Years ago, we used to call it, baby fat or going through that chubby phase. Those references seemed to innocently describe a transient phase that a few kids on the margins went through. Now, BMI or body mass index, obesity and morbid obesity are a part of the health lexicon. The words sound more ominous, and they are.
The National Institute of Health just released a report that describes an impending crisis for the health of our nation. Like many of my contemporaries, I have been engaged in a struggle to maintain a normal weight for years. When I was able to run almost every day, I was able to maintain a healthy weight. After several knee operations, I was unable to run and my weight became a problem again. On some level, weight control is simple, burn most of the calories you take in. Move more eat less. Sounds simple right?
Evidently, I am not alone in my struggle with obesity. More than two thirds of American adults are considered overweight. Estimates indicate that almost forty percent of school age youth are overweight. Youth obesity is seen as a gathering storm by health researchers. Unless this dangerous trend can be reversed, American life expectancy will fall farther behind other developed nations. Life expectancy has clearly not reached its zenith in United States yet. In fact, twenty other developed nations have a life expectancy that exceeds ours. France, Germany, Sweden, England all have longer life spans. Japanese life expectancy is five years greater than ours is.
Evolutionary lifestyle changes have no doubt contributed to obesity. For most, little physical effort is required to satisfy our basic needs. For most, water is not drawn from the brook, firewood is not gathered for heat and food is available by riding in a car to the store. Additionally, television watching captures a good portion of our discretionary time.
Anecdotally speaking, I suspect that youth have simply watched their parents and adopted their sedentary lifestyles. Less than half of American children participate in physical education and most are not physically challenged when they do participate.
My generation, baby boomers, are perhaps the most culpable. Over the next ten years, millions of boomers will retire. In all likelihood, we will take our toxic lifestyles to the sidelines with us. I predict that succeeding generations will see the failings of boomer behavior and make adaptive changes. Although most boomers' parents smoked and did not wear seat belts, most boomers smoked dramatically less and overwhelmingly, do wear seatbelts. Succeeding generations always learn from the previous one. I suspect that there is a lot to learn from boomers. Remember, all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org