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Obesity: An Unusual Epidemic

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Obesity: An Unusual Epidemic

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Illness abounds in society. What if there was a prescription—a hypothetical pill—that a person could take to reduce the risk of acquiring many of these diseases?

This treatment would have no adverse effects. It would cost nothing. Would you take it? Specifically, what if it could reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancers while even curing certain diseases?

Taking such a pill would be a “no-brainer.”

As you ponder this mysterious treatment, note a conclusion from an April 2018 study “Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US population,” published by the National Institutes of Health. It demonstrated a dramatic effect on average life expectancy by implementing five healthy habits.

The study’s authors compared those who implemented these habits to those who did not. Both men and women who put these habits into practice had a higher life expectancy at age 50.

Women increased their life expectancies from 29 to 43 years (to reach age 93), and men increased their life expectancies from 26 to 38 years (to reach age 88). That is up to a 46 percent increase in life expectancy for men and a 48 percent increase for women. That is a big difference!

What are the habits that allowed for such a positive outcome?

They are a healthy diet, daily exercise, maintaining a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25, no excess alcohol, and smoking avoidance.

Just one of these all by itself has been shown to have the positive health benefits mentioned in the first paragraph. This will be the hypothetical pill mentioned in the introduction: maintaining a BMI below 25.

Body Mass Index

What exactly is body mass index?

BMI is a screening tool based on a simple calculation. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BMI is a measure of an adult’s weight in relation to his or her height. It is calculated by taking a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his or her height in meters. This is represented as kg/m2.

People are classified into four categories based on their BMI:

• Normal: 18.5 to 24.9

• Underweight: anything less than 18.5

• Overweight: 25.0 to 29.9

• Obese: 30.0 and higher

BMI is not adjusted for gender, race, geography or any health-related metrics. However, there are special circumstances. For example, those who are under 18, pregnant or have weight-related medical problems should seek professional counsel before addressing an abnormal BMI.

Serious Problem

Addressing excessive weight is one of the hardest things for people to do. Difficult is an understatement. Yet it is a serious individual and societal problem—and rapidly growing worse. Many experts refer to overweight and obesity trends as a societal epidemic.

The United Nations’ World Health Organization frames the global trend with these facts:

• Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.

• In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults 18 years and older were overweight. Of these, over 650 million were obese.

• 39 percent of adults ages 18 years and older were overweight in 2016, and 13 percent were obese.

• Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.

• 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2016.

• Over 340 million children and adolescents ages 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016.

WHO then stated the saddest part of this health pandemic: “Obesity is preventable.”

As more of the population carries around excess pounds, being overweight can seem normal. Also, even if an individual is striving to slim a waistline, it is a daunting task. So, it is natural to ask, why does being overweight even matter?

WHO answers: “Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Once considered a problem only in high income countries, overweight and obesity are now dramatically on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.”

Let’s state this another way: A BMI of 25.0 or greater is associated with an increase in weight-related diseases affecting nearly all countries, rich and poor. In low- and middle-income countries, this is called a double burden of disease. These countries face the consequences of both undernutrition and obesity-related diseases. Many studies confirm these risks.

Benefits of Weight Loss

There are many benefits from maintaining a proper weight: better overall health, increased energy, an improved body image, more confidence, and generally better sleep and mood. It also helps you avoid disease and sickness, and because overweight and obesity is preventable, such people are unnecessarily sick, unnecessarily dying prematurely.

In just one analysis involving 2.8 million adults, the chance of suffering serious illness was shown to increase with weight gain. One of several findings showed people with a BMI of 40 to 45 had an almost quadrupled risk of heart failure compared to people of normal weight, those with a BMI of 35 to 40 had a more than doubled heart failure risk, and those with a BMI of 30 to 35 had a 70 percent higher risk. Even being in the overweight range (25 to 29.9) increases heart failure risk by 20 percent compared to those with healthy weight.

The study also found that, compared to normal-weight individuals, a BMI of 25 to 30 increased the risk of Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea by more than double, while a person with a BMI of 30 to 35 was more than five times as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and almost six times as likely to develop sleep apnea.

Perception May Not Be Reality

So, what do we do? How do we even begin the task of shedding excess pounds?

To address any problem, we must first see and admit it is a problem. Weight is a particularly sensitive and difficult area for many to address. Yet to not address it only compounds the problem.

While this article focuses on BMI ranges 25 and above, it is important to note that a distorted body image is to be avoided. This is true of both underweight and overweight individuals.

Our society has shifted the perception of normal weight so that those between 18.5 and 24.9 often have the perception they are underweight and unhealthy.

On the other hand, those who are overweight often believe they do not have a problem. Yet countless clinical studies agree that a BMI above 24.9 poses serious health risks.

