Thursday, December 25, 2008

"You Gonna Finish That?"

Recent stories in the news about Oprah's ongoing battle to control her weight underscore a serious problem facing Americans...obesity. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in the past 30 years, the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased sharply for both adults and children. Since 1976–1980, the prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults has approximately doubled. In 2005–2006, more than 34% of adults aged 20 years or older were obese. Overweight among children aged 2–5 years increased to 13.9%, to 18.8% among young people aged 6–11 years, and to 17.4% among those aged 12–19 years. Our nation is getting dangerously fat.

Why is this so? Well, after all the smoke clears away, it boils down to diet and exercise. We look for other solutions because as much as we love to eat, we hate to exercise. Surely there must be a magic bullet somewhere that will allow us to do one without having to do the other. This accounts for the billions of dollars spent on diet fads and products like the Ab Sonic Electric Massage Belt that uses electrical shock to stimulate the nerves causing contractions in muscle several times per minute. With a 10 minute “workout” 5 days a week, you can have hard sexy abs without breaking a sweat. Yeah, right. While you're fingers are becoming permanently stained orange from shoving Cheetohs into your face, the massage belt is twitching madly trying to keep up. Don't think so chubbs.

I don't mean to make light of this problem; besides making us look unattractive, excess weight is a major contributor to a number of serious health conditions. What I am saying is that there is no easy way out. The solution may not be one we readily embrace, but it is certainly simple enough; eat less and move more. There are diets like Atkins that will take the weight off, but unless you're prepared to stay on them for the rest of your life, that twenty pounds will be back and probably bring some friends along. I speak from experience on this. I thought Atkins was wonderful when I was first on it. Being a meat and cheese lover I was in my glory.

In the beginning on Atkins, it was: "Oh boy, bacon and eggs again today." After a few weeks it became: "Oh God, bacon and eggs again today!" Intuitively I knew that eating so much meat could not be healthy, but damn, the pounds were coming off. Being Italian, I died a little each day without my bread, and avoiding carbs became a miserable obsession. When you finally crash and come off Atkins, you don't just drift back to eating carbs, you binge on them. Now, not only is the weight back, but you have all that added fat and cholesterol in your system to deal with.

Other fad diets are pretty much the same; they may work based on principles of simple chemistry, but the lack of variety makes it impossible to stay with them. One of the better ones, as evidenced by its longevity, is Weight Watchers. The principles are sound; provide a support group of people all dealing with weight problems, require regular weekly weigh ins (no longer done publicly), and advocate common-sense eating based on either sticking to a list of core foods, or using a point system to regulate the intake of all foods. I prefer the latter simply because it lets you have that taste of ice cream so long as you compensate by giving up points elsewhere. The one problem here was referenced earlier; do you go to these meetings for the rest of your life?

After a lifetime of fighting this battle, and still struggling to take my own advice, here are few tips that work. 1) Eat reasonable portions and eat slowly. Give your stomach a chance to signal it is full before having that extra slice of pizza. 2) When eating out, don't be afraid to ask for a doggie bag. Restaurant servings are usually big enough for two, and the leftovers will make a nice meal during the week. 3)Try eating nutritious meals and snacks. Stay away from fast food and sweets. 4) Move as much as you can. Walking is excellent exercise and it's free. Do some light workouts regularly with weights that don't overtax your body.

Basically, it comes down to a showdown between you and the refrigerator. You can surround this battle with all the psychological tinsel you want about motivation and finding the real reasons you overeat, but at the end of the day, it's you at one end of the dusty street and the fridge at the other. Feeling lucky, punk!


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

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