OBESITY: The Physical, Emotional and Financial Costs

This is a difficult subject to write about because it involves subject areas that are politically sensitive. I will attempt to convey this sensitive material factually while attempting to be respectful.  This is a very important topic that affects better than 30 percent of the adult population and approximately 18-25 percent of children. If we include the category “overweight”, the adult percentage shoots up to approximately 70 percent and the child/adolescent increases to approximately 33 percent.

A BRIEF HISTORY:

What changes have occurred over the decades that have lead to this current epidemic?  From the 1950’s to the 1970’s food accessibility and selection was very different.  We had significantly less fast food and less processed food.  There were significantly less households with both parents employed full time.  There was significantly more outdoor activity time and schools had more hours devoted to physical education.

Today, with the advent of technology, students and working parents spend more hours of the day behind computer screens. The work day has increased in duration and the amount of family time together has decreased.  This has resulted in less grocery shopping, less food preparation, less time for physical activities and increased levels of stress for both parents and children.  Today the food supply consists heavily of meat that is filled with antibiotics, hormones, pesticides preservatives and dyes to retain the color; fish that has heavy metal toxicity and questionable processing methods; long shelf life products loaded with various forms of sugar (high fructose corn syrup in most packaged products) and high in sodium and saturated fats; and the latest controversial products banned by many countries outside the United States known as GMO (genetically modified organisms) products. Approximately 80 percent of processed, non organic foods today are made from foods that have been genetically modified and the food industry is NOT REQUIRED to inform the consumer.

The above history clearly demonstrates the changes in lifestyle and eating and the current results they have created. Intervention is desperately needed to reverse this trend.

THE PHYSICAL COMPONENT:

The degree of physical damage that most obese people experience over their lifetime is a gradual continual process resulting in various disease states of dis-health and ultimately death.  As we eat food, the digestive system breaks it down so the circulatory system (blood system) can feed all the different parts of the body. Heavily processed foods, foods containing foreign substances including dyes and chemical sweeteners, trans fats, saturated fats, large amounts of sugar and salt either directly affect the blood vessels and/or the organs the blood vessels supply.  This leads to:

  • clogged blood vessels unable to provide nutrients and oxygen
  • toxicity to the liver causing liver damage (which filters everything that enters the body)
  • toxicity to the kidneys causing kidney damage (our second major filter removing substances that could be lethal)
  • excess blood sugar that leads to diabetes
  • heart disease
  • respiratory compromise (such as sleep apnea or asthma)
  • nerve damage (that leads to hand, foot and leg pain making it extremely painful and difficult to walk or do activities involving the hands.)
  • gall bladder disease (from duct damage and gall stones)
  • blindness (from aneurysms causing blood vessels in the eyes to explode)
  • amputations of limbs as a result of gangrene
  • stroke
  • arthritis
  • various forms of cancer (including breast, prostate and colon)

Today we need to include children and their disease issues as a result of the complications that childhood obesity causes. These include:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • insulin resistance
  • diabetes
  • joint pain
  • arterial plaque (resulting in blood vessels with less space for blood flow)
  • heartburn
  • fatty liver disease
  • gallstones

This bleak picture has not provided enough incentive for people to change their lifestyles.  It is my opinion that this proves that the “cure” to this epidemic requires dealing with ALL components of obesity and not just focusing on food and exercise. These components include: (1) emotional, (2) spiritual, (3) social, (4) physical {encompassing exercise and nutrition} and (5) financial. The rest of this article will address the emotional and financial components.

THE EMOTIONAL COMPONENT:

As a physician I have treated many people that were obese.  In over 20 years of practice, I can attest to significant depression in a majority of the patients.  It is likely that this depression stems from internal and external sources.  Externally, there is a great deal of societal pressure and discrimination.  Internally, there is a lack of self esteem and self worth.  These pressures promote the vicious cycle of unneeded eating to satisfy a temporary desire to “feel good.”  As the person continues to gain weight, their physical abilities become limited and painful.  This leads to an increase in sedentary living and ultimately increased consumption of food out of boredom.

There are some who claim that obesity is a desired healthy lifestyle. Many of those who make such claims are in denial of the facts.  This lifestyle is dangerous and limiting.  This commentary in no way is intended to pass judgement. In better than 95% of the cases, this lifestyle results in a severe compromise to the quality of life or leads to an early death.  Some use blood work to prove they are “healthy” because their results are within normal limits.  All this proves is that the body can take tremendous abuse in some cases before signs of disease surface. The Centers For Disease Control estimated that obesity related complications cost 147 billion dollars in 2008.  This has affected the premium costs for ALL those paying for health insurance. Until we open our eyes to the reality of this condition, the obese will continue to suffer physically and the rest of the population will continue to suffer financially. Correcting this problem becomes a win-win solution.

