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Obesity and Losing Weight in 2012

By Dr. Sultan Rahaman

It is mid January and no doubt millions of Americans are starting to implement one of their top resolutions for 2012, losing weight. It is no wonder that our television screens and computer monitors are being bombarded by ads promoting easy ways to lose weight. New gym memberships along with attendance will surge this month but will likely fall again by spring when enthusiasm wanes. Over the last 10 years nearly 30% of American adults are seriously trying to lose weight at any given time.

Gallup data reveal insights into how those who say they have ever lost weight made it happen. Americans who have succeeded at losing weight at some point in their lives -- representing 52% of all U.S. adults -- are more likely to mention various dietary changes than efforts at exercising as the most effective strategies to drop pounds. However, exercising (31%) and eating less (23%), specifically, lead the individual responses.


This month The Orlando Sentinel ran a 3 part series titled 'Why we're fat'. Part 1 states:

Many think the answer is that we eat too much and don't exercise enough, but the reasons are more numerous and complex, say obesity researchers. And so are the solutions.

30 years ago The Food Pyramid established by the USDA warned against fat intake and recommended increased consumption of carbohydrates. As a result food manufacturers started flooding the market with low-fat and fat-free products with high carbohydrate content.

The consumption of sugar — a carbohydrate — skyrocketed. Sodas were fat-free, so Americans began to tank up. "The country's big low-fat message backfired," says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "The overemphasis on reducing fat caused the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar in our diets to soar. That shift may be linked to the biggest health problems in America today."

Cheaper food, larger portions and fewer breast-fed babies also contribute to the problem. 

Heredity plays role in how easily we gain and lose weight . However this is clearly not the major contributing factor to the high prevalence of obesity. In the early 1970s, 14 percent of the adult population was considered obese, compared with 34 percent today. Genetics did not account for this dramatic rise.

'Our lifestyle promotes added pounds'. Reduced exercise levels while increasing calorie intake compounds the problem. Compared to 30 years ago, today more time is spent watching TV, playing video games, using computers. Labor-saving devices: Electric can openers, power lawn mowers, remote controls, clothes dryers and hundreds of other labor-saving devices have contributed to Americans expending less energy each day. "The very advances we celebrate for their labor-saving convenience undermine our health," says Smith.


The Mayo Clinic website has an abundance of credible information about Weight Loss and 'Nutrition and healthy eating'.

Today as in the past a gap exists between dietary recommendations and what Americans actually eat. Americans of all ages eat too few vegetables, fruits, high-fiber whole grains, seafood, and low-fat milk and milk products. In contrast, Americans eat too much salt, added sugar, solid fats and refined grains. Indeed, solid fats and added sugars — called SoFAS — make up about 35 percent of calories in the typical American diet.

The Mayo clinic also emphasizes physical activity which is key to losing weight, 'After all, physical activity can reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve your balance and coordination, help you lose weight — even boost your self-esteem."

Unfortunately, there is no ‘magic bullet’ to help people lose excess fat. However, it is clear that a combination of an appropriate consistent diet and exercise has worked for the majority who has succeeded in losing weight. Others have found success mainly through dieting only, while relatively few succeeded strictly through exercise.

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