Friday, May 30, 2008

Obesity and Global Warming— We're not making this up

The growing awareness of global warming has led to increasing demands for each and every one of us to reduce our "carbon / environmental footprint" by taking all possible measures to minimize our impact on the fragile atmosphere on which we all rely to survive. That’s a mouthful.

Well, here’s some food for thought. Compared with the normal weight population, the obese population consumes 18 percent more food energy. More transportation fuel is required to transport the increased mass of the obese population. Again, we’re not making this up.

  • Each extra pound of body weight in all of today’s vehicles results in the need for more than 39 million gallons of extra gasoline each year in the U.S. (University of Illinois and Virginia Commonwealth University)
  • The extra poundage packed on by the average American in the last decade required airplanes to use an extra 350 million gallons of fuel, according to analysis by researchers at Cornell University. (Dannenberg et al, American Journal of Preventive Medicine)

Today there are about 400 million obese individuals in the world, which is nearly 40 percent of the entire global population. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2015 there will be 700 million obese and 2 billion overweight individuals in the world. That’s just seven years from now.

And, in New Scientist Magazine, Ian Roberts points out that the overconsumption of food and sedentarism means more carbon emissions in every aspect of life because of increased waste production and energy/fuel consumption.

For some good news, public health officials point out that people can cut calories and carbon dioxide at the same time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering public promotion of the "co-benefits" of fighting global warming and obesity-related illnesses through everyday activities, like walking to school or work, said Dr. Howard Frumkin, director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health. "A simple intervention like walking to school is a climate change intervention, an obesity intervention, a diabetes intervention, a safety intervention."

But it's not just getting out of the car that's needed, said Dr. Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. A diet shift away from heavy meat consumption would also go far, he said, because it takes much more energy and land to produce meat than fruits, vegetables and grains. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the meat sector of the global economy is responsible for 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

"The real bang for the buck in reducing greenhouse gas emissions was from the avoided health expenses of a sedentary lifestyle," said Paul Higgins, with the American Meteorological Society. He calculates the average person walking half an hour a day would lose about 13 pounds a year—and if everyone did that instead of driving the same distance, the nation would burn a total of 10.5 trillion calories, which would cut the carbon dioxide emissions by about the same amount New Mexico produces.

Sounds like movement in the right direction.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

84 Percent of American Women

When it comes to health, wellness and weight, what do women want, what do women worry about? A new nationwide study, “What Do Women Want?” conducted in October, 2007 by Meredith Corporation and NBC Universal (two of the nation’s leading media companies), points out that when it comes down to health, 56 percent of American women are concerned about diet and weight, 36 percent are concerned about eating right, 23 percent are concerned about cancer, 20 percent about heart health and 18 percent about diabetes.

The study revealed that while most women like who they are inside and are satisfied with their “identity and development as an individual” (68%), only 4 in 10 women say they are satisfied with their physical appearance (40%) and/or energy levels (37%).

Four in ten women report they are more than 20 pounds overweight. Only 4 percent of overweight women say they would consider surgery as a weight reduction solution, while 76 percent say they would “consider” exercise, and 75 percent would improve their diet to lose weight. Yet at the same time, the majority of participants say they would opt instead for simple solutions such as drinking more water or eating more fruits and vegetables rather than using portion control, watching calories or becoming more active.

But here’s the big one: 84 percent of American women feel they are overweight!

23 percent feel they are 21 – 50 pounds overweight and 16 percent report they are more than 50 pounds overweight.

OK, so 84 percent of American women feel they are overweight—but most say they don’t want to “work too hard to achieve a healthy lifestyle.” What’s left? Maybe the LoneStart Wellness Strategy can serve as a wake-up call. Look at what LoneStart promotes:

  • Learn to make modest but meaningful changes
  • Add positive new behaviors
  • Learn how to make better nutritional choices
  • Find out how to find ways to put at least part of our bodies in motion
  • Through behavior change, learn to make those lifestyle changes that change lives

With respect to weight and wellness issues, we’re not singling out women—it just happens that this study targets women’s concerns and health-related behavior. Come on, men. We know you peeked—do you see yourselves here as well?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Take Your Wellness Pills?

