread. Sadly, we have become the heaviest
generation in our Nation's history.
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that we have
some very good reasons to be concerned about our weight-gain.
Americans, for example are packing-on the pounds faster than ever
before and weight-related medical problems are taking center
stage. Diseases like heart disease, diabetes and yes...even
certain forms of cancer have all been linked to obesity.
Here are a few of the surprising statistics about our weight:
- A whopping 64 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or
obese. That's up approximately 8 percent from overweight
estimates obtained in a 1988 report.
- The percent of children who are overweight is also continuing
to increase. Among children and teens ages 6-19, 15 percent or
almost 9 million are overweight. That's triple what the rate was
- Nearly one-third of all adults are now classified as obese. At
present, 31 percent of adults 20 years of age and over or nearly
59 million people have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater,
compared with 23 percent in 1994.
(The BMI is a number that shows body weight adjusted for height.
For adults, a BMI of 18.5 - 24.9 is considered normal. A BMI of
25.0 - 29.9 is overweight and 30.0 or above, is considered
Modern life both at home and at work has come to revolve around
moving from one "seated" position to another: whether it's
television, computers, remote controls, or automobiles, we seem
to be broadening the scope of our inactive endeavors.
At times, life seems to have gotten almost too easy! For
entertainment, we can now just sit-down, dial-up our favorite TV
program or DVD movie and enjoy hours of uninterrupted
And all those simple calorie burning activities that were once a
normal part of our daily routine not so long ago? Long gone! You
know the ones I'm talking about...activities like climbing stairs
instead of using escalators and elevators. Or, pushing a lawn
mower instead of riding around on a garden tractor. And what
about that daily walk to school? Now, our kids complain when the
school bus happens to be a few minutes late getting to the bus
Along with the convenience of our affluent lifestyle and
reduction in energy expenditure, have come changes in our diet.
We are now consuming more calorie rich and nutrient deficient
foods than ever before.
Here are a few examples of what we were eating in the 1970's
compared to our diet today (information is taken from a recent
U.S. Department of Agriculture survey):
- We are currently eating more grain products, but almost all of
them are refined grains (white bread, etc.). Grain consumption
has jumped 45 percent since the 1970s, from 138 pounds of grains
per person per year to 200 pounds! Only 2 percent of the wheat
flour is consumed as whole wheat.
- Our consumption of fruits and vegetables has increased, but
only because the U.S.D.A. includes French fries and potato chips
as a vegetable. Potato products account for almost a third of our
- We're drinking less milk, but we've more than doubled our
cheese intake. Cheese now outranks meat as the number one source
of saturated fat in our diets.
- We've cut back on red meat, but have more than made up for the
loss by increasing our intake of chicken (battered and fried), so
that overall, we're eating 13 pounds more meat today than we did
back in the 1970s.
- We're drinking three times more carbonated soft drinks than
milk, compared to the 1970's, when milk consumption was twice
that of pop.
- We use 25 percent less butter, but pour twice as much vegetable
oil on our food and salads, so our total added fat intake has
increased 32 percent.
- Sugar consumption has been another cause of our expanding
waistlines. Sugar intake is simply off the charts. According to
the U.S. Department of Agriculture, people are consuming roughly
twice the amount of sugar they need each day, about 20 teaspoons
on a 2000 calorie/day diet. The added sugar is found mostly in
junk foods, such as pop, cake, and cookies.
- In 1978, the government found that sugars constituted only 11
percent of the average person's calories. Now, this number has
ballooned to 16 percent for the average American adult and as
much as 20 percent for American teenagers.
The days of the wholesome family dinners so near and dear to our
hearts, where we all sat around the kitchen table to discuss
events of the day, are now a part of our sentimental past. They
have been replaced by our cravings for take-out and fast-food. We
have gradually come to accept that it's "OK" to sacrifice healthy
foods for the sake of convenience and that larger serving
portions mean better value.
And, since I have been throwing-out statistics, here's one more:
Americans are consuming about 300 more calories each day than we
did twenty years ago. We should actually be eating less because
of our decreased activity level, but instead are doing the
Decide TODAY that healthy eating and exercise habits will become
a permanent part of your life!
Begin to explore your values and thoughts and other areas of your
life where change may be required, and then take action. Begin
slowly, but deliberately to make improvements in the areas you
identify. And remember, it has taken a very long time to develop
your habits, and it will take some time to undo themůso be
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes
only and is not intended to medically diagnose, treat or cure any
disease. Consult a health care practitioner before beginning any
health care program.
About the Author
Emily Clark is editor at Lifestyle Health News and Medical Health News
where you can find the most up-to-date advice and information on
many medical, health and lifestyle topics.
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