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Obesity: Americans in Denial about Health Dangers

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Obesity related image Photo: Getty Images

If you are overweight or obese, the problem won’t go away just because you ignore it. Also, many appear to operate under the assumption that the health dangers of excess weight don't apply to them. It's always someone else who has high blood pressure or diabetes but not you, right? Don’t bet your health or life on those assumptions!

It is wise to give yourself the best chance to live healthily for a long time. Deep down, we all know what we need to do to make that happen.

A study conducted by Catalyst Healthcare Research, a nationally recognized leader in health care research, found that 60 percent of Americans said obesity is the number one threat to public health; this result far outdistanced cancer, which was in second place with 16 percent. For the study, researchers interviewed 1,500 Americans ages 18 to 65.

Of those considered to be obese or overweight, 11 percent of the people who responded to the survey considered themselves to be in excellent health, and an additional 61 percent said they were in good health.

"These results suggest that many Americans are living in denial about their health status," said Dan Prince, president of Catalyst Healthcare Research. "Health advocates face a much deeper problem than merely persuading people of the benefits of losing weight -- they must find ways to help people face the hard truth about themselves.

"The survey results suggest to us that many Americans may not connect their own weight or exercise level with perceptions of their overall fitness."

Sixty percent of those questioned in the Catalyst Healthcare Research study were overweight or obese as measured by their body mass index, which relates a person's weight to his or her height. That percentage is similar to the U.S. adult population at large. People who are overweight have a lower BMI than those considered obese, but both groups are considered by medical professionals to be at risk for serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Their level of concern about the danger their weight poses to their health is reflected in their exercise patterns, according to the study. More than half either don't exercise at all or merely engage in naturally-occurring exercise, such as walking up the stairs in their own home.

The reasons for not exercising ran the gamut among all participants, with time being the biggest enemy. But in the end, the result was the same: they were less fit than they could be.

There can be little doubt that obesity is a big -- and growing -- problem in the U.S. A recent McKinsey Quarterly report estimated the annual cost of obesity in the United States at $450 billion. That includes $160 billion in medical costs plus such items as absenteeism and decreased productivity on the job and the cost to individuals of extra food and plus-size clothing.

An ObesityInAmerica.org report titlted “Obesity-Related Diseases,” stated the following:

Obesity adversely impacts existing endocrine and metabolic disorders. In fact, one out of every five overweight people is affected by metabolic syndrome, or “Syndrome X26.”

Metabolic syndrome is one of the fastest growing obesity-related health concerns in the United States and is characterized by a cluster of health problems including obesity, hypertension, abnormal lipid levels, and high blood sugar.

Patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Cushing’s syndrome and other conditions have an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the metabolic syndrome affects almost one quarter (22 percent) of the American population – an estimated 47 million people. The assemblage of problems characterized as comprising the metabolic syndrome can increase a patient’s risk for developing more serious health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Here are my five tips to keep your body healthy:

1. Adopt an active lifestyle. All movement burns calories and keeps your fat-burning enzymes active. One of the best ways to stay active is to walk as much as you can every day.

2. Your cardio exercise should aid in your fat loss and not waste away your precious muscle mass. Your cardio exercise should:

--Improve heart health
--Burn calories (during and after your workout)
--Burn fat
--Spare muscle mass

Keep your cardio workouts at about 20 minutes (preferably intervals). That's all it takes.

3. Eat for fat loss. You must eat enough to build muscle and burn fat. A balanced diet which contains the macronutrients like carbs, protein, and fats is best. You should calculate your calorie needs for reaching your goals. Starvation diets will not work. Nutritious calories are critical to build muscle.

4. Make a commitment to regular strength training. In time, this will transform your body to lean and toned. That means full body strength training at least three days a week. You can “muscle up” without “bulking up.”

5. Consistency is the key to transforming your body. Don’t just go on a diet. Focus on improving your health and fitness for the long-term.

Take responsibility for health. Younger generations are watching and following your example.


Catalyst Healthcare Research
Research Now

The Endocrine Society and The Hormone Foundation, ObesityInAmerica.Org, "Obesity-Related Diseases"

McKinsey Quarterly

Reviewed May 31, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton

Mark Dilworth, BA, PES, CPT is a Certified Personal Trainer and former NCAA Division I athlete. Mark is the owner of My Fitness Hut, Her Fitness Hut, Sports Fitness Hut and My Nutrition Hut. Mark’s Fat Blaster Athletic Training System has been proven to give his clients the fit, sculpted and athletic-type bodies they want. Visit Mark’s main site:

Your Fitness University http://yourfitnessuniversity.com

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EmpowHER Guest


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May 31, 2011 - 6:48am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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