I am among the third of all Americans who are obese.  Another third of Americans are overweight but not obese, and only one-third of Americans fall into the normal weight category.  Obesity is an epidemic in America second to none.  So keep reading because I’m not alone, and this will pertain specifically to two out of three of you.

The definition of obesity is based on the Body Mass Index, a calculation using height and weight that places the person on a scale of normal weight, overweight, or obese.   Depending on the person’s place on the scale, certain weight-associated health risks can be predicted such a heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, type-two diabetes, and even cancer.   I have two of these weight-related conditions and have been on the brink of diabetes as well over the past couple of years.

Why are so many of us overweight or obese?  I blame my mother.  Don’t we all?  Well, maybe you don’t blame my mother, but you do blame your own mother.  Or how about Ronald McDonald, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar laden soft drinks, salt and fat loaded convenience food, portion sizes at most restaurants , think supersizing, that 600-calorie caramel-double cream-extra sugar every morning latte, and yes, genetics too.

Seriously though, the answer is not simple, but according to a 2012 U.S. News and World Report article, Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health says, “The bottom line (is): cheap, unhealthy foods mixed with a sedentary lifestyle has made obesity the new normal in America. And that makes it even harder to change.”   U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher says, “This is probably the most sedentary generation of people in the history of the world.”  So basically we’re looking at a combination of taking in too many calories, up 530 calories per day for the average person over the past 30 years, and not doing enough activity to burn off those calories.

For me, I know something has to change; I am miserable in my own skin.  I think I’ve finally reached the point where the pain of staying obese is now worse than the pain of making changes in my lifestyle.  In AA terms, I’ve hit bottom.  Like most people who have extra poundage, I plan on making some changes for the New Year.  I’ve been looking at a number of strategies.  I prefer strategies over diets; in fact I hate, loath, despise, and detest diets. Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., from Psychology Today, reported on a study that made food addicts out of rats that were alternated between a healthy diet and a junk food diet. She describes a cycle of starting a diet, restricting food, and feeling deprived, leading to anxiety and cravings, giving in to cravings, feeling guilty, and then doing it all over again. She says, “From the first forbidden food, a very tempting apple, prohibition has led to problems. This study shows that focusing on positive steps, not self-denial, can make you less likely to succumb to food-related stress and anxiety.”  After a lifelong problem with weight and diets, this makes total sense to me, and I’m going with strategies one step at a time.

Here is what my initial strategy will be:  20-30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week and writing down on paper everything that I consume.  That’s it, adding exercise and becoming more aware of what I take in.  When these changes become comfortable, routine, and my new normal, then, and only then, will I think of adding other strategies.

I’ll let you know how it goes, and if any of you make some lifestyle changes, let me know what they are and how you’re doing too.

Write me at danne@frederickcountymd.gov  Thanks for listening, and I’d love to hear from you!

For more information about Body Mass Index, obesity, and nutrition visit:

Debbie Anne is a public-health nurse with the Frederick County Health Department. She has been awarded a Governor’s Citation for her work with Marylanders living with HIV.