Over the limit

We have known for a while that most Americans are overweight, but this is getting ridiculous. In data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics earlier this month, there are now more Americans who are obese than overweight: 34 percent of Americans are classified as obese, compared to 32.7 percent that are merely overweight. This is obviously a big problem, as only about 27 percent of Americans are considered to be at a healthy weight.

How did we get to this point? Many people want to point to video games, fast food, bovine growth hormones, caffeine and countless other things as the reason behind the obesity “epidemic.” But the problem is too complex to point to any one cause. It is a combination of many factors, but finding a solution is as simple as looking in the mirror.

While it may not seem like we can make an impact on a number that large, we have to start with you. Despite what the numbers say, it is possible to lose weight and keep it off. The most important part of maintaining a healthy weight is your activity level. One of the best things you can do is find a new, active hobby to participate in. Hiking, dancing, bowling, skiing and swimming are just a few of the thousands of options you have available. The important thing is to find something that you enjoy doing, as this will ensure that you participate often and get the full health benefit.

If finding a new hobby is not a good option for you, then consider using a pedometer, a simple device that counts the number of steps you take in a day. This is a great way to track your activity level. The minimum number of steps that you should take in a day is 10,000. This translates to approximately 5 miles of walking per day. If you are one of the average Americans who only takes about 4,000 steps in a day, you can see how taking 10,000 steps will definitely increase your activity level.

While your activity level has a very large impact on your weight, another obvious contributor is your diet. Food is a big part of our national weight problem. As processed, refined, high-fat, high-sugar foods become cheaper and more readily available, our waistlines expand. This may sound like common sense, but we keep getting fatter anyway. Rather than deciding to go on a crash diet, lose 20 pounds and then gain back 25, try something different this time. The next time you go to a grocery store, try to shop mostly on the perimeter of the store. This is where you will find the fresh produce, meats and dairy products. By eating fresh, unrefined foods, your body will burn more calories and avoid putting on unnecessary pounds.

America has a very large weight problem, despite all of the advances that we have made in medicine and healthcare. It is becoming obvious that there will never be a drug that will make us thin. Due to this fact, we have to start taking more responsibility for our own health and make better choices. It is foolish to believe that we can continue to eat foods that are loaded with calories, not exercise regularly and still be healthy.

Shrinking the waistline of America starts with you. Your actions can influence somebody else. If you start being more active and eating better, perhaps your significant other will do the same, and he or she might inspire another person to take action. The important thing is to take responsibility and understand that you are in control of your health. You do not need to wait for a pharmaceutical company to come out with a new weight-loss drug; you simply need to be more active and eat a little better than you have been.

Jared Carter, CSCS, is the owner of Move Forward Fitness Personal Training Studio, 1616 Walnut St. Visit www.moveforwardfitness.com to sign up for his free newsletter, or reach him at (215) 399-3541 or [email protected]