In 2015, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers found that the prevalence of obesity among adults aged eighteen and up in the United States passed 30% for the first time in the history of the National Health Interview Survey.
Much like turning 30 years old, when by virtue of age you have to be a responsible adult and there’s no turning back, surpassing the “30 percent of the population is obese” mark is a big deal—no pun intended. Obesity is measured as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m^2 or more.
But wait, isn’t BMI inaccurate? Not for most people. The few exceptions where BMI measurements would over or underestimate body composition are for bodybuilders, certain athletes, pregnant women, and elderly people. With the same National Health Interview Survey finding that only 21.1% of US adults met the federal physical activity guidelines for both aerobic and strength activities, there aren’t many people meeting the athletic portion of those exceptions.
With half of Americans projected to obese by 2030, and all the additional comorbidities and medical expenses that brings, what is there to do? Was Pixar’s Wall-E predictive of the physical state of the human race? Why does everyone wag their fingers and say “get up off the couch and stop eating chips!” when it’s not that easy? In order to stop the obesity epidemic, we—as a country—need to examine why people feel compelled to eat themselves into a condition that really lowers one’s quality of life. There are mental, socioeconomic, educational, and other factors at play when someone consciously or not makes the cascade of unhealthy choices that lead to obesity.
For adults in the workplace, I have the same old recommendation as every other post on this wellness blog: get a wellness program! Explore your health insurance carrier’s resources for condition and disease management, and investigate workplace wellness vendors. With proper program management and incentives, lifestyle change is much more likely to happen than if people are left to their own devices. Whether it’s on the company level or the national level, all of our personal decisions can impact others—and that’s not an idealistic millennial statement—since a few people’s high claims can drive up an entire company’s insurance rates, and we’ll all pay more the next year. Obesity is treatable and preventable, and claiming to be a victim of one’s genetics is more or less patently false in this regard. With targeted, medically appropriate intervention, RN coaching, engaging incentives, and employer support, obese and at-risk individuals in the workplace can change their lifestyles, and we can all work towards a healthier country.
Image by Mesin at German Wikipedia – selbst erstellt (Firmenlogo entfernt), Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32124085