Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fat Chance

In the past two years, there has been a lot of attention focused on the obesity problem. Generally this is discussed as being an American problem. But obesity is showing up in Asia and other areas where our diet habits are creeping to practice.

At first it all sounded like overreacting. But more Americans are becoming overweight.

To complicate matters, in this "politically correct" world everyone is afraid to offend someone who might be overweight.

Go to a shopping mall, grocery store or any place that crowds are gathered. The physical size of such aggregations is astonishing.

In the 1950s, most of us knew some kids who were "chubby," "big-boned," "chunky," "husky" or "large." Growing up often meant carrying a little leftover weight until our metabolism caught up with our growth spurts. Most kids slimmed down over time.

Yet for every ten "large" boys or girls, there was one of the crowd left with significant extra weight. The other kids were quite aware of the difficulties they experienced. We saw how red their faces turned during kickball and on hot spring days. We realized that it must have been hard for them to find clothes or a desk/chair large enough to be comfortable.

During the intervening decades, various methods evolved to help weight loss. Drinks like Metrical and Sego were among the first. Entire diet programs followed, some still popular like Weight Watchers and Atkins. Fad diets included the cabbage soup, liquid protein and grapefruit diets. As we became a nation more aware of style and health, gurus came forward with exercise programs, gym memberships or other concept to offer. By the mid-1990s, there were many options available to anyone who seriously wanted to lose weight. Whether we took the advice seriously or thought the mere purchase of the device would somehow magically melt away the fat is another issue. Most of us who really wanted to lose weight found help available.

Somewhere during this period the scale was tipped and the obesity storm swept in.

Now we have "reality" television shows about 700-pound people who are seeking help. On other shows, contestants compete to see who can lose the most weight. No doubt these folks merely woke up one Monday morning to find out they had gained 100 pounds over the weekend. How shocking! How did that happen?

Obesity is a serious health concern. Associated health risks include diabetes and high blood pressure. As we get older, the old joints that have kept us moving have a tendency to wear out or break down. Not only have the hips, knees and feet supported extra weight for years, they are still very much needed to keep us moving and help us lose the weight. It is a vicious cycle.

And yet, we are still afraid to confront the issue head on. Most spouses and friends would never suggest to an overweight person that the person might want to decline a second plate of food or skip dessert. It is also doubtful that doctors would mention the weight of his patient as a possible cause of other health issues, which can also include digestive ailments and sleep apnea.

If everyone is too timid to confront the issue in others, it's time for each of us to buy a large mirror and spend sometime honestly looking at it. After all, you are the only one you can rely on to help monitor your own health.

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