Obesity Rates Level Off, But Can We Really Celebrate?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  72 comments   :  19,288 Views

More than two-thirds of adults and almost one third of children in the United States are overweight. As the upward trend continued, people started taking action. The government, schools and community organizations launched large campaigns to fight the battle of the bulge. Now some new figures from the Centers for Disease Control show the rates of obesity have leveled off over the last decade. So is it time to celebrate? Not really.

The data, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows a slowing in the increase of obesity rates in this country over the past 10 years. But the number of overweight and obese individuals in the United States is still staggering. 68 percent of adults are currently overweight and 34 percent are obese. 17 percent of children are also considered obese.

Experts aren't sure if this change is due to healthier diets and regular exercise, or if it seems that this is just as heavy as we're going to get. There will always be a certain portion of the population who is naturally a healthy weight or takes steps to keep their weight under control. So the rest of the country might have just reached its maximum. And although these figures show some promise, experts agree that it's going to take a large shift in our thinking and environment to start seeing a decline in the rates of overweight and obesity in this country.

The obesity epidemic is a top priority for the White House, and one of the causes championed by Michelle Obama. Employers have learned that a healthy employee translates to lower health care costs, so more companies are promoting wellness programs. Schools are making changes to their lunch programs and encouraging more physical activity. But with all of this focus on the obesity epidemic, what is it really going to take to see substantial change in this country? Are the current programs enough? If not, what else can/should we be doing?

What do you think?

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  • __IZZA__
    I feel bad for those 17 % of children that are obese. I doubt they have control over what they eat at school and at home.
    Here in Sweden the school cook your food for you. There about one or two meals to choose from and always a salad bar. You can drink either milk or water. From year 1-6 there was no place in my school that you could buy soda or sweets and you were not allowed to leave the school area so you could not go and buy some.

    In year 7-9 they had this after school building that you could buy sweets but after a while you were not allowed anymore and people had to walk to get to the store a bit further away to get some.

    In year 10- 12 there was a cafeteria in school that sold some sweets and soda. But they also had some healthier options such as sandwiches and juice. People didn't really go there for lunch though, usually some bought coffee there or just a snack for the afternoon.

    I think where to start is with the parents. During your pregnancy you should learn what food is good for the children and know the consequences of bad food. I doubt a lot of people would really give their children bad food if they knew that it could lead to diseases and heart problems. And education about good food of course. - 5/20/2011   7:25:05 AM
  • 71
    It breaks my heart to see overweight kids. We really need to concentrate on this problem. - 9/17/2010   12:23:12 PM
  • 70
    We've just got to set as best of an example we can as individuals and hope others follow suit. - 9/1/2010   9:38:23 AM
    We as a community are responsible for how we eat and most importantly how our children eat. Growing up we ate fresh fruits and veggies. Not very much processed food if any. We did not have soda machines in the schools. Schools are responsible when they put making money before the heath of our children. Parents are responsible to teach children to make healthy choices. This is hard to do when there is so much temptation around. We have to face it, sugar (corn syrup) is addictive. All of our processed foods has it in it. Abandoned the processed foods and for your sake get rid of the juices and the sodas. Make your own juice from fruit. - 8/30/2010   6:19:23 PM
  • 68
    Kids only go to school 180 days a year out of 365 and they have ONE meal there, so I think all the uproar about "School lunches" is silly, since PARENTS control the other 5/6th of what kids eat. - 3/23/2010   11:31:30 AM
  • 67
    To see substantial change in our nation it will take all of us making changes in the foods we eat. When large numbers are not munching at fast food restaurants and ordering high fattening food at sit down restaurants a change will occur in the food that is served in the restaurants. Also, if we lower the amount of junk food we buy the food industry will be forced to change its ways to keep up with a healthy conscious consumer demand. Not going to be a quick easy change but slowly but surely things can change. - 2/18/2010   7:52:42 AM
  • 66
    this will be handled when every body stands up and starts buy the healthy food and not the junk foods.then the price of the healthy foods will go down so everybody can afford then - 2/8/2010   1:05:16 PM
    Thanks for the food for thought. - 2/2/2010   10:29:21 PM
  • 64
    As much as we want to blame fast food places for upping the portions of food, we have a responsibility as consumers to make smart choices. I think it is great that many fast food places try to offer healthier choices for people. It is a least a step in the right direction. But people have to be ready to make changes on their own. One thing I can say that is a great perk of my employee health insurance is that I get a small rembursement if I go to the gym at least 12 times for the month, what a nice incentive. - 2/2/2010   9:52:42 PM
  • 63
    I think there are a number of factors contributing to the over weight in our families and children. The hours spent in front of a television set or a computer instead of being outside playing. The failure of families to sit down to meals together. The fast foods on every corner. Lack of required gym classes. On and on! As parents, it is our responsibility to see that the children learn the meaning of a healthy lifestyle. Not an easy thing to do, given the many unhealthy choices out there. Sparks does seem to offer one solution. As Spark members, we need to carry the plan to our families. It should not be a solo journey! - 2/2/2010   2:15:41 PM
  • 62
    My personal belief is that a healthy diet is the responsibility of the parents. I've raised my kids on a minimally processed, whole foods vegan diet and taught them the reasons we eat this way. My oldest is 13 & he's around junk food all the time but he doesn't eat it. He never developed a taste for it.

