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Overweight Or Obese?

Nov 8, 2007
It really is an interesting question as to what category the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would consider you to fall into. Sadly, two out of every three readers of this article are in the portion of the population that this question would appropriate for. Yes, 66% of all adults over age 20 are considered either overweight or obese when measured against established charts for height and weight. Men beat out women, with 70.5% of men overweight or obese versus 61.6% women. You see ladies, we men are better than you at doing certain things. All right, not quite a badge of honor.

There are some limitations in establishing the charts used to make this determination and it is far from perfect, but it does provide a pretty consistent base. The most common method is the body mass index (BMI), which uses weight adjusted for height but is not gender specific. Males and females are measured the same. Most doctors and researchers use this index and most statistics are generated based on the index. As I mentioned, it does have limitations in that it is not gender-specific, nor does it take into account the percentage of body fat.

If you are curious as to what your BMI is, the calculation is simple. The true formula is metric, but since we in America think pounds and ounces, here it is. Take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 704.5 which is the multiplier the National Institute of Health uses. Divide this number by your height in inches. Take that number and do the same again, divide it a second time by height in inches. Here, let's use me for an example:

195 x 704.5 = 137,377.5

Being 6'2", I now use 74 inches as my height

137,377.5 divided by 74 = 1,856.5

1,856.5 divided by 74 again = Just at 25 with rounding.

So if I rely entirely on the table and with the World Health Organization definition, 25 or greater is consistent with being in the overweight category. Now, here lie the limitations. At 53 years old, 6'2" and 195 lbs., I also have only 7-8% body fat. After 35 years of weight training and doing amateur competitive body-building up to age 47 or so, I have built up a solid foundation of muscle with little extra fat. To the majority, in appearance I would be labeled "lean", if not a bit underweight. If you fall into my type of category, then the overweight label is not accurate, but I would imagine the overall percentage is not high enough to render the index useless. On the flip side of this coin, an elderly person, who has lost a lot of muscle mass and has a high percentage of body fat, may very well have about an 18 to 24 index, which is considered good while they may correctly be labeled "overweight" by appearance and have reduced nutritional reserve.

So the index does get balanced by both factors and, overall, it is pretty good in its intended purpose. To me, it is not critical that only 64% instead of 66% are overweight or obese, only that such a staggering percentage of the American population is. If measured for female minorities, the prevalence is even higher, non-Hispanic black women is 79.6%, Mexican-American women 73% and non-Hispanic white women 57.6%. It sort of flips for men with non-Hispanic white males 71%, non-Hispanic black males 67% and Mexican-American men74.6%.

However you look at these statistics, come away with one fact, we are way overweight as a nation. It is staggering and something that must be addressed, as individuals, and by the industries that directly benefit from this condition, the healthcare and food industry. $61 billion alone is the amount estimated for direct costs of obesity meaning trips to the doctors, medications and tests. $56 billion in indirect costs such as lost wages and future earnings from premature deaths. If you are in the obese third of the population, there is a 10- to 50% increased risk of death from all causes, with most cardiovascular causes.

Consider these statistics in light of the fact more diet products exist than ever before. There are more health clubs and fitness centers than ever. More diet programs such as Weight Watchers and Nutri-system. More cosmetic procedures such as liposuction and tummy tuck. Medical procedures like gastric bypass. Prescription diet pills and a ton of over the counter products claiming weight loss benefit. More information available for you than ever before. Yet, we get fatter and fatter as a nation, and now at epidemic levels.

Without exploring theories here, as I have written other articles on my opinion of the causes, I propose that we are directly and intentional being lead down this road by the industries that benefit the most from it. If you research it, the start of this epidemic started in the mid-80's with the introduction of toxic chemical sweeteners, mainly aspartame. Without exception, the most toxic chemical we were ever allowed to consume by the FDA. Please explore this product on your own. You owe it to your health and all those around you. The marketing campaign is brilliant in how it removes any subliminal guilt in over-indulging and that is why all studies show people who use diet products consume 25% more calories a day than those who don't. Charge a higher price because it is diet and have you consume more of it spells profits. The aspartame to disease link covers the full spectrum, including depression, bi-polar, ADD, memory, joint pain, muscle pain, vision and on and on. From these symptoms, hundreds of drugs were born to treat them.

In my opinion, we as a nation, are being lead down a destructive road that, unaltered, will only get worse. The human body, absent major disease, is designed to last 120 or so years. If we approached anywhere near that age, our economic system would collapse due to population rises, availability of natural resources and fuel to support the increase, and the collapse of the Social Security system to name just a few reasons. So look at where we are being lead and honestly ask yourself this very morbid question as to whether you are being kept overweight and unhealthy for a reason.
About the Author
Swimwear is our business, nutrition and health are my passion.
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