I see patient’s in the office everyday who by body mass index (BMI) calculations are overweight, obese, and morbidly obese. According to the latest CDC figures 70% of Americans are in this category. When I talk to these patient’s about their weight and strategies for controlling their weight they promise me that they are very active, don’t eat that much and just don’t understand why they can’t control their weight.
Weight control is so much more important than just looking good to those around us. Obesity is very clearly associated with diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, urinary incontinence, infertility and even some forms of cancer. Obesity is directly correlated with increased levels of depression and decreased levels of functionality as we age.
So the question is why is weight so hard to manage for so many people? The answer is simple. We live in a sedentary society. The average American drives to work, works 8 hours in front of a computer, drives home, and spends the rest of the evening on the couch in front of the tv. The answer to how do I manage my weight is get moving! Too often I have patient’s tell me that they are active chasing children or they do quite a bit of walking around the office when they are working. This isn’t exercise and this is not enough to counteract the delicious but calorie packed foods that we are all exposed to on a daily basis.
The American College of Obstetric & Gynecology recommends 150 minutes of sustained moderate intensity exercise per week just to maintain current weight. To lose weight the recommendation is 200-300 minutes. Moderate activity means that you are working hard enough that you cannot maintain a conversation while you work. If this seems overwhelming consider that 300 minutes per week is only 40 minutes of exercise per day.
But exercise is only one part of the solution. What we eat matters as well. The average person should be eating 1500-2000 calories per day. According to the USDA research the average intake in the US is approximately 2700 calories per day. Over eating by 700 calories per day may not seem that bad but let’s put it in perspective. 700 calories is overeating by 35%! Overeating everyday adds up. 1 pound on the human body is equivalent to 3500 calories. Over eating by just 700 calories per day we are ingesting enough to put on a pound every 4.7 days.
The numbers are overwhelming. So again, I caution that while everything in our modern world implores us not to worry about what we eat or how much we move, diet and exercise are paramount in each and every person’s health. I strongly encourage each patient to think about their daily movement and diet and be honest with themselves about what needs to be done to maintain a healthy weight. Finally, don’t be disappointed if the weight doesn’t just fall off. It took time to put the weight on and it will take time to take it off. It is more important to think of your health as a new way of life that will continue throughout a lifetime.