Updated: Dec 29, 2020
From 2013-2016 about 49% of Americans tried to lose weight within the previous year, according to the CDC. The CDC also reports that the prevalence of obesity hovers around 40% for people aged 20-39, and is even greater for people that are older.
I'm sure if you walked up to most people these days and asked, they would tell you they would like to lose a few pounds. I knew obesity was fairly prevalent in the U.S., but I did not know it was as high as 40%, especially in young adults. To me, that is crazy. It seems that we have an epidemic on our hands. One that no one is talking about.
Do we have the answers to this prevailing "problem?" And, I would call it a problem as being overweight and obese has some very harmful effects on your health and overall well being. If there is one change you could make to improve your overall health, I would tell you that it should be to maintain a healthy weight. Right under stress reduction/management.
I don't think anyone doesn't have the answers to how we tackle obesity, and being overweight. We know that exercise is incredibly good for you and it is important to not over eat. The big question is, how do we get millions of Americans to get there?
I am going to try to attempt to break this down fairly simply.
This is the most important piece to the puzzle because we have to learn how to change our own behaviors to get anywhere. We have to learn how to create a little bit of change and not fall off the wagon quickly.
We should do this in smalls steps. Trying to add too much change to your lifestyle is a recipe for disaster. Small, consistent, incremental change over time is what will get the job done. We know that willpower is a limited resource so we should focus on small habits. The book, "Atomic Habits" by James Clear is a good starting point on this front.
Lastly, we need to be alright with slow progress. We know Rome wasn't built in a day and the progress you really want to see is going to happen over a longer period of time.
I think this is the responsibility of the people that don't have weight to lose. People who have taken control of their health, their weight, their training, their nutrition, etc. It is easy to criticize people who aren't the same as you. It seems as easy as "if I can do it, so can you." That is easier said than done. Rather, I think we should take an approach of cooperation. I think we should try to empathize with where people are at, because when it really comes down to it, they aren't happy with where they are at. And, if they could they would change some things. When people are constantly shaming others, it makes change that much harder.
We should embrace everyone with open arms, seek to understand their experience, and work together to help people reach their goals. That doesn't mean push your own training and diets down people's throats, but encouraging them to take any step in the right direction. People need support, not shame.
It should be obvious that exercise is on the list of slowing the spread of obesity. But, what does this look like? There a million exercises training programs out there. There are tons of gyms. What should people do?
Here's my answer: anything. Anything more than what you are currently doing. Walks are the most underrated form of exercise that no one talks about. If you only walk 1,000 steps a day, walking 3,000 will make a significant difference. More than you would probably imagine. This is where I am actually a huge fan of the Apple watches and other devices. If you have immediate data to your face that tells you if you are slacking or doing well, it can be a great motivator and tool for change.
I also think it is important to find a form of exercise that you enjoy. Boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, walking, running, lifting weights, yoga, etc. There are so many ways to get exercise. Don't get stuck in the traditional idea of what it means to exercise. Find something you enjoy and think you can stick to for a long period of time. And, don't be afraid to change course and try something different and new.
Last reminder: do ANYTHING more than what you are currently doing.
Last but certainly not least, how do we eat better?
Much like my advice for exercise, it is likely that you are eating too much if you are overweight, so anything less than what you are currently eating is a step in the right direction. If you eat 4,000 calories a day, 3,700 will make a huge difference. Don't get stuck on all the diet trends because those usually get recycled every 6 months anyways. Don't even worry too much about what you are eating at first. Start by just eating a little bit less. If you like donuts, just eat one less, or even half of one less.
I once trained a guy who actually stopped training but showed back up to the gym a year later to tell and show me all about his progress. He lost what looked like close to 100lbs. All he said he did to make the change was to eat a little bit less of what he was already eating. He didn't restrict any foods at all but he would just limit his portions just a little bit. This was his first step and a year later he was waking up early, making veggie smoothies and eating quality foods most of the time. All progress starts with just a little bit of change.
This could be a 300 page essay, but I don't think many would read that. I actually hadn't planned on writing on this topic at all until I stumbled upon the statistics and realized they were that high. I may be right, I may be wrong, but based on my experience these are some of the things we need to hammer down if we actually want to create change on the obesity front. It has to be a cooperative effort, and I believe all change starts small. We need to be okay with this small change.
I'll check back in a year.