Obesity is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. The word “preventable” gives us hope. That means something can be done to avert it. And we should work toward that end.
We all know the medical conditions associated with being overweight – high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. Yet there are also psychological health risks that accompany those who are excessively overweight which are often overlooked. Those who are obese often feel like social outcasts, experience low self-esteem and depression. The young and overweight suffer the most as they have to contend with being ridiculed or made fun of in school and are alienated by their playmates. Sadly, they only modeled (as children normally do) their unhealthy food choices and sedentary lifestyle from parents who should have known better.
But there is hope. Through the efforts of the government, health, fitness and business sectors in society, the movement for obesity prevention has finally taken off. Schools have taken the initiative in ensuring that food served in the cafeteria are healthy and nutritious. Fast food chains have heeded the call by putting up salads as part of their menu instead of just greasy burgers. Even food manufacturers have added low-fat, reduced-fat or non-fat varieties to their products.
Indeed, a change in the diet of the American public has spawned a movement away from the usual high-carbohydrate diet that we are used to. Now, it is actually fashionable to eat carrots or to drink green smoothies. As more diverse eating choices are presented in restaurants, the movement to clean up our cupboards (and our bodies) from the processed junk that we usually see there and replacing it with fruits, vegetables and natural meat and fish is finally taking hold.
Now, the call for obesity prevention has actually made it stylish to sweat. Waif-thin is not in, but healthy is. Fat is definitely on its way out with more of health-conscious America enrolling themselves in gyms, buying home fitness equipment or exercise videos in an attempt to look and feel healthy. The rising gas prices have helped, too, as walking has finally bounced back from hibernation. Now, we're parking farther or leaving our cars in the garage altogether, to add more steps to our pedometers. Now, we are not afraid to put on our cross-trainers or bring them to work so we can go to the gym immediately afterwards. Now, exercise has become the norm. Now it has finally sunk to the public consciousness that staying fit and healthy is a lifestyle choice.
Another important realization that has made our battle against the bulge half won is this: Obesity prevention lies in our hands. No one else can choose your food for you. No one can eat your fruits and veggies for you. No one can move your muscles or lift your weights for you. Children may be spared from this responsibility, but in the end, parents have to take full responsibility in instilling this kind of awareness in them.
But we are not quite there yet. We are on the way, and it's a start.