It is not a shocker that a majority of Americans continue to gain weight – this trend really took off in the 80’s. A new study released in the June 2016 version of JAMA, reveals that within the FEMALE American population, there has been a LINEAR INCREASE in our average BMI (body mass index) over the last decade. That means all uphill, for the last decade straight. Climbing. No tapering, no plateau, just up. And that linear increase applies to females who are obese (BMI >30%) and to females who are morbidly obese (also called class 3 obesity, with a BMI >40%). Percentages? Obesity affects 40.4% of US females and class 3 affects 9.9% of US females.
(If you are “le nerd” like me and want to actually see the data, the methodology, the results and read their conclusion, you can access the free article here: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2526639. And yes, the “le nerd” in me – as well as this research team – understands that BMI can be a flawed measurement, but it has to start somewhere.)
Half of us are walking a very scary line. HALF.OF.US. Add up those percentages. Yikes. You may not see it in your immediate circles, but get out in the bigger public world and BAM, there it is. While the article discusses education levels, socio-economics, smoking, etc. as factors, I am not interested in dissecting the possible components. The reality is that half of us are too heavy, regardless of how or why.
The next reality is that all disease processes that affect the female population are all COMPLICATED and/or CAUSED by being obese. This list includes cancers (both gender and non-gender based), heart disease, reflux/GERD, multiple types of arthritides, gallbladder disease, gastrointestinal struggles, endometriosis, infertility…ugh, the list…is scary. What are we doing? We are killing ourselves with our lifestyles – sedentary jobs, stuck in our cars, poor food choices, lack of activity, overindulging while living in the land of excess. By not taking control of the vessel we are given, we are contributing to our own demise.
We only get one vessel. It is capable of doing a million things at once, bearing babies (if you are lucky) and lasting for multiple decades. If we take care of it. READ: I am well aware that many women do not enjoy exercise, have no desire to see their bicep or quadricep flex, could care less about a 5K, and think that any form of workout wear is evil. But as a momma, don’t you want to be able to run around the yard, climb on the monkey bars, pretend to have skills on some type of court or field in order to bond with the kiddo(s) in your world? (Note: hats off to you mommas that truly DO have skills.) Being active is inherent to our bodies. Isn’t the desire to experience horseback riding, zip lining, kayaking or fill in the blank? Isn’t that part of living? Experiencing? What do we use to experience things? Yep, our vessel, our temple, our body.
You don’t need hours and hours in a gym, you don’t need special clothes, the latest music, or the perfect yoga mat. (Slight rabbit trail here – the PT in me will tell you that yes, you do need the correct shoes. That is where you should spend your coin. Go to a reputable store and have yourself fitted with the right type of shoe and save you from the possibility of blisters, shin splints, knee pain, hip pain, back pain. Especially after babies. Trust me.)
Find the thing(s) that you will do consistently. Biking not your thing? Ok, walk. Bad knee or back but you love to walk? Find a pool and start by walking in the pool (there are shoes for that, you will want those, too). When you get stronger, you can transition to land. Want to learn how to run? Books, friends, groups (shoe stores mentioned previously) or go for super simple. Take a 30-minute run and break it into 10-minute segments. Run 1 minute, walk 9, repeat 2 more times. When that is easy, run 2 minutes, walk 8, repeat 2 more times. (Did I mention good shoes?!)
Yoga? Ask Google about studios nearby that offer beginner classes – or even one-on-one sessions!! Remember, the intent of yoga is to center yourself through your breath, NOT to be a pretzel. Weight lifting, dancing, pole dancing (no judgment here – I will go with you!), Zumba, met cons, hiring a personal trainer, hiking, whatever. Can’t get out of the house easily? There are online classes in every possible flavor you can imagine – cardio, pilates, body weight-based routines, etc. Many have unlimited access for minimal monthly charges.
The goal is not a size 4 bum or abs or deltoids. The goal is owning your vessel so that it can hop off the couch and wrestle in the floor, or race around filming the mad Easter egg hunt. So you can pull the cover off the pool solo because it is suddenly 98 degrees and the neighborhood showed up to swim. Or haul the dang laundry, the groceries – oh, wait, the child!! Or get the Christmas tree out of the basement. Does the sofa need to be on the other wall because, well, it just does? You got it. By seeking those types of life-based-using-your-body-as-it-is-intended goals, the weight numbers will generally take care of themselves.
If you do not have this struggle, then find a purpose. Go with your friend or coworker to that yoga class, to meet their trainer, or to the shoe store. Take them on your favorite hike, to a cool paddling destination, or pace them in a race. Talk to them about how you fit exercise into your life because, reality check, it is NOT EASY. Be their workout buddy – even if it’s just to get them started. Sometimes knowing someone is waiting for you is what it takes to get out of bed – or out of the office.
So, the harsh truth. We must make a plan, a choice. Choose to get up early and knock it out, or fit it in over lunch. To find a gym with childcare, locate a couple of DVDs or online classes that can be performed during naptime. Walk after bedtime with the momma next door, or squeeze in some push-ups while playing on the floor. We must choose to put activity back into our lives so our temples can be used for their purposes – to be alive and present as mommas, wives, lovers, and friends.
And yes, we must choose to eat better. Bodies do not change by exercise only, unfortunately (sigh). If the ridiculous onslaught of food information freaks you out, just remember this – it should be as close to its original form as it can be. That applies to vegans, omnivores, vegetarians, pescetarians, paleo, those with food allergies, whatever. Less processed is always better and you should always honor what your body needs. Make an appointment to see a nutritionist or dietitian if you need deeper instruction.
So come on, ladies, let’s stop killing ourselves – TODAY – and start showing the next generation(s) how to live and the next set of statistics that we own our vessels.