Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012 7:16:29 PM
Where will America be in three years? Where will you be in three years? Where will your family be in three years? Most of our nation hasn’t considered any of those questions, but they should start. Statistics show that by 2015, 75% of the adult population is estimated to be overweight, and 41% of them are estimated to be obese (Obesity Rates). America has a growing obesity problem and needs to find ways for the growth to stop.
Perhaps the worst habit of America is over-eating. Over the past twenty years, Americans have increased their calorie intake to 300 more calories every day (Gaisser and Shelnutt). In today’s world, companies have increased the sizes of their packaging. Studies have actually shown that when companies increase the size of the product, consumers tend to eat more of it, because of being given a bigger portion. A solution to ever growing portion sizes could be to use a smaller dish, so less seems like more (Pollan 115). Also, some growing portion sizes are uncontrolled by the consumer themselves. For example, someone trying to cut back on fast food begins to get a small hamburger instead of a large one. However, hamburgers have increased in size by 25% over the last ten years (Gaisser and Shelnutt). It doesn’t seem like a large percentage, but 25% of 2000, the recommended daily calorie intake, is 500. Imagine what it would be like to eat 500 more calories than the average person is supposed to every day.
Along with an extra five hundred calories a day, there is high doubt that the hamburger being eaten is not considered ‘real food’. When walking into grocery stores, the consumer must be prepared for any type of artificial food that they might come across. “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t” (Pollan 41). That means to eat organic food, rather than processed food. Other people prefer to not eat meat. This is a very healthy decision because meat can be fattening, but vegetarians have to remember that they are losing nutrients. In the animal world, vegetarians are always healthier and live longer than carnivores. Those vegetarian animals were created to eat just plants, but humans were not. By cutting meat entirely out of a human diet, that person is losing nutrients and proteins that only meat can give (Pollan 65). Author of Food Rules, Michael Pollan, says, “The greater the diversity of the species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases” (65). This backs up the idea of eating mostly fruits and vegetables, but including all of the food groups.
Just as Pollan endorses eating food from all the food groups, the Healthy Eating Food Pyramid does just the same. The Healthy Eating Food Pyramid promotes eating right and exercising daily. The Pyramid is bigger at the base and thinner at the top, which represents the foods that should be consumed the most, versus the foods that should be consumed the least. The Food Pyramid says to eat more foods like vegetables and whole grains, and less of oils and sugary drinks. There is also a Healthy Eating Plate, which is closely related to the Food Pyramid. The Plate represents how much of each food group should go on a plate for each meal. It says that half of it should be mostly vegetables and some fruits, and the other half should be half grains and half proteins. Off to the side of the plate should be a sugar free drink and a healthy serving of oils, such as olive oil (The Nutrition Source). America should constantly be watching what they are eating, because at this rate, who knows what we will look like in ten years.
Not only is food a problem, but exercise is, too. The average person should exercise for 30-60 minutes a day. What has become an issue is that people are just getting too lazy to exercise when they need it. Most people don’t even know how to get started. The answer is simple: warm up. It is safe and effective. A warm up could just be taking the dog for a walk or riding a bike around the neighborhood at a leisurely pace. All a warm up needs is 5-10 minutes of low-intensity exercise. Another good way to get going is cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular exercise improves the heart and lungs. This helps create a more effective workout later on, because of increased endurance. Also, cardiovascular exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, and improves the immune system (University Recreation). After warming up and doing some cardio, the high-intensity exercise can begin.This exercise can include swimming, running, dancing, or going to the gym and using equipment. Almost everywhere has a community fitness center, and that is where everyone is guaranteed support and equipment (Physical Exercise). The biggest question that is asked while working out is “How am I burning fat?” The answer to the question is to burn more calories than have been consumed. This could include exercising longer, or at a higher intensity (Exercise Tips for Fat Loss). After 30-60 minutes of high-intensity exercise, make sure to cool down. This keeps muscles healthy and helps to relax the body after an hour of working out (University Recreation). If everyone followed all of these simple directions, then America would be much more fit, healthy, and active.
Like exercise, America assumes that diets are the only way to maintain a healthy diet. However, the three most important words that should be known when trying to lose weight are: Diets don’t work. Between 30-40% of America is dieting, which is the largest percentage ever. Then why is America so obese? It is because diets do not work! A study at the Southern Connecticut State University has learned that diets only work 5-10% of the time, and most people actually regain the weight they lost, possibly even more. Also, someone who has been considering dieting for a long period of time is highly likely to have an eating disorder in the near future (Why Diets Don’t Work). What can be done to lose weight without dieting? Eating right and exercising daily are always the answer. Also, diets do not help self control. The best way to quit fast food or junk food is to resist the temptation by saying “Am I really hungry for that bag of chips, or should I choose an apple instead?” There is an old saying that says “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re not hungry” (Pollan 105). That old saying helps to resist eating when bored, eating for fun, or eating because the food tastes good. Never go on a diet, try to challenge fast food and junk food as it comes, because once the weight is gone, it is very easy to gain back.
The best way to shove diets away and keep weight off is to start being healthy very early in life. Recess was always the best part of elementary school. However, when kids get older, they don’t get recess anymore. That extra half an hour of running around every day is gone, and those kids now have a higher chance of being overweight when they grow up (Physical Education = Healthier Future). Of course, there is still physical education class, but some students never participate in it, which increases their chance of being overweight by an even larger percent. Physical activity has been proven to improve academic performance and overall health levels. A study in France was done that increased the students’ time in gym class by eight hours every week. The test scores went up and the kids were more active in class, even though they were in class for eight less hours a week (Physical Education in America’s Public Schools). Just doing gym class for a week can reduce the risk of being overweight as an adult by 5%. Sometimes, the students can’t control how much physical exercise they are getting during the school day,
Only 8% of elementary schools, 6.4% of middle schools, and 5.8% of high schools provide daily physical education to all of its students. In addition, 20% of all elementary schools in the U.S. have abolished recess in favor of increased classroom time under pressure to improve student achievement. Less than 25% of children are engaged in 30 minutes of any type of daily physical activity. (Physical Education in America’s Public Schools)
The simplest answer to reduce childhood obesity is to have recess and keep the children active in physical education class.
Another great way to prepare the body for the future is to get involved in extracurricular activities. Some of these activities could include skateboarding, Marching Band, and sports. So get involved and participate in gym class, and America will have a healthier future.
America has no idea how many opportunities are out there for weight loss. This could include more than just eating right and exercising daily, but there are countless others. Eat well, exercise well, and think ahead to what the world will look like ten years from now. Remember, your choices now will affect you, your family, and your nation, in the future.
Exercise Tips for Fat Loss. Hospital for Special Surgery, 3 Aug. 2004. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
"The Nutrition Source." Healthy Eating Plate and Healthy Eating Pyramid. The President and Fellows of Harvard College, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
Obesity Rates Continue to Climb in the United States. Johns Hopkins University, 10 July 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
Physical Education= Healthier Future. Johns Hopkins University, 7 Jan. 2008. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
Physical Education in America's Public Schools. University of Michigan, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. <http://sitemaker.umich.edu/356.speregen/physical_education_and_school_performance>.
"Physical Exercise." Healthy Hearts. The Franklin Institute, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
Pollan, Michael. Food Rules: An Eater's Manual. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print.
Shelnutt, Karla P., and Cassie C. Gaisser, eds. Portion Control: A Key to Weight Management. University of Florida, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2012.
"University Recreation." Cardiovascular Exercise. Washington State University, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.
Why Diets Don't Work. Southern Connecticut State University, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. <http://www.southernct.edu/womenscenter/whydietsdontwork/>.