Today’s guest post is written by Kat of Chef on a Diet; Kat is a food blogger of the healthy sort and full time chef, she also blogs all about her journey through learning Chinese. Check her out at: chefondiet.blogspot.com.
America is fat. I don’t know the exact numbers but America is the fattest country in the world. I myself am fat, obese, overweight, whatever you want to call it. My doctors, physical therapist, and chiropractor all tell me I should lose weight when they first meet me. Let me tell you this, last year I lost 30 pounds, the year before that I lost 20 pounds, just meeting me and judging me because I’m fat is not cool. I’ve gone from a size 26 to a size 18 in less than two years, real life is not the Biggest Loser where you can lose 100 pounds in 6 months.
I love the show Biggest Loser, but I think it gives many people, skinny and fat, the wrong impression of how overweight people should lose weight. On the show none of the contestants have to go to work or have their families, friends, or coworkers begging them to go out to eat. Instead its a controlled environment where their only focus is on losing weight, their food is all healthy, they work out for 6+ hours a day, have world class personal trainers working with them multiple times a week, and have doctors and nutritionists at their beckon call. There is no reason that they should not be able to lose weight with those circumstances.
In reality, we stick to a diet for about a week being strict, or at least I do, and stick to a workout plan maybe 2 weeks tops. Then life starts getting in the way, when you have a meeting that interferes with working out, or you don’t have time to run to the grocery store to get a healthy option so you buy a burger at McDonald’s.
I know what I need to lose weight. First, I need my back to be better. I got in a car accident 9 months ago and despite going to a chiropractor, acupuncturist, and physical therapy I live in a great deal of pain day to day. My doctor has told me in the same sentence that I need to lose more weight but I’m not allowed to do more workouts because of my back. However since I’ve been on a diet for almost two years straight my body already runs on a low amount of calories and I can’t really go much less without getting extremely unhealthy (aka anorexia). So in order for my to lose weight I need to workout, which means my back has to get better.
And second, I need a personal trainer. I have workout videos, a Kinect, a Wiifit, and an entire life of being an athlete behind me. But even at my healthiest (back-wise) I struggled finding a workout that really fit my needs. I also have trouble with motivation. Like I said earlier my workout plans last about two weeks then they dwindle down to every other day, to twice a week, to every other week, to nothing at all. A personal trainer would help me find things that would strengthen my core and back, and also keep me motivated because I’m one of those people that always keeps her appointments. So what’s stopping me from getting a personal trainer? Well I’m broke. Like most Americans I can’t afford a gym membership, let alone a personal trainer. One thing that annoys me about our healthcare system is that all us fat people are told by our doctors that we need to lose weight but we are expected to do it on our own. Health insurance doesn’t cover gym memberships or personal trainers yet they can use obesity as a reason to deny coverage. If we COULD lose weight on our own, don’t you think we would have by now? At some point after we’ve lost the weight, yes, we can do it on our own, but to start off that is just stupid to expect that we can.
Most obese Americans aren’t like me, they weren’t athletes from the time they could walk. And even me, while I played sports and was extremely active my whole life I was always overweight. My father was obese, my mom is in shape now, but she still struggles because like myself she can gain weight very fast if she’s not careful. But how are we to expect all these people who are overweight, who’ve never worked out day in their life to suddenly know how to exercise? That’s just asking for them to get hurt by telling them to join a gym. They will hurt themselves and then just stop going, and depending on the injury will probably gain more weight.
Obesity is an epidemic. Its a combination of the food industry, lack of nutrition education, television and video games, and our healthcare system.
The food industry over the years has made portion sizes at least double what we should be eating, though in many cases I’ve seen portions closer to quadruple the size. And my parents were raised by depression era parents who taught them to “clean your plates” which was then passed on to me. We should now start an era of “don’t clean your plates” because now our food is much more plentiful and we serve way too much for what we should eat. We need to learn that its okay to make one meal into three or four meals by having leftovers. We also need to learn the read the labels on food. I know growing up I could easily eat a box of mac & cheese by myself, and if you read the label its actually meant to be two servings. A 20oz bottle of soda is somehow supposed to be 2.5 servings, which I don’t think I’ve ever split one up. Yes one serving of beverage is supposed to be 8 oz. But 8 oz is not that much at all, realistically people will drink at least twice that at a meal, so why don’t the labels just say one serving is 16 oz? Oh that’s right, false advertising. I know many sodas are required to have the total calories per bottle on their label now, but what about juices and teas and all the other drinks that you can buy? Not all of them have that on the labels. I know in the end we are responsible for what we put into our body, but not everyone knows what they should be putting in their body.