    Now with that being said, I think it's ridiculously hard to know what is healthy when daily we are bombarded with conflicting and erroneous information. Just look at the Biggest Loser and their product placement for Extra gum. Last I read chewing gum stimulates your digestive juices which therefore stimulates hunger and should be avoided if watching your weight. But I'm sure there are millions of people out there desperate for something to work, that are stocking up on Extra gum hoping it'll help them lose weight because Bob and Jillian said it would.

    It comes down to education. (Not to say that economics doesn't play a part. The cheapest foods to buy are also the worst foods you can eat. That 99 cent loaf of white bread is going to look awfully appealing next to the 3.99 loaf of whole grain bread if you're trying to stretch a dollar) Parents need to find reliable sources for information whether that be through trusted authors, their nutritionist, or even a friend who has vibrant health. And in turn, parents need to pass the knowledge they've gained onto their children on a daily basis. Health is a process and I seek to stay current. I learn something new all the time and am sure to provide my children with that information as well. - 2/1/2010   11:58:36 PM
  • 61
    Spark people is changing lots of lives!!! I pray kids get more active. I don't have any but I am struggling with my weight. - 2/1/2010   3:14:57 PM
  • 60
    I am 5'6" and weigh 170 pounds. Anyone who wants to see my picture can look at my SparkPage. I do not consider myself to be overweight, but by government standards, I AM overweight.

    My kids don't understand why we have such strict rules about eating in our house. I don't keep soda in the house. I am constantly updating our eating habits so that we eat as much fresh fruit and veg as possible, while limiting access to chips and dessert (recently, for example, I incoporated a meal of fresh fish once a week, instead of only once a month). I try to cut back on as many processed foods as I can: I'm no longer buying Poptarts for breakfast; instead, my kids make whole wheat bagels, steel cut oatmeal, or scrambled eggs/cheese omelets for breakfast, along with fresh fruit or a small glass of juice.

    One thing I haven't been able to remove from their diet is their school lunch. My DH thinks that school lunches are fine for the kids. I would like to see them learn to make better choices by packing their own lunches (my kids are 6th and 9th-graders). I have a lot more to teach them about eating healthy before their leave home, and not a lot of time (IMO) to do it! - 2/1/2010   2:15:59 PM
  • BCHERRY36344
    As a parent I know how important for our kids to be healthy. My son is 11 yrs old and weighs 140. It is hard to say no to our kids sometimes when they say they are hungry. It is up to the adults of this world to help make sure the next generation does not become obese. It is not easy to make the right choices when you are tired but it can be done. The schools and companies are not the only things we can do. - 2/1/2010   1:31:46 PM
    I feel that anything and everything should be done to make people aware of this huge problem. This not just a school problem or a family problem, it is a country problem. YES, the main problem should be controlled on the home front with the family moniotoring what their children are eating. Stay home once in awhile and cook. Get some air and family time. The whole society needs to be aware and care about this problem. - 2/1/2010   1:25:40 PM
    I think that as life gets more and more rushed people turn to ready made foods and forget to menu plan as well. Just spending 15-20 minutes once a week to plan out your menu for the week helps with grocery shopping for those "healthy" meals and then you aren't turning to something quick and easy when you don't know what you are going to have for dinner.

