By Charlyn Fargo
As a nation, we continue to eat too much. That may not be surprising news to some of us. By 2030, just 10 short years away, nearly 1 out of every 2 adults in this country will have obesity, and nearly 1 in 4 adults will have severe obesity, according to a new report.
Over the time period from 1999 to 2018, the obesity prevalence increased about 12%, from 30.5% of Americans to 42.4% of Americans. Severe obesity almost doubled. The study was conducted by Dr. Craig Hales, a medical epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, predicts that 29 states (mostly Southern and Midwestern states), will have obesity rates over 50%, while all 50 states will see rates of at least 35%. Severe obesity (about 100 pounds overweight) is predicted to be higher than 25% in 25 states.
Why the concern? Obesity is associated with Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, arthritis, gallbladder disease and more.
But we all know it’s hard to lose weight, and there are no simple answers. As a nation, we’re blessed to have an abundance of food, including high-calorie, energy-dense foods that are easy to overeat.
Add to that sedentary jobs and busy lives. Too often, we are guilty of distracted eating – eating while we’re doing other things – which results in overeating.
My best advice? Eat according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate rather than a fad diet, which often results in gaining more weight than was lost. Focus on eating a variety of whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. Make food at home so you can control the calories. Try keeping track of your calories with an app such as MyFitnessPal or Lose It. Studies have shown even the simple act of tracking helps many lose weight.
Step by Step
Most of us wish there was a simple solution to weight loss and eating healthier. If there was just a pill we could take, or a three-point plan we could follow, that would magically result in good health, we would do that. It just doesn’t work that way. Like most things in life, it’s a journey. It’s the daily choices that put us on the path to better health.
Consider a recent study on walnuts. A new long-term observational study from the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that after analyzing more than 20 years of data, the consumption of nuts, including walnuts, was associated with less weight gain and less risk of obesity in adults. Specifically, increasing walnuts and other tree nuts by just half a serving per day was associated with a 15% and an 11% lower risk of developing obesity, respectively. These findings held true even after considering diet and exercise changes.
The key is to take that first step: Include a handful of walnuts in a trail mix or sprinkled on your morning oatmeal. And it’s not just walnuts; that’s not the point. Healthy eating takes discipline – like that exercise plan – of being intentional about what you’re eating. Are you getting enough fruits and vegetables, water, whole grains, healthy fats (think salmon and walnuts), lean protein and low-fat dairy? It’s important that you don’t skip carbohydrates, fats or proteins; include moderate amounts of each.
I still believe in that timeless advice – moderation, balance and variety – and that goes for walnuts as well.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Illinois, and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD.