Having a full time job, going to school, living on a budget and attempting to have a social life can leave little time for cooking and for making wise choices at meal time.
Poor meal choices coupled with little to no activity is a recipe for becoming overweight and having major health problems. According to the CDC, in 2009 the only state to have an obesity rate of less than 20% was Colorado. Every other state had an obesity rate of 20% or higher, with 33 states being over 25%. This translates to about 97 million Americans who are overweight or obese.
What does being obese/overweight mean for your health?
There are many increased health risks associated with being obese or overweight. These risks include:Coronary heart disease
Type 2 diabetes
Endometrial, breast, and colon cancer
High blood pressure or hypertension
High total cholesterol or high levels of triglyceride
Liver and Gallbladder disease
Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)
In my blog post Body Composition - What is Healthy? I show you how to calculate your BMI. A healthy BMI range is 18-24.Between 25 and 30 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese.
As a direct result of the health complications of being overweight, medical costs increase dramatically. In 2008, medical costs related to being overweight or obese averaged to $147 billion. In 2006 obese individuals spent on average, $1,400 more in medical expenses than individuals who are of a healthy weight. (http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/AAG/obesity.htm)
If you are overweight or obese, there are several steps you can take to lose the weight and become healthy. The most important is to watch what you eat. If you are eating fast food that is high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, you should start cooking at home or pick places like Subway that have healthy options. This isn't going to be easy. Many people have an addiction to fast food and when trying to break an addiction, withdrawals will occur. Here is a great article to read about the study with rats who were fed a diet of high fat and high calorie food Fast Food As Addictive As Heroin.
I've mentioned before that completely depriving yourself of food is not a good idea because it can cause binges and what is called "yo-yo" dieting. Eating what you love is easily balanced with limiting the amount that you eat and coupling the bad food you love, in moderation, with more of the food that is good for you.
Instead of coming home and plopping down on the couch or in front of the computer, take a 10 minute walk. If the weather is not ideal for outdoor activity, do some jumping jacks to get your heart rate up, then stretch for a couple of minutes. Once you start introducing physical activity into your daily routine, you can start increasing the length and intensity of the workout. Even better, find a friend and set goals to reach together. Having support from friends and having someone to compete with will keep you motivated and will be much more fun than doing it alone.
Getting a gym membership is not going to make you go to the gym. Investing money into a gym, only to keep your same habit of saying "I'll go tomorrow" will be a huge waste of money. Only once you've gotten a routine down where you have a block of time every day, or 3-5 days a week, should you invest in a gym membership. If there is a school near you with a track, take a drive (or bicycle/run/walk) over there and take advantage of it! It's free!
Tip of the day - Don't get discouraged if you relapse into eating junk. Stay positive and allow yourself small amounts of your favorite foods. Getting down on yourself will decrease your motivation and you will fall back into your old unhealthy lifestyle. Positive thinking is key!