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Stephanie Baker - Fit or fat: a health crisis

Solution of eating less or exercising more seems, unfortunately, much easier said than done

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Nov 9, 2012


The recent increase in whooping cough cases in Oregon has been in the news lately: 836 this year, and 280 last year.

But one health ailment that has grown to epidemic proportions, but hasn’t received the attention it deserves, is obesity in America.

I’ve been lucky because I never had to worry about my weight, until recently. But as I enter the realm of middle age, I’ve noticed my pants are little tighter, and I’m developing that all-too-familiar belly that often comes with age. For the first time in my life, I’m having to watch what I eat and make a concerted effort to exercise, something I’ve loathed all my life, even in gym class.

I never knew how hard it was to lose weight until I tried to do it.

I became obsessed with my figure. I joined a gym and cut down on my food intake to the point of starving myself. I’d compare myself to models who parade the magazines in their bikinis and skinny jeans. I’d weigh myself numerous times a day.

What was happening to me? I used to roll my eyes at women who complained about how fat they were. I used to think they were insecure and pathetic. Now I was in the same boat.

Although I still had a healthy body mass index (BMI) and my weight gain wasn’t that noticeable, I began to scrutinize myself whenever I passed a mirror. This 50-year-old woman was trying to regain the body of a 20-year-old girl. It was unrealistic and ridiculous, and it gave me some insight into those with eating disorders and other body image issues.

But another thing happened. I took a look for the first time at how many obese people there are in this country.

According to a study released last September by The Trust for America’s Health and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, half of all Americans will be classified as obese by the year 2030. The National Association of Physical Activity and Health reports the number of extremely obese people — those who are at least 100 pounds overweight — has quadrupled since 1980, to about 4 million. That’s about 1 in every 50 adults.

If this isn’t a health crisis, what is? If 6 million new cases of diabetes, 5 million new cases of heart disease and stroke, and 300,000 cases of cancer in the next 20 years don’t get our attention, what will?

The obvious solution is to change our eating habits and exercise more. It’s easier said than done. But something has to happen, or the next generation of children likely will not live as long as their parents. Health care costs will become unaffordable with or without Obamacare.

The study also reported that if every state decreased its average BMI by 5 percent by 2030, millions of people would be spared obesity-related diseases, saving billions of dollars in health care spending. That amounts to each person losing 10 pounds.

I’m doing my share. I now attend water aerobics twice a week. Every time I step down into the pool, I take a quick inventory of who’s there. I’m always surprised how packed it is at 5:30 in the evening on a weeknight, when we’re all tired and wish we were home and in our pajamas.

My swimming buddies come in every shape and size, male and female, young and old. And nobody cares what anyone looks like in a bathing suit — or, worse yet, out of one in the dressing room — because we’re all there for the same reason: to get healthy.

I wish Miss Wright and Miss Morris, my P.E. teachers from junior high, could see me now. I’d surely get an “A” for effort. And, more importantly, a clean bill of health.

Stephanie Baker is an advertising rep with the News-Register. In her spare time, she likes to write and is a devotee of late night comedy. She’s also proud to announce she’s survived her withdrawal from sugar and, so far, lost six pounds.

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