A friend recently explained to me that he didn’t need to worry about “wellness” because there are “pills to take for just about everything.” Well, he’s right—and very, very wrong.

CBS News reported on May 14, that Americans buy more medicine per person than any other country. And—more than half of all insured Americans are taking prescription medicines regularly for chronic health problems. That’s an eye-popping (pill-popping) statistic. The most widely used drugs are those to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol—problems often linked to heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Numbers gathered by Medco Health Solutions Inc., show that last year 51 percent of American children and adults were taking one or more prescription drugs for a chronic condition.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group recently said the increased use of medications is partly because the most heavily advertised drugs are for chronic conditions, so most patients will take them for a long time.

Almost one-half of all Americans report having a chronic illness—and those illnesses account for 75 percent of our national spending on health care (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). Furthermore, almost 80 percent of all chronic disease is caused by three preventable health behaviors—physical inactivity, poor nutrition and overeating, and smoking.

According to the CBS report, Dr. Robert Epstein, chief medical officer at Medco, said “a lot of it is related to obesity. We’ve become a couch potato culture (and) it’s a lot easier to pop a pill” than to exercise regularly or diet.

It goes without saying that LoneStart is in the “wellness business,” but it should also go without saying that these are the exact issues we address. The “problem” is a pervasive one and it’s an insidious insight into how we are encouraged to work around it with a simple fix (pills) rather than address it with a sustainable solution (behavior change).

What do you think?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oh No, Not Another Blog

Welcome to the LoneStart Wellness Blog. Whether you’re interested in a workplace wellness program for your organization, or a single individual wellness strategy, we think you’ll find some worthwhile information here. If you are familiar with what we offer—great! If you are new to LoneStart, Please visit our website (, look at the downloadable articles and newsletters on The Workplace and Hospital Initiative pages, and get a feel for what we’re all about. While you’re there, sign up for the complimentary monthly e-newsletter, “Wellness in the Workplace.”

So, why a LoneStart Wellness Blog and why should you care that we’re here? We intend to show people that there is an attainable and sustainable solution to a big problem, one that’s getting bigger every day (we mean that both literally and figuratively). For almost three years we’ve been helping people realize that they have everything they need to take charge of their personal health and wellness. And you know what? When they believe they can, they will—and do. Now, why does this matter to you (and me and every one of us)?

Well, chew on a few of the following statistics:

  • One of every seven deaths is attributed to diet and lack of physical activity. (American Cancer Institute)
  • Adults gain two hours of life expectancy for each hour of regular exercise. (American Heart Association)
  • In general, 50 percent of the calories we consume are void of any nutritional value, and almost half of our food dollars are spent on fast foods. (Center for Science in the Public Interest)
  • Approximately 65 percent of the nation’s adult population is overweight, and 30.5 percent, about one in every three Americans, is obese. (Centers for Disease Control)
  • Obesity is associated with 53 health conditions and has roughly the same association with chronic health conditions as 20 years of aging. (Centers for Disease Control)
  • Obesity is now more costly to U.S. companies than smoking or alcoholism. (The Conference Board)
  • More than 50 percent of corporate profits now go toward health care costs, versus only 7 percent three decades ago. (American Institute for Preventive Medicine)
  • Each extra pound of body weight in all of today’s vehicles results in the need for more than 39 million gallons of extra gasoline each year in the U.S. (University of Illinois and Virginia Commonwealth University)

This blog will offer both fresh and well-worth-repeating insight into the problem (we have become still and ill and overfed yet undernourished), our perspective on solutions, and some interesting, inspirational and very human stories. We hope it will provide some “food for thought” as well as practical, real and life-altering information you can put to good use. And we promise, each post won’t be as long as the first.

Ours' is a grassroots effort to get a positive, realistic strategy in the hands of anyone who can benefit from it, so please pass this information on. Keep checking back, because our intent is to make each post a story worth telling. And if along the way we sometimes get a little "in your face," keep in mind that sometimes that's what it takes to affect change.