    Having healthy fruits and vegetables ready and waiting is half the trick as well. - 2/1/2010   8:38:42 AM
  • 56
    I don't believe obesity is going down in America. All you have to do is look around. Who needs statistics? - 1/31/2010   8:56:21 PM
  • 55
    I would have to agree with many of you about school lunches. i am one of those lunchladies, and i can say that the majority of our food comes from the federal gov. it is very upsetting to have to serve our children food that is so processed. i work in a high school kitchen and have many students turn up their noses. i know they throw a lot of their food away. it is sad, but i myself won't eat most of what we serve either. - 1/31/2010   8:02:46 PM
  • 54
    Eating habits begin at home. Families determine eating habits by limiting tv, computer activity and video games. Parents must create family behavior patterns that include healthy eating and physical activity. Employers who provide healthy incentives for their employees or contribute opportunities to nurture good health in the community (parks, bike/hike trails, community gardens, etc.) should get tax breaks.
    In public schools our tax dollars go towards supplying breakfast and lunch to schools that serve poor families. This program requires students to have a choice each time they go through the cafeteria line. This food is free to students from very poor or immigrant families and in recent years has become much healthier.
    Though our society loves to push everything onto schools, there are too many issues for schools to handle in this budget deprived time. Schools cannot teach health because (in an effort to leave no child behind) they are evaluated annually on how well students perform on basic skills tests and there is not enough time for THAT! The biggest struggle is for schools serving students who don't speak English, an ever increasing population. These tests are in English and students who start school with little or no English generally do not perform as well as native English speakers (who begin kindergarten speaking thousands of English words); to compensate, large amounts of our tax dollars are designated exclusively for students who need to learn English. Though 5th grade students must take a physical fitness test, there is no consequence for students who perform well or poorly. In the new millennium few secondary schools offer home economic classes anymore, missing the opportunity to reinforce home values and teach young people how to plan and cook healthy meals. Instead of cooking classes there are remedial classes to help students pass high school exit exams.
    Parents must be able to parent and that includes teaching healthy habits. Families would benefit if parents were able to enjoy the 4 to 6 week annual vacations so entwined in European culture! - 1/31/2010   3:08:01 PM
  • 53
    I agree with the teaching of a healthy lifestyle & the earlier the better. We also need to bring back physical education in schools every day.
    Think about it when kids are 5 & 6 we're telling them to sit still & stop moving around. Then when they're 12 & 13 (and possibly overweight) we're telling them to get up & do something. We need to keep that love of movement alive while they still want to run around & play. - 1/31/2010   12:44:06 PM
  • 52
    I think that we ought to continue to try to bring this awareness to more people and thanks to shows like the Biggest Loser there are external incentives for people like me to see that with consistent and hard work weight loss is possible. - 1/31/2010   9:22:00 AM
    I think that this should be handled at home. - 1/30/2010   9:52:55 PM
  • 50
    I work for a large health care corporation who seems to strive to make their employees healthy. They view their employees as their #1 asset. Most of us are health care professionals so it seems we should know better, but we don't always. They have a very active smoking cessation program and encourage exercise... to the point of handing out pedometers and having a contest to see who can walk enough steps to walk across the state. They also give employees reduced rates on visiting any one of their health care facilities and physician offices. Maybe if more employers were proactive and put their employee health first, most illnesses could be prevented or caught before developing complications. - 1/30/2010   8:39:52 PM
    As a fitness professional I would love to see insurance either cover or give us a discount for gym membership. Since our government tends to make some poor spending choices when it comes to programs, I think we should focus more on personal responsibility and assistant from the private sector(thanks Chris!).

