Obesity is pervasive across a broad spectrum of society, becoming a national epidemic. We eat more high- calorie, high-fat foods today than ever before. Until recently, little was done to promote healthy lifestyles. In 2016 the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) (https://www.bing.com/profile/history?FORM=EDGEHS) mandated health information labels be placed on foods to help consumers understand what they are consuming. Restaurants and fast food outlets have begun listing nutritional facts, as well.
Weight gain may begin in childhood in families where parents overeat and transfer unhealthy eating habits to their children, perpetuating those harmful practices. In a nutshell, we gain weight when we take in more calories than we expend. Opportunities to overeat exist everywhere, and this ease of access does little to mitigate our lust for unhealthy foods. In the last 20 years, portions at fast food outlets and restaurants have spiraled out of control. Restaurants use large portions as an effective marketing tool, luring us to these super-size helpings.
During childbearing years, women gain weight throughout pregnancy and may find it difficult to lose afterwards. If they have subsequent children, they may compound the weight because they have not shed pounds from the previous pregnancy. By the time they are finished raising their children, the fluctuating hormones in menopause impact metabolism, and the cycle starts over again.
As noted in Scholars Strategy Network (http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/brief/why-poverty-leads-obesity-and-life-long-problems), those in disadvantaged areas are more vulnerable to obesity because of the barriers that prevent healthy eating habits. Limited finances of families in poorer neighborhoods, where there is an inordinate number of fast food outlets and small stores with inexpensive, high-fat foods, increases the likelihood of obesity. Cheap high-fat foods have a longer shelf life than fresh fruits and vegetables or healthier cuts of meats. Add to this the lack of exercise, generally due to inadequate venues to keep fit, and it may become a lifelong struggle.
The effects of weight gain permeate every aspect of our lives, such as sleep deprivation, poor attitude or behavior, and more stress, declares the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/risks). Overweight people often suffer from low self-esteem and depression, beginning the cycle of overeating to feel better, and then gaining weight, making them feel even more depressed. Not only is their psyche affected, their physical health is often compromised as well. They may suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, bone and joint disorders, or other health-related issues that shorten their life span. Overeating may also interfere with sleep patterns, causing low energy and mood swings.
In addition, many overweight individuals lack self-confidence, so interaction with others becomes difficult, causing them to withdraw, which feeds into their depression and continues the cycle. According to Forbes at (https://www.forbes.com/sites/moneybuilder/2011/07/27/the-financial-cost-of-obesity/2/#5c87bb8062cd), ongoing health problems could even affect their finances through higher insurance premiums or loss of income because of absences associated with health issues.
To effectively lose weight and keep it off requires a change in mindset. Sheer willpower cannot maintain weight loss, according to Harvard Health Publications (https://www.health.harvard.edu/search?q=weight+gain). Eating mindlessly while watching television, reading, or just “grazing” distracts us from the purpose of eating, which is to fuel our bodies and to experience the food. It is much easier to lose weight than to keep it off, so we use different inducements, such as placing a picture of how we want to look on the refrigerator or buying a smaller size, planning to fit into it when we lose the weight. While these incentives may be a temporary aid, it is true commitment that distinguishes the half-hearted attempt from the resolution to improve overall health.
Yo-yo dieting is an undesirable practice because you actually lose less weight. These inconsistent practices slow the metabolism, burning fewer calories in the long run. Real commitment to weight loss requires a change in the way we relate to food in order to sustain these new habits. Surrounding ourselves with healthy food makes it easier to stop bingeing. After a while, the cravings for unhealthy foods cease. When we do have some of the “forbidden food,” we may find it is not as appetizing as we thought it would be.
Body image is very important. When we feel good about how we look, we get an “endorphin rush,” sending euphoric highs to other parts of our lives. We smile more; we are happier, more confident, and more interested in the opposite sex. All these positive effects of losing weight can be summed up with the physical, emotional and psychological elements working in unison to give us a sense of peace and satisfaction that may not be possible otherwise. We all, whether men, women or children, want to feel confident and able to put forth our best selves, and maintaining a healthy weight, because we value and honor ourselves, facilitates the means by which other aspects of our lives thrive.