It’s been a year – time to have a serious conversation about our weight problem here in the USA.

After a year of lockdowns, mask wearing, and plexiglass dividers; there’s been one message that has been largely lost during the pandemic: get / stay healthy to keep your immune system optimal.  The CDC reports 78% of hospitalizations for Covid-19 were overweight or obese people. In fact, the risk of death from Covid-19 is about 10 times higher in countries where most of the population is overweight, according to a report released recently by the World Obesity Federation. Here in the USA, 67.9% of our adult population is overweight, according to the report. Think about it, that is almost three quarters of our population. Childhood obesity is around 20% now. Keep in mind, being overweight or obese is also a risk factor for diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and respiratory disease. Our American weight problem is an issue that we’ve become numb to and have just accepted as a new normal. It’s become a national security issue also as 30% of young adults age 17-24 are not eligible to join our armed forces because of their weight. It’s costing employers billions each year in the US, where obesity is associated with a significant increase in absenteeism among US workers. And it’s been a tremendous strain for decades on our fragile healthcare system, where obesity related medical costs are in the billions of dollars every year. Our American weight problem is an epidemic.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in the USA has been climbing steady for many years, so it is unfair to put the blame on any one certain President or political party for where we are now. There has been for sure a lack of messaging, a lack of discussion, a lack of legislation, and a lack of honesty from our leaders in America about our weight problem and its serious repercussions. Of course, we must also take individual personal responsibility for our weight problem too, sort of look at ourselves in the mirror figuratively and literally. If we do not start to turn this around, I would hate to see what the numbers will look like in 2030 – 90% of Americans overweight or obese?

We can’t wait any longer, we have to address the issue head-on, harness our resources, and set a goal for Americans to be in better health overall, by say 2030. Monthly press briefings by the CDC on overweight / obesity could be a start to bringing top-of-mind awareness to the issue and educating Americans. Incentives such as tax breaks, reimbursements, and stimulus payments that specifically cover weight loss apps, gym memberships, healthy food programs, counseling etc. We should utilize our American sport stars and Olympic medalists for PSA’s and other messaging. These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg on ways we can start to meet the moment and respond to the American weight problem epidemic.

I’ve been a health and fitness coach now for well over 15 years, I know that losing weight is hard and it is a struggle for many people. Sometimes there are biological conditions involved, and socio-economic factors as well such as food deserts and access to green space and exercise facilities etc. But, if we can start now methodically setting up bold local, state, and federal government programs, incentives, and resources to assist Americans in their weight loss we can collectively begin to adopt healthier lifestyles and win this “battle of the bulge” so to speak in order to be in a much better position as a country in times of pandemics and other crises, disasters and emergencies.

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Jack Witt