Body shape and size can be defined in many different ways; however, from a medical stand point BMI is commonly used. While BMI may seem like some arbitrary number that is spit out from a website after you enter your height and weight, it is actually a simple calculation: All BMI is is an individuals weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters squared. So, the units on a BMI measurement are kg/m^2, and represents a simple weight to height ratio. The ranges for BMI are <18.5 is considered underweight, 18.5-24.9 is considered a healthy weight range, 25.0 to 29.9 is the overweight range, and a BMI of >30 classifies an individual as being overweight. Frighteningly enough, over two-thirds of the United States population falls into the category of being overweight or obese, indicating that their BMI’s are greater than 25.0. But, it’s just a number, right?
Wrong. Being obese puts an individuals at much greater risk for developing such conditions as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and some forms of cancer, just to name a few. In addition to these health risks, obesity also costs the United States literally billions of dollars. In fact, in just the year 2000, it was estimated that the obesity of the American population cost $117 billion. This number was the combined cost of both health expenses due to obesity, as well as other factors such as decreased work abilities. And, if that number isn’t scary enough, these costs are expected to double each year which would result in estimated expenses in the United States due to obesity reaching almost one trillion dollars by the year 2030, if this trend doesn’t change. Can’t picture what a trillion dollars looks like? Check out the picture below:
If we want this money to be spent on something other than paying for the health expenses as people continue to grow in size, than it is time to come up with some solutions! This is easier said than done. Obesity is a result of many factors, including heredity, increased portions and calorie dense food, and less active lifestyles. And in a society that falls for every fad diet that hits the market, there is only one solution that is truly going to make a difference in changing the current obesity trends: decreasing caloric intake and increasing physical activity. In order for people to get this message though, many changes need to be made. These changes include changes to the school lunch program, nutrition education in all levels of school, widespread public service announcements aimed at educating the public, stricter regulations on fad diets and promised miracle cures, increased coverage from insurance companies for medical nutrition therapy, an overhaul of the SnapEd (formally Food Stamps) program, and many more options. It’s okay to want to start small, but in the long run, people need to change their eating habits and get moving. Soon.