The Pandemic Nobody Wants to Acknowledge

TAGS: Tyler Curtis, COVID-19, fat gain, lose weight, obesity

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What I'm about to say to you is not going to be for the faint of heart. It will be direct and unapologetic. Unfortunately, the time for niceties has long since passed, and we are currently dealing with a crisis that goes far beyond what the mainstream media will articulate. America is at a crossroads. COVID-19 has put us in a place where we now must choose whether we want to change or not. There has been a pandemic plaguing our society long before COVID-19 reared its ugly head. This pandemic I'm referencing has been talked about in the past superficially but hardly acknowledged.

The pandemic I'm speaking of is obesity, and unlike COVID-19, it doesn't seem to be subsiding. What's even worse is that it's getting worse each year.

Before we get started, let's get clear on a few definitions and add in a few disclaimers. Since this article is about obesity, I'll start there.

Obesity is the condition of being grossly fat or overweight.

Google isn't very delicate in how it defines obesity. If that definition offends you, I have a few more that may be more to your liking.
Obesity is the condition involving excessive fat that increases the risk of other health conditions.


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Obesity is well above one's normal weight—precisely defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 and above.

How about one from the Obesity Medicine Organization?

Obesity is defined as "a chronic, relapsing, multifactorial, neurobehavioral disease, wherein an increase in body fat promotes adipose tissue dysfunction and abnormal fat mass physical forces, resulting in adverse metabolic, biomechanical, and psychosocial health consequences." [1]

I think you get the point.

No matter how you want to package it or whatever definition you choose, there is no mistaking the scientific fact that obesity leads to serious life-threatening health consequences.

Many in today's media will now tell you that you should accept your body for what it is. It's fate, and there is nothing you can do about it. It's a good thing to be unhealthy and to live in what amounts to serious physical and emotional pain. Obesity is abusive to our health no matter how hard we try to accept it and love it. Obesity has no interest in being our friend. Its only interest is to kill us slowly.

In the spirit of martyrdom, we began to champion something that kills people every single day. And to what effect? Is it because we've become so fragile and simple-minded that we can no longer handle constructive criticism? Is it really too difficult for us to put in just a little bit of extra time to get our bodies healthy? It's precisely why the sheep shouldn't speak. We've resorted to dispelling science in an effort to protect our fragile egos. We've attached emotion to science when they mix just about as well as oil and water.

Contrary to what now seems to be popular belief, obesity doesn't bring about any benefits, not a single one. To think otherwise is the equivalent of aligning yourself with the same people that thought smoking was beneficial prior to the 1960s.

The Statistics

I'm here to tell you that we can change for the better and, in the end, save ourselves from a life of suffering caused by a preventable disease.

Here's the caveat: We must make a change ourselves. Nobody is coming to save us, and we shouldn't expect them to.

"Risks associated with obesity include hypertension, insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, hypertriglyceridemia, low high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, and, in some studies, high total and low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol. There is increased mortality from endometrial cancer in women and from colorectal cancer in men. Chronic hypoxia and hypercapnia, sleep apnea, gout, and degenerative joint disease can occur with more severe obesity." [1]

None of these diseases make one live longer, live more prosperously, or add any sort of additional comfort. There's no reason for it, and I'm tired of pandering to those that will not get out of their way.

You may be asking yourself, "If obesity is such a big deal, then why has it been talked about less and less?" Why have we become so used to it and even accept it? While I can't give one sole reason (situations that have been politicized are multifactorial), one of the major reasons lies within a newfound fat acceptance movement. This movement sparked the dad bod craze of a couple of years ago—where it had become acceptable for a man to look like the human equivalent of a melted ice cream cone. It is the same movement that has people applauding others who choose to be extremely overweight. It has given rise to an ideology that seems to comfort the minds of some at their body's expense. To circumnavigate our past errors, we've chosen to forsake science to lie to ourselves. It's how we're coping.

In all fairness, I'll throw everyone a bone. Getting in shape is hard, especially when you're extremely out of shape. Forming healthy habits is difficult. Meal prepping can be time-consuming. Doing research is boring and confusing. The food industry has developed foods that act like drugs, giving us feelings of euphoria. While these may be facts to some extent, they are also, and more importantly, excuses.

Where there is a will, there's a way. But we no longer have the willpower to do what's necessary, and we'll suffer the consequences nonetheless.

"Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. There are 7.8 billion people in total on Earth. One-fourth of the population is overweight. Of these 1.9 billion people, over 650 million were obese. Breaking it down percentage-wise, 39 percent of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13 percent were obese. Most of the world's population lives in countries where being overweight and obese kills more people than being underweight does. Forty million children under the age of five were overweight or obese in 2018, with numbers continuing to climb. Over 340 million children and adolescents aged five-19 were overweight or obese in 2016. Obesity is preventable." [2]

Those stats and quotes came directly from the World Health Organization. I see people on the internet claim they are offended because they were "fat-shamed." To that, I'll reply that I'm offended that 40 million children under the age of five are overweight or obese and will more than likely grow up to be obese.

