While eating the continental breakfast at a Ramada Inn in Los Angeles, I watched an obese (morbidly obese…?) woman eating an extremely processed muffin, chocolate covered mini-doughnuts, and drinking a sprite, at 9:30am, for breakfast. With little shock to the sight, I thought "this is the obesity epidemic; this is obesity, the 'disease'".
Before I get into my opinion, here are several facts regarding obesity:
- Obesity is defined by the World Health Organization as a BMI (body mass index; essentially a measure of weight per height) greater than or equal to 30 (1).
- The percentage of obese Canadians aged 18 or older sits around 24%, while the American rate is about 34% (based on data from 2007-2009)(2).
- If it's not already so incredibly well-known, obesity has been linked with many chronic diseases, including hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers (3).
- In 2003, the estimated costs of obesity-attributable medical expenditures in the U.S. was up to $75 billion dollars (4).
Okay. The problem as I see it is simply this: people refuse to be accountable for their own life. This is a general problem with society. People make excuses -- there's always an excuse -- rather than accepting the responsibility for their own actions. Stop blaming obesity on genetics; it's not genetic. Stop blaming obesity on the junk food industry; they don't force anyone to eat junk food. Stop complaining that healthy food is too expensive; it's no more expensive than the destructive over-eating that leads to obesity. Society has taken the attitude of "it's okay, it's not your fault". I'm so sick of hearing media and science debate about what's causing the rise in obesity; the current "debate" is only providing excuses. The government doesn't have to give me millions in research dollars to find an answer, I'll tell you right here: people don't know how to eat healthy; people don't exercise enough; or people are too damn lazy to do either of the previous.
Becoming obese is a slow process that takes years of gaining weight. Yet, once obese, people expect a quick fix to undo the years of eating bad and not exercising. Just look at the banner ads on the internet: "The 1 tip for a flat belly". But that's not how it works! If people spend years treating their body like a piece of shit, they can expect years to reverse the effects. Again, people must accept the consequences of their actions.
I can't take the excuse that people don't have enough time to exercise. Everyone has at least thirty minutes in the morning or the evening to go for a run or do some strength training. People choose to make the excuse that they don't have time, rather than choosing to make the time. No time in the morning? Wake up thirty minutes earlier. No time after work? Don't sit around until dinner, go for a run. No time in the evening? Give up the t.v. addiction and go to the gym for a bit.
A big problem is that no one knows how to eat healthy anymore. The bigger problem is that no one knows how to eat healthy but everyone believes they're eating healthy. I can sympathize a bit, because the commercial food industry is confusing and often misleading. With the constant commercial and media stimuli telling everyone what is supposed to be healthy (with capitalism being the only true consideration of commercial products), how can the average person know what is really healthy anymore?
Kraft Dinner has a text box that says "Sensible Solutions" and makes claims as to how it's healthy for you. If you think Kraft Dinner is healthy, then you need to re-evaluate what healthy is. Kraft Dinner is highly refined pasta (the noodles are grey!) with radioactive cheese powder. It's food, but it's not healthy food. One thing I'll take away from my running career and have for the rest of my life is the ability to eat healthy, truly healthy.
Cut out processed, refined foods. Cut out junk food. Cut out alcohol. Go back to a simpler diet of real food. Go to where vegetables take up the most plate space, where meat isn't pre-cooked, and where rice takes longer than 3 minutes to cook. People have to be honest with themselves. They need to ask themselves, and answer honestly: do I exercise enough?; do I eat healthy foods, or foods that merely claim to be healthy?; do I cut-out junk food, or only cut-back?; do I eat as much as I need to eat, or as much as I want to eat? People need to stop waiting for science to find a miracle cure; there's nothing to cure except people's mindset. People need to stop waiting for a miracle diet. "Diet" refers to the foods one habitually eats, and is ongoing; it is not a short-term plan. For that matter, short-term diets don't work. They never work. Restrict caloric intake, eat whole foods, exercise. It's that simple. Only you are accountable for you.
3. Tjepkema, Michael. 2006. “Adult Obesity.” Health Reports. Vol. 17, no. 3. August. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. p. 9. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/studies-etudes/82-003/archive/2006/9276-eng.pdf (accessed May 10, 2010).