Taking on obesity in Texas
By David Buice
This (probably) isn’t the first or last time you’ll hear the phrase “everything’s bigger in Texas” in this issue, but when it comes to our waistlines, it’s not such a great thing. Let’s be honest—far too many Texans are carrying around too much weight, and too many of us are not just overweight but obese (as determined by body mass index, or BMI).
Texas vs. the Nation
Comparing our state to the rest of the country, Texas has the 14th highest adult obesity rate in the U.S., currently 33 percent. That’s up from 21.7 percent in 2000 and 10.7 percent in 1990, meaning that an average Texan is about three times as likely to be obese as compared to just 29 years ago.
For our young people the situation is no better. In 2017, 18.6 percent of Texas high school students were obese, the 5th highest rate in the country.
State Efforts to Fight Obesity
Whatever your age, obesity can have serious health consequences including stroke, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers, just to name a few.
To their credit, the state legislature and the Texas Department of Agriculture have made efforts to confront the obesity problem by establishing minimum physical activity requirements for grades K-12, along with school nutrition guidelines and vending machine rules.
What You Can Do
However well intended, obesity statistics indicate that if waistlines are going to shrink in Texas, it will probably have to come through individual awareness and self-discipline as opposed to guidelines and requirements.
Here are three things everyone can do to combat obesity.
Limit your consumption of fast and fried foods, fatty and processed meats, foods with added sugar (baked goods, cookies, some cereals), alcohol, sweetened juices and sodas, and high-carb foods like bread and bagels. Concentrate on consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and water.
A recent study in the UK suggests that sleep deprivation may contribute to obesity through hormonal changes that increase appetite. Adults should aim for 7 to 8 hours per night, children and teens 8 to 11 hours.
Try to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise per week.
Regarding exercise, Dr. Marc Hamilton, professor of kinesiology at the University of Houston’s Department of Health and Human Performance and a leading authority on obesity, calls our sedentary lifestyle “the new smoking.” He insists that a burst of exercise once a day simply isn’t enough to offset the damage caused by sitting for hours at a time. In addition to regular workouts, he strongly suggests incorporating a few minutes of physical activity at a time throughout our workday to offset the threat of obesity and related illnesses. “Every minute counts,” he says, when it comes to fighting obesity. With any success, we’ll one day be proud to proclaim that not everything is bigger in Texas.