According to the people who keep track of these things, the one self-promise that has been in the top 10 for decades — and is at the top of the list this year — is the vow to lose weight.
The new year brings the inevitable list of resolutions to improve some aspects of one’s life. According to the people who keep track of these things, the one self-promise that has been in the top 10 for decades — and is at the top of the list this year — is the vow to lose weight.
It’s a worthy goal, but apparently one that’s difficult to attain. A new report by the National Center for Health Statistics says that the waist size of Americans continues to increase while their height remains fairly constant. In other words we, as a nation, are gaining weight.
The report uses data from more than 47,000 adults over the age of 20, and updates a similar 2004 study. Back then, the average weight for men was 189.4 pounds. For women, it was 163.8 pounds. The new study, based on data collected in 2015-2016, says the average weight for men is now 197.9 pounds and for women it’s 170.6 pounds.
The report also looks at a statistic called the Body Mass Index, or BMI, a formula involving height and weight. It says the BMI for both men and women has also increased since 2002 and is now just barely below the cutoff for obesity. Nearly 40 percent of adults and 19 percent of youths are already considered obese.
In short, Americans are all getting heavier.
Anecdotal evidence shows that most people think of weight loss in terms of their appearance. But our country’s collective weight gain goes far beyond personal vanity.
Obesity has important consequences for the nation’s health and economy. Excessive weight is linked to a number of chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, an associate professor of medicine, pediatrics and public health at the Penn State University College of Medicine, says medical costs for patients with obesity are estimated to be as high as $210 billion per year. In addition, she says, “obesity is associated with job absenteeism and lower productivity while at work, costing the system more than $6 billion per year.”
The federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has established guidelines for those who want to lose weight. It is, of course, nothing everyone hasn’t heard before, including from personal physicians: Avoid fast food, eat healthier (including portion control) and exercise regularly. But following these steps is apparently beyond the grasp of many because weights continue to increase.
For those who are serious about wanting to drop some pounds there is help available. No, it is not necessary to pay for special diets or spend a lot of money for health club memberships. There is nothing wrong with either of those alternatives, but the expense is beyond the reach of many.
There are several cost-free resources available in the state of Utah, among them the Utah Partnership for Healthy Weight, the Utah Nutrition and Physical Activity plan and the Utah Department of Health, Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Program. Further, the Health Department’s EPICC Program provides easy to understand information on healthy diets. Each of these cost-free sources of helpful information is available online.
The point is that while medical and heredity issues come into play for some, the question of weight gain or loss for most Americans is simply a matter of personal choice. And choosing to have a healthier lifestyle and lose weight has benefits that far outweigh (no pun intended) being able to fit into last year’s skinny jeans.
Don Olsen is a former television journalist and co-founder and partner of a media and public relations firm.
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