It is no secret that Americans are gaining weight. It’s also no secret that the costs of those new pounds are adding up quickly. By 2018, Minnesota expects to spend nearly $6 billion dollars on obesity-related health care. The only secret that seems to remain is how to prevent this.
Minnesota once had the proud distinction of being king of the hill when it came to America’s Health Rankings, but has since started an alarming trend of slipping down to 6th place with indications the slide will continue. Our expanding waistline is contributing to the decline. The CDC and other health organizations have identified obesity as a key source of America’s, and certainly Minnesota’s, health issues. Despite warnings and outreach, the overweight trend keeps rising.
Today, we’re told if diet and exercise do not work we basically have one option, going under the knife. Of course we spend billions of dollars a year on diet programs here in the U.S., $46 billion annually to be exact. The fact that so many diet programs exist is partial proof they do not work. Diet programs might be the only industry where most of the customers are unsatisfied. Diets clearly are not working when two-thirds of dieters gain all of their weight back inside of a year, and 97% within five years.
One response has been to start young with prevention. First Lady Michelle Obama has made it her personal mission to fight childhood obesity with the Let’s Move campaign. While childhood nutrition education is important, adults account for nearly all of the $93 billion dollars spent annually on health care for the overweight. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has granted the CDC $119 million to award states for changing and creating policies that lead to healthier lifestyles. Minnesota received nearly four million dollars of that money. Schools will use two million to improve lunches and educate staff on childhood nutrition. Minnesota will spend the other two million to increase nutritious food access, helping bridge the gap between poverty and nutrition.
Obesity is a collection of environmental, biological, and social issues that converge into a problem of epidemic proportions, and for too long the answer has been the quickest, easiest path is the best path. We will not eradicate obesity without first changing our societal values, we have to stop looking at obesity as a disease that should be treated and rather as a problem to be prevented. For the adults struggling with keeping their weight down, nutritionists agree, the best diet is one of limits, balance, and exercise. In the words of Marian Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University, “Eat less, move more.”