| by Robert Kimmel |
Shedding those extra pounds is a key to a healthy lifestyle, but apparently many Americans have not mastered the necessary strategies to lose weight — or just don’t make the effort. Recent national studies show that about two-thirds of adults over the age of 20 are overweight, and nearly a third of all adults are obese.
While it is well known that excess weight can lead to health troubles, and obesity has contributed to more than 140,000 deaths annually in the U.S., the percentage of Americans with those conditions has increased over the years. Obesity rates in the United States rank among the highest in the world.
“Obesity and being overweight are associated with many and various serious health problems, from heart disease and diabetes to arthritis and cancer,” said Dr. Marta Hernandez, founder of New Day Medical Weight Loss in Sleepy Hollow. “Losing excess weight can increase your prospects for a healthier life, and also bring the benefit of allowing you to be more physically active, which itself helps to optimize health.”
The appeal of easily accessed junk food is blamed in part for the growing numbers of Americans who fit into the overweight category and, in turn, suffer from diabetes, and other ailments. Particularly troublesome is the allure of junk foods for youngsters, who don’t realize that indulging in them can be unhealthy. Sugar content is often high in junk food, but along with its fat, salt and total calories, it rarely provides many nutrients. High sugar content, some experts contend, lowers children’s ability to concentrate for extended time periods of time and can affect their study habits. National surveys taken five years ago found that among children from age 6-11 years and adolescents, age 12-19 years, about 18% were obese.
Despite the dietary negatives, studies show that junk food continues to be heavily consumed. “I think this is partly because it can be so hard to ignore the highly processed, high caloric, low nutrient foods that people are presented with everywhere they go,” Dr. Hernandez explained. “In addition, your taste buds can get so accustomed to processed foods high in fat, sugar, and salt, such that healthier foods can actually lose their taste appeal by comparison. However, once you get away from the highly processed foods, you can get your taste buds back to appreciating and actually preferring healthier whole foods,” the doctor said. “Being committed to improving your health really helps here, because people really are so driven by how food tastes in making food choices.”
Dr. Hernandez has spent more than 20 years helping patients with medical conditions related to obesity and being overweight.
A stressful way of life has also been seen as a culprit leading to weight gain. Chronic stress can turn body chemistry into hunger-related urges which make the body more receptive to gaining weight, thus leading to other medical problems.
“With the demands of a busy life there is only so much you can do to avoid stress, and stress has been shown to impact on health,” Dr. Hernandez stated. “However, there are many ways to mitigate the adverse effects of stress on your health – meditation, breathing techniques, yoga, regular exercise to name a few,” the doctor said.
“The trick is to acknowledge that with a busy life stress happens, even on days you may not ‘feel’ particularly stressed out because it’s your norm. So probably just about everyone should be engaging in some type of regular stress reducing activity,” Dr. Hernandez emphasized.
Getting rid of extra weight takes dedication, not only in regard to maintaining a healthy diet, but also by getting off that chair or couch. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts it succinctly on its website: “You have to burn more calories than you eat and drink to lose weight.” The site also stresses that with physical activity of “moderate intensity, from 60 to 90 minutes a day… you are more likely to be successful at keeping the weight off over the long term.”
“To optimize health you really need to put it all together — proper nutrition and diet, physical activity, and stress management,” Dr. Hernandez pointed out. “Achieving this balance can be challenging as it can require significant changes in one’s lifestyle. But it is definitely worth the effort in terms of improved health.”