Treatment

It is hard to deal with weight problems. So what can you do if you have a BMI above 24.9 and want to avoid becoming one of the statistics already mentioned?

First, take a deep breath. There is a plethora of online information available for self-treatment of excessive weight. WHO and the CDC are two credible sources.

There is also qualified medical help available both online and in most communities. These resources will aid you in making health decisions based on your situation.

Balanced Diet

As you work toward reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, begin with the understanding that calorie intake that is greater than calorie expenditure results in weight gain. Likewise, calorie intake that is less than calorie expenditure results in weight loss.

Calories are primarily gained by ingesting food and drink.

As for calorie expenditure, it is important to note that you do not have to burn every single calorie you ingest on the treadmill. For most individuals, the metabolism burns the bulk of calories while your body is at rest.

Exercising does have the benefit of burning extra calories immediately. But, more importantly, it maintains and even boosts a person’s metabolic rate for 24 to 48 hours. This means you burn more calories while you are at rest for the next one or two days after your workout!

To balance your calorie intake and expenditure, maintain a program of reduced calories with adequate nutrition. With very few medical exceptions (see your healthcare provider if you believe an exception may apply to you), balanced diet control plus appropriate exercise to boost your metabolism will result in weight loss.

Food choices matter. Some find eating at least six combined vegetable and fruit servings every day to be the easiest approach to get started when they need to shed excessive weight. Some promote eating even more servings of vegetables as tolerated.

Others find limiting food and drink to certain hours of the day helps. Avoiding eating after the last meal of the day also works well for many people.

Researching credible information will provide options that work for your specific situation.

Still, it can be difficult to follow through on your goals. Always remember that you are not “finished” with a diet when you have reached your weight target. You have simply changed your lifelong approach to maintaining an appropriate weight.

Exercise

Be sure to do something at least four days a week: running on treadmills and ellipticals, bicycling and even walking. Any amount of exercise is better than none.

Do not push yourself too hard when you are first starting out. Start at your current tolerance then gradually increase that tolerance.

Just do something! Tiny amounts regularly matter. Also, by increasing even small amounts daily, you can progress greatly over weeks, months and years.

Regular exercise will ensure you feel good—not guilt—when you take days off from physical activity. In fact, intermittent days of inactivity will be beneficial since recovery is an important part of a long-term exercise regimen.

Persistence

Persistence is one of the most important components for a weight management regimen.

Having an exercise buddy will promote ongoing exercise. Engage family and friends, who can encourage you, eat healthy around you and celebrate your small successes of a few pounds of weight loss.

Professional health coaching has helped many. Short-term, intermediate- and long-term goal development are crucial to staying motivated. Be sure to implement a plan to keep the weight off once it has been lost.

Regardless of the methods you choose, your overall goal is to achieve and maintain a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 for your sake and for those you care about.

Unique Perspective

This magazine, The Real Truth, is published by The Restored Church of God. It is a singular organization that is dedicated to explaining biblical truths such as faith, love and the Ten Commandments. Yet it also teaches that God’s way of life goes beyond the theological, revealing that the Bible is practical and encompasses all areas of our lives.

God’s Word has championed these healthy principles since ancient times.

The prophet Daniel insisted on a proper diet when being prepared to meet a king. This is noted in Daniel 1:12-16. He ate clean foods and requested “pulse to eat” instead of the king’s decadent food. Pulse refers to vegetables! He also avoided wine, likely contaminated with varied pharmaceuticals of the day—such as aphrodisiacs—and instead requested water to drink.

Daniel’s request, which allowed him to avoid contaminants, also demonstrated an important principle for us today: Drink water. Doing so is a simple way to avoid extra calories from carbohydrate-heavy liquids.

As a result of his diet choices, in just 10 days, Daniel and his colleagues looked much better than everyone else (vs. 15)!

There are many other examples of physical fitness in the Bible. One is in Acts 20:11-13, which describes the apostle Paul declining a ship ride of about 60 miles around a peninsula. Instead, he walked 20 miles across this same peninsula on his own two feet—after preaching all night.

This would be considered a major hike today. It is remarkable that no one in this story seemed amazed at this feat. It is only mentioned as a side note to Paul’s zeal for preaching the gospel. That is likely because walking long-distance was a normal part of people’s lives back then.

What Else Can We Do?

There are many additional aspects to developing healthful living. These are explained in more detail in our booklet God’s Principles of Healthful Living. You can download your free copy now online.

The obesity epidemic is another example of a problem mankind, despite his best efforts and intentions, cannot seem to solve—we need God to help us, individually and collectively. Search our website—rcg.org—for more information on how to develop a relationship with Him, as well as a wide variety of other subjects.


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