Two-thirds of Americans are overweight. This means that two out of three people in this country have at least one significant health risk factor. Not only does that shorten one’s lifespan, but it costs a lot of money too.
New research out of Cornell University and Lehigh University suggests that the total medical costs associated with obesity now tops $168 billion. This accounts for 17% of total medical costs in the U.S. every year. The new research also states that being obese adds about $2,800 to a person’s yearly medical expenditures.
Of 33 countries with advanced economies, the U.S. is the fattest. Roughly 200 million Americans are overweight or obese and the epidemic is getting worse.
So not only is obesity dangerous for your health, it takes money out of your pocket! The question remains – what do we do about it?
My solutions are simple but they go against some of the traditional thoughts on diet in particular.
First, people must be taught how to eat correctly. No more low fat, low cholesterol stuff. I have many patients who are surprised when they begin my diet program to see it includes things like eggs, steak, cheese and whole fat yogurt. They are used to physicians telling them to avoid fat or you’ll get fat. Physiologically it doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t play out that way when people eat a diet rich in healthy fats.
I always encourage people to eat a diet low in refined carbohydrates and high in healthy fats and proteins. Some people are hesitant because they are afraid they’re cholesterol will go up or they will actually gain weight. After I assure them this won’t happen and they try the diet, they are ecstatic with the results. No only do people lose weight, but they’re blood work improves too! They see improvements in cholesterol levels, inflammatory enzyme levels and in blood sugar regulation to name a few.
Learning how to eat correctly is hard for some people at first because of all the misinformation out there. Here’s a good rule of thumb for you – if it’s packaged don’t eat it. Now this rule doesn’t always apply. Somethings that are packaged are ok. For example, if you buy a package of roasted almonds you’re good to go. But most things that are packaged are high in refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats and should be avoided.
Another good rule of thumb is to shop around the edges of the grocery store. That’s where you’ll find the meats, veggies, fruits and nuts and seeds. You’ll also likely find the breads…skip that part.
Meals should always have a good source of protein (chicken, fish, beef, etc.) and should always have a fruit or a vegetable. Here’s what I’ve had for my meals so far today plus a good example for dinner:Breakfast: 3 eggs, a yogurt and about 20 grapes. Lunch: Chicken breast, about 20 olives and a recovery drink (I had just gotten back from the gym and that will take me to my next point!) Dinner: I haven’t had dinner yet today but I’ll give you last night’s meal as a good example Turkey and sausage meatloaf stuffed with cheese and sun dried tomatoes with stir fried Brussels spouts and onions.
Food is critically important. No amount of exercise or supplements is going to make up for a poor diet.
Are you seeing a theme yet? On my blog you will see the words diet and exercise over and over. It is because they are the most important things you can do to stay healthy.
You must exercise at least 3 times per week for about an hour. This is critical. People often ask me why they must exercise “so much.” In my opinion, 3 hours a week is not a lot but I do understand that people are busy. You are not too busy for this. You can’t afford to be too busy for this. I have also had people say to me that their parents never exercised and lived to be into their 80’s and 90’s. This may be true but we must take into account that their activity level was most likely higher than our current activity level. Fifty or sixty years ago our forms of entertainment were much different. We didn’t watch as much TV, or play video games, or sit on our mowers to mow the lawn.
Your current fitness level will determine your program. I suggest that if you are not used to exercising or want to get the best results possible, consider getting a good trainer to coach you through a program. It is the best way to stay consistent with an exercise program because it makes you accountable to someone else for your exercise.
Your program should be a blend of muscle building exercises and cardiovascular fitness. Without both you miss out on the unique health benefits that each provides.
This is the only way we are going to solve the obesity epidemic in this country. There are no quick fixes and there certainly isn’t a pill that’s going to magically make us all healthy. This is something we must all take responsibility for. If we do that we can make a difference.