According to new federal "Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults" published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (1998), fifty-five percent of the adult American population is considered overweight. This staggering statistic is alarming not only for the abundant health risks faced by an overweight individual, but also for the enormous and often hidden costs of treating ailments and diseases caused or exacerbated by obesity. Additionally, new research indicates that a restricted caloric intake can lead to a longer life. But a calorie-rich diet isn't always the single cause of obesity, and the hunger pains associated with diets that severely limit the quantity of food eaten rarely make these plans successful.
One of the most underrated problems many overweight people face is the blow the excess weight is to their self-esteem. The overwhelming message our society reiterates to the overweight person is that he simply "lacks willpower," and if he would just "buckle down" he could face the challenge. But many chronically overweight adults have addressed the issue (often many times in their life) through a change of diet, exercising, or following one of the thousands of quick-fix diets and eating plans available to the average American consumer. Sometimes the struggle is too great and the success is limited to a few weeks. Or the individual loses all his weight, only to regain it (and maybe more) back later. The feeling of failure and shame this causes is traumatic, and people resign themselves to just being fat.
Many people find themselves temporarily overweight for a variety of reasons. Perhaps a new job leaves someone more sedentary than a previous position, a woman who has just given birth has put on extra weight during pregnancy, or an individual finds himself responsible for the first time in his life to cook his own food and he doesn't have the skills necessary to create healthy, balanced meals. These examples and many other temporary conditions are often overcome with proper training, a resumption in regular routines or a boost in activity level. However, many new clinical studies indicate that there are many overweight people who have a chronic disease called obesity. For these people, willpower and exercise alone are not enough. Their problem needs to be treated like any other medical problem - a bodily imbalance that can be corrected in order to assist the individual to maximize the potential for weight loss.
If the overweight individual approaches obesity as a medical condition, the shame and helplessness associated with endless dieting successes and failures can be eliminated. A sensible program can be developed with a primary care provider that includes healthy food choices, moderate exercise and supplementation to address the body's chemical imbalance. Living free of excess weight is enough to make a person feel great. But the long-term benefits of weight loss greatly reduce the risk of serious medical conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer. And that makes a successful approach to weight loss even more important.
Many programs, books, groups and drugs are available for those seeking to lose weight in the United States. These range from sensible, healthy plans developed with a primary care provider, to fad diets and "fat blocking" pills promoted in the latest tabloid magazine. The only scientific answer to the problem is a combined program of reduced caloric intake and increased exercise.
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