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HBO’s The Weight of The Nation

Doing my part to promote the message of HBO's Documentary - The Weight of the Nation.

In case some of you did not have a chance to watch HBO’s documentary, the Weight of the Nation, which was done in partnership with the National Institute of Health, Kaiser Permanente and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the good news is that you can watch it online.  As an Registerd Dietician and obesity expert – I was not surprised by much of the information that was provided… as a matter of fact, the only thing that was somewhat “new” to me, was the growing problem of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and the increased rate of liver transplants, associated with obesity.  This was an excellent attempt at putting the enormity of overweight and obesity into four episodes – and I recommend that everyone view it with their families.

Here were some interesting statistics:

  • Less than 5% of adults get the required daily physical activity (one hour)
  • Less than 3% of US farmland is planted with fruits and vegetables
  • The profit margin for soft drinks is 90%, whereas the profit margin for fruits and vegetables is only 10%
  • In the US, 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools and 2% of high schools provide daily physical activity.
  • Kids spend 7.5 hours each day consuming technology
  • Only 10% of parents seek medical help for their obese children

Some of the biggest take-away messages included – prevention is much easier than treatment (of overweight and obesity), that fad diets do NOT work (okay, I knew that), the single best thing one can do to improve their health is to eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages, and get daily physical activity.  It is not enough to lose weight, but keeping it off is a lifelong struggle.  Diabetes and heart disease have accelerated in our lifetime due to overweight and obesity – costing us, insurance companies, government, employers, and individuals billions of dollars each year.

We live in beautiful Holmdel, lacking sidewalks in many areas, but plentiful with parks.  We have Ondrush Farms right across from the Satz School, where we can purchase locally grown produce (and beef).  Another great local farm stand is Samaha’s just off Exit 117A in Aberdeen.  The minute these two places open each year, I shop there for my family.  It is far better to support locally grown agriculture than to pay higher prices for organic foods grown elsewhere.  Dearborn Farms sells locally grown produce as well.

I’d love to see walking school buses in our town (especially for those within a one or two mile radius of the schools); perhaps regular walking groups on the weekends at Cross Farms.  Even though there are vending machines in schools – which are not always “turned on” – they still serve as subliminal messages and advertising to our children.  It does take a village to raise a child, and we owe it to our children to give them the gift of health.  We owe it to ourselves to make healthy living the norm and not an option.

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Curious George May 20, 2012 at 03:26 PM
I just came back from a local supermarket and it was appalling to see the shopping carts of extremely obese people filled with cartons of different colas, sugar flavored breakfast cereals, loaves of white bread, etc. Unless they are totally shut off from any newspapers, radio or television news, they have to have heard something, somewhere along the line that what they are eating is not healthy for them, yet they continue to ignore the information provided. That's the problem. What they're eating is surely what they ate as children and they are passing it down to their own kids irrespective of the damage to their health. At the deli counter, overweight people were ordering pounds of salted, processed deli meats and cheeses. The information is out there but is being ignored. The question is why? It can't only be the idea that healthier food costs more because, once you balance the savings from not buying the unhealthy junk food, they come out ahead...It's very sad to see this.
John May 20, 2012 at 04:08 PM
George- while people could debate that eating healthier is more expensive (it is, but yes, the long-term cost of being fat and its resulting health issues far exceed the cost of eating healthy), there is no denying that America is grossly overweight. The unhealthy eating habits are passed down from parent to child. It is truly sad to see an obese child; their obesity is the by-product of their selfish parent(s), not thinking about their child's health, just shoving sodas, chips and processed dinners down their throats. There has to be personal responsibility taken by these parents and break the cycle; no longer will "well, this is the way I was raised, I don't know any better" be accepted. As far as the adults, we (New Jerseyans) live in a state where driving is the first choice, walking a far second. I know people who will drive five blocks to go to Walgreens. George- you are so right- no one is shut off from information. Exercise, proper diet and KNOWLEDGE are the weapons against obesity. Can't deny what being fat is doing to America.
Curious George May 20, 2012 at 04:41 PM
John, on the other hand it doesn't help the cause when every couple of years the gov't reverses it's nutritional guidelines because of the corn lobbiests who protest the negative publicity their corn based high fructose products are pounded upon as one of the root causes of obesity...Then, the other day there was a story about the latest study about the positive effects of HDL on heart disease...It basically said that increasing one's HDL has little tor no effect on heart disease...But then again, next week there could be another story repudiating this one. But even taking all this into consideration, one doesn't have to be a genius (many of them are overweight also) to recognize that too much sugar, in any form, in any food, is not good for you. The problem is, unless you read the labels, you don't realize how much meaningless sugar is in almost everything we eat. Look at the labels on simple pastries that are sold in the Costco or Sams or other big warehouse stores or bakeries and you'll see a list of chemicals about 3-4 inches long....Why? People just snatch them up without glancing at them and feeding them to their kids before they even get out of the store...And...you are also right...EXERCISE....EXERCISE...EXERCISE....Again, you don't have to join a gym or buy fancy work out clothes to get off your behind and start walking around the block...and soon around your neighborhood. It will work wonders for your health.
John May 20, 2012 at 10:16 PM
George- we are in total agreement. If enough noise is made, maybe the g'vt will get out of the lobbyists' beds and admit what America is consuming is killing them, then maybe the FDA would actually do their job. But there is a lot of money at stake, let's see what happens. Time for America to wake up and take care of themselves, as we who do take care of our health are tired of higher health insurance costs due to obesity being passed along to us (and having spillover from the fattie next you on the bus or train squish you!)
Lisa May 21, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Ms. Felicia -- your hits keep on coming. Thank you so much for such a truly edifying blog.

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