The other morning, as I came down for coffee, there on my Mom’s kitchen table sat the Cleveland Plain Dealer, its headline staring me in the face, “Ohio drops in obesity ranking, without getting thinner.”
I didn’t have to read more. Since landing on the shores of Lake Erie more than a week ago, I have seen my share of overweight adults, children, and teens. I knew Ohio was overweight, and it didn’t matter to me that it dropped in ranking or not.
According to the new study Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future, from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Woods Foundation, 29 percent of adults in the State are obese. (The State’s drop in ranking from 10 to 13 is due to the fact that other states have increased their girth). Additionally, Ohioans are ranked in the top ten when it comes to diabetes, with 9.8 percent of adults being diabetic. This, according to the article, costs more than $3.6 billion a year statewide. And by 2018, the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention predict that cost to grow to more than $16 million.
When I logged onto my computer to search for more juicy tidbits, I immediately came across the article on Yahoo, “Obesity Rates Jump in 28 States, Report Shows.”
Citing the study, the article quotes Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, as saying that the majority of states (more than two-thirds) have adult obesity rates above 20 percent. He adds, “Back in 1991, not that long ago, not a single state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. There’s been a dramatic change in a relatively short period.”
Levi continues, “Obesity is one of the biggest public health crises in the country. Rising rates of obesity over the past decades is one of the major factors behind skyrocketing health care costs in the U.S., one-quarter are related to obesity.”
Hearing this, I couldn’t help but shake my head and wonder, “What does it take for us to realize that how and what we’re eating has a huge effect on our waistlines as well as our wallets?”
Research and media have pointed to many culprits, including demographics and income level. In fact, a few weeks back, Iblogged (New Research: Your Weight is a Reflection of Where You Shop) about a small research study that found that our weight is a reflection of where we shop. The study, which highlighted income as a driving force behind our food choices, reinforced the notion that unhealthy food is cheaper and healthy food is expensive. The study contended that the reason those with lower incomes are heavier than those who are better off financially, is that low calorie foods cost more money and take more effort to prepare than processed, high-calorie foods.
Coincidentally, this report also shows that income is a major driver of the obesity epidemic. More than 35 percent of adults who make less than $15,000 a year were obese, versus only 24.5 percent in the over-$50,000 income bracket. In addition to geographic and economic differences, this year’s report also focued on racial and ethnic disparities, finding that Blacks and Latinos bear the brunt of the obesity problem, outweighing whites in at least 40 states plus D.C.
In addition to income, research – and media – has been quick to point to other factors that are driving the obesity epidemic, such as extreme marketing of highly-processed fast foods, lack of knowledge of how to cook from scratch, or perceived lack of time to cook.
We’re all quick to point the finger at someone or somethingcausing us to be overweight, but we’re reluctant to take at look at what we can do to change the state of our health.
Sure, we can be soothed by the news that the movement to fight our obesity epidemic is gathering momentum – whether it is the First Lady’s Let’s Move program, the creation of mandated standards for school meals and snacks, or even the popularity of Jamie Oliver ’s Food Revolution show. But that is only the tip of the iceberg, and we can’t wait for legislation to change before we’re forced to change our eating habits. And, heaven forbid we wait for Jamie Oliver to come to our town to highlight how fat we are.
What more do we need to hear in order for us to realize that we are part of the problem, and that we must be part of the solution. It takes a concerted effort to change our way of living. If we look at what it is doing to our bodies, and to our economy, there is only one choice, and that choice is to change.
It doesn’t have to be a drastic change, just one small change that may lead to another small change. Perhaps cutting down on one soda a day; opting for a home-cooked meal instead of a drive-thru meal; making a child’s lunch for school; trying one new from-scratch recipe this week; or taking and after-dinner walk.
For those interested in making a change, below is a list of websites that will offer a bit of inspiration.
- The Oldways Mediterranean Foods Alliance helps consumers and families bring the gold-standard Mediterranean diet into their daily meals more frequently and more easily.
- One size doesn’t fit all. MyPyramid offers personalized eating plans and interactive tools to help you assess your food choices base on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- The Whole Grains Council helps consumers find whole grain foods and understand their health benefits.