The O Word
Sharon D. Smith
The 2008 presidential election has created a new page in the annals of American history, one that early generations never imagined would happen. Not only is America in the midst of one of the most controversial wars in American history, the front-runners for the Democratic Party nomination include an African American male and a Caucasian woman. We have witnessed breathtaking speeches and political pageantry about change, political experience, and liberal conservatism. We have heard promises about bringing our troops home, but it is important to recognize that Americans face an enemy at home that is so common, so silent, so overlooked, so accepted, and so deadly that it threatens the lives of millions of men, women, and children each day. It’s the “O” word-obesity.
In a recent study, the National Centers for Disease Control reported that obesity has risen to epidemic levels in the past 20 years. Today, more than 34% of the American population is overweight and more than 30% are obese. In fact, the former U.S. Surgeon General, David Satcher, asserts that 300,000 Americans die each year from complications caused by obesity. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer are all products of obesity. For women, complications may also include infertility, depression, breast cancer, and abnormal pregnancies. According to Dr. Jennifer Zebrack, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, obesity is “the second most preventable cause of death after smoking.” So, what can we do to effectively combat obesity based on the statistical information we have?
Know the enemy. Obesity is based on body fat ratios (percentages), not a person’s physical appearance. For example, even if a woman weighs 120 lbs, she could still be considered obese if her body fat ratio is 35%. This simply means that although she may look slim and healthy, she is only 78 lbs of lean body mass (bones, tissues, organs, etc.) and 42 lbs of non-essential fat. She needs to adjust her diet and exercise program. If a woman is 180 lbs, she could actually be a professional body builder if her body fat ratio is 12%. This means that she is 159 lbs of lean body mass and 21 lbs of non-essential fat. So, don’t be fooled by physical appearances. Seek the assistance of a personal trainer, doctor, or other certified health professional who can accurately measure body ratios.
Attack the enemy. One of the best ways to decrease body fat ratios is by resistance training, or weight training. Many women who are members of a gym choose not to go near free weights or nautilus equipment because they feel they’re going to “bulk up.” This is both true and false. An intense weight training program allows the body to attack any carbohydrate “sacks” that may be stored in the body. In addition, an intense weight training program also elevates the body’s natural metabolism rate. What this all boils down to is that the body will continue to burn fat and calories long after the workout is done. Imagine losing fat while simply watching an episode of Law and Order or some other popular program or during a restful night of sleep. Adding more lean muscle to the body increases the body’s ability to burn fat and calories. Lean muscle weighs a little more than fat, which causes slight weight gain, but takes up much less space. This gives the look and feel of a finely toned body.
Maintain an effective offense. Do not be afraid to eat. Some may say this is what caused a person to be obese in the first place. However, there is one major difference in eating for the sake of eating and eating to lose weight. A woman who eats 6 times a day is more likely to lose weight than a woman who only eats 2 times a day. Eating 5-6 small meals per day every 2-3 hours increases the body’s metabolism rate, which burns fat and calories. Eating 2 times a day slows down the metabolism rate because the body is trying to hold on to the calories and fat consumed in those meals because it is “unsure” when more food will be consumed. Think of a bear that hibernates for the winter. He eats all day long during the summer months, but in the winter, he hibernates. His body will “feed” on itself for energy to sustain itself for the remainder of the cold season. Many women do not eat enough because they feel it will make them “fat.” Not so. Eat small, healthy meals every 2-3 hours and the body will begin to work harder to break down any consumed food. It will also provide the body with more energy and alertness.
Women who are obese have the opportunity to reverse what months or years of unhealthy eating and the lack of exercise have created. It is imperative to do the things that will help improve the quality of life, confidence, and self-esteem. The time is now to win the war.
Sharon Smith is a certified personal trainer in the Atlanta area. For more information on healthy eating and exercise, or for a customized exercise program, contact her at sdsmith16.hotmail.com or by phone at 770.402.8854.