Health Update: Obesity – The Endemic Of The South

Health Update: Obesity – The Endemic of the South

One thing I know for sure, being from the South, is that people love to eat. There’s nothing like grilling out in the summer or Dale’s Donuts on a Saturday morning. How about a sweet tea or a three meat combo from the Rib Crib? There’s no shortage of rich, flavorful food in the Southeastern US, and Arkansas is no exception!

Unfortunately, along with all this delicious food comes a culture in which being overweight is the norm. It’s so prevalent that we start to not notice it anymore. And since we’re all overeating, we have forgotten when to stop. Did you know that Arkansas has the highest rate of obesity in the United States at 36%? Over one-third of all adults living in this state are obese.

And it’s not just Arkansas. Obesity has become endemic in many areas of the United States. People struggle with weight gain for so many reasons; it is impossible to find one simple “cure” for obesity that can treat everyone. Even so, as more and more people across the country fight this battle, more research is being done to find new treatments. There is a way out!

How do you even know if you’re overweight or obese? There’s a simple tool, called a BMI calculator, that can tell you where you rank. You can find one easily online, or use this formula: BMI = [weight in pounds / (height in inches x height in inches)] x 703. If your BMI is 18 to 24.9, you’re in the normal weight range. If it is 25 – 29.9, you’re considered overweight for your height. Any BMI over 30 is considered obese, and at over 35 start the qualifications for weight loss surgery.

Many people still think of surgery as a drastic or even scary way to lose weight, but today it is very common, safe, and effective. The risk of major complications from bariatric surgery is around 5-10% and getting lower every day. Others may think of weight loss surgery as a cosmetic procedure – having surgery to “get skinny.” But did you know that just being obese causes a host of medical problems? Obesity has been directly linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea, and heartburn. It is also a known risk factor for other conditions like strokes, heart disease, infertility, and even cancer.

Losing weight by any method can resolve many, and in most cases all, of these medical problems! No more taking blood pressure pills and insulin shots every day. No more sleeping with your CPAP machine. For many, bariatric surgery is a new lease on life. And since having bariatric surgery can reduce or eliminate the medical conditions that come with obesity, it can even be more cost-effective than treating those conditions as they arise. For that reason, most insurance companies cover the cost of bariatric surgery.

Now bariatric surgery certainly isn’t for everyone. If you just need to lose a few pounds or simply aren’t interested in surgery, there are still many exciting and proven options for weight loss. One of those options is a gastric balloon, where a small balloon is placed down through the mouth and into the stomach and inflated. It stays for six months and helps control portion sizes.

The balloon is very effective for weight loss in the ranges of 20-40lbs, and can be placed and removed without surgery. Another option is medication therapy, directed by a physician, to suppress the appetite.

Ultimately, whatever you choose to do, it will involve some changes in your diet and lifestyle. If you’re interested in trying some simple strategies to improve your health and lose weight, below is a short list of proven tips that are effective:

Don’t drink your calories. Coke and sweet tea are the worst offenders here! Choose water or a zero calorie sweetener in your beverage.

Reduce your portions. Get a smaller plate! If you’re going out to eat, ask for a takeout box when your food arrives. Then you can divide it in half and put half away for later. Out of sight, out of mind (and out of your stomach!).

Don’t eat two hours before bed. When you sleep your metabolism drops. It’s best to be up and moving around for a little while after eating so that your metabolism, which is still high from a day of activity, can have some time to burn off your dinner.

Choose protein. The body burns calories in order: carbs first, then fat, then protein. If you stick with meals that have a higher percentage of protein, your body will burn its own fat stores before turning to the food you’ve eaten. As an added benefit, protein keeps you feeling full and keeps your glucose and insulin levels more stable throughout the day. Good protein choices include lean meats (chicken, turkey, tuna, fish), as well as low-fat yogurt and eggs.

Get some exercise. At least 30 minutes of dedicated exercise three times per week can make a world of difference in your health. Exercise improves your circulation and suppresses your appetite. It also improves your mood and memory.

Get support! This is probably the most important and most effective tip of all. Everyone that you know eats. They have to make these same choices that you make every day. If you can find a friend and make healthy choices together, you’re both more likely to choose well and stick with it.

If you think you may be overweight or obese and you need help losing weight, contact your doctor or other primary care provider. A medically supervised diet and weight loss plan is usually more effective than trying to go it alone. If you are interested in surgical weight loss or would like to know more about the comprehensive weight loss solutions that we provide through Saline Surgical Associates, we would love to meet you and have the chance to help you move forward in your weight loss journey! Reaching out for help is the first step to a longer, healthier life!