3/05/02 - Obese Americans Growing in Girth, Number

Something's becoming more and more of a burden to Americans, our own bodies!

Here are some shocking numbers on how big we're becoming. In 1983, 58% of adult Americans were overweight. Now, less than 20 years later, that number has jumped to 80%. Of that 80%, over one-third are obese,that's about a 100% increase from 1983. There's a big difference between being overweight and obese. The difference could mean a lot to your health because lots of chronic illnesses are directly linked to weight. The more you weigh, the bigger chance you have of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or arthritis, but like everything else, catching the problem early can make a big difference.

Janet Stewart helps educate patients at Southeast Hospital on topics like weight and obesity. She says, "I think being overweight is the wake-up call." Stewart says the problem is, it's a wake-up call that some people don't realize until it's too late. "People gain weight sometimes unknowingly, gaining five pounds this month, five pounds the next month. If the weight gain is in increments, sometimes it's not as noticeable." Stewart says over the last few years, obesity rates have increased in every Heartland state, and people who have family members who are overweight should be more conscious of their weight, but activity and eating habits are also a factor.

It's not necessarily what you eat, it's how much you eat. The problem is, portion sizes at restaurants are bigger than ever, adding several hundred calories to a meal. Now, almost every restaurant offers special deals to lure people in, and then you have the option to make your meal bigger for an added charge. They're temptations that people have to decide on their own to resist. "You need to put up a red flag in your mind, what can I do," Stewart says. "Take small steps to make a difference, get more physically active. Think about when you're out to eat, maybe asking them, can I half of my food on my plate and half in a to go box."

There's a simple way to see if you're at the right weight for your height. By using a BMI calculator, you can measure your body mass index. You can find a BMI calculator on the health link of this website.