For many people, the word “malnutrition” evokes images of starving children in third world countries, eyes sunken in and ribs sticking out, physically wasting away from lack of food availability. While undernutrition is a serious global public health problem, and does affect individuals even in our own country, the most prevalent form of malnutrition in the U.S. is obesity. Malnutrition refers to a diet that does not provide the right balance of nutrients for optimal health and is broadly divided into ‘undernutrition’ and ‘overweight and obesity’. More than 2/3rds of adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese, and prevalence is increasing in the adolescent and childhood populations as well.
We have all heard by now about the obesity epidemic in our country and see it every day. You look around, and it seems like most people you see walking through the supermarket, picking their children up from school, or stopping for a drink at Dunkin are, if not obviously obese, at least overweight. And if it’s not so evident right here in the extremely fortunate town of Montville, it’s noticeable almost anywhere else you go. But what does it really matter, isn’t this just the new normal?
As a healthcare provider, I see patients every day who are affected both physically and financially by diseases and afflictions that could likely be avoided or minimized with adequate weight control. Obesity is associated with increased risk of almost every major chronic disease as well as overall earlier mortality, anywhere from 3 to 20 years shortened life expectancy depending on the extent. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing many health complications, but I will list just a few:
Okay, it’s important to try to maintain a healthy weight…so how do we get there? At the most basic level, to achieve weight loss the number of calories we expend each day must be greater than the number of calories coming in. This means, maintenance of healthy weight = healthy diet + regular exercise. If the answer is so straightforward, then why is it so hard to lose weight? The reason is because humans are animals, and biologically our goal is to survive – we are simply not designed to lose weight. Limiting the number of calories consumed causes the body to try to conserve energy, and results in a reduction in our basal metabolic rate – our body is actively fighting us. We have taste buds and smell receptors to make eating a pleasant and satisfying experience, so that we want to do it again and again. Depriving ourselves of food leads to obsessive thinking, as well as depression, anxiety, and irritability, as again, we are not designed to lose weight.
Do I tell you this to discourage you? Absolutely not. Many people struggle to lose weight, especially as they get older, but my hope is that by understanding the enormity of the challenge, you may be a little easier on yourself if you slip up from time to time, but then be able to pick yourself up and persevere. Here are some tips on overcoming the challenge and creating an effective eating strategy:
Let’s not forget about the younger population. Obesity in childhood and adolescence can result in early onset of many of the health issues mentioned previously, as well as increased risk of adulthood obesity. Importantly, especially at a young age, obesity can also have severe psychosocial implications including depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Set your children up for success by following these health and wellness tips:
For more tips, check out www.myplate.gov, a website based on MyPlate – a visual representation of healthy eating created by the USDA. The carefully designed image features a typical dinner plate with sections divided fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy – notice that half the plate should be fruits and vegetables! MyPlate promotes moderation and balance across food groups, as each group is a good source for particular nutrients. Take a look through the website and find dietary information and recommendations for all ages; for example, you can navigate sections specific to ‘college students’, ‘preschoolers’, ‘dieters’, and ‘pregnant & breastfeeding women’. You’ll also find eBooks and online games to get kids interested in their food choices too!
At Changebridge Medical Associates, we want you and your family to prioritize your health and maximize your quality of life which is why we want to share helpful advice and tips with you to keep you and your family healthy and fit.
Carrie Schroeder, PA-C, is a New Jersey native who graduated with her Bachelors Degree in Science, Summa Cum Laude, from North Carolina State University and her Graduate degree from DeSales University in Pennsylvania. During college, Carrie spent her summers as a volunteer EMT, and quickly learned that she was destined to continue her career as a healthcare provider. These experiences motivated Carrie to focus on disease prevention and overall health and wellness in order to start tackling small and complex health concerns, taking the appropriate steps to keep her patients healthy and on the right path. Carrie resides in the local community and in her free time, loves to read, especially James Patterson and Harlan Cohen novels, enjoys hiking, is an avid NC State Wolfpack and New York Giants football fan, and volunteers at local food and toy drives during the holidays.