I was contacted by The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) to help them raise awareness of the obesity epidemic in America and to share the efforts they are making to reduce or eliminate this national health problem.
At first, I cringed.
Then I sighed.
Not because I don't think it's a good cause and a well needed initiative but because I read a lot of body image blogs and posts by fat acceptance authors. I agree with them somewhat about our approach to fighting the "obesity epidemic." Especially equating fitness with thinness. Overall, I do wish we would stop focusing on body size as a main measure of health. Sometimes I think it hurts our efforts.
You know this but my blog is my story, my thoughts, and my experiences. I gained weight because of a rotten body image and I lost weight by getting over it (and eating less of course, but I was able to do that by getting over it–most of time anyway). I don't think I share the same experiences of everyone who is overweight. I also don't think people all fit into some kind of body prototype where if we all ate the "perfect" amount of calories we'd all be a "perfect" size 6, or 4 or 2 or 0 or whatever popular media is trying to tell us we should look like.
That being said I do believe as a nation we are getting heavier and we need to address that. According to HWCF, American obesity rates have increased 37% between 1998 and 2006. The average adult is now 23 pounds overweight.
- 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese.
- More than one-third of Americans (35%) are obese. Another one-third (32.7%) are overweight.
- 72 million American adults are obese.
- Collectively, adults in the U.S. are 4.6 billion pounds overweight.
Those are some big numbers (pun not intended) and I'm not about to claim to know the reason why this is happening, but it is happening. And according to HWCF it is causing a whole host of problems.
Over the course of a year, obesity-related disorders are responsible for nearly 40 million lost workdays and 53 million doctor visits by employees. Between 1997 and 2005, the prevalence of 11 chronic conditions associated with overweight/obesity grew 180%. And let's not forget the kids. The obesity rate for children 6-11 has more than quadrupled over the past four decades.
I’m not a sensationalist. I don't believe the world is going to end tomorrow because human beings are carrying around an extra 20lbs but I know how much better I feel about myself when I eat a little cleaner, maintain a healthy weight and stay active. And I hope to inspire others to live a little more consciously and make healthier decisions. Not necessarily to lose weight (although that is what set me down this path) but because finding balance and taking control of your health is empowering AND it's not that hard. Different? Maybe, but not hard.
HWCF's approach is based on educating people to manage “calories-in with calories-out,” to balance their eating with their physical activities. They aim to make Americans conscious of the need to combine better eating habits with regular exercise—achieving and maintaining a healthy weight through this concept of energy balance.
Hmmmm interesting.. they used my two favorite words, balance and conscious. :) That’s what it’s all about for me and here are some of my strategies…
- COOK! I think many people forgot how fun cooking can be especially when you involve kids. We rush home from work, look at meal prep as a chore and then hit a drive thru. By keeping some fresh ingredients on hand you can easily pull together dinner. It may take a little extra time and planning but the payoff is totally worth it. Your dinner will probably be lighter and healthier and you can make more educated decisions about what goes on the plate and in your family’s body. Not to mention you are teaching your kids how to prepare their own food which I think is an invaluable skill. This is one of the reasons why I started my food blog GreenLiteBites. I like to share ideas on what works for us. I also get inspired by reading CookingLight and Everyday Food. There are tons of resources for those looking to cook a little more at home.
- Of course you are going to eat out. It's inevitable. Plus let's be honest, you probably like to eat out. I know I do. I used to order anything and everything off the menu but now I make more conscious decisions when ordering whether it's fast food or fine dinning. I used to just assume that restaurants knew what a portion was. That they would serve me the perfect amount of food for a meal and that it was perfectly healthy for me to eat that much all the time. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Even things we think are "healthy," "lighter" options aren't.
- For me making dietary changes was the first thing I tackled. Then I moved to the "moving more". That's what "they" say right? Move more. It sounds SO simple but if you’re like me and work an office job, sit in hours of traffic and then come home exhausted with *just* enough energy to prepare that home cooked meal, barely, it's tough. After a few years of slowly changing my lifestyle I now wake up early to exercise before work but I used to simply just stay active and frankly, dance around my house like a mad woman. I also make it habit to get the family out after dinner for walks or now that my little guy is older, a little baseball in the backyard.
I really was hesitant to write this post but it has really made me realize how much I have changed my entire lifestyle. I'm not going to deny that I started this journey to lose weight but what I've learned over these 5 years has been invaluable and what I've gained is a healthy happy family.
The HWCF sponsored this post and they are also sponsoring a $250 sweepstakes with Parent's Magazine. Click here to enter!