Writer: Leigh Neely Photos: Fred Lopez
Obesity is an epidemic, and for the people who fight it, it’s a huge battle.
The number of obese Americans began rising steadily in the 1980s and ’90s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Right now, the CDC says the number of obese adults is 97 million, more than one-third of all adults in the United States. In addition, nearly 13 million children are obese, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Obesity is based on body mass index, or BMI, but the definitions for youth and adults are not comparable. Health risk is the cut point for adults, while with children and youth, it is statistical and based on a comparison of the reference population. Researchers estimated that 67.6 million Americans over the age of 25 in 2012 had a BMI of more than 30, which is considered obese. That’s more than the estimated 65.2 million with BMIs of 25 to 29.9 who were considered overweight.
“I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in June 2017, but the good news is that I have lost 15 pounds in the past year. So I am satisfied with my weight. I stopped eating sugar and eat more vegetables than I ever did. I also do lots of walking at home and try to get between 8,000 and 10,000 steps each day.”
—Jim Maddox, Leesburg
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses these guidelines for body mass index, which relates weight to height:
• If BMI is less than 18.5, you are underweight
• If BMI is 18.5 to <25, your weight is normal
• If BMI is 25.0 to <30, you are overweight
• If BMI is 30.0 or higher, you are obese
Obesity has three classes: 30 to <35; 35 to <40; 40 and higher, extreme obesity.
However, you can go to smartbmicalculator.com and get more specific results. This BMI program looks at age, height, and sex, adjusting especially for older persons. For example, slight to moderate overweight is 40/70-49/70, which is between 40-49 points out of 70.
Florida is No. 20 among the fattest states in the country, according to Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to save lives by protecting the health of communities as well as making disease prevention a national priority. As of September 2016, adult obesity rates exceeded 35 percent in four states. Louisiana has the highest rate at 36.2 percent, and Colorado the lowest with 20.2 percent.
“I know I’m overweight because I weigh more than 200 pounds. My goal is to be under 200 pounds. I use a Google fitness app to track my daily steps, and I shoot for a minimum of 8,000 steps each day. I also use another app that allows me to log my food throughout the day. At the end of each day, I go back and review what I’ve eaten.” —Lori Calitri, Leesburg
The medical cost for this problem is estimated to be as high as $147 billion. To break it down to individuals, people who are obese spend $1,429 more on medical bills than those who are in the normal weight range.
The AHA says recent studies show most obese individuals have less ability or willpower to turn away from food cues. They react differently to smells and visual stimuli. Watching a food commercial or having someone else in the room eat something triggers hunger cues for these people. It has also been proved that when people with these issues try to eat less, their body’s appetite actually increases and they’re less satisfied with what they have eaten.
Dining out is an issue, too. The increased variety of good-tasting food readily available in large portions, and decreased physical movement, means weight gain. Studies have also shown that sleep patterns affect weight, as does stress. Even the temperature in your home or workplace may affect your body.
Dr. Christopher Calapai, a board-certified osteopathic physician in family and anti-aging medicine, believes people are bombarded with ways to lose weight.
“People are dealing with dieting information overload,” Dr. Calapai says. “It is hard to know what is sound weight loss advice and what is myth.”
An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet every year and spend $33 billion on weight-loss products, according to Dr. Calapai. “Yet, nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. With all that money expended, why are so many people unable to lose weight?”
“I am very good with my weight. I work outside from 6am to 3:30pm and sweat all day. That certainly helps me control my weight. I am 44 and feel like 25. After dinner, my wife and I walk around our neighborhood so we can keep our heart and lungs healthy. While most people like to rest after dinner, we prefer walking off the calories.” —Eduardo Vazquez, Leesburg
He believes much of it comes from taking these diet myths as absolute truths, even though they don’t work as promised:
• You can eat whatever you want if you work out.
• Organic food is diet food.
• You can lose 10 pounds in two weeks.
• Cleanses and detoxes are a good way to jump-start a diet.
• You can’t eat after 8pm.
• You must keep your blood sugar topped up, and eat little and often to achieve that.
• Wait until you’re hungry to eat.
