Obesity and Pattern Change

Image credit: 123RF.com

A look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website confirms what we’re all sick of hearing: We Americans are by and large, well, way too LARGE. How bad is it? CDC data for 2010 indicate that 35.7% of adults in America are obese, with adults 60 and older more obese than younger adults.[1]  (Still, 32.6% of 20-39 year-olds were obese in 2010, and so were 17% of youth—1 in 6 of our kids!)
[1] NCHS Data Brief: Prevalence of Obesity in the United States, 2009-2010. No. 82, January 2012.

Look how we’ve changed just in my lifetime. The line graph below shows obesity rates since 1960, when the CDC began the National Health Examination Survey, now called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The animated U.S. map that follows this graph depicts state-by-state changes from 1985 to 2010 (watch it go from blue to orange—pretty amazing):

CDC map-1985-2010-5http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html#baseline

Moreover, approximately two-thirds of Americans are classified as overweight or obese with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or more. Obesity requires a BMI of 30 or more. (Find out yours here.)

Obesity is now the second leading cause of death in America, after cigarette smoking. That is because obesity brings with it more heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

We need to right this ship. Although the finer points of advice will vary from one expert to another, the main principles are pretty solid (and very familiar): Know the health (and “unhealth”) value of what you eat and choose wisely. Sit less. Move more.

Here are few ground rules to help you create or enhance your own pattern for life-long healthy eating.

Daily benchmarks to aim for:

  • Fruit: 2 pieces or 2 cups per day
  • Vegetables: 5 one-half cup servings per day
  • Protein: up to 6 oz. per day of cooked lean meats or a full serving of high-protein legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas, tofu)
  • Carbs: at least 3 servings per day of whole-grain products are recommended. Minimize SUGAR—that’s the bad guy. And so are “diet” drinks that tease with “sugar-free.” Diet sodas and other artificially sweetened foods sabotage your diet by confusing and rewiring your brain’s reward and satiation centers, setting you up to eat more calories, not fewer.
  • Milk: 2 to 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk recommended per day, or 1 cup of fat-free yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • Fiber: The Institute of Medicine recommends 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women before age 50; 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women over 50.
Breaking down your total daily calories:

  • Carbs (4 cals per gram):45-65% of your cals should be carbs (e.g., fruits and veggies, whole grain breads, brown rice). Avoid processed foods; look for more dietary fiber and less sugar).
  • Fat (9 cals per gram): 25-30% should be good fats (e.g., olive and canola oils, almonds, olives, avocado). Watch out! Fats have more cals per gram, so you need less of them to get your cals.
  • Protein (4 cals per gram):10-15% should be lean protein (lean meat, legumes, fish, poultry, tofu).


Image credit: Harvard Medical School

Image credit: Harvard Medical School



A healthy plate:  If you arranged your entire meal on one plate, the portions should look like this plate.


Moving on from the “rules,” here are some tips for healthy eating in the real world. Be creative and experiment as you develop new patterns.

Start with breakfast why doncha? Make this a habit—and I can’t say it enough—eat breakfast!  Instead of that cranberry muffin, croissant, or donut, which will blow your calorie budget on sugar and bad fats, how about an egg on a whole-grain English muffin, with an ounce or less of cheddar cheese and some fruit on the side?  Or oatmeal with berries and chopped almonds?  Fuel up!  Here’s a healthy option from Subway, especially if you do it with egg whites.

Eat a high-fiber bar as a snack.  Some good ones include Kashi’s Dark Mocha Almond Chewy Granola bars and their new Cherry Lemonade with Chia (love it). But check the Nutrition Facts and compare—there are some high-fat, high-salt, low-protein pretenders out there!

Get your berries in a bunch.  Fresh or frozen berries are a perfect antidote to the processed food habit that is overtaking our diets. Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries—all contain antioxidants that promote health and ward off chronic disease. Berries are also a good source of dietary fiber, which can lower cholesterol and promote a healthy digestive system.

Give (or pack) yourself something to look forward to for lunch. How about salad, cottage cheese, or non/low-fat yogurt?  Just kidding. Well then, what about a white albacore tuna salad sandwich (whole-grain bread), made with tzatziki sauce and/or Kraft reduced-fat mayo with olive oil (you don’t need much), topped with tomato and lettuce and even a thin slice of non-processed cheese? Peanut butter and jelly on whole grain is also a great option… I recommend Crazy Richard’s peanut butter and Polaner All-Fruit-with-Fiber (don’t go “sugar-free” here: same prob as the diet sodas!).

Dial it back for dinner…I remember one of my tv fitness mavens, Denise Austin, saying, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, dinner like a pauper.” There is wisdom in that, I think, but it doesn’t mean you have to forego taste. Try different varieties of fish—spice it up and broil one or two small fillets of tilapia or flounder (4 to 5 oz. total) in the toaster oven, 6-7 minutes a side. So easy and delish! Costco has big bags of frozen tuna, salmon, tilapia, etc., and they’re all great—individually wrapped and easy to thaw, garnish, and cook. Trust me; as a pescatarian, I’ve done the research!

…But don’t give up dessert.  How does a frozen treat sound?  Try this recipe for dairy-free ice cream discovered by my friend Isabelle, who is a nutrition expert AND gourmet chef. “It’s so easy, you won’t believe it…the only machine you need is a food processor.” She also reports that it “satisfies that ice-cream craving, and leaves you feeling full.” Here you go:

1-ingredient ice-cream, made with Bananas! (2-ingredient ice-cream if you add coconut milk).

– Place cut bananas in wax paper to freeze before putting them in the food processor.
– After the bananas become crumbly, add a couple spoonfuls of coconut milk (buy canned or use coconut cream and add some water) to help blend the bananas to a smooth consistency and give them a nice milky flavor.
– The consistency is soft-serve right out of the food processor. You can also freeze the mixture in Tupperware and when ready, thaw several minutes for ease of scooping out.
– Experiment with adding nut butters, fruits, flavorings like lemon or vanilla extract.
– Benefits: Much cheaper than buying dairy ice-cream, the potassium in bananas help to balance the sodium in your diet, no added sugars, no added sodium, less saturated fat (coconut milk contains good fats), no additives (check the coconut milk label for no additives), endless flavor variety!

If you want help in establishing a new, creative pattern to meet your fitness and nutrition goals, contact me at surroundfitness@comcast.net and we can talk about it.  Meanwhile, here are some links that may interest you.

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html#baseline
National Institutes of Health: http://health.nih.gov/topic/Obesity
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/active.htm
State-by-state stats on obesity: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/14/obesity-rate-by-state_n_1774356.html

And just as important as what you eat—Keep moving!   Jen Katt

Sources for the NHANES graph data up top:
  • CDC: Prevalence of Obesity in the United States, 2009-2010: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_adult_07_08/obesity_adult_07_08.pdf
  • Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Ogden CL, Johnson CL. Prevalence and trends in obesity among U.S. adults, 1999–2000. JAMA 288(14):1723–7. 2002
  • Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, McDowell MA, Tabak CJ, Flegal KM. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States, 1999–2004. Journ. of the American Medical Assoc. 295(13):1549–55. 2006.
  • Flegal et al. Prevalence and trends in obesity among U.S. adults, 1999-2008. Journal of the American Medical Assoc. 303(3):235-241, 2010.
  • CDC: Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Extreme Obesity Among Adults: United States, Trends 1960–1962 Through 2007–2008: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db82.pdf .



Obesity and Pattern Change — 1 Comment

  1. Tough message, but the great graphics help deliver it gently. You lay out the reality, then give us some pointers–and even dessert! Thanks.

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