When you look around you it’s hard not to notice our struggle with weight these days. When you read newspaper or a magazine, or turn on the radio or TV – it is clear that our society deals with weight gain problem. In fact, two out of three adult Americans are overweight and one-third of the adult population is obese. Not only these numbers are high, but also the rate at which these numbers grow is frightening.
But what exactly do the terms “overweight” and “obese” mean? The standard measure to describe the physical size is body mass index (BMI). It represents the ratio between your body weight and height. According to most official standards, a person is overweight when the BMI is over 25, while obesity is when the BMI is over 30. The same scale is used for both men and women. You determine your BMI using the weight chart, which provides the necessary information.
The growing number of overweight and obese children is perhaps the most depressing element of this problem. About 15% of American children 6 to 19 years of age are overweight. Another 15% is exposed to the risk of being part of the overweight group.
Overweight children are faced with a wide range of psychological and social challenges. As we all know children can often be very cruel and playground can sometimes be a ruthless place. Making friends is much more difficult for children who are overweight and they are often considered to be lazy and sloppy. It is not uncommon that these children have behavioral and learning problems, and low self-esteem that can easily be formed during adolescence, and can last forever.
Many young people, who are overweight or obese, can also develop a number of medical problems. They often have high cholesterol levels, which may be a predictor of a number of life-threatening diseases. They are also more likely to have problems with glucose intolerance, and consequently diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, which was previously encountered only in adults, is now more and more frequent in young people. Obese children are nine times more likely to develop high blood pressure. Lack of sleep, which can cause neurocognitive problems, occurs in one out of ten obese children. Whole series of problems with the bones are more common in obese children. Most importantly, obese young people are far more likely to become obese adults, significantly increasing the probability of lifetime health problems.
Consequences for adults
If you are overweight, the reality is that you will not be able to do many things that could make your life more enjoyable. You will find it very difficult and tiring to play with your children (or grandchildren), as well as to walk long distances, participate in sports, find a comfortable seat in a movie theater or airplane or to have a normal sex life. In fact, even the everyday sitting may be impossible without having back pain or joint pain, as well as standing for some time. Carrying around too much body weight can dramatically affect the physical mobility, work, mental health, self-perception and social life. As you can see this is not about death, but it is about missing out on so many pleasant and important things in life.
It is clear that no one wants to be overweight. Why then two out of three American adults are overweight? Why is one-third of the population obese?
Lack of money is not a problem. In 1999, the medical costs related to obesity were estimated at 70 billion dollars. In 2002, just three years later, the American Association for the problem of obesity stated that the value of these costs exceeded $ 100 billion. That’s not all. Add to that another 30-40 billion dollars that we spend trying to maintain weight. Trying out special weight loss diets and taking pills to reduce appetite has become everyday routine for many.
This is a black hole of economy that swallows our money and offers nothing in return. Imagine paying $ 40 for repairing a leak under the sink, and then two weeks later pipes explode and flood the kitchen and you need to pay an extra $ 500 for the damage. I bet you wouldn’t call the same plumber again. Then why are we trying out these plans for weight loss, books, energy drinks and various other tricks when they don’t give us the promised results?
I applaud the people that are trying to achieve a healthy weight. I do not question the value and dignity of the people who are overweight. My criticism is directed at the social system that allows and even encourages this problem. Therefore, what we really need is a new solution made up of good information for ordinary people, which they can use at a price they can afford.
The solution to weight loss is mostly a plant-based diet, with a reasonable amount of exercise. This represents a long-term lifestyle change, not a quick fix solution, and can provide sustainable weight reduction while reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
Have you ever met someone who regularly eats fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains – and rarely, if ever, eats meat or foods with no nutritional value such as potato chips, French fries or candy? What is his or her weight? If you ever met such a person, you’ve probably noticed that they usually have a healthy weight.
Think about the traditional cultures around the world. Think of traditional Asian cultures (Chinese, Japanese, Indian), where for thousands of years, several billion people have consumed mostly plant-based diets. Usually when we think about Asian people we imagine them lean and fit.
Now imagine a man who bought two hot dogs and ordered his second beer at a baseball game, or a woman who orders a cheeseburger and fries at your local fast food restaurant. These people look different, right? Unfortunately, these people are becoming the “all-American” image.
Solving this problem requires no magic tricks or complex equations involving blood groups, counting calories or whatever. Simply trust your perception – what healthy and fit people eat, and what fat people eat. Or you can rely on some larger studies, which again show that vegetarians are slimmer than those who eat meat.
In one study, overweight participants were told to eat as much as they wanted, but only food that is low-fat, unprocessed and plant origin. Within three weeks these people, on average, lost about 16 pounds.
Published results of some other studies that have used plant-based diet with low fat foods are:
- After twelve days – participants lost about 3-4 pounds
- After three weeks – participants lost about 8-10 pounds
- After one year – participants lost about 25-30 pounds
All these results show that plant-based diet with whole foods will help you lose weight, and moreover, it can happen quickly. The only question is how much can you lose. After the initial weight loss, weight can be maintained easily if you continue with such a diet. The most important is that the weight loss in this manner is consistent and brings long-term health.
Some people, of course, can be on the plant-based diet and not lose weight. There are several good reasons for that. First and foremost, it is far less likely to lose weight with a plant-based diet if the diet contains too many processed carbohydrates. Sweets, cakes and pasta will not help. These foods are rich in easily digested sugars and they are not part of a plant-based diet.
Another reason for not losing weight is that the person does not perform any physical activity. A reasonable amount of physical activity, which is at least 4 days a week, can be very helpful.
Of course, certain people have such genetics, so the weight loss process is much more difficult for them. If that’s the case with you, I can only tell you to be especially rigorous in terms of diet and exercise. In rural China, we have noted that obese people simply do not exist, although Chinese immigrants in Western countries can sometimes be overweight. As recently, diet and way of life of people in China is becoming more similar to ours, so their bodies are also becoming similar to our own.
Weight loss is a long-term lifestyle choice
Various products and tricks that help us lose weight fast do not have long term effects. If the weight increases gradually, over a period of several months or years, why do you expect that you can lose it healthy and in a few weeks? Weight loss is not a race, so don’t rush it.