While glancing at a USA Today newspaper this week, we took notice of the announcement that 53-year-old baby boomer, Kirstie Alley will be starring in a proposed new TV series for Showtime Networks, Inc. If you've been to a supermarket within the past six months, we're sure that you've had the opportunity to view the numerous unflattering photos of Kirstie since she's put on a significant amount of weight.
The new TV series is an adult comedy that deals with Hollywood's obsession with weight and beauty. However, after viewing the photos of a very large, Kirstie Alley, can we truly state that all weight and beauty obsessions are bad?
Let's be clear about our definition of weight and beauty obsessions. We are NOT including the extremes of anorexia or bulimia and the extremes of today's bodybuilders pumped full of steroids.
We are defining a healthy weight and beauty obsession as one where physique goals yield positive health benefits and increased longevity. Kirstie Alley may be poking fun of her newly expanded physique in this upcoming comedy series, but is obesity and the increased health risks associated with excess weight a laughing matter?
The National Institute of Health states:
Up to 300,000 deaths in the US are attributed to obesity each year. In addition, a significant number of medical conditions are linked to obesity.
Obesity Increases Risk Factors For:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Gallbladder disease and gallstones
- Liver disease
- Pulmonary problems, including sleep apnea
- Reproductive problems in women
In addition to these health related risks, obese people suffer emotionally in a society where attractiveness is associated with a fit physique. It is reported that such messages make overweight people "feel unattractive." Perhaps this segment of the population would benefit from the healthy obsession where fit physiques correlate with health. Rather than feel unattractive, a change in perspective to feeling unhealthy might change the trajectory of the obesity epidemic.
Americans today are accused of not taking responsibility for anything, with the rise in frivolous litigation cases serving as an example. The relatively new area of obesity litigation provides an egregious example of a victim mentality where obese clients are suing fast food chains for causing their obesity.
How minuscule an IQ does one have to have that one needs to be told that hamburgers and French fries are not health food? And who is making the decision to purchase that super-sized drink and fries with the double cheeseburger?
What happened to the concept of portion size? Yes, the fast food chains offer a large variety of foods in an assortment of sizes, but an offering is just that, an offering. The consumer makes the decision to purchase.
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Another good is example of this victim mentality is Karen Jones, chairman of the Connecticut chapter of a group dedicated to the proposition that "fat is beautiful" - the National Association to Aid Fat Americans (NAAFA). "I had gone on diets," she said, "but long before I joined NAAFA, I had concluded it was totally hopeless. I decided I could spend the rest of my 1ife worrying about my weight or I could live as a human being."
Unfortunately, Ms. Jones choice to "live" as a human being puts her at risk for an obesity related premature death or an obesity related serious health disorder such as cancer, stroke or heart attack. Is living the life of a cancer patient or stroke survivor truly considered living? Is the desire for enormous quantities of junk food worth the price of an untimely death?
Obesity, an excessively high amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass, is a chronic disorder which occurs over a long period of time as a result of consistent bad choices. Currently, more than 60% of American adults are considered overweight with more than 25% also considered obese. Men with more than 25% body fat and women with more than 30% body fat are considered obese.
Health care providers state that obesity is a result of an energy imbalance created by eating too many calories and engaging in too little physical activity, so more calories are ingested than burned. Genetics, the environment and behaviors examined over a long period of time, all play a role in the current obesity epidemic.
Many obese people blame this condition on genetics. However, while genetics may increase the risk for obesity, personal choices about the types and quantities of foods influence the energy imbalance. "Despite obesity having strong genetic determinants, the genetic composition of the population does not change rapidly. Therefore, the large increase in… [obesity] must reflect major changes in non-genetic factors."
Personal choice to remain sedentary also negatively influences the energy imbalance. People, not genetics make the choice to take in additional calories, remain inactive and create an environment that results in unhealthy weight gain.
Many blame the broad number of food choices and the myriad of fast food restaurants as the cause for obesity. But, let's face it. In an instant gratification society, people make the choice to put taste and convenience ahead of nutrition which leads to an over consumption of high-fat, high carbohydrate meals.
Psychological factors have also been examined with correlations to obesity. While psychological factors influence eating in response to anger, boredom and depression, overweight people do not have a higher rate of psychological problems than average weight people.
Our message is clear. In spite of Hollywood's planned glorification of obesity in response to an American obsession with weight, we advocate a healthy obsession towards achieving physique goals. Obsessions which result in an attractive, fit and healthy body helps the baby boomer generation continue to redefine the aging process with reduced risks of debilitating health disorders and reduced risks of premature death while looking fit and attractive as an added bonus. An obsession that yields longevity with a high quality of life is one we deem as a healthy obsession.
We have choices to make about our weight and it is within our power to exercise these choices. You can make the choice to fall down the path of genetic tendencies towards obesity by eating junk foods and avoiding exercise or you can make the choice to be healthy by exercising and consuming moderate amounts of nutrient dense calories. Anyone can find 30 minutes each day to exercise and no one has too eat too many calories. The choice is yours. Make it a good one!
Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC.
Richard Baldwin, Member. Legendary Physique, LLC.
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Copyright 2004. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved.
The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.
- Center for Disease Control. Defining overweight and obesity.
- Center for Disease Control. Frequently asked questions. Available: Here.
- Center for Disease Control. Factors contributing to obesity.
- National Institute of Health. Do you know the health risks of being overweight? Available: Here.
- National Institute of Health. Understanding adult obesity. Available: Here.