The Plague of Obesity

What do you expect to see in the year 2030? Free broadband internet across the country? Democrats and Republicans agreeing? Vacation homes on the moon? Or how about finally getting that damn hover board we were shown in Back to the Future Part II? Well hate to burst your bubble, but those probably aren’t going to happen. What will, however, is that more than half of Americans could be obese.

Now before you accuse me of picking on fat people just because they’re fat, I want to assure you that is not the case. In fact, I am writing this post purely from a medical perspective. If you can be 300+ lbs and NOT suffer from diabetes, coronary artery disease, arthritis, pulmonary disease, strokes, high cholesterol (see what I’m getting at?), then more power to you. But for the rest of humanity that is just not the case. We all remember the commercials stating that marijuana is a gateway drug, right? Well, look at obesity as a gateway disease. The medical problems I listed above (and much more) are all associated with obesity. If we continue on the path that we’re on right now it can cost the United States approximately $66 billion in treatment and over $500 billion in lost economic productivity.

I understand not everybody can obtain an ideal BMI, nor do I expect everyone to achieve this. Although ideal, it is just that, ideal. Life isn’t a textbook and there will be obvious variations. The thing that bothers me the most are obese people who are complacent with their weight. Self confidence is a wonderful thing and I believe everyone should have a high sense of self-esteem, but don’t confuse that for delirium. If you honestly think that you look good and you’re healthy at 5’4″ 350 lbs, I hate to be the break it to you but you’re no better than an alcoholic denying that he has a drinking problem. You have to at least make an effort to live a healthier lifestyle and if you stick with it, I guarantee you will begin to see results.

One of the things that bothers me the most as a physician is seeing other medical professionals (doctors, nurses, PAs) tell a patient that they have to lose weight when they themselves are overweight and are not trying to lose weight. I always ask myself, how can you expect your patient to seriously take your advice, if you aren’t? It’s akin to the ungodly Tartuffery exhibited by false prophets in some churches. The apocryphal excuse of “I don’t have time,” or “I’m too busy” isn’t good enough. You don’t need to spend hours in a gym. In fact, you don’t even need a gym at all. 15 minutes a day of high intensity exercises (fast jogging in place, jump squats, push ups, mountain climbers, etc) and a consistent healthy diet is more than enough. Now yes, as a physician I completely understand that there are instances when you are short on time, feeling a tad hypoglycemic and have to eat something; and the easiest thing is fast food, but that is not all the time. And when you do get fast food you don’t have to super size it, load it with salt, mayo, and order a soda (diet or regular). I have seen other portly physicians order a large value meal from McDonald’s, regularly, and then talk about how a patient is obese. Seriously? That’s like a prostitute judging a porn star’s salacious activities.

Here’s the funny thing about American obesity. What do you think America is doing about it? If you say promoting unhealthy lifestyle choices, then you are absolutely correct. Take the recent Olympics. How many times did you see a commercial for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, or similar business portray an Olympic athlete guzzling down a Coke after a grueling workout? How often do we see images of picture perfect models eating at McDonald’s? These businesses aren’t stupid, but they are counting on the majority of the American public to not think for themselves. If they showed how the vast majority of patrons of fast food chains look, they will begin to lose business. Subconsciously, the public sees these images and think “So and so is a professional athlete, in great shape, and eats at McDonald’s, so I can too!” To make matters worse, as mentioned in my previous post about Michael Clarke Duncan, African Americans are predisposed to a lot of chronic medical problems. The ones who suffer the most are uninsured, have low income, and live in the inner city. Now I implore you, if you haven’t, take a look at the food choices available to these people. Most of these people have to take public transportation and the majority of restaurants in their vicinity are of the fast food variety. If they are able to get somewhere that has healthier food choices, another barrier is presented in the form of cost. Healthier food options are notoriously more expensive than their unhealthier counterparts. Why is it that you can get nearly a gallon of soda for mere pocket change, but a bottle of water can run you $3?

$0.27 + tax

In short, let’s be more proactive about maintaining a healthy weight, in ourselves and our loved ones. Don’t discourage anyone trying to better themselves. What sense does it make to deride an obese individual going for a walk on the track, struggling at the gym, or choosing to eat a salad? Most people are conscious about how they look and putting down a person attempting to improve their lifestyle is utterly insane and ultimately drives that person right back to unhealthy habits. I encourage my patients and congratulate them all the time even if they lose a couple of pounds. If they are moving in the right direction, then they will eventually achieve their goals, but everyone could use positive reinforcement to continue to push forward.

You at least have to try…

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About Tha Doc

Like the tallest Redwood, you won’t be able to grow without both the sunshine and the rain...
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