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Obesity is a growing problem in New Jersey and America

obesity081710_optBY: JENN A. NOCERA, MA, MFT, CLSC, CPFT

Obesity in America continues to be in the headlines. According to MedicneNet.com, it is estimated that, in the United States, about 63% of adults are either overweight or obese, and about 18% of children and adolescents are overweight. In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that 400,000 deaths (a 33% increase from 1990 figures) were caused by physical inactivity and poor diet. The CDC has since shied away from using that statistic. Instead, the agency states that "about 112,000 deaths are associated with obesity each year in the United States"

To its credit, it does also provide the caveat that obesity-related deaths do not account for all deaths related to inactivity and poor eating habits. The CDC also indicates that approximately $117 billion is spent each year on weight-related illnesses.

The 2010 F as in Fat report issued by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed an increase in adult obesity rates in 28 states since last year! Thirty-eight states have adult populations with obesity rates over 25 percent! Even more fascinating were statistics about Americans' perception of "healthy weight". The report contained results of a poll of American parents. Although statistics show that about one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese, 84 percent of the parents surveyed believed their children were of healthy weight. Meanwhile, 80 percent of these parents felt that childhood obesity is a very significant problem facing American. It sounds like a classic case of denial or being too close to the forest to see the trees, doesn't it?


Here, in New Jersey, we were ranked the "tenth least obese state in the nation" by the 2010 F as in Fat report. Our adult obesity rate is 23.9 percent — that's about 1 in 4 people! Mississippi had the highest obesity rate, and Colorado had the lowest rate.

But, what do these statistics mean and what can we do about it?

Figures like these are staggering. Being overweight causes millions of preventable deaths each year! According to the CDC, obesity and inactivity increase the risks for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and other health problems, including (but not limited to) back pain, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, depression, and respiratory problems.

Although we may be "accomplishing" more than previous generations, many of us are leading sedentary lifestyles. Americans have become more physically inactive than ever, and it's killing us. The sad truth is that American children will pay the highest price for these behaviors. They are learning terrible life habits from their parents and in their schools. Video games, computers, mp3 players, cell phones, cable TV, and the Internet have made being sedentary very entertaining. But, if this trend continues, today's children will be overweight and unhealthy. They will very likely lose their parents at an early age due to obesity and die at an early age themselves.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has established body mass index (BMI) standards to evaluate a person's weight. BMI is the ratio of an individual's weight-to-height. It is calculated by dividing an individual's weight in kilograms (kg) by his height in meters squared (m2). For example, someone who is 5'8" and weighs 170 pounds has a BMI of 25.8. Individuals with BMI's equal to 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2 are considered overweight. Individuals with BMI's of 30.0 to 39.9 kg/m2 are considered obese, and those with BMI's of 40 or more are extremely obese.

The individual in our example falls into the "overweight" category, but note that these measurements do not take body fat into account. An athlete might be considered overweight by virtue of his BMI, but in reality he weighs more than others his height due to his increased muscle mass. (Muscle weighs more than fat.) Other factors (e.g., waist circumference, diet, physical activity, and smoking) need to be considered when assessing an individual's risk for chronic disease and disability.

Obviously, many cultural, genetic, and behavioral factors contribute to obesity, but it's important to realize that we all have choices to make. Exercising and eating right have to be high personal priorities if you are going to succeed at a weight loss or fitness program. Weight management includes eating a healthy diet, moderate physical activity most days of the week, and motivation. (See a physician before beginning any exercise program.)

In order to lose weight, you must take in fewer calories than you burn each day. It is important to set realistic weight loss goals, keep a food/exercise log, and reward yourself appropriately. Work short bouts of exercise into your day — for instance, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Schedule workout sessions as you would any other appointment. Do not expect perfection. Accept your limitations and give yourself and/or your kids non-food rewards for exercise (e.g., a bubble bath, TV time, video game time). Enlist family and friends for support, consider a personal trainer, and possibly join a support group. Learn to cook healthy meals and teach your kids to cook for themselves and choose healthy snacks. Weight management takes discipline and commitment, but it can be a lot of fun and the rewards include stress reduction, self-confidence, and better overall health!

As a Life & Wellness Coach, Psychotherapist, and Personal Fitness Trainer, Coach Jenn A. Nocera, MA, MFT, CLSC, CPFT works with clients to redesign their lifestyle habits. She can work with you to evaluate the habits that are working for you and those that are simply ineffective and unhealthy. She will help you set goals and develop action plans to attain them. Those who decide to make physical exercise a "must" reap benefits in all areas of their lives — they become more energetic, look better, feel more confident, and become more effective in all they do! Please contact Jenna at 732-842-3515 or visit www.formulaforexcellence.com for a consultation.


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Comments (2)
2 Wednesday, 25 August 2010 12:57
Coach Jenna
Thank you for catching that, Patts! The sentence should have ended with "illnesses" ...

The CDC also indicates that approximately $ 117 billion is spent each year on weight-related illnesses.

Good eye!
1 Wednesday, 18 August 2010 13:10
The CDC also indicates that approximately $117 billion is spent each year on weight-related.

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