US Surgeon General: Lose some weight, already
December 13, 2001 7:45 PM   Subscribe

US Surgeon General: Lose some weight, already Overweight and obesity may not be infectious diseases, but they have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. . . Approximately 300,000 deaths a year in this country are currently associated with overweight and obesity . Left unabated, overweight and obesity may soon cause as much preventable disease and death as cigarette smoking.
posted by raysmj (35 comments total)
If the Segway catches on, it's going to get much worse.
posted by mkn at 7:48 PM on December 13, 2001

Is that really the case though? It seems to me that this 'walking places = health' thing is largely untrue unless you walk . . . and walk . . . and walk for miles every day. Walking to school/work doesn't help much when you're overweight or obese; eating right and getting real, concentrated aerobic exercise does. As far as I'm concerned we should all ride our Segways to the nearest basketball court or gym and get to it, and to the nearest grocery store to cook a healthy meal.

(For sure, "I need a Segway so I can go to the gym" is the excuse I'm going to use!)
posted by josh at 7:56 PM on December 13, 2001

Sure, five years from now the states will be suing McDonalds and Burger King like the sued Big Tobacco. God knows McDonalds markets to children!
posted by fleener at 7:59 PM on December 13, 2001

josh, over time using the stairs and walking to the store (instead of driving) adds up. If nothing else, it puts one in a more active mindset. That's a very important base to have.
posted by mrbula at 9:14 PM on December 13, 2001

even small changes add up. From Nutrition News:

'...scientists measured energy expenditure from chewing calorie-free gum for 12 minutes in seven subjects who were paced with a metronome. Chewing gum led to an increase in energy expenditure of 11 kilocalories per hour, which was an increase of 19 percent. [ ... ]

The scientists calculated that if a person chewed gum during waking hours and changed nothing else, a yearly loss of more than 5 kg of body fat might be expected.'
posted by rebeccablood at 9:45 PM on December 13, 2001

Well, the tobacco industry is willing to provide an appetite suppressant.
posted by swell at 9:57 PM on December 13, 2001

I've seen many fewer overweight people in San Francisco and New York City than I have pretty much anwhere else in the country ... I can't help but think that a culture of standing, walking, and stair-climbing (the adjunct of the culture of mass transit) plays a significant role in all of that.

I have no truck with anti-car / anti-suburb attitudes as ideology ... but I do think that it is fair to say that the few hundred additional calories most New Yorkers burn off every day, and the increment that exertion adds to metabolism, muscletone, and general cardiovascular condition, helps everybody here stay one runk lower on the fat ladder than they'd be in Atlanta or Cleveland.
posted by MattD at 10:18 PM on December 13, 2001

I think the probelms here are many. Most noticeably:

1. The food pyramid taught is largely useless. It leads people to believe that one serving of meat is simply one serving of meat, regardless of fat content. Plus, low-carb diets are extremely beneficial to many people.

2. It is somehow thought that aerobic exercise is the key to weight loss. In fact, a high-intensity weight-training program is much more efficient. Granted, aerobics do cause weight loss over a substantial amount of time. Weight-training at a high rate of intesnity gives three things- More muscle(i.e. a higher caloric expenditure, and therefore higher metabolism), more muscle, and more aerobic capacity. Done to an extreme, the effect it has on your recovery system is enormous, almost negating an unhealthy diet entirely.
posted by ttrendel at 11:17 PM on December 13, 2001

ttrendel, I might be mistaken, but I don't believe a person's aerobic capacity can be significantly increased through anaerobic activity.

And for a person to build enough muscle to negate an unhealthy diet (and by negate here we mean only to burn excess calories) one would have to be pretty large. You'd also be neglecting the health of your heart.

I think lifting weights AND doing aerobic activity is the best way to go. I completely agree with you on the food pyramid, and the comment concerning low carb diets. I've seen a low carb diet help tons of people lose lots of weight.
posted by Doug at 11:36 PM on December 13, 2001

Thanks, Doug, for showing a certain amount of class in a reply that most users ignore....

