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Increasing obesity an upcoming problem

Published June 16. 2012 09:01AM

Why'd it take five months to get the full story?

Last January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the rate at which adults were becoming obese was leveling off. The CDC based this claim on a comparison of 2003-4 and 2009-10 data reported in National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

This May at their Weight of the Nation conference, the CDC confirmed the January announcement, but they also shared something else. Using data collected from 1990 to 2008 as part of the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, they projected that in another 18 years the adult obesity rate would reach 42 percent.

Now the sudden change of story isn't the real story here. It's what this impending obesity increase could do to you and your finances.

If the obesity rate does escalate to 42 percent, that means an additional 32 million that's right, million adults will be obese, and obese people are a proven drain on the healthcare system. In fact, research from Duke University, RTI International, and the CDC estimates that the projected increase in obesity will cost $550 billion over the next 20 years.

But that drain on your wallet won't mean much if you're not around to pay it.

Being obese increases your odds of getting heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain forms of cancer. Getting any of these reduces your life span.

For example, a 50-year-old with Type 2 diabetes loses on average six years of life. Compare that to the average cigarette smoker of the same age. He or she loses seven.

So what can you do to avoid becoming one of the eventual 42 percent?

According to a recent study from Finland featured in the Tampa Bay Times, the one thing you don't want to do it is to go on a traditional diet. The research, led by Dr. Kirsi Pietilainen, found "that identical twins who attempt to lose weight tend to end up heavier than their nondieting siblings who have identical genes."

While a finding like that might suggest that any dieting is futile, it's my belief failed diets result from another failure: the failure to face one ironclad fact.

Permanent change only results from permanent change.

If that sounds like a ridiculous statement, that's because most dieters are ridiculous. They alter what they eat temporarily, lose weight, and then are surprised that the weight returns when they return to their old pounds-producing diet.

Worse, many quick-fix diets achieve a 20-pound weight loss by eliminating 10 pounds of body fat and 10 pounds of muscle mass. Now, when dieters revert back to their old eating habits, they actually gain more than the original amount of excess weight.

That's because muscle requires calories, something they now have 10 pounds less of, so they now need to eat as many as 500 fewer calories to keep the same weight as before the diet. Lifting weights during a diet, however, especially a moderate one, ensures that a far higher percentage of weight loss comes from body fat.

My ideal moderate diet, ironically enough, involves very little weight loss but a significant reduction of body fat.

If you would ask me to create a diet that allows you to drop 10 pounds, I'd have you eat 250 fewer calories per day. Because you'd be swapping many calorie-dense foods for calorie-sparse ones packed with fiber and water, you'd probably never feel hungry even though I'd ask you to increase your level of weightlifting and aerobic exercise so that would expend an additional 250 calories a day.

Doing both creates a 500-calorie daily deficit, which is usually as much as the body can handle without perceiving the reduction as famine, a perception that causes the body to reduce the rate at which it burns calories and catabolize muscle mass as a way to hoard body fat.

While a 500-calorie a day deficit should result in a loss of a pound per week, sometimes dieters only see half of that on the scale. That's because the additional weightlifting is adding muscle mass.

This is a good thing, especially if you were losing the weight to improve your appearance.

First, muscle is dense. It takes up 18 percent less area than one pound of fat. So a moderate diet that produces only a two-pound reduction on the scale, but does so by eliminating 10 pounds of body fat with eight pounds of muscle, creates the appearance that you've lost much more.

The weight in the form of fat eliminated from your hips and waist gets partially replaced by muscle in your shoulders, back, and chest, creating an aesthetically pleasing V-shape to the torso.

And don't forget an element to dieting that can't be stressed enough: more muscle means more calories need to be consumed for you to remain at whatever given weight you deem is right for you.

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