What is Obesity

Yesterday was the NYC Marathon.  Congratulations to all of you who ran … I am beyond impressed.  I get tired driving 26 miles.  When I lived in the city, I used to go out to the park to watch the runners go by and every year, I cried.  That was annoying because I would have to find someone to hold my Solo Cup full of tomato juice, horseradish and some clear stuff, while I dug around for a tissue.  The marathon is always moving — they are running after all — and the strength of the human body and the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.  Juxtapose this event that is all about wellness and strength of mind and body with what is going on in the rest of NYC where more than 40% of school children are overweight.  As a country, we have seriously got to stop super-sizing everything.

1.  Definition of obesity – a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems.  (Ewwwww.)

2. Medically, we categorize weight by BMI or Body Mass Index.  It is imperfect but it is easy to do and gives a rough estimate of where someone falls on the obesity scale.
Using pounds and inches, the formula is as follows:
BMI = weight / height squared x 703
For example:  If you are 5′ 7″ and weigh 155 lbs, your BMI would be calculated as 155/ 67 squared x 703 = 24.27
If math scares you (I need a calculator to figure out how many more days until Christmas), click here for an easier way.

3.  What is your weight status?
Below 18.5    —     underweight
18.5 – 24.9     —     normal
25.0 – 29.9     —     overweight
30.0 – 39.9     —     obese
40.0 & above –      morbidly obese (which is as bad as it sounds)

4.  What does this mean? In and of itself, it doesn’t mean much.  The BMI has to be viewed in the context of the patient and his or her lifestyle.  Athletes can have an “overweight” BMI and be the picture of health.  Supermodels can have an “underweight” BMI but this is o.k. because they sell a lot of magazines.  You see?  Context – very important.  Doctors and health care providers use BMI as a jumping off point for evaluating a patient’s risk for weight related complications and diseases.  More on that tomorrow.

5.  What makes obesity an epidemic? Statistics do.  Epidemic just means that there is a rapid increase in the occurrence of something. The stats support that obesity has indeed become epidemic.
Worldwide – 1 billion people are overweight, 300 million are obese
In the US – currently 34% of adults are considered overweight
–  about 17% of children are overweight – frightening to me is the fact that in the 6-11 age group, the number of overweight                children tripled from 1980 to 2008.

So who cares?  Beauty, after all, is only skin deep.  I do believe this about beauty, but I know it is not true of health.  While I love a chubby little baby as much as the next person, as a country, we have got to get a handle on this problem.  All these chubby little babies are going to be chubby little adults with some chubby big health issues.  Even if you and your loved ones are blessed with skinny genes, you still need to care.  While a heavier person may have to start footing the bill for their airplane seat, we will all be paying for the increased strain on our country’s health care.  Watching the United States deteriorate into an unhealthy, gluttonous country is no fun either.

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