    As a homeschooling parent, I chose to teach my own children about health and fitness along with everything else, I am not one to trust the schools to do it; however I would suggest an improvement in school lunches, I remember public school lunches that were an interesting combination of starches except for about six weeks one year when they let our home ec class design the menus. We didn't get to pick this, that and the other at lunch; you either ate what the lunch lady put on your plate or you did without. Maybe fewer but better choices in the lunchroom would make for fewer obese kids? - 1/30/2010   4:30:24 PM
    School lunches in the 50's were much healthier than they are now. I taught school and was constantly appalled at what was offered and what was eaten. Kids ate ice cream, candy and drank sodas rather than eat mystery meat and psuedo potatoes. Who could blame them? The stuff had no taste and felt like a rock in your stomach for hours. - 1/30/2010   4:16:48 PM
  • 47
    Prevention is definitely the way to go in weight management. I do think we have to stop and appreciate this step. As with the 10% weight loss goal, it is about small steps. No one says that leveling off is the best we can do any more than a 10% weight loss goal is enough. However, I do think we have to celebrate the victories. - 1/30/2010   3:46:17 PM
  • 46
    I agree with the Sparkers who have previously mentioned that education is the key to healthy decision-making in nutrition and in fitness. The President's Council on Fitness needs to be placing effective public service ads on TV broadcasts regarding healthy food choices and fun modes of exercise. Many recipients of public assistance lack sufficient knowledge to do effective shopping for healthy food. Public assistance programs such as WIC and food stamps need to provide education to consumers about low-cost healthy foods such as beans and inexpensive vegetables. Our public schools need to provide healthy food choices and effective exercise opportunities for students. Parents need to encourage themselves and their children to participate in a minimum of 30 minutes of healthy exercise 5 to 7 days per week. President Kennedy helped us to create a culture of fitness during the 60's. We as a nation need to repeat that experience! - 1/30/2010   3:22:54 PM
  • 45
    My son packs his lunch and does not miss the food at the school cafeteria. He didn't like it. I'm glad to see him making decisions for himself and not waiting for someone else to make it available to him. I've made 'the obiesity epidemic' in my own body my own priority. I have to own it and then do something about it and not wait for the next initiative. - 1/30/2010   3:11:48 PM
  • 44
    I get really annoyed when I hear that the school cafeterias are making changes to improve the students lunches. They are just as bad as when I was a kid, if not worse. On any given day, my kid can get hotdogs, chicken nuggets, french toast sticks, etc. It's all processed, you almost never have any "fresh" choices...I really wish we would begin to see the improvements that they have long been talking about. - 1/30/2010   2:56:19 PM
    Really good questions. I think that just because we see a slow down that doesn't mean we can relax. Some states are having a bigger problem than others and some weight gain/loss may be seasonal. There are a lot of unknown variables in the studies. It would be interesting to know the rate of death from obesity related diseases. We need to work more to help people. Most of us who are overweight know how to lose it and know why it is bad to be overweight, we just need the support and motivation to do it. - 1/30/2010   2:20:28 PM
  • 42
    I have lost approximately 30 lbs over the last 18 months or so. I often forget to celebrate those lbs, but instead obsess about the next 20 lbs I need to lose. Depending on how much you weigh, even 10 percent could be overwhelming. Small goals are easier and more realistic. - 1/30/2010   11:57:13 AM
  • 41
    I am trying to lose my weight and not be sedetary.
    i am 135lbs i am trying to get to 120lbs, i don't think
    this is the end of the fight for global obesity yet.
    we still have a long way to go. - 1/30/2010   11:16:18 AM
  • 40
