So much for that plateau. Although it was reported a few months ago that obesity rates appeared to have stopped rising, twenty-eight states have seen increases in the past year, according to a new report co-authored by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Even scarier, about two-thirds of US states have adult obesity rates above 25 percent. That means that more than a quarter of those states’ inhabitants have a BMI of 30 or higher.

During a Tuesday news conference, Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, said, “Back in 1991, not that long ago, not a single state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. There’s been a dramatic change in a relatively short period.”

A poll on childhood obesity included in this year’s report found that 16.4 percent of children aged 10 to 17 are obese and 18.2 percent are overweight. Although the report says that the trend may have stabilized, that’s still pretty disturbing, if you ask me.

You can read more here.

As someone going into the field of dietetics, I’ve already had the opportunity to work with obese patients and get a little insight into what a tricky issue it is, even after you consider the links between poverty, race, and obesity. I have a hard enough time approaching it in terms of how we talk to people about their bodies and their health.Telling someone, “Well, uh, it says here that your BMI is 30, so that means you qualify as obese and, um, that’s not good…” is not really going to do that much. What does BMI even mean to most people? What does obesity mean to them? How does it make them feel? What are the contributing factors? Why do they think they’re obese? What can they do about it? Why should they do anything?

I usually politely tell an obese patient what their weight status is and then suggest exercise and avoiding concentrated sweets and other snacks. In a situation where someone has control over their food choices and purchases, you can brainstorm healthy meal plans, but unfortunately, in the long-term residential facility where I volunteer, I usually have five or ten minutes to meet with someone and talk to them about what’s up and then have my supervisor sign off after we talk about the assessment.  I hate that feeling of walking out of a patient’s room and knowing that in a few hours, after an unsatisfactory lunch (don’t get me started on the food at this place), they’re still going to hit up the vending machine. I know this is one of my weak points—I don’t really think I have a future as part of the Weight-Loss Police force.

What I do think is that my career will have something to do with helping make sound nutritional information accessible and easy to understand. I hope to be involved somehow in making better food options and education available. We will see.

I get really upset when I read about obesity and other diet-related public health issues. I don’t think it’s really the patients’/consumers’/public’s fault. I think it runs much, much deeper, to a system that is failing those it’s supposed to be supporting and food and diet product industries that know exactly whom to prey upon and how to target them.

Big things to be thinking about on a Thursday morning, I know. I guess I’d better get it out of the system before heading to the beach tonight for a relaxing Fourth of July weekend!

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