Which brings me to the lack of nutrition education. I took health class in high school. And it was honestly one of the most useless classes. It was taught by our gym teacher on our non-gym class day, and it included sex education, a little bit of nutrition, and I don’t remember what else. All I know is that I didn’t take anything away from that class. I think the nutrition portion was making us memorize the food pyramid, which at the time made me think, see? I can eat some junk food because its on the pyramid! It really wasn’t until I took a Nutrition class at Culinary School that I actually really got anything about nutrition. I didn’t go to Culinary School until I was age 26, by the way. The main difference? Not only did we learn the healthy food groups, we had to do stuff hands on. We took recipes that we loved from restaurants, calculated the calories based on the restaurants portion sizes, and then re-made the recipe with healthier ingredients and a correct portion size. The results were astounding, in some cases the restaurant had a meal that was well over 2500 calories, and with our few changes we could bring it down to 800 calories or less and for the most part it tasted just as good. Now I’m a chef, so I will not use inferior ingredients if it means it will affect the flavor significantly. And with my dieting I’ve had to realize that sometimes you can have a small amount of something bad for you to avoid overeating later. Because when I have a craving for something, I will eat until I’m satisfied, which if I don’t get what I’m craving means I will gorge myself on everything and anything. So now as part of my diet, if I crave something I will have it, in a small amount, while keeping the rest of my diet healthy. But it took me 26+ years to figure this out. Which is probably why I’m so heavy.
Next! Television and video games. I can very easily say that these are definitely factors in my being fat. I LOVE movies, television shows, and video games. I can easily sit and watch shows from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. And I know many Americans are the same way. The trick is finding ways to combine this sedentary lifestyle with a more active lifestyle. I know there are some days where I have convinced myself out of working out because my dvr is full and I need to “catch up.” So I decided to get myself a stationary bike, which I could play video games, watch television, or even read on. Sadly because of my back injury it hurts too much for me to actually use it currently. But the point is, there are ways to do both exercise and watch television at the same time. However, this goes back to obese Americans not knowing how to exercise in the first place.
And lastly, our healthcare system I feel is extremely unsupportive to anyone who is overweight. I tried to apply for health insurance many years ago and I was denied because I am obese. It didn’t matter that I am in perfect health (minus the back injury). I don’t have diabetes, I have great blood pressure, and all my other vitals are that of a very healthy person. I just happen to be overweight. When you go to the doctor with an ailment of any kind, you are told you should lose weight. (I didn’t realize me having a broken finger had anything to do with my weight!?) However, as many times as I’ve been told to lose weight, even after I say “I’ve lost 50 pounds in less than two years”, not once have they given me a solution to helping me lose weight. Apparently if I want that type of advice I’d have to make another appointment and pay another co-pay to be told to join a gym and get a personal trainer or go see a nutritionist or dietitian, none of which are covered under my health insurance. So how is it that I am supposed to pay for these miraculous weight loss cures when I can barely pay my co-pay for the doctor? And I know I’m not alone. It is a fact that a good portion of obese Americans are of lower income. Its no wonder that high income people are in shape! They can afford all these things that help one lose weight. And I’ve heard all the “there are so many ways to work out without a gym!” however, if you have never worked out or been shown how, how are you exactly going to do that?
So what is the cure to the obesity epidemic? In my opinion, education is the long term cure, not for just children but for adults. Why can’t the Home Economics classes in school focus on teaching how to make healthy meals rather than fattening cake and cookies? We need affordable gyms and personal trainers that are conveniently located, and affordable dietitians and nutritionists, ideally that are all covered under health insurance. The point of health insurance is to keep people healthy, and diet and exercise should be covered under preventative care. You would think it would be in the health insurances best interest to get all obese Americans healthy, because of the cost health insurance companies have to pay daily from obesity related ailments.