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Greg Webb
Greg Webb
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Food Addiction And Obesity May Cost Us Our Future

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To survive, we must eat, and it is normal for us to consume food several times a day. Whether we eat in a restaurant, at the family table or on the fly commuting to or from work, many Americans spend a minimum of three hours each day devoted to food preparation and eating. Looking forward to a good, home-cooked or restaurant-prepared meal brings to mind family and friendly gatherings, fun, and good times. It is a part of our social fabric. Despite the comfort eating good food brings, repeated over-eating, food binging, and food addiction are not the norm and can often result in obesity. Adults and children who are addicted to food overeat repeatedly, frequently and whenever the opportunity presents itself, even though food addiction and the behaviors associated with it are harmful to the human body.

The most common and obvious end result of repeated over-eating is weight-gain. Depending on the health of a person, extreme over-weight, and obesity, can lead to a variety of serious health problems. Common health risks associated with obesity include: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, gall bladder disease and gall stones, osteoarthritis and gout, to name a few. Obesity is a launching pad for additional medical difficulties. It complicates and exacerbates already-existing medical problems and can accelerate the advent of others, including problems with range of motion, failure of the skeletal support system, breathing problems, sleep disorders, and skin problems. Ironically, obesity can even cause malnutrition.

Health insurance actuaries reveal obesity as a chief cause of lost-time at work. It not only causes health problems, it is a heavy contributor to the high costs of health care. The United Health Foundation’s collaborative report, “The Future Costs of Obesity: National & State Estimates of the Impact of Obesity on Direct Health Care Expenses”, (November 2009), provides the following statistics:

Obesity is growing faster than any previous public health issue America has

faced. If current trends continue, 103 million American adults will be considered obese by 2018.

The U.S. is expected to spend $344 billion on health care costs attributable to obesity in 2018 if rates continue to increase at their current levels. Obesity-related direct expenditures are expected to account for more than 21 percent of the nation’s direct health care spending in 2018.

Dr. Lloyd Stegemann, a bariatric surgeon from San Antonio, says, “People that carry extra weight… carry along with that extra health problems, and those problems are where the expense comes in.” “Overweight and obese patients spend 25 to 35 percent more on health care treatment than do patients of a normal weight.”

Childhood obesity, in particular, has grown tremendously in the past thirty years. In February 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama launched “Let’s Move”, a program to encourage children to exercise, eat and live healthfully. The program also aims to educate parents, schools and the general public about obesity. “The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake," says Mrs. Obama. “Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. If we don’t solve this problem, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.”

Because obesity is a serious and costly health condition, many of us need to be mindful of how much and what we eat. We can practice the old adage of pushing ourselves away from the table (before second helpings look too tempting). We can gently encourage family members who are over-weight to eat in more healthy ways, take better care of themselves and add exercise to their day. We can plan our children’s diets and build in healthy snacks. If we can only make up our minds to lose the extra pounds now, rather than suffer with obesity-causing problems later, our country would be healthier and would save a lot of money on health care. We must eat to live, and not live to eat. This is easier said than done for many, but it could make the difference in one’s long-term health.