A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Who’s to Blame for Fat America?

Since 2006 the Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have released an annual report on obesity; this year’s report was just released with sub-par findings. You can view or download the full report here.

Just reading the title “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011” is a precursor for the information to come. Within the 124 page report, the groups list their major findings in rates and trends as well as their solutions to the obesity epidemic. America is on a downward spiral in terms of obesity and overall health of the population. The government can’t save us and I think their minds are fogged with other priorities; it will take the efforts of the average person to make a change for the good.
Here are some of the major findings:

  • Adult obesity rates rose in 16 states over the past year. No state decreased.
  • Twelve states now have obesity rates above 30 percent: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. Four years ago, only one state was above 30 percent.
  • The number of adults who report they do notengaged in any physical activity rose in 14 states in the past year. Two states (California and Texas) saw a decline in adult physical inactivity levels.
  • Those who did not graduate high school have the highest rates of obesity (32.8 percent). Those who graduated high school but did not go on to college or a technical school have the second highest obesity rate (30.4 percent) and those who went to college / technical school had an obesity rate of 29.6 percent. Those who graduate from college/technical school had the lowest obesity rate (21.5 percent).
  • Households that make less than $15,000 have a 33.8 percent obesity rate. They are followed closely by households that make between $15,000 and $25,000 (31.8 percent), $25,000 and $35,000 (29.7 percent) and $35,000 and $50,000 (29.5 percent). However, households that have an income above $50,000 have a 24.6 percent obesity rate.
  • Ten years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 24%, and now 43 states have higher obesity rates than the state that was the highest in 2000.
  • More than one-third of children ages 10–17 are obese (16.4 percent) or overweight (18.2 percent). State-specific rates ranged from a low of 9.6 percent in Oregon to a high of 21.9 percent in Mississippi.
  • Twenty states and Washington, D.C. have stricter standards than the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Seven years ago, only four states had school meal standards that were stricter than USDA requirements.
  • Thirty-four states and Washington, D.C. have sales taxes on sodas.

Many "solutions" focus on the cause in the wrong way.
The end of the report lists many reasons from food choices, schools, community design, marketing, the workplace, and economic constraints that affect our increasing obesity:

  • Adjusted for inflation, prices for low-nutrient, energy-dense foods and beverages, such as soda and fast food, have declined sharply.
  • The dramatic rise in price of more nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. One study found a 19.5 percent increase in prices for these healthy foods between 2004 and 2006.
  • Increases in caloric intake; adults consumed approximately 300 more calories daily in 2008 than they did in 1985.
  • “Portion distortion,” the increasing size of meal portions, both at home and in restaurants.
  • Decreased in-home cooking and an increased number of meals eaten at or bought from restaurants.
  • The increased availability of low-nutrition foods and beverages in à la carte lines, school stores, vending machines, and other school environments.
  • Reduced time for physical education, recess, and other physical activity.
  • Communities that encourage driving rather than walking or biking: low-density neighborhoods where housing, shopping, work, and schools are not located close to each other.
  • Zoning codes that block strategies to encourage physical activity and healthy eating.
  • Increased advertising and marketing of unhealthy foods, particularly to kids.
  • Marketing of extreme or fad weight-loss programs.
  • Increasing number of jobs require almost no physical activity.
  • Many jobs offer little or no opportunity for physical activity during the workday.
  • Many employers don’t have bike racks or shower facilities, which discourages people from biking or walking to work.
  • High-calorie, low-nutrition foods tend to cost much less than nutritious foods, encouraging many to eat unhealthy food.
  • More people working outside the home or far from home.

We need more proactive programs in all states!!
The full report provides statistics on how the states differ in regards to school programs, activity levels of adults and children, access to healthy food in schools, and other various topics like the marketing of unhealthy foods. I urge everyone to at least skim over some of the topics as it can be interesting and a lot of subject matter experts voice their opinion on the controversial items.

There are many news articles and blog postings offering their advice and findings on the cause and solution to obesity. Do you point the finger at the big corporations making false health claims on their processed food, is it the lack of government regulation, or maybe it’s a combination? I agree most companies, blinded with greed for increased profit, are very tricky with the way they market their less-than-healthy “health” foods. I too agree with the government’s lack of regulation or focus on the wrong areas. But, the number one reason America is fat and getting fatter is because of each individual.

Genetics and uninformed children aside, the average adult has the ability to arm themselves with knowledge on health and nutrition. Parents are quick to point the finger at other organizations for the reason their kid is unhealthy. Upset about the marketing kids are exposed to on TV? Then limit use of the TV! Besides reducing the amount of marketing your children see, maybe they will find the extra time to be more active. Heck, you as parents should go be active with them, according to the numbers most of us could use the activity.

Also, increasing knowledge on what’s actually healthy food is a priority for America. The information is all over the internet, I agree there are many opposing views and opinions, but it’s actually pretty simple. The healthiest food will come in an unaltered, whole form. An apple is better than apple chips, for example. Learn to cook at home and stop eating out; your waistline and wallet will benefit. I will go into detail on these topics in future blogs, but the health of America is up to us, the average American consumer. Shop more at farmer’s markets when able, gain knowledge on healthy foods and how to cook, be more active and take the road less traveled. For those with children, remember kids learn by your actions, so preach the importance of nutrition and exercise and practice it yourself; otherwise they’re just more words coming out of your mouth.

Stay tuned for more on this popular topic as I am very passionate about spreading knowledge. How do you plan on making changes in your current lifestyle? Have you already changed for the better?

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