Currently, about a third of people in this country are obese, which is roughly 30 pounds over a healthy weight.
A new study suggests that if the upward weight-gain trend of the past few decades continues unabated, then the number of obese people will increase dramatically.
The percentage could rise from 32% of men who were obese in 2008 to around 50% in 2030, and from 35% for women in 2008 to between 45% and 52% in 2030, according to an analysis in The Lancet.
If this happens, the number of obese people in this country could increase from 99 million in 2008 to 164 million by 2030, and health care costs would soar as millions more people develop weight-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, the study says.
“This is a dire projection if nothing is done to halt or reverse these trends,” says lead author Claire Wang, an assistant professor of health policy at Columbia University.
However, Wang says it’s going to be hard to keep obesity in check. “It’s very difficult to avoid all these forces driving us to gain weight. We are surrounded by cheap junk foods and an environment that promotes a sedentary lifestyle.”
Donna Ryan, past president of the Obesity Society, says, “The concern is not just that we are going to be less attractive and that we’ll be in larger size clothes, it’s that the cost of these obesity-related diseases will go through the roof.
“We’ve got to do something. Everybody talks about the debt ceiling. That’s nothing compared to this tsunami.”
She says one reason adult obesity may continue to increase is the childhood obesity epidemic. About a third of children are overweight or obese, which increases their risk of being too heavy as adults.
Weight-control experts have long argued that people are fighting an uphill battle to maintain a healthy weight because too many factors in the environment are working against them.
People are bombarded with temptations to eat all day long, says Ryan, associate executive director for clinical research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. “People love ultra-savory, delicious foods.”
Still, even in this difficult environment, it’s possible to avoid becoming obese or even heavier, “but you’ve got to have your own personal strategy,” she says. It’s key to learn to enjoy foods that are lower in calories but filling, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
“You have to be in control of what you are eating, and you have to find physical activities that you will seek because you enjoy them. It can’t be drudgery.”
Are you working to keep your weight under control?