Professional assistance with experienced health care providers (chiropractors, osteopaths, naturopaths, medical practitioners) and experienced counselors is highly recommended.  In addition, introspection to find the meaning of happiness through activities, people and anything you are passionate for (in place of eating) will place you on a healthier path. Breaking the vicious cycle of inactivity, depression and eating is the key.

FINANCIAL COMPONENT:

“Eating healthy is too expensive!”  I have heard this mantra most of my professional life.  It is only a half truth.  Healthier food tends to cost more, however, as we begin a healthier regimen of eating, the quantity is reduced.  In addition, the obese individual spends more than $1,400.00/yr. in medical costs IN ADDITION TO the medical expenditures of a person of average weight.  There are also surgical ramifications and other medical procedures that add $20,000.00 to over $200,000.00 in medical costs from complications resulting from obesity.  Therefore, it is my opinion that an extra $1.00 or $2.00 or $3.00 per item to spend on healthier choices is significantly less costly and less painful than the alternative.

CONCLUSION:

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions and needs to be addressed by anyone who can help. Doctors, support groups, the food industry, and those currently obese need to participate if a solution is going to be achieved.  The answer will never be found in a pill or a surgical procedure, because the problem is NOT simply a physical one.  Each person will need to have the various components addressed based on their needs.  The important thing to realize is:

A SOLUTION EXISTS!

For many, the challenges will be ongoing similar to the alcoholic that faces their addiction.  Stress is a major catalyst that triggers destructive behaviors.  Prior to having a stressful episode, prepare yourself with channels (activities) that reduce the stressful situation to a more tolerable level. These channels should create a positive self image and a “feel good” response disassociated with food. Some people turn to music, reading, art, writing, volunteering to help others, etc…

If you want to begin a new life today, make the decison to take control of your life.  I will gladly help with any questions you may have. Simply leave a comment on this article and I will reply.  If you find this helpful, please share this on facebook, twitter and other venues of social media to let people know they are important and cared about.  This is a health concern we can all participate in to help each other. 

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32 comments

  1. Excellent! You are absolutely correct. Between profit driven industries, and of course they all are, and the science we have turned people into foodaholics. I try to eat from the earth, but even with that we don’t always know what is leaching in our soils. If you don’t mind, I would love to repost this article. Great Job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a person in the “living over 50 category” I appreciate your sentiments and agree with you. The food industry is giving the consumer exactly what he and she wants; convenience and relatively low cost. The price of this “food” without nutrients will result in a continued diminished state of health unless dialogue convinces the consumer that change is essential. I have read some of your posts and you provide a picture of someone seeking balance in life. It is a pleasure reading your works. If you ever need additional advice on health matters, please feel free to ask. Over my 20+ years as a doctor I have worked with patients with all types of health maladies. Stay focused, stay healthy and happy.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank You, it is difficult to sort it all out as their are so many mixed messages out there. We are just recently starting to understand gut bacteria and I can’t wait to see the research through the next 10 years or so. What I have learned that it is so important to stick strictly to a natural diet. Eating those foods that were fresh from nature as it has been for millions of years. If it has a label, don’t touch it. Living in a manufactured society makes it difficult to eat this way. I am growing my own food, eating only pasture raised grass fed meats and purchasing from local small farms. Over the last 20 years how have you changed your opinion about nutrition?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s interesting that you mentioned probiotics. When my patients were prescribed antibiotics 20 years ago, I was instructing them on the necessity of including a regimen of probiotics to prevent dysbiosis. Allopaths laughed at my recommendations back then. It seems they’re not laughing today. I also looked at foods on a macro level and was less concerned about artificial ingredients, processed foods and the conditions our foods are grown/raised in. Your posting has elevated my energy and faith in people. It is a breath of fresh air to see others recognizing the importance of lifestyle modification that enhances the quality of life. Many view this shift in lifestyle as a compromise to happiness. When one begins to live with these new principles, life is filled with greater opportunities.
          I have also learned the importance of incorporating foods that people enjoy into a quality nutrition plan. Dieting will never be a long term solution. Tell people to avoid foods they enjoy and one will see a yo-yo response. Teach people how to incorporate indulgences into a nutrition plan and long term success is achievable.
          You sound like you are on a wonderful path. I look forward to reading more about your journey.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Yes, this approach works well. It’s all about falling in love with new healthy choices. As more people catch on the more the demand will become from small responsible farmers and ranchers. I am already seeing it here in Oregon especially at all of our farmers markets. It’s an exciting time.

            Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on Simple Living Over 50 and commented:
    I love this post as it explains a broader picture of where we were and where we are now when it comes to obesity.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. billgasiamis · · Reply

    Great Article. I share a lot of your views and have done a lot of work to understand how we got to be in the predicament we face regarding the lack of health in todays society. I’m so glad that physicians are now starting to take a similar approach to you. as a father of 2 teens I can see that the tied is turning back in their favour and the once iron grip of the never ending greedy corporates selling their snake oils for profit is for the first time in a long time starting to loosen. Bill

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate your view and recognize that change is achievable, but requires due diligence to get the public to recognize the severity of this problem. Your teenage children stand a significantly better chance of both good health and happiness as a result or your awareness on this topic. I wish you and your family all the best. Thank you again for participating on my blog site.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I came to the same conclusions myself but finally overcame the depression associated with it and started to walk. My walks in nature gave me more time to think. Being in a natural environment, encouraged positive thinking. The vicious downward spiral you mentioned began to work in reverse for me. The more I did about improving my health, the more I was able to do and the more I WANTED to do. Before I knew it I had discovered and implemented a whole raft of “life hacks” that work for me. This is an on-going journey that I have been sharing in my own blog. I too feel that it is important to spread the word.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this on on beacon ridge and commented:
    This is what has been on my mind for quite a while now. Glad to find someone that feels the same way I do.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great article! In my current job I see a lot of people who are under 25 who already have a lot of fat around their waist and eat really unhealthy foods. I get a lot of comments about the way I eat and how ‘skinny’ I am, just because I choose not to eat fried or sugary food. I’m scared for what their lifestyle will do for our general health and especially the health of their children. Are we really heading into a world where children don’t outlive their parents?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not certain which potential picture is more bleak; a world where our children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, or a world where our children will live as long or longer (due to technology) with bodies so diseased and quality of life so compromised that their will to live becomes questionable?
      This world offers too much to allow these to ever become viable options. I believe in the goodness of people and feel time and exposure to the realities in life will pave a way toward optimistic outcomes.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I totally agree! We can do so much now a days that we can extent people’s life’s past the point that people are actually living, but they’re just alive…
        We’re so spoiled that we take everything van granted and don’t think about what we do to ourselves, the people around us and the world.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Reblogged this on Moms Work At Home Network and commented:
    According to Webmd.com Up to one out of every five children in the U.S. is overweight or obese, and this number is continuing to rise.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Great read! I have changed my whole lifestyle, beginning with a clean diet. I try to use “one ingredient” foods in my meal planning and recipes. Thank you for intelligently conveying my beliefs that radical diet changes and n the last 50 years absolutely contribute to several of the health problems we are seeing today.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much for the positive feedback. As I read about more and more people changing their lifestyle, I am always curious what the factors were that pushed each individual to make this new commitment to him or herself. If you don’t mind me asking, what influenced your decision? Please do not feel any pressure responding. I certainly respect everyone’s privacy.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great article, I enjoyed reading it. I would add a Genetic Component. Thanks for liking my blog

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When discussing Type I, you are absolutely correct regarding the genetic factor. Type II is more likely a self induced problem from the S.A.D. (standard american diet) eating, although a genetic predisposition can exist. However, this predisposition does not have to be expressed if the individual is capable and disciplined enough to incorporate the various lifestyle changes needed to avoid this outcome.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Reblogged this on facing50fit and commented:
    Great article about changes in the food we eat over the last 50 years, and how it has affected obesity levels and health issues related to obesity in the U.S.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Great article. Unfortunately the obesity epidemic is going to continue and get worse unless political solutions are found. Successive governments, particularly in the US and UK have given in to the food lobby who in turn are hell bent in feeding sugar laden junk to the populace for profit.

    I know people don’t like the “nanny state” but by the same token a firm smack is needed when a third of people in our countries don’t even go out and vote! Capitalism as we know is failing us and a rethink is urgently needed if we are to stop this downward spiral!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hopefully, I am just one of many voices to continue this dialogue to help educate the public about the realities of various health issues. Advertisers know the public needs to be exposed to a product or service 6-12 times before action is taken. As we communicate the message repeatedly that “Quality of Life” is the responsibility of the individual and that doctors only act in a supporting role, greater understanding and change will occur. Remember, PAIN and PLEASURE are the two words in the English language that motivate behavior. When enough pain or pleasure is experienced (both emotional and physical) lives move in a new direction.
      Looking forward to hearing from you in the future. Thank you for your support.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Reblogged this on Singh of the Mountains and commented:
    Great article. I would encourage my friends to read and be inspired into action!

