Feds Unveil Weight Guidelines in Wake of Alarming Report on Cost of Obesity; Women Affected Most
revealing the increasing number of overweight individuals in the nation
— and the healthcare costs and impact of obesity — continue
to be released, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has unveiled
its first weight guidelines.
guidelines set a Body Mass Index of 25 as the definition of
"overweight." Previously, a BMI of 26 or above was considered
overweight. They also call for individuals whose BMI is 30 or more, or
those with two or more disease risk factors, to immediately attempt to
lose 10 percent of their body weight.
In conjunction with the new guidelines, the government is planning a campaign to help overweight consumers achieve weight loss.
guidelines follow a call by Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. surgeon
general, to step up efforts to make the prevention and treatment of
obesity a national priority.
staggering costs of obesity affect all Americans in higher healthcare
costs and lost productivity. Just on the basis of cost alone, obesity
has mushroomed into a public health crisis," Koop said, noting that the
economic impact of obesity is now comparable to that of diabetes, and
ranks with what is spent nationally on heart disease and hypertension.
remarks were sparked by a study released earlier this year in Obesity
Research, which attributed nearly 6 percent of the nation's healthcare
expenditures, or almost $100 billion, to obesity.
"If there was
any question that obesity has reached crisis proportions in this
country, these new cost estimates should put these doubts to rest,"
Koop said. "Obesity is now a pervasive public health problem that can
no longer be overlooked."
The Inequality of Women and Obesity
It also is a
problem that is taking a greater toll on women, research finds —
in terms of health expenditures as well as quality of life.
In terms of
physician office visits, the recent study found that women spend
significantly more time and money seeing a doctor for obesity-related
conditions than do men. Specifically, in 1994, 67 percent of office
visits were for obese women.
70 percent of lost work days were taken by obese women, the researchers
found, and these women accounted for 89 percent of total restricted
activity days and 89 percent of total bed days in 1994.
At the same
time, obese women are disproportionately afflicted by diseases
associated with obesity — i.e., diseases that worsen or improve
as the degree of obesity increases or decreases.
the researchers found that 63.5 percent of the cases of Type II
diabetes were diagnosed in obese women. Further, women at an unhealthy
weight had a two-fold greater risk for developing osteoarthritis,
especially in the knee.
comes to obesity, women are truly disadvantaged," said Dr. Barbara J.
Moore, president of Shape Up America! "Not only are they more likely to
become immobilized by obesity than are men, but they become less able
to run errands, buy groceries and lead independent lives. They take to
their bed more often and lose wages as a result."
Body Image Pyramid Launched
And while NIH
prepares its consumer weight-loss campaign, Shape Up America! and
Kellogg's® Special K® Cereal have teamed up to promote a body
image equivalent to the Food Guide Pyramid.
Based on the
universal symbol for women often seen in airports, restaurants and
other community settings, the new graphic promotes four steps for women
to achieve a healthier lifestyle:
Eat healthy foods. Choose more grains, vegetables and fruits.
Refuse to skip meals. Eat three meals a day. Start with breakfast.
Keep moving. Add 30 minutes of extra activity every day.
Be positive. Make every day into a great one.
are not rocket science, but they are the keys to success in achieving a
healthier weight and improved health," Moore said. "The goal is to end
the confusion by letting women know that a positive mindset and some
simple changes in diet and activity can add up to big dividends in
terms of better health."
campaign is designed to address a serious problem affecting women's
health: a lack of self-esteem about body image, fueled by women's
anxieties about their weight. The new campaign promotes the idea that a
positive mindset about body image is the first step in making a
healthier weight possible.
indicates that shifts in attitudes about body weight are key to
achieving a better mental and physical well-being. A study in the
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, for example, found that
the vast majority of overweight people who gave in to the reality of
their body shape — 82 percent — learned new approaches to
eating and exercise that resulted in losing weight and keeping the
pounds off after two years.
Shape Up America!'s effort, Special K will be distributing the new
symbol through Kellogg's Consumer Affairs Department. Consumers can get
a free symbol by calling (800) 962-0130. For more information about
Shape Up America!, you can visit the Web site at www.shapeup.org.