The obesity epidemic: Losing weight starts here

Nan Calendar-Price, RN

Nan Callender-Price, RN

By Nan Callender-Price, RN, MA
Executive Director, Continuing Nursing Education

It’s no secret that Americans are getting bigger and obesity is now considered an epidemic. The statistics are staggering:

- More than two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight or obese.
– One-third of Americans are obese.
– Obesity in American children has doubled in the past 10 years.
– The rate of obesity among ethnic groups in 2011 was blacks (70%), Native Americans/Alaska Natives (70%), Hispanics (69.1%), whites (62%) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (40.3%)
– Up to 45% of people who attempt a weight-loss program drop out.
– Of those who stay in treatment (behavioral interventions), the average weight loss is 5% to 10% of initial body weight.
– 90% of those who lose weight regain the lost weight within two years.
– Five years after weight loss treatment, all but 2% will have regained the weight lost.
– At least one-third will have regained more than they had originally lost.

A colleague once said, “The way to lose weight is to decrease your food intake.” If only it were that simple, and for some, perhaps it is. I inherited the “normal weight” gene, and until I was about 45,  I could eat whatever I desired. With the slowing of the metabolism, the pounds began to accumulate, so I joined Weight Watchers, shedding the extra weight. There’s no free lunch now; I have to work at maintaining my weight. I’m fortunate in that I genuinely like to exercise — always have, but I know some people who would rather go to the dentist than to the gym or take a walk.

As healthcare providers, we should set the pace by practicing exemplary dietary and fitness habits. It’s a hard sell to promote exercise and weight loss if we don’t “walk the walk.”

We also need to become more informed about treatment and prevention so that we have a better understanding of this complex disease and can educate our patients. In November 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it would reimburse for intensive behavioral therapy for obesity. And in June 2013, the American Medical Association designated obesity as a disease that requires treatment and prevention. With the increase in support, more resources should be available to us.

Gannett Education recently published a 12-contact-hour course, Obesity Management: A 911 Call to American Healthcare, that provides an overview of the causes and consequences of obesity and the tools required to implement a Medicare-compliant program for intensive behavioral therapy for obesity.

More resources are below. Let’s help stem the obesity epidemic as role models and with knowledge.

CE243-60, Obesity in Young Children

CE316-60, Obesity and the School-Age Child

CE585, Weight Management: Facts Not Fads

CE601, Adult Obesity in the United States

WEB176, The Epidemic of Childhood Obesity

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