“I’m happy with my weight because it’s something I’ve been working on for six years. I do CrossFit three times a week, and I stick to the Paleo diet. Simply put, I want to look and feel the best I can as I age.” —Nicole Campbell, Fruitland Park
Most physicians and health professionals agree that a lifestyle change is more important than dieting. Making that lifestyle change may also include behavioral changes, and remember, nothing happens quickly.
The AHA recommends these steps to gain control of eating habits:
• Keep a daily food diary—write down everything you eat.
• Eat high-fiber foods that are more filling to be more satisfied at the end of a meal.
• Remove temptation foods from the fridge and pantry so there’s no chance of giving in.
• Avoid high-carbohydrate foods.
• Work on stress management.
• Make getting enough sleep a priority.
• Move—you can go the gym or you can dance, play a sport, take the stairs, park farther away, walk more often, and get a friend to join you for accountability and fun. Just move.
Debbie Sander, of The Villages, knows about the battle of obesity. At 5 feet 3 inches tall and 162 pounds, she was constantly trying a new fad diet or advertised program to lose weight.
“I tried every program under the sun,” Debbie says. “My husband Scott and I have been married for 12 years. One day he said, ‘If I see one more stupid diet…you know what you’re supposed to do, Debbie.’ Of course, I knew what I was supposed to do, but doing it was another thing.”
When a friend of Debbie’s made an appointment with Dr. Christopher Kessler at the Legacy Clinic in the Villages, Debbie asked to go along. The clinic’s weight-loss program includes herbal supplements and nutritional counseling to maintain a healthier lifestyle.
“I had stopped exercising. Being in real estate, I was always busy and had unplanned things pop up, so I’d just grab something to eat when I could,” Debbie says. “When I started talking with Chris, he asked me if I knew Scott Sander.”
Debbie was startled that the doctor knew her husband and, at first, asked him to say nothing to Scott. In the end, however, she decided to tell Scott herself about her new diet.
“I immediately found this was different. You’re never hungry because you’re eating 1,200 calories a day,” Debbie says. “There’s not a lot of exercise. If I walk 20 to 30 minutes a day, I feel great.”
What was different was the support and help of Dr. Kessler.
“I’m skinny, so naturally I feel good about my weight. I walk everywhere, and to be honest, I’d rather walk than be in a car. It burns calories and helps you mentally, as well. When I’m hanging out with friends and they’re eating pizza and chips, I eat a salad or a bowl of fruit. Maintaining a healthy weight is important.” —Chantal Wentling, Leesburg
“He said just because you have one bad meal doesn’t mean you have to have three bad meals, and I believed him,” Debbie says. “It’s a way of life for me now. Where I never wore dresses because I didn’t like how I looked in them, I wear them all the time now. I went from 162 to 119 (pounds) and a size 2. Believe me, it’s different when you know someone is there for you every step of the way like Chris is.”
Now Debbie packs a lunch and extra food for her busy day. “If I get really hungry, I can have protein, and that makes a difference for me. I can also have celery and carrots and stuff like that, but knowing I can have protein made a difference,” Debbie says.
Obesity continues to dominate health stories in the news, but, like smoking, consuming too much alcohol, and other bad habits, there are ways to help yourself. You just have to find the one that works for you.
If you enjoy walking, there are many places in Lake County to enjoy it, and these spots also have outdoor wellness stations along the walking trails to add a little extra to your outing:
Palatlakaha Environmental and Agricultural Reserve (PEAR) Park
4800 University Ave.
1195 W. Magnolia St.
North Lake Community Park
40730 Roger Giles Road
Lake Okahumpka Park
6085 E. State Road 44
There are also bike trails, scenic local preserves, and lots of places to enjoy swimming, whether it’s in a public pool or as part of a gym program.
Looking for a little extra encouragement? Go to getfitlake.com and check what’s available to help you in your journey to weight loss and better health. If you’d like to talk to someone personally, contact AC Gander at GetFitLake@aol.com for help.
The desire to be in good shape is one reason to exercise, but a recent Reportlinker survey on sports practice and health got these results:
77 percent of Americans say being in good shape and looking good is very important to them
42 percent believe they are overweight
37 percent believe they are in good shape
56 percent are concerned they are not muscular enough
75 percent admit to comparing how they look to others