Most people are concerned with their weight. Rightly so. We enjoy one of the most luxurious lifestyles on Earth: Our food is plentiful. Our work is automated. Our leisure is effortless. And it’s literally killing us.
The Center for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) has declared obesity an “epidemic”.
Current statistics show that 66.3% of the American population is overweight and 32.2% obese. That’s 129.6 million people in the U.S. alone!
Statistics Canada data estimates that more than half of Canadians are overweight or obese, with almost 15 per cent of the population falling in the category of "obese".
There are twice as many obese people as three decades ago. One out of three Americans is obese and this will increase to 40% by 2010.
Now we are only talking about obese people – those that are roughly 30 pounds or more over a healthy bodyweight. This excludes the “overweight” people which unfortunately, work out to be the “norm”.
To illustrate this worldwide epidemic, please note the following obesity chart;
Obesity is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, stroke, and colon, breast and endometrial cancers.
70 Percent of cardiovascular disease cases are related to obesity.
Your chance of developing high blood pressure doubles if you are obese.
Effect of obesity on high blood pressure: More than doubles one's chances of developing high blood pressure
Overweight and Obesity cost the United States $117 billion per year. In Canada, a conservative estimate of the total direct cost of overweight and obesity was $1.8 billion in 1997 – that’s 10 years ago…..
Next year, Obesity is expected to surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable death.
An ambulance manufacturer now offers a retrofitted winch and plus size compartment to accommodate patients up to one thousand pounds in weight!
City transit and ferries are not increasing their seat width from 18 to 20 inches to allow room for bigger bottoms.
It has been estimated that within 50 years obesity will shorten the average life span of 77.6 years by at least two to five years.
Okay guys, here’s a shocker for all you studs. It is estimated that you “lose” half an inch of length of your manhood for every 20 pounds of fat packed on. Fat building up around your lower abdomen can hide your most precious asset. By reducing the body fat you can showoff more of your package.
And what about our children???
In the past 25 years, obesity in children and adolescents has quadrupled!
15% of children and teens are overweight, a nearly three fold jump since 1980
Childhood diabetes has increased 10-fold in the past 20 years.
The average child will watch 10,000 commercials per year touting food or beverages, nearly all of them for junk and fast food!
Not only does excess body fat affect a child socially and psychologically, but also Diabetes, orthopedic problems, high blood pressure, asthma, and sleep apnea have increased to all time highs in children, right along with the increase in obesity.
Now you could easily blame television or the computer but the biggest reason really has to do with their parents! Are you setting a good example for your kids? Are you a good role model?
Parents need to stop using excuses – lead by example.
So what’s the answer to the obese, overweight and the fat epidemic?
Did you know that at any time:
35-40 percent of adult American women are trying to lose weight?
20-24 percent of adult American men are trying to lose weight?
About 95% of dieters can not keep the weight off long-term.
I see people checking the scale before, during and after a workout. So many people just don’t get it. Weight is not fat. Most weight lost during exercise is water weight. And unless you watch your nutrition, you could lose muscle rather than fat also.
Contrary to what all those “new fads” and diet books and pills will tell you - Weight is largely meaningless as an index of health or fitness. Another poor indicator of your health or ideal weight is the Body Mass Index. The BMI uses a person’s weight and height to determine a score rating.
So first and foremost – stop focusing on “losing weight”. Scales belong on a fish!
A more accurate assessment can be attained by looking at a person’s Body Composition.
There are two main factors to look at when considering Body Composition: 1) Body Fat (lean body mass) and 2) Body Fat distribution (waist circumference)
1) Body Fat Composition
Body composition is the ratio of lean body mass to fat body mass, or simply put – a measurement of how LEAN you are. Your lean body mass contributes to your structure, strength and shape.
Some aspects of your body composition are based on heredity (such as where you tend to store excess fat). However, for the majority of the population Percent Body Fat is related to LIFESTYLE. After about age 16, changes in body fat are due to changes in fat cell size not number. These cells expand (or shrink) to accommodate excess calorie storage. One very important point - you CANNOT GET RID OF FAT CELLS (other than by liposuction) - only
reduce them. You can however INCREASE the number of fat cells. Once done, YOU HAVE THEM FOR LIFE!
When you test your body fat percentage you are determining what percentage of your total body weight is FAT and how much is LEAN BODY MASS (i.e. the weight of your muscles, bones and organs). The less fat you have relative to the amount of muscle you have, the leaner you are. Skin-fold Calipers are one of the easiest and best ways to determine your body fat percentage.
Body fat itself refers to the percentage of the overall body that is composed of essential fat and storage fat.
For men: 2-4% body fat is essential, 6-13% is an athletic body fat range, 14-17% is considered a 'fit' range, and 18-25% is acceptable. Anything above 26% for men is considered obese.
For women: a body fat of 10-12% is essential, 14-20% is considered a healthy range for athletes, 21-24% is healthy for fitness, 25-31% is considered 'acceptable' and anything above 32% is considered obese.
The average body composition is; 15-18% for men and 22-25 % for women.
2) Body Fat Distribution or Waist Circumference
The total amount of body fat is important but where your fat is stored is also important, as it is a key indicator of health problems. Body fat that accumulates around the waist and stomach area (abdominal fat) poses a greater health risk than fat stored in the lower half of the body. Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) looks at the proportion of fat stored on your body around your waist and hip.
The Waist-to-Hip Ratio is a simple but useful measure of fat distribution. If you have an apple shape (carrying extra fat around the abdomen) this places you in a higher health risk category than being a pear shape (carrying extra weight around the hips or thighs). Generally, men tend to store fat around their middle (apple shape) while women store fat around their pelvis, thighs and butt (pear shape).
The ideal Waist-Hip Ratio for Men is .95 or less
The ideal Waist-Hip Ratio for Women is .8 or less
While gender is the most powerful influence on body fat distribution, hereditary, and age, play a part. The effect of age is magnified enormously by the final factor - lack of exercise!
Next month I will discuss the reason why we Canadians are so fat. I will then explain what you can do to fix the problem.