Monday, January 17, 2011

Uncomfortable Subject #1: Obesity

So, what’s the deal with obesity?  We keep hearing that obesity in the United States is at epidemic proportions, but what does that really mean?  What is the real concern of the increasing number of obese people in our country?

Before we begin, let’s talk about what the terms “healthy,” “overweight,” and “obese” mean.  These terms are based on your Body Mass Index, or BMI, a figure based on your height and weight.  While the BMIs of some groups may not apply (bodybuilders, weightlifters, etc.), generally, your BMI is a primary indicator of your risk for developing diseases like coronary artery disease, type II diabetes, and certain types of cancers.
I’ve included the formula for calculating your BMI. 
First, calculate your height in inches (# of feet x 12”) + # of inches.
For example, someone who is 5’ 6” is 66” tall.
Weight (lbs)/{Height (in) x Height (in)} x 704.5 = BMI

For example, let’s say our 66” person weighs 135 pounds.

135/(66x66) x 704.5 = BMI
0.030 x 704.5 = 21.8
BMI Standards
Underweight                     < 18.5
Normal Weight                 18.5-24.9
Overweight                       25.0-29.9
Obesity, Class I                30.3-34.9
Obesity, Class II               35.0-39.9
Obesity, Class III              > 40
Source: National Institutes of Health
However, you can go here to figure it out really quickly.  Do that now.
What was your BMI?  Are you underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese?  Were you surprised by the result?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2009, every state except Colorado and the District of Columbia reported more than 20% of their populations as obese, with some states reporting more than 30%.  If your BMI indicated that you are overweight or obese, you are not alone.  You are not struggling alone.
Some commonalities I’ve noticed when discussing weight issues with friends and clients include:
·         Demanding schedule prevents exercise
·         Unclear about proper portion sizes in food
·         Not understanding how to read a food label
·         Not knowing how many calories are needed per day
·         Not knowing where those calories should come from
In celebration of our improving health, the next few articles will be educational.  I’m going to help you figure out how many calories you need every day (get your calculators ready!).  From that, you’re going to figure out how many calories you need from fat, protein, and carbohydrates.  Then, we’re going to decode a nutrition label.  The numbers on each label will make sense and you’ll be comfortable making food choices at the grocery store or when you’re eating out. 
I’m also going to help you find ways to prioritize exercise in your life.  You must have it.  Your heart wants it.  Your body demands it.  Your brain needs it.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of people out there trying to sell a quick fix.  They’re convincing you that you need to buy books, products, and certain brands of food in order to look a certain way.  The facts are that you need a few basic pieces of knowledge to begin making healthful choices for yourself.  This isn’t brain surgery or even reinventing the wheel.  This is not new knowledge.  This is a compilation of things trainers, nutritionists, coaches, and doctors know but rarely put in one place.  Even better, it’s free!
To illustrate what a balanced diet consists of, I’ll commit to tracking everything I eat during the week of January 24-30.  I won’t be on my best behavior, either.  If I eat a handful of M&Ms, you’ll know about it.  What I hope to demonstrate is that, when armed with knowledge, healthful eating is easy, affordable, and gratifying.
OK, so the goals are laid out.  In the next few weeks, we’re going to learn:
·         What we need to eat
·         How much we need to eat
·         How to figure out what’s in what we’re eating
·         How to include exercise in our daily lives
·         What all of that information looks like when applied to your every day
I’m really excited!  Let’s do this together!


Jenn said...

Thank you for writing these blogs. I'm really enjoying reading them so far, and looking forward to reading more. :)

BrewstersMMs said...

I calculated my BMI and I scored a 25.5 but i don't feel overweight. Do I need to lose weight to be healthy? At 6 ft and 187 lbs I feel I'm just right, so is there a "healthy, but be careful" segment?
PS, this is a great blog.

Natalie said...

Without knowing the particulars of your situation, I couldn't guess what group you might fall into. However, a personal trainer can give you a fitness assessment. He or she might have you do 12 minutes of cardio work (running, on a bike, or swimming) and determine your cardio strength by the distance you'd traveled in those minutes. You might also do a step test, where you step up and down a step, keeping time with a metronome, for a timed interval. Your heartrate would then be taken. Based on the results of these, or other, strength and endurance tests, a trainer would build a program for you. If your optimal weight is 187, you might not experience any weight changes. However, with a new program and focus, you might find that your body works like a well-oiled machine with a few pounds less.

Good luck, and thanks for reading!