The good news is…people are living longer lives with the benefits of medical treatments and prescriptions drugs. The bad news is…people are becoming increasingly dependent on medical treatments and prescription drugs.
We expect procedures or pills -- those prescribed by medical providers or the over-the-counter variety -- to do the work that lifestyle choices can accomplish. Pharmaceutical companies enjoy profits in the multi-billions of dollars and promote their products as a solution when they are really only a “band-aid” approach with short-term results and often producing negative side-effects. The food production companies are contributing to the expanding waistlines and expanding healthcare costs with the “extras” that are added to the food that is sold to us.
The healthcare system simply will not be able to support the needs of the Baby Boomer generation and those that follow after if the obesity epidemic is not reversed. Quite literally, the growth of our citizens’ girth is putting our country at risk.
In 1991, no state had obesity rates over 20 percent. However the incidence of obesity has increased dramatically and now in eight states the rate is over 30 percent. According to the CDC, Indiana had an obesity rate of 29.5% in 2009.
What is equally disturbing is that the corporate food production industry works against good health with the additives, steroids, non-essential chemicals and extra calories that are packed into our groceries. Our own tax dollars are used fatten our population while also bulking the banks accounts for the corporations that grow subsidized food products. The chart below, created by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in 2007, illustrates how government subsidies help ensure that healthy food tends to cost more than the foods that contribute to weight gain.
The effects of obesity on health are well-documented and the list of associated conditions related to excess weight is sobering. Now another reason that an individual’s health is affected might be the inability to find a physician willing to provide health care.
An article on the CBS News Web channel describes the findings from a Sun Sentinel Newspaper poll of physicians in Florida that indicated many were unwilling to treat obese patients. Reasons cited were varied and included the risk of liability (being sued) because outcomes were poor for overweight patients who are more likely to develop complications, and concerns about the wear and tear on equipment in the medical offices. The article and a number of TV news stations debate the ethical aspect of such decisions.
So what can you do to arm yourself in this fight? Despite all the bad news and controversy, the really good news is that there are simple, easy, and affordable ways to make positive changes and live in control of your size.
To prepare yourself for a good journey into older age, commit to making just one change today. Ultimately eating natural foods (fruits, vegetables and plant-based proteins) in smaller portions more frequently throughout the day (every 3 hours) will boost your metabolism and keep you from feeling hungry in-between meals.
Choose one health-wise habit to start today and remind yourself each time you do it about how good it makes you feel to be in control. Reinforce your decision each time you reach for something to eat. Ask yourself these few questions… Why do I choose the foods I eat? Cost? Taste? Convenience?
You might spend a little more purchasing healthier food items but the long-term savings will be investment in your future quality of life. And the most important question is to ask yourself is, “What do I want to feel like?” Is the answer, “Out of breath and tired" or "energetic and confident?” If you choose to feel good, you can choose one bite at a time to make that feeling happen. Do it for you – you’re worth it!
Tamara Wolske, MS
Academic Program Director