People are obsessed with dieting and weight loss! Don't believe me? Just tune-in to any source of advertising...you're instantly bombarded with the latest diet schemes and "Hollywood" food fads.
Here in America, we have built a thriving industry trying to control our weight and treat the consequences of over-indulgence. The cost of weight loss and obesity related health care treatments is staggering...Americans alone spend around $114 billion every year! And even with all this interest in losing weight, we continue to pack on the pounds like never before...
- A whopping 64 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese...up about eight percent from earlier estimates.
- Among children and teens ages 6-19, 15 percent or almost nine million are overweight...triple the rate in 1980!
- Nearly one-third of all adults are now classified as obese.
For Americans, modern life may be getting TOO easy. Our cushy lifestyle means we expend less energy and consequently need fewer calories to sustain our normal body weight.
Think about it for a moment...
Entertainment no longer requires energy expenditure. In fact, it's usually quite the opposite. We now entertain ourselves in the comfort of our own home while watching TV and munching on our favorite snack. Whether it's television, computers, remote controls, or automobiles, we are moving less and burning fewer calories. Common activities that were once a part of our normal routine have disappeared...activities like climbing stairs, pushing a lawn mower or walking to get somewhere.
And please do not misunderstand me...I appreciate comfortable living just as much as the next person. But, here is the problem...
With all of our modern day conveniences and "cushy" style of living we have not adjusted our caloric intake to compensate for our decreased caloric expenditure. We consume more calorie rich and nutrient deficient foods than ever before. Consider a few of the following examples comparing what we eat "today" vs the 1970's (U.S. Department of Agriculture survey):
- We are currently eating more grain products, but almost all of them are refined grains (white bread, etc.). Grain consumption has jumped 45 percent since the 1970's, from 138 pounds of grains per person per year to 200 pounds! Only 2 percent of the wheat flour is consumed as whole wheat.
- Our consumption of fruits and vegetables has increased, but only because French fries and potato chips are included as vegetables. Potato products account for almost a third of our "produce" choices.
- We're drinking less milk, but we've more than doubled our cheese intake. Cheese now outranks meat as the number one source of saturated fat in our diets.
- We've cut back on red meat, but have more than made up for the loss by increasing our intake of chicken (battered and fried), so that overall, we're eating 13 pounds more meat today than we did back in the 1970's.
- We're drinking three times more carbonated soft drinks than milk, compared to the 1970's, when milk consumption was twice that of pop.
- We use 25 percent less butter, but pour twice as much vegetable oil on our food and salads, so our total added fat intake has increased 32 percent.
- Sugar consumption has been another cause of our expanding waistlines. Sugar intake is simply off the charts. People are consuming roughly twice the amount of sugar they need each day, about 20 teaspoons on a 2000 calorie/day diet. The added sugar is found mostly in junk foods, such as pop, cake, and cookies. In 1978, the government found that sugars constituted only 11 percent of the average person's calories. Now, this number has ballooned to 16 percent for the average American adult and as much as 20 percent for American teenagers!
Unfortunately, it would seem that the days of wholesome and nutritious family dinners are being replaced by fast food and eating on-the-run. We have gradually come to accept that it's "OK" to sacrifice healthy foods for the sake of convenience and that larger serving portions equate to better value.
It's time recognize that we are consuming too many calories and time to start doing something about it! Each of us can decide TODAY that healthy eating and exercise habits WILL become a normal part of our life!
We can begin by exploring our values, thoughts and habits... slowly and deliberately weed-out the unhealthy habits and activities and start living a more productive and rewarding life. And remember, it has taken a long time to develop bad habits, so be patient as you work toward your goal!