As for the first point, most people do not eat entirely unhealthy diets. For the most parts, we eat relatively health. If you are eating McDonald's for every meal nothing will help you. But if you eat relatvely healthy, weight training can have a huge impact on overall health.

The amount of exercise that negates an unhealthy diet may be huge, but reachable. I'm talking a regimen in the range of 30+ sets per day, 7 days a week. Paired with an appropriate diet overtraining is a myth.

As far as aerobic activity goes, I'm talking of this 30+ set weight program with 45 seconds or less between sets. Aerobic advantages are most definitely felt.

I'm not trying to enter into combat with your own beliefs, but simply share what I've learned on my own.
posted by ttrendel at 12:31 AM on December 14, 2001

Sure, five years from now the states will be suing McDonalds and Burger King like the[y] sued Big Tobacco.

Much as I poo-poo the litigiousness of American society, I'd love to see this happen.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:39 AM on December 14, 2001

I'm convinced that soda plays a role in this, but it's usually overlooked or ignored. There is the equilvalent of 2/3 cup of sugar in one 32oz soda (9-10 teaspoons per 12 oz). Many people will down one of these at lunch and get a refill for the road, have another one on the way home from work, then another one or two with dinner. That's the equivalent of almost 2.5 cups of sugar a day, well over 100 sugar packets. And that's not to mention the caffiene.

Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming Americans' Health

The Surgeon General's report is nearly useless. It's so typical, "here is a problem, go figure it out." "We're concerned," but none of that concern will translate to policy. Food and diet are only mentioned once each, soft drinks are never mentioned. The average American eats too much. Right now, portion control is as important if not more so than excercise and nutrition.

This is so frustrating...
posted by joemaller at 1:34 AM on December 14, 2001

I live in Philadelphia... and let me ya, there are a lot of fat friggin' people here. Maybe it's got something to do with the steady diet of fried meat and cheese.... mmmm.....

I think Atlanta beat us for the Fattest City in North America title this year, though. It was a long, hard race... but we just didn't have what it took.
posted by ph00dz at 5:10 AM on December 14, 2001

As far as i have seen, really sticking to a proper cleansing diet yes, like in south park, then re-introducing foods one at a time is the best way to find out what you can eat.
a friend of mine who did that and lost 4kg (32 pounds), is now at her ideal weight.

which is all a bit extreme, but if you want health striving may be neccessary, it is not the default setting in most western societies.

moderation is the the key to the spice of life. have a little of everything, but always plenty of the good stuff.
epicurus said something about there being more pleasure available from getting something you need than you could ever get from something you don't.

There is just so much money in providing things people do not need, including most of the processed food market, that despite the good intentions of any number of surgeon generals this situation could be very slow to change.
posted by asok at 5:43 AM on December 14, 2001

Wow. Fat is bad, and people should lose weight. Fantastic. Wouldn't have thought it.

Now if the government were truly interested in helping America with it's weight problem, it would invest some money into research to help those people who have tried every diet, trick, and technique in the book and still come out above the line on the scale. But apparently they'd rather issue vague statements that serve no purpose but to act as PR for this administration, pointing out obvious flaws in the American public.
posted by benjh at 6:10 AM on December 14, 2001

The situation in America is simple: Man wasn't meant to walk 50 yards to a car, drive to 7-11, get a 32-ounce soda (which, remember, is a lot larger than the 8-ounce bottles by which soda used to be sold), and get back in the car. To say this is natural and good is to ignore the base of the problem.

When I first moved into Manhattan from the suburbs--to an apartment on the fifth floor of a walkup building, half a mile from the subway--I lost 10 pounds without dieting.
posted by werty at 6:13 AM on December 14, 2001

Usual thoughts:

1. Being overweight doesn't automatically mean unhealthy. This report would have been a lot more effective if research was done into the number of Americans living an unhealthy lifestyle. (I suspect it'd be 9 out of 10.) Fat people are an easy target because of outmoded societal assumptions.