    I have a very interesting perspective about everything that everyone else has previously said. I deal with children on a regular basis, and children are still children. Most of the children that I see (below 10) are NEVER still. They are all thin and active. Of course, you have some children who are heavier, but their genetics play a part in that. What I think we are truly struggling with is stress. When I was eatting the most unhealthily was when I was making less money, going to college, and driving most of the time. I had no time, got no sleep, and abused my body past exhaustion. Now that I am older and better able to manage my time, I prepare ahead and think about the consequences of my actions. If we were better able to manage our lives and time, we would see people making healthier choices. - 1/30/2010   9:47:17 AM
  • 39
    I am not surprised by the findings. I have one child in elementary school, one in jr high, & one in high school. Starting in elementary school I saw many overweight kids. My daughter in jr high was struggling with weight from about 5 th grade on. She finally started taking responsibility for her food choices, & exercising a little more. She is now a healthy weight. In my area anyway, they had dieticians coordinate with schools to create a more balanced school lunch menu. And they have PE, and certain standard they have to take for physical fitness. We get a print out of how well they fared. While things have improved, we've got a long way to go. I think it begins with education. And as parents we have to lead by example. - 1/30/2010   9:36:36 AM
    I don't think the country being worried about the health of it's citizens is bigotry-they aren't saying the fat is ugly, they're saying it's unhealthy. - 1/30/2010   7:56:41 AM
  • 37
    I don't think obesity is a private matter: Subsidies of corn production changed the eating habits of America and made us all sick and fat. Watch "Food Inc." - 1/30/2010   5:39:23 AM
    I honestly beleive that obesity is a private matter and none of the governments business. They are affirming the institutionalized bigotry against fat people. - 1/30/2010   5:23:23 AM
  • 35
    I believe being a healthy weight you don't have health problems...well I never did out of my mothers 8 babies ..I never had any surgeries...measles,chicken pox because if my brothers got it I had to get it for back in the early day they put a quarrtine sign on the door and you had to stay in until everyone ended up with the diseased or something like that I remember but other than that no serious stuff...I was skinny or healthy back then....but since I've put on weight my breathing, energy isn't the same...no at my age I will get it back. I am going to be the 80-90 go gether....but I know it's my sleeping that causing a lot of my weight problem ...didn't know that until I came here and with all the reading I've done ---Oh yes, in The SPark chapter seven at the end it really talked about sleep patterns and I am sure hoping as I get started on the 28 day problem I'll start getting at least 8 hours every night...you won't believe my sleeping before I started here...I couldn't stay up all night and continue on the next day of course by mid day didn't have much go power. So am depending on Sparks to help me get my like back.......OK...CHRIS... - 1/30/2010   3:51:32 AM
  • 34
    Interesting. Levels of obesity are levelling off supposedly in the US at a time when rates of obesity are increasing in the UK. There are several programs being put into place within schools to try to counter this, included are a healthy school lunches scheme which aims to encourage kids to eat a healthy lunch or bring in a healthy pack lunch and initiatives that encourage schools at the primary level to offer 3 extra-curricular hours of fitness activities each week and to offer 5 hours at the secondary level. Over the next several years this will be increasing to 5 hours at the primary level. Currently, kids in our school can join clubs before or after school for football (soccer, not gridiron), dance, lacrosse, ping pong, and one club called games where the kids do different activities each week. The teaching assistants lead the children in games over the lunch time break - the past 2 weeks the younger kids have been playing football.

