Americans are some of the fattest people in the world, not just stereotypically but statistically too. In fact, almost 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese. But such a finding should come as no surprise, considering the huge availability of fast-food and increasingly cheaper grocery items that have negatively altered our diets. Unfortunately, the extra pounds have inflated the costs of obesity-related medical treatment to approximately $190.2 billion a year and annual productivity losses due to work absenteeism to around $4.3 billion.
But certain places are more responsible than others for tipping the scale in favor of bad health. To identify them, WalletHub compared 100 of the most populated U.S. metro areas across 19 key indicators of weight-related problems. The data set ranges from share of physically inactive adults to projected obesity rates by 2030 to healthy-food access.
Ask the Experts
Fighting obesity requires a multi-level approach. Turning to a panel of experts, what are the best ways to address the problem, from the personal to policy level? Experts provided answers to the following key questions:
- What are some tips for eating healthy without breaking the bank?
- Use dried beans for an excellent protein source along with whole grains like brown rice. Select fruits and vegetables that are in season and/or on sale. Make plant-based whole foods the center of your diet.
Don’t overeat or eat too much. Emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and poultry in moderation, fish and limit sweets and alcohol. Dairy is fine- but eat dairy foods in moderation. Eat whole foods- stay out of the aisles in supermarkets and out of delis and most fast-food franchises.
- What are the biggest mistakes people make when trying to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle?
- Following some fad diet. The best diet is a balance of whole foods.
- One can start by not eating too much and avoiding processed food choices.
- Shopping smarter. That starts with a review of the weekly circular to identify foods from all the food groups that are seasonal and work with any budget. From there it’s about mixing and matching foods and tapping a variety of recipe databases that feature the ingredients of the week.
- Demanding perfection of themselves. Some of the healthiest people I know have imperfect diets and miss workouts. Demanding perfection = excess pressure = burnout and rejection of the process when the going gets tough.
- They try to avoid the “bad” instead of embracing the “good”. A healthy lifestyle is not happening without routine movement, hydration, 7+ hrs. of sleep and a diet full of complete nutrition. Avoiding sugar, carbs, gluten or the ‘vilified ingredient of the month’ is not going to get it done.
- What is the impact of obesity on the economy and worker productivity?
- Obesity is now a global public health crisis, as it leads to a greatly higher risk of chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
- Should employers play a role in helping workers maintain a healthy lifestyle? How?
- Everyone at all levels should be thinking about how to improve public health through better access to healthy foods and an opportunity for physical activity.
- It is in every employer’s best interest to invest in the health and wellbeing of their staff. Employment is a trade of time for money. Employers can reduce the constraints of an employee’s time and generate loyalty by infusing health enhancement into the context of planned work. Free and easy examples include walking meetings, sponsored talks, and environmental assessments. Houston Family Nutrition offers a simple online workplace wellness program designed to educate and empower teams and individuals on owning their health and unleashing their potential.
- What policies should government pursue to fight obesity and lower the cost of health care?
- Increase access to and promotion of healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity at all places, including in the schools, senior centers, and parks/recreation departments.
- The most effective and responsible way the federal and state governments can join the effort to improve the health of its citizens is to empower the most qualified professionals, Registered Dietician Nutritionists (RDN) with the exclusive license to address it on individual and institutional levels and guide consumers to seek state-licensed nutrition care, unique to the RDN.
- It’s pretty simple actually, and the emerging public health crisis of Covid-19 surely illustrates this for everyone: we need a national health care system and food program that provides for all.
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