Gift From Within



By Carol Woodbury CES

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Obesity is a major public health problem with both genetic and environmental causes; however, the strongest causes appear to be environmental.

Obesity is defined as an excessively high amount of body fat or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass. Body Mass Index (BMI) is the measurement used to determine degree of overweight or obesity. This measurement uses a ratio of height to weight. Most healthcare providers or fitness centers have a BMI table available if you would like to know your BMI.

It is alarming to learn that the rate of obesity in Americans has increased by 60 percent between 1991 and 2000. The rates have doubled in children in the past 20 years. At this rate, obesity will overtake smoking as the nation’s leading cause of preventable death according to the former U.S. Surgeon General, David Satcher. Obesity is at epidemic proportions. It is a complicated problem because of the messages about eating well in most health campaigns is not straightforward. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that if all physically inactive Americans became active, we’d save $77 billion in medical costs.

Additionally, talking about obesity is difficult. Although most people would not take offense if their doctor told them they had high blood pressure, heart disease or high cholesterol, they often feel being told they are obese is discriminatory or negative.

It is important to understand the potential health consequences of obesity. People with a Body Mass Index (BMI) in excess of 25 risk the following physical ailments:

  • High Blood Pressure, hypertension
  • High Blood Cholesterol, dyslipidemia
  • Type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes
  • Insulin resistance, glucose intolerance
  • Hyperinsulinemia
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Angina pectoris
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Gallstones
  • Cholescystitis and cholelithiasis
  • Gout
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Obstructive sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Some types of cancer (i.e. endometrial, breast, prostate, and colon)
  • Complications of pregnancy
  • Poor female reproductive health
  • Bladder control problems, Uric acid nephrolithiasis
  • Psychological disorders (depression, eating disorders, distorted body image
What can you do? Most people would like to attain and maintain a certain quality of life, but how do we make successful lifestyle changes that are sustainable? Mindful eating (which means eating while doing nothing else and only when you are hungry), taking time to eat at the table, watching portion sizes, eating from all of the food groups and getting regular exercise. These are the easy answers but they don’t always address real issues that underlie overeating. People who are seriously overweight often times eat to nurture something that they are not receiving in their lives. Learning to eat for nourishment rather than eating for emotional support is a difficult process that can require the assistance of a counselor.

It is important to have support from family, friends, or a group when you begin your lifestyle change. It is difficult to make a change like this on your own. Seek out a professional who has experience establishing an exercise and eating program. Make certain that, that person is willing to check-in with you during the program and after the program has ended. There are very few people who have the self-discipline and self-esteem to lose weight on their own and then to keep the weight off. Use your support system.

As a practical matter, learn that the ratio of ENERGY IN – ENERGY OUT is most important! If you eat more calories than your body needs to use, then the additional calories will be stored as fat and will cause a weight gain. Consider a regular exercise program of weight training and aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes a day 4 to 5 days a week in order to burn more calories. The more muscle fiber you have the more calories you will burn. Additionally, exercise helps increase energy levels, has been shown to help with depression and aids in increasing your metabolic rate. Once you begin to have some success the process becomes easier and you’ll begin to like the way you feel.

Carol Woodbury, co-owner of Optimum Performance, Personal Training and Group Exercise is certified through the American Council on Exercise as a Clinical Exercise Specialist, Personal Trainer, Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant and as a T'ai Chi and Chi Kung Instructor through American Aerobics Association International and International Sports Medicine Association and is a Reiki Master. She works with special populations including clients with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue and post-rehabilitative clients.


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Page created on 2 September 2003
Last updated by on 21 October 2004