The obesity epidemic in America continues to grow. Michigan is one of the states with the biggest problem. Medical conditions linked to obesity cost Michigan $3 billion dollars a year to treat. In the past 35 years, obesity among children has doubled - not once, but five times.
Three in 10 Michigan children and a quarter of high school students are either obese or overweight. Eight in 10 children with obesity today will be obese as adults. The Centers for Disease Control tell us that poor eating habits and insufficient physical activity pose a greater threat to children today than exposure to tobacco, alcohol or drugs.
The weight loss industry sells us pills, machines, books, therapies and special foods to help us lose weight. Experts tell us the way is to eat better by including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat foods in our diet. They urge us to cut back on empty calories, and foods high in saturated fat. We know daily physical activity is good for us and helps with weight management.
The problem is that even when we do healthy things, we can still become overweight or fail to lose extra pounds we may have.
Some blame foods, or blame the fast food industry for upselling all those supersize meals a few years ago. However, keep in mind that some people who eat healthy and exercise still become overweight, and some people who eat giant portions of food or drink sugary drinks and do not exercise regularly might not have a weight problem.
Fast foods and tricky marketing did not cause our obesity problem. Broccoli can make us overweight if we eat enough of it. What affects our weight more than any other factor is neither complicated, nor is psychology required to understand it. The answer does involve some arithmetic.
A hundred extra calories daily become 10 extra pounds a year. Unused calories get stored in our bodies as fat, and the best way to get rid of it is to burn it. Eat anything you want as long as you use what you eat every day.
Some foods do contain more healthy benefits than others, and the more calories we get from nutritious foods, the better. Daily physical activity is good for us, including increasing the rate we burn calories. To manage weight, though, the easy solution is to count the calories we take in, and use the calories before they become stuck as fat in our storage compartments.
To manage our weight, we seem to pay attention to everything except the one that matters. Instead of hunting for "diet foods" or banning ourselves from "bad food," we only need to pay attention to our calories. Finding the best calories and what we can do with the energy may be topics for another time.
Meanwhile, search online for "MyPlate" to find tips on getting better value from our food choices. If you have a mobile computing device, look for many free or inexpensive apps that make calorie counting easy.
Editor's note: Brian Rendel, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC, is a professional counselor with the?Copper Country Mental Health Institute in Houghton.