Tuesday, 17 October, 2000

We're Fatter Than I Thought

It turns out that the obesity problem in the United States is worse than I thought (see Oct 13).  This news story from Reuters reports the Surgeon General's recent comments on the issue.  The numbers are frightening.  55% of Americans are "overweight."  22% are considered "obese".  Incidence of type 2 diabetes increased 30% in the 1990s, and it's now being reported in children as young as 10 years old.  The economic cost is staggering.  This paragraph from the article lays it out:

Besides the health-related complications that obesity can cause, the toll in healthcare dollars is considerable, Dr. F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer of Columbia University in New York reported. The total comes to roughly $100 billion in direct and indirect costs, he said. Indirect costs include 39 million missed workdays, 239 million days of restricted activity, and 889 million bed days. Americans spend another $33 billion on weight-loss aids, such as diet pills and self-help books, Pi-Sunyer pointed out.

$33 billion a year on weight-loss aids?  It's almost enough to believe that the fast food industry and the fad diet industry are in cahoots.  But I'm not a conspiracy theorist.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published this article about the "obesity epidemic" in the United States.  In the article, the director of the CDC says:

Overweight and physical inactivity account for more than 300,000 premature deaths each year in the U.S., second only to tobacco-related deaths. Obesity is an epidemic and should be taken as seriously as any infectious disease epidemic.

Obesity is almost 100% preventable and curable.  Do some research and pay attention to what you're eating.  Go for a walk around the block every night instead of watching that rerun of Friends.  If you want to lose weight, do it slowly—decrease the food slightly, increase the exercise slightly, and plan to lose no more than a pound a week.  It takes years to put on those extra pounds, so don't expect to take them off in a hurry.