    Like

  13. What still shocks me is that most people don’t realize that obesity is a sign of severe malnutrition! It is not possible to to get proper nutrition with the foods that the industries want us to eat.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are absolutely correct. The belief that quantity somehow provides adequate nutrition based solely on volume is a myth. Unfortunately, even the “good foods” lack the quality of nutrition as a result of soil nutrient depletion and soil toxicity. We live in a world wearing blinders. If we can’t taste, feel, smell, touch or see a problem, we believe it doesn’t exist. This naive attitude can be dangerous. Therefore, rather than live in fear and anxiety, we must learn to do the best we can with the tools that are available to us. Your site is a great example of such a tool. I believe we can have a gratifying full life by putting a little effort behind our thoughts. I have learned from blogging there are a lot of good caring people looking to assist each other to enhance the quality of everyone’s life. Puts a big smile on my face. Thank you for taking the time to view my article.

      Like

  14. Great article; I totally enjoyed reading it.

    I however disagree with the statement that excess blood sugar (consumption) leads to diabetes. There is no connection between the two.

    There are two common types of diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, and type 2 has to do with insulin resistance. I have a type 2. There is also Diabetes Insipidus that happens as a result of a kidney problem. None of these is connected to excess sugar consumption.

    Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. @jncthedc:

    Are you saying that type 2 diabetes is preventable? As per ADA website along with a few others, it has nothing to do with eating too much sugar. ADA says it’s a myth.

    Genetics certainly play a role, such as family history of the type 2.

    Here now, see for yourself: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/myths/

    Like

  16. I am saying that in most cases type 2 diabetes is preventable. There is research that swings from genetics all the way across to lifestyle. My experience has shown that health issues rarely are caused by 1 thing or event. Sugar is the enemy, however, I am referring to the carbohydrate metabolic process (not just sugary foods.) The end result of the carbohydrate metabolic process is sugar. If the body needs this sugar for fuel,(ex. exercise) it will be utilized. If the body produces too much sugar early on, it will be converted to glycogen and stored. If this behavior continues, too much stress is placed on the pancreas over time the eventual outcome is insulin resistance. This limits the bodies ability to pull sugar from the blood into the cells of the body resulting eventually in diabetes.

    Family (genetic) history is also a tricky subject. This is because families have a tendency to repeat patterns of behavior including dietary habits. This is true for high cholesterol as well. Genetic predisposition makes a person more inclined to develop a health malady, but, lifestyle can prevent this predisposition from expressing itself. It requires a more disciplined approach.

    Exercise, body mass composition, stress, sleep all effect the body’s ability to regulate function.
    As a society we have a propensity to want a simple cause and effect explanation. It usually does not work this way. If people focused on balancing the various components required for maximal health, diseases would be reduced by a huge number including diabetes type 2.
    I hope this clears up some confusion. Thank you for the website reference (basic myths) and for your input.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for the explanation, I appreciate you taking the time to do that. It seems however that you’re trying to rephrase your earlier statement about eating too much sugar as a cause of diabetes. I reiterate, nothing can be further from the truth. You however are entitled to your opinion.

    Like

  18. Congress can take a lesson from us. We have voiced our opinions which clearly differ, yet we can continue to listen to each other in a respectful manner. In addition, it is obvious that each of us has an emotional attachment to the subject. I will continue to read all I can to continue to learn. Any doctor that believes they have all the knowledge available is a doctor I have no interest in dealing with. Closed minded attitudes can’t develop and grow. I truly appreciate your comments and your willingness to listen to varying opinions. Keep searching for truth… it is worth the journey.
    Yours in good health.

    Like

  19. synergynow66 · · Reply

    Retreat from society for a year or two/ toss all gadgetry over a cliff/ identify the source of your life and commune with him hence forth/ reengage people as one whom practices ‘other-centeredness’, than life is good!….. my take any way.

    Like

    1. I apologize for not communicating the complexities of this issue if all you were able to see was the message you conveyed. This health care dilemma is a worldwide issue that requires more that a rationally conceived “game plan” of attack. The approach you mention seems unrealistic and impartial. I do not believe that life is good one day and bad the next. I believe there is an enormous amount of effort required from everyone to help reduce the volatility in people’s lives. I believe there are various components to quality living that are essential to help redirect people’s thinking and actions. I think your cut and dry take away likely missed the boat. Again, I apologize for not clearly presenting my case.

      Like

      1. synergynow66 · · Reply

        Loosen up dude. toooo anal…. no buggy/ good for you and what you do.

        Like

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