Millions of kids suffer from the crushing weight of their bodies. That's the real crime in all of this. How is this OK?

If we're not willing to fix ourselves, then we won't be able to tend to those we care about. We will require others to care for us. We won't be able to contribute to society as much as we're capable of. Our kids and our grandkids will suffer. And it's not because we've been dealt a bad hand, it's because we chose to fold.

As it pertains to current events, a study by NYU scientists has now pinpointed that those who are considered obese make up the vast majority of patients who require a ventilator due to the COVID-19 outbreak.[3] Not shocking in the slightest, but somehow this detail seems to go unnoticed by those reporting the news. In addition to this finding, the same study said that age and people who are overweight are the ones dying at much higher rates. According to Bloomberg, in Italy, 99 percent of patients who died had other health conditions. Those patients with three or more comorbidities made up 50 percent of deaths. Seventy-five percent of those deaths had high blood pressure. About 35 percent had diabetes, and about a third had heart disease.[4]

We can't control our age, father time remains undefeated. However, we can control our weight.

Our Pockets Are Getting Shallower

If you're not on board yet I have one more point to make. Being obese will pull money out of our wallets. According to a study done by Adam Biener Ph.D., John Cawley Ph.D., and Chad Meyerhoefer Ph.D. as well as data based on the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), indicates that, between 2005 and 2010, the amount by which obesity-related medical costs per obese adult rose from $3,070 to $3,508 which is an increase of about 14 percent. Furthermore, during that same period, "the aggregate costs of obesity in the adult, noninstitutionalized population of the US rose from $212.4 billion to $315.8 billion (both in 2010 dollars), an increase of 48.7 percent." [5] What's even scarier is that these figures are from 10 years ago and there has been no stoppage in the obesity pandemic.

Figures based on 2018 health reports now state that obesity-related health care costs rose to $344 billion dollars.[6] That information comes from the Partnership To Fight Chronic Disease.


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So, what does this all mean? To put it simply it means we are suffocating our economy because of increased sick days, medical costs, insurance costs, and ultimately funeral costs. Then, when a pandemic occurs we shelter at home because we are not healthy enough to withstand a virus. Our lungs are collapsing in on themselves from the sheer weight of our own bodies, adding a virus to that is a death sentence.

We shelter at home, nobody can work, the economy crumbles, and our healthcare systems are still overrun—still think this isn't a big deal? Or that health guidelines are a social construct made to make us feel bad about our bodies?

Others Are at Risk

There is a separate factor that often doesn't get included when obesity statistics are vocalized. Being obese puts others who are not obese at risk, mainly medical professionals. My brother-in-law is a paramedic and it is all-too-often that he encounters someone that is having some sort of complication but cannot fend for themselves because of their weight. The ambulance is called and he and multiple other people are called in to extract the person from their bedroom. They can't move, but it's not because they are so physically ill that they are incapacitated and it's not because their legs are broken. It is because they are just too big to move. I've seen him laid up on his off days with various injuries due to lifting people three times his size or more.

Just the other day he was called in to fly someone to the hospital. This individual was so big that the helicopter nearly buckled under their weight. If the weather conditions hadn't been conducive for flying, this individual would not have received the medical care they needed when they needed it.  This individual was 450 pounds.

Maybe I should take my personal stories out of it. According to the National Health Services of The United Kingdom in 2016, 923 medical workers were injured due to treating obese patients which totaled four years and seven months of lost sick time. This results in lost pay for workers and hospitals cannot treat patients as effectively or timely.

When we choose to be overweight we are choosing to make ourselves sick. We are choosing a life of suffering and decay. And when a pandemic arises, like COVID-19, we essentially stamp our own death certificate. Our bodies are amazing at keeping us alive despite the circumstances we put them through but eventually our bodies do reach a breaking point.

Conclusion

Just to clarify, I'm not saying we all need to walk around looking like supermodels or bodybuilders with five percent body fat and 20-inch arms. But it is not unreasonable to ask that we stop weighing over 300+ pounds that sends our BMIs through the roof. Shouldn't we want to feel good in our own bodies? You can't tell me that getting winded from walking up a flight of stairs makes anyone feel good about themselves, mentally or physically.

In science, there are almost no extremely clear answers. Very few actual laws exist and there are typically two sides to every story, but not when it comes to obesity. Usually, when someone wants to argue a point they can find a study that supports their argument.

I've presented you with the data. The unbiased and substantiated data. I've given you both anecdotal findings as well as scientific research. If you're someone in this position, then you should leave this article a little scared.

But there is hope and I'm here to tell you that this doesn't have to be you. I'm not saying all of this because I do not care. In fact, I'm saying this BECAUSE I care. If I didn't care, I promise you, I wouldn't be this upset. I wouldn't write this article and I certainly wouldn't speak with such conviction.

Being obese doesn't make someone a bad person. It doesn't make them less of a human being and it doesn't make anybody not worth celebrating as a person.  Being the fat kid that gets picked on was never OK but forgoing science as well as our health is a pendulum swing into the jaws of death. As COVID-19 burns through the world's collective consciousness and wreaks havoc upon