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3 Surprising Statistics About Our Weight


To say that Americans are obsessed with dieting is anunderstatement! Pick up any magazine, tune-in or turn-on anysource of advertising and you're bombarded with the latest dietschemes and food fads. More often than not, they are endorsed bysome familiar Hollywood celebrity, or promoted using some othercleaver technique.

It's no mystery that the weight-loss industry has built athriving empire. In America, for example, we spend about 35billion dollars every year on an assortment of weight lossproducts and plans. In addition, we spend another 79 billiondollars for medication, hospitalization, and doctors to treatobesity-related problems. Even with this, the obesity epidemiccontinues to spread. Sadly, we have become the heaviestgeneration in our Nation's history.

The National Center for Health Statistics reports that we havesome very good reasons to be concerned about our weight-gain.Americans, for example are packing-on the pounds faster than everbefore and weight-related medical problems are taking centerstage. Diseases like heart disease, diabetes and yes...evencertain 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 orobese. That's up approximately 8 percent from overweightestimates obtained in a 1988 report.

- The percent of children who are overweight is also continuingto increase. Among children and teens ages 6-19, 15 percent oralmost 9 million are overweight. That's triple what the rate wasin 1980!

- Nearly one-third of all adults are now classified as obese. Atpresent, 31 percent of adults 20 years of age and over or nearly59 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 of25.0 - 29.9 is overweight and 30.0 or above, is consideredobese.)

Modern life both at home and at work has come to revolve aroundmoving from one "seated" position to another: whether it'stelevision, computers, remote controls, or automobiles, we seemto be broadening the scope of our inactive endeavors.

At times, life seems to have gotten almost too easy! Forentertainment, we can now just sit-down, dial-up our favorite TVprogram or DVD movie and enjoy hours of uninterruptedentertainment...

And all those simple calorie burning activities that were once anormal part of our daily routine not so long ago? Long gone! Youknow the ones I'm talking about...activities like climbing stairsinstead of using escalators and elevators. Or, pushing a lawnmower instead of riding around on a garden tractor. And whatabout that daily walk to school? Now, our kids complain when theschool bus happens to be a few minutes late getting to the busstop!

Along with the convenience of our affluent lifestyle andreduction in energy expenditure, have come changes in our diet.We are now consuming more calorie rich and nutrient deficientfoods than ever before.

Here are a few examples of what we were eating in the 1970'scompared to our diet today (information is taken from a recentU.S. Department of Agriculture survey):

- We are currently eating more grain products, but almost all ofthem are refined grains (white bread, etc.). Grain consumptionhas jumped 45 percent since the 1970s, from 138 pounds of grainsper person per year to 200 pounds! Only 2 percent of the wheatflour is consumed as whole wheat.

- Our consumption of fruits and vegetables has increased, butonly because the U.S.D.A. includes French fries and potato chipsas a vegetable. Potato products account for almost a third of our"produce" choices.

- We're drinking less milk, but we've more than doubled ourcheese intake. Cheese now outranks meat as the number one sourceof saturated fat in our diets.

- We've cut back on red meat, but have more than made up for theloss by increasing our intake of chicken (battered and fried), sothat overall, we're eating 13 pounds more meat today than we didback in the 1970s.

- We're drinking three times more carbonated soft drinks thanmilk, compared to the 1970's, when milk consumption was twicethat of pop.

- We use 25 percent less butter, but pour twice as much vegetableoil on our food and salads, so our total added fat intake hasincreased 32 percent.

- Sugar consumption has been another cause of our expandingwaistlines. Sugar intake is simply off the charts. According tothe U.S. Department of Agriculture, people are consuming roughlytwice the amount of sugar they need each day, about 20 teaspoonson a 2000 calorie/day diet. The added sugar is found mostly injunk foods, such as pop, cake, and cookies.

- In 1978, the government found that sugars constituted only 11percent of the average person's calories. Now, this number hasballooned to 16 percent for the average American adult and asmuch as 20 percent for American teenagers.

The days of the wholesome family dinners so near and dear to ourhearts, where we all sat around the kitchen table to discussevents of the day, are now a part of our sentimental past. Theyhave been replaced by our cravings for take-out and fast-food. Wehave gradually come to accept that it's "OK" to sacrifice healthyfoods for the sake of convenience and that larger servingportions 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 wedid twenty years ago. We should actually be eating less becauseof our decreased activity level, but instead are doing theopposite!

Decide TODAY that healthy eating and exercise habits will becomea permanent part of your life!

Begin to explore your values and thoughts and other areas of yourlife where change may be required, and then take action. Beginslowly, but deliberately to make improvements in the areas youidentify. And remember, it has taken a very long time to developyour habits, and it will take some time to undo them?so bepatient!

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.

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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