Last week, the CDC shared that the amount of states with high obesity rates doubled over the past two years. In 2000, no state had an adult obesity rate over 25%, but just twenty years later, 2020 resulted with16 states that have obesity rates of 35%+. That’s twice as many states than even in 2018. Clearly, the past two years impacted people’s health in more ways than may have been immediately observed. From 2017-2018, it was estimated that roughly 42% of American adults were obese. If you add in adults with a BMI over 25, meaning they are categorized as overweight, the percent of Americans that are over a healthy weight leaps to 73%.
Obesity can wreak havoc on your body, leading to type 2 diabetes, increases the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization and death, heart disease, increases the risk of stroke, migraines, certain types of cancer, metabolic syndrome, causes difficulty sleeping and sleep apnea, has potential negative impact on mental health and self image, and so much more. Not to mention the increased cost of healthcare (on average, $1,429 higher per year, than non obese people) and time away from work due to health concerns.
For these reasons and more, medical providers urge people to work towards healthier habits, including:
- Sit less: Most Americans do not maintain any type of regular physical activity, despite the overwhelming evidence of the positive impact exercise has on the body and mind. Between commutes, work, school, and down time, the amount of time people spend sitting down adds up quickly. Regular physical activity is crucial to maintain a health weight and decrease the risk of developing health concerns linked to being overweight or obese.
- Eat well: We previously shared how the pandemic impacted the eating habits of people across the globe. The eating habits of some took a toll due to pandemic related stress- job insecurity, balancing home life, uncertainty surrounding schooling availability for children, lack of support structures, and the threat of contracting the virus- all weighed heavily. Work towards eating a plant-based, whole foods diet to best support bodily function and help shed and maintain a healthy weight.
- Rest up: The power of rest and sleep should not be underestimated. Anybody that has experienced sleep deprivation due to work, family situations, health, or a generally hectic schedule can attest- lack of sleep is torture. Not maintaining a regular sleep schedule or getting enough sleep can prevent you from losing weight, making any other efforts to maintain a healthy weight much more difficult. It also takes a toll on other bodily functions. Lack of sleep can increase pain levels and also prevents your body from repairing cells and tissues, building muscle mass, and many crucial operations that are essential for daily function. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep and maintaining a regular sleep schedule; read more about the importance of good sleep hygiene, here.
- Seek support: The pandemic shifted so many aspects of our routine, including how we interact with one another. As a precaution, gatherings were (and still are) limited- from social clubs, hanging out with friends, visiting family, to religious ceremonies, entertainment venues, and shopping centers- and instantly shifted our ability to interact with each other in a way that supports our emotional and mental well being. This also greatly impacted fitness opportunities, as gyms closed and people cut back on meeting up for exercise. This created the perfect storm, where physical activity dropped while some people’s eating habits changed for the worse, leading to increased weight gain. How to work towards keeping healthy habits these days? Look up fitness bloggers/ influencers (read our roundup of our favorites, here!), to follow and inspire your at-home routine. Many offer remote coaching and the chance to message them with fitness questions. No, it’s not the same as meeting up at the gym, but knowing somebody is there to guide you in your fitness journey can make a big difference in your motivation and outlook. Check out our weekly exercise guides for at-home exercise and stretching ideas. Many fitness apps are also free and bring you into a community of other fitness minded people, helping each other stay accountable and build some healthy competition.
- Hydrate: Staying hydrated is essential for your body to function. Water can help with weight loss in several ways, such as by helping boost your metabolism, suppress your appetite, help decrease how many calories you consume from other liquids (and foods), make exercise easier and more efficient, and help your body remove waste. Drink throughout the day and eat foods that are low-calorie and are full of water, as those tend to be fruits and vegetables which are full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, protein, and more. You’ll then reap a variety of benefits. You can read more about the importance of hydration and about those hydration supplementing foods, here.
Knowing the impact of any health concern is the first step to addressing it and getting started on a healthier path. Shaming is never the answer. If it was, every child bullied and shamed for being overweight or obese growing up would be fit and slim today! Those who are obese are their own worst critics, they don’t need the additional slams.
Forty-five percent of adults say they’re preoccupied with their weight some or all of the time- an 11-point rise since 1990. Nearly half of 3- to 6- year old girls say they worry about being fat!
A 2017 analysis of 33 studies on weight stigma found that people experiencing consistent shaming were more likely to have depression, anxiety, eating disturbances and disorders, high cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and other biomarkers of high stress. They had low self-esteem and were more likely to binge eat. And the greater the stigma felt, the worse their health status.
As we shared above, many factors impact weight, not just diet and exercise, but also poverty and access to healthy foods, genetics, circadian rhythms, sleep, the perception of body image based on those you socialize with, and those pesky hormones we’ve discussed. Keeping weight off means choreographing a complex dance to fight weight gain and hunger every day, for life. This should be encouraged and empowered, not shamed.