Tuesday, January 24, 2023

How the US went from healthy, to overweight to obese to morbid obesity: two words

This is a difficult blog post to write because I'm going to talk about one of the US's most uncomfortable elephants in the living room: obesity. When I was a kid virtually no one was overweight and obesity was unheard of. Let's look at how the US (and increasingly more countries) went from healthy weight, to overweight to obese to off the charts morbid obesity.  

First, let's establish if in fact, more people are overweight. CDC stats tell us that from 1999-2017, the number of obese, not just overweight but obese, people jumped from 30.5% (bad enough) to a staggering 41.9%. And morbid obesity shot from 4.7% to 9.2%. So I wasn't imagining things. 

That means nearly half of us weigh 50 or more pounds than we should. (BMI <30) and 1 in 10 weigh 120 or more pounds than we should. This isn't even taking into account those with extreme obesity such as gastric bypass patients on "My 600-lb Life" who weigh 3-5X normal weight. 

At 9 (left, 1973) I was deemed to be overweight. I weighed 100 pounds and was put on a calorie restricting diet, limiting me to 1000 calories a day. I was hungry and sick all the time. I only put on 20-30 more pounds into adulthood. So you could say calorie restricting worked to lose weight. But it didn't. I had my tonsils out and couldn't eat. 

 And then I hit puberty, lost any excess weight, got clinically too skinny for awhile and then leveled out. It wasn't until around 2004, after losing two stillborn babies, that I got overweight. That was due in large part to depression and taking the antidepressant Paxil. How I lost 100 pounds has been the gist of this blog. 

So 1000 calories wasn't enough to feed a growing child and isn't enough for an adult. Even Dr. Now of "My 600-lb Life" only requires gastric bypass patients to follow a 1200 calorie diet. But that's really not the point of this post which is how we went from healthy to overweight to obese as a nation (many other parts of the world are seeing obesity increases as well).

I blame two fails for the obesity pandemic: lack of exercise and portion control. We overeat routinely. Everything is bigger, more calorie dense and nutrition arid. And the logical result is people who are 504 pounds overweight like Geno on the most recent episode of "My 600-lb Life." Geno speaks of eating large amounts in a never-ending quest to feel full and satisfied. 

So I think we can see how this snowball gains momentum. Geno is talking about a sense of satiation that food will never provide. He could never eat enough to fill the void. And with the addictive nature of junk food and "comfort foods" they literally create a need for themselves that they by nature never fill. The more you eat the more you want the more you eat. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 

Part of how I lost 100 pounds was with portion control. And though it wasn't easy, it wasn't as hard as I thought. I'm hopeful for Geno because he has what many of Dr. Now's patients lack: a positive attitude. And a friend. His cuz Nico says he's going to lose weight with Geno and be his accountability partner. Let us hope and pray that these two pals will find the weight loss and healthier life and JOY that they deserve. 


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