2. What happens when the number becomes, say, 9 out of 10?

3. The Surgeon General should be encouraging a healthy lifestyle, with good eating habits, and the like. Body size should not be the issue; as pointed out here, it's more of the "look! something is wrong in our eyes! fix it!" mentality without providing real answers. The report claims to support this idea, but the mere automatic association of being overweight with poor health nullifies their attempts.

4. Just because you lost weight a certain way doesn't mean everyone can. (As a side note, I found rcb's post on gum chewing interesting.)

5. From the report: Approximately 300,000 deaths a year in this country are currently associated with overweight and obesity. "Overweight" and "obesity" in and of themselves can not kill, and as always, I question the methodology. (Are fat people who have heart attacks unrelated to their weight considered numbers for this stat?)

6. Also in the link, as for change being a "community responsibility", yeah, right. More and more school cafeterias are becoming privatized - the kids are getting fast food chains they know and love. Lots of kids love it, and those who hate it can't do too much. It's all about money.

The whole thing is about money. Reports like this keep Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers in business.
posted by hijinx at 6:52 AM on December 14, 2001

statements that serve no purpose but to act as PR for this administration

i really don't think that Satcher is acting as a PR flak for this administration. esp with that whole "sex ed is a good thing" report he came out with a ways back that had all the bushies shaking and trying to distance themselves from as fast as they could.
posted by saralovering at 6:55 AM on December 14, 2001

I wrote an essay about this very issue. Im tired of hearing fat kills while these people think it is a choice and ignore the very things in society that promote obesity and poor health....The Real Causes of The Obesity Epidemic-

Ironically people over 250lbs--weight limit-- cant use a Segway. Thats kind of disappointing. Theres a lot of people heavier then that weight.
posted by Budge at 6:58 AM on December 14, 2001

The real pricetag for our rising obesity is yet to come in the form of Type 2 diabetes. This disease has no outward symptoms until it is far too late and, by then you've got multiple organ failure (particularly eyes, heart, kidneys) and peripheral neuropathy. The healthcare costs for treating these people in twenty or thirty years from now will be astronomical, not to mention the economic hit from loss of productivity and premature death. The tragic thing is that virtually all long term complications of Type 2 diabetes can be eliminated with proper diet and moderate excercise early on.
posted by plaino at 7:09 AM on December 14, 2001

I'm from the US. I can tell you that the French and Spanish are in much better average shape than Usians. You can see it when you walk the streets. In the US, with the exception of NYC, SF (as MattD stated), and a few other places, the only place you can regularly see people walking is in the mall (whoa, surprise, surprise), forget the streets.

Here in Madrid, it's a pleasure to walk and see (gorgeous women) people.
posted by mmarcos at 7:14 AM on December 14, 2001

Just the price of being the best I guess.
posted by @homer at 7:22 AM on December 14, 2001

Maybe all the overweight people should visit some of the pro-anorexia sites for helpful tips on avoiding calories. Just kidding, sort of.
posted by elvissinatra at 8:16 AM on December 14, 2001

The amount of exercise that negates an unhealthy diet may be huge, but reachable. I'm talking a regimen in the range of 30+ sets per day, 7 days a week.

whe i was lifting, my weights routine took an hour to complete and that was only doing 3 sets of 15 reps. i would have to quit my job in order to pull off the aforementioned schedule.
posted by brigita at 8:16 AM on December 14, 2001

People should give McDonald's a break. Someone who ate three meals a day there would consume about 2,500 calories a day, yielding about 60-75 grams of protein. (Assuming no "supersizing").

A full-sized adult who exercised aerobically for 20-30 minutes 3 or 4 times a week and lifted weights 3 times a week would certainly not gain significant weight as a result of this diet ... because the calories would be burned and the protein would be sufficient.

