OBESITY

Obesity is a condition resulting from an overabundance of body fat. The body mass index is the most widely used and accurate method to measure body fat in children and adults. Those with a body mass index between 25 and 30 are classified as overweight. If your body mass index figure is above 30, you are considered to be obese. In the past 25 years, the percentage of Americans who fall into the obese classification has reached 17%.

The trend is continuing with increases in the numbers of children and teenagers crossing over from overweight to obese. The number of children who are obese has doubled in the past two decades. The number of obese adolescents has tripled. The modern diet plays a major role in these numbers. The modern life style of two family incomes encourages the consumption of large portions of high fat, high calorie, convenience foods on a regular basis.

The words overweight and obesity are often used in the same context. You will also see them substituted or exchanged for one another in popular print sources. Medically, their definitions are different. Overweight means an excess of body weight which includes all tissues. Fat, bone, and muscle are all taken into consideration. Obesity considers only the excess of body fat.

Children with obese parents tend to become obese themselves. The likelihood of developing the condition increases with the number of family members who are obese. For example, if the other siblings and grandparents, as well as the parents are obese, the chances of the child becoming obese are greatly increased. Although this might seem to suggest obesity is inherited, studies of normal weight children adopted into obese families show the same increased likelihood of developing obesity.

The difference between the modern lifestyle and the lifestyles of our ancestors is one of the factors for the growing number of obesity cases. During the course of human history, human life encompassed a cycle of feast and famine. The hungry years outnumbered the years of abundance. During those times, the ones that were able to gain the weight the quickest had the advantage. They survived the starvation years of the cycle, and their genes were the ones that were passed along to the next generation.

Although there is really not one gene that by itself controls your weight, this historical process is sometimes called the thrifty gene. Fat is stored up when times are good and food is plentiful. During the famine cycles, this stored fat is burned off to sustain life. Down through history, this pattern served humans well.

Unfortunately, times have been too good in the latter half of the last century. Instead of burning away the fat, our lifestyle insures that we just keep storing it up.

The types of food we eat play a part, but there are other factors involved. More and more Americans are sedentary. All the gadgets that make our lives easier also mean we don’t get much physical activity during the day. Many feel their lives are so busy that they don’t have time to exercise. The average adult watches 4 hours of television a night. Children take these cues from their parents and have joined the family on the couch. Television often bombards you with images of food and messages urging you to eat. Budget cuts in public schools have cut back physical education programs, and some schools have done away with recess altogether. Americans simply do not get enough daily physical activity to burn off the calories they consume.

Obesity develops in all races, but minorities and the poor are especially vulnerable. It is a question of economics. Healthy whole foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats are more expensive, have a shorter freshness period, and take much more time and effort to prepare. Super-sized fast food and high calorie processed convenience foods are cheaper and can be prepared quickly. With the advent and popularity of larger fast food meals, Americans are losing track of what a normal meal portion looks like. Accustomed to larger meals, they take similar portions even when eating at home. Larger portions on top of the amount of body fat that is already being stored up, only makes dial on the scale creep higher and higher.

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