Obesity: a weighty issue

The incidence of school age obesity is increasing. Obesity in adulthood is at unprecedented levels. In Essex County, a variety of agencies and people are looking at the issue of obesity and Essex County Public Health Educator, Jessica Darney Buehler is one of those people.

"Diets are restrictive and short lived; not terribly effective for most people," said Buehler. "A paradigm shift to a lifestyle where achieving a healthy weight is a side effect of living healthfully is an approach with which most people find long lasting success. Joyful pleasures such as playing with your children, enjoying personal recreation or just walking may become exhausting with extra weight. Getting your body to do what you want it to do by fueling it with healthful foods and keeping active will result in a healthy weight."

While many adult Americans are overweight, the concerns for obese children are even greater. If they are overweight their entire lives, the health implications are very strong and very negative. According to Buehler, there are powerful environmental influences that favor gaining weight.

"Our health decisions are influenced by our policies and environments," she said. "Those influences include the communities in which we live, the child care facilities and schools in which our children learn, the places in which we work, residential facilities that some of us call home and media and marketing to which we are all subject."

Reconstructing our environment and policies so that they support healthy living is crucial. Our changed view of smoking is a good example of a powerful environmental change. At one time 70% of adult Americans smoked and now only about 18% smoke.

"Decreasing obesity will follow a similar track that the decline of smoking took," Beuhler said. "We can construct a spectrum of prevention from which to address the issue from strengthening our individual knowledge, skills and decisions to collectively influencing policies and legislation."

"It won't happen overnight, however; we must act now."

For more information about health, nutrition or obesity contact Jessica Darney Buehler at jdbuehler@co.essex.ny.us Remember, all kids count.

Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at hurlburt@wildblue.net

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