Let’s Move in Indian Country! Works to Reduce Obesity Among Native Youth
Published December 28, 2019
Did you know that close to 33 recent of people in American Indian communities are either obese or overweight? That’s a staggering statistic. What’s more, 40-50 percent of children in American Indian communities are either obese or overweight before the age of 10.
Obesity is a chronic disease and one of the biggest public health problems today, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It has a direct impact on life expectancy.
In local Indian communities and reservation areas, about 5-20 years of life is truncated from sufferers’ life expectancy as a result of obesity, which can trigger problems as serious as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
In this article, we won’t focus on the obesity epidemic in the native indian communities (that’s for another article), but rather, in today’s modern society. Just why is obesity such a struggle for so many people?
Why is it so hard to lose and maintain weight over time?
This is a question constantly asked by those who fight the extra pounds on the scale. But there are answers.
First, one must understand that the causes of obesity are complex. It can be influenced by physiological, psychological, environmental, socioeconomic and genetic issues. Because of this, undergoing habits such as regular exercise is not always enough to promote weight loss.
Also, habits such as having a low-calorie diet or undergoing starvation, without stepping up on other weight loss activities can result in futility. In fact, the frustrations of trying to losing weight can make it even more difficult.
Prof Herman Pontzer of City University of New York (CUNY), one of the authors of a new study published in the Current Biology says that while exercise is really important for weight loss, it must be done in tandem with a healthy diet to prevent the weight from coming back.
Secondly, obesity is stigmatized. This happens to both patients and health professionals. Often the patient does not seek treatment because people don’t think they have a disease but that their personal habit and cravings contributed to their health conditions. And when they seek help, they can only find a professional who reinforces this stigma.
“Society regularly regards obese persons not as innocent victims, but as architects of their own ill health” according to Rebecca Puhl, obesity and weight stigma researcher at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.
In other words, obese people are made to feel in our society that there is something inherantly wrong with them causing their obesity, whether it’s they are lazy or just constantly overeats. This is a deflating message that can lead to a sense of hopelessness.
Despite the psychological factors this may bring in patients, there are arguments that stigmatization may be one of the best bets for curbing obesity.
“Not only is weight stigma viewed as a beneficial incentive for weight loss, but it is also assumed that the condition of obesity is under personal control, implying that the social influence of weight stigma will be sufficient to produce change,” Dr. Puhl said.
In other words, “tough love” can be a powerful instrument in inflicting change in obese people. The key is to not victimize them, but convey through encouragement that obesity is a personal choice that can be overcome through a lifestyle change.
Some people lose weight more easily than others. It is possible that even with a restrictive diet and intense exercise, the individual cannot lose weight. Why does this happen?
Well, experts think the problem could be more of diet decisions and not the human body – perhaps you’ve been cutting out entire food groups.
“Any diet that wants you to eliminate carbs, protein or fat is one that you should walk away from,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, a health blogger and specialist in nutritional therapy, obesity and weight management advice. He recommends a diet starting with the following ratio of macronutrients:
- 50 percent carbs
- 30 percent protein
- 20 percent fat
Taub-Dix also stresses the importance of exercise in losing weight:
“At the end of the day, your weight comes down to 70 percent diet and 30 percent exercise.”
What this means is that being physically active is an inescapable part of losing weight-and keeping it.
Accordingly to the ODPHP, adults should incorporate at least 75 minutes to 150 minutes of intense physical activity a week. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle as much as possible. According to research, sitting all day leads to a halt in the production of lipase, a fat-inhibiting enzyme. It also leads to an increase in risk for everything from heart disease, various cancers, to even death.
At the end of the day, research suggests that the most important thing to overcoming obesity is to start taking personal responsibility. With the right mentality and an overhaul in diet and inclusion of regular physical activity, obesity can be overcome in modern society.