    Expectations are that schools will provide a wrap around service, offering clubs and activities for children from 8AM until 6PM, 5 days a week within the next few years.
    The school's business manager, our cook, and I will be getting together next week to discuss how we can encourage more children to eat a school lunch instead of bringing in a pack lunch. One of our teachers has been running cooking sessions on a class by class basis where she asks parents to come in and help their kids - the younger kids have made fruit kebabs and older kids have done things like making bread. She is currently attending training to expand what we offer for a cooking club.

    I did see mentioned though about kids playing outside. In this fear-mongering age, we just don't see kids playing outside any more here either. Kids are inside on the computer or video game. They're not out running around, riding bikes, and climbing trees. One of the main reasons why schools have been encouraged to take up the slack and provide these physical opportunities.

    - 1/30/2010   3:13:50 AM
  • 33
    I have to DOUBT this very much. This IS something we want to happen....but is it?
    If you watch Biggest Losers , they have so many people applying all the time. And to watch Dr. Oz's show dealing with so many obese.... - 1/30/2010   1:25:22 AM
  • 32
    A MAJOR pet peeve of mine is the corporatization of our food preferences. What we think is delicious is HIGHLY influenced by the media. I blogged about this a while ago...but one of my major motivators to eat healthy is to Fight Corporate Control Over My Body:


    Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams - 1/30/2010   12:26:31 AM
    Does anyone else remember having to take the President's Fitness challenge/exams in PE in gradeschool, middle school or high school? Are schools still doing that, does anyone know? I don't have kids so I am not informed about this.

    I always did really badly on the actual tests themselves, and it was embarrassing because you had to do it in front of everyone, since everyone was standing in line waiting to be tested. But, the good thing about having them is that there was an evaluation. Unfortunately in school the kids that were already athletic were the ones that got the most attention and coaching for improvement. Even if one is at the bottom rung, one has the right to enjoy physicality and exercise!

    Anyway, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports was started by President Eisenhower in 1956, in order to improve the health and athleticism of Americans. I just now found the web site for the President's Challenge (It's got points! And badges! What about that!) Anyway, I don't think it's too intrusive for the government to at least have resources for people to choose to use to improve their lives. - 1/29/2010   6:25:39 PM
  • 30
    When I was 12 yrs old I weighed about 115#. At that time my family doctor labeled me "morbidly obese". He put me on phentermine for most of my teen years.FYI-my weight yo-yoed my whole life. Now I'm making lifestyle changes, not fad-dieting. - 1/29/2010   3:51:28 PM
  • SBATES63
    I have talked with friends about this, and we all remember playing outside all day, every day when we weren't in school, even in the rain or cold. We are all children of the late 1950s and early 1960s. I don't often see children playing outside at all anymore. My weight loss experience backs this up. With a little change to my diet, but the addition of a moderate amount of exercise, I have gotten back to a healthy weight. I also believe people eat away from home too much. I work full time and am very active outside my home. Weeknights I have a healthy meal on the table within 45 minutes of walking in the door, often much less. It takes planning, but it's doable. And much less expensive than buying food to go. I don't think that the government can legislate common sense. Education is the key, both at home and at school. Certainly phys ed has a place in schools, as does some simple home economics. How do you expect parents to plan and prepare healthy food if they can't even boil an egg? - 1/29/2010   3:08:27 PM
  • 28
    Wow! That many children?! That's shocking. When I was in HS, there were two overweight people in my class--and they were just overweight, not obese. And when I was in elementary and middle school, we had gym class every day for an hour, plus a 15 minute recess. Do kids not have gym anymore? - 1/29/2010   2:09:22 PM
  • 27
    I work as a cashier and that was #1 reason I said 3 years ago to myslef you need to make a change it was scary to see all the obesity come through the line @ work I was on the verge myself becoming deathly obese It was my wake up calI I don't think there really is anything the white house or docotrs can say to get people to change their ways WE all need our own wake up call - 1/29/2010   1:11:30 PM
  • 26
  • 25
    I agree with pretty much what everyone else has said. The biggest point I agree with is that we have to lead by example. We can't wait for the government to figure out what to do. We have to take it upon ourselves to start from the ground up and do this ourselves because it's our health and our children's health at stake. The tools are out there. We are all using one right now. :-) - 1/29/2010   12:19:09 PM
    That's soo scary! If we change the words obese and overweight to something scarier, let's say, with a deathly disease, than people would think it's a catastrophe! And it is!
    I think we should lead by example, make sure that at least the ones around us are taking care of themselves... we can't keep doing this to ourselves!
    - 1/29/2010   11:41:30 AM
  • 23
    Start with the schools! Teach little kids how to eat healthy and make physical education mandatory throughout grade school and high school. Employers should offer to subsidize the gym memberships of thier employees and insurance companies can offer incentives for members who don't smoke, belong to a gym, maintain a healthy weight, have low blood pressure, etc. - 1/29/2010   11:38:52 AM

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