However, it massively exceeds RDA for fat, and depending upon your genetic predisposition to arteriosclerosis hypercholestrolemia, could have some nasty long-term ramifications. (High fat diets have been thought to have other unpleasant consequences besides obesity and circulatory -- but these have been called into question, particularly in the case of colon cancer.)
posted by MattD at 9:04 AM on December 14, 2001

Warning: sharp turn ahead.

Mmm, Veggie Booty!
posted by NortonDC at 9:59 AM on December 14, 2001

Looks quite nice, that.

But then, I am a vegetarian..
posted by salmacis at 10:16 AM on December 14, 2001

There's some here. It's hideous. Kale and tea flavored puffed rice. "Styrofoam" comes up frequently in descriptions.

I'm sure these are much better.
posted by NortonDC at 10:53 AM on December 14, 2001

I'm convinced that soda plays a role in this, but it's usually overlooked or ignored.

I read somewhere that you can gain 5 - 10 pounds/year by consuming 1 serving of Coca Cola a day.

Everybody makes such a big deal out of Americans being overweight, and it seems like nobody knows the solution. We're busy being bombarded with pills and quick-result diets. It's all bull. The answer is so simple.

Diet and exercise.

And don't give up after 6 weeks. The reason exercise works at all is that it is out of your normal range of motion and routine. It's something that causes your body to adapt to a new stress. It is the only solution. Eat healthy and work out. Walking and ultralow impact aerobics aren't going to do you a tremendous amount of good either. It requires effort.

No pain, no gain.

Americans are afraid of that pain and effort part.
posted by tomorama at 11:26 AM on December 14, 2001

More fuel for the fat fire: Americans are the fattest people in the world (click on the detail image).

If that doesn't get the Surgeon General's point across, nothing will. The French are literally half as overweight as the average American.

And it's not just the pain/gain that's holding us back; it's the lazy culture to which we have become accustomed, and on which we believe our lives depend.

Looking at America I often think of the late-stage Roman Empire.
posted by werty at 12:16 PM on December 14, 2001

Today there are nearly twice as many overweight children and almost three times as many overweight adolescents as there were in 1980.

In the 80's they had TaB and Jane Fonda workouts.
posted by hellinskira at 12:58 PM on December 14, 2001

ttrendel, obviously diet and excersize are very personal. For most people, I think overuse is very real. Most people I know can lift weights three days a week, and see pretty significant results. But I guess it's all a matter of what works for you. I read a study recently that said walking 30 minutes a day, three days a week, and lifting weights two days is enough for a real health benefit for most people. For somebody in really good shape, this workout would barely be enough for maintenance.

I guess it all boils down to: no one thing is gojng to work for everyone.
posted by Doug at 1:29 PM on December 14, 2001

If you're in really good shape, why mere maintenance something to be discounted, Doug?
posted by NortonDC at 2:04 PM on December 14, 2001

"People should give McDonald's a break. Someone who ate three meals a day there would consume about 2,500 calories a day, yielding about 60-75 grams of protein. (Assuming no "supersizing")."

Big Mac: 590 Calories
Medium Fries: 450 Calories
Large (Not Super Size) Coke: 310 Calories

That's 1350 Calories in one meal.
If you ate the same meal for lunch and supper, that would be 2700 calories in two meals.

An average breakfast sandwich adds 400 calories (the big ones are 700), while an orange juice would give 80.

My total is 3180 calories per day, without supersizing. That is also without trying to be gluttonous, or adding any cookies, pies, ice cream or other obvious ruses to pad the total.

I'm not too sure that people really should give McDonalds a break.
posted by websavvy at 2:39 PM on December 14, 2001

Looks like it took less that 5 years for the suits to start, Fleener.

"Fat Americans sue fast food outlets"
posted by terrapin at 12:46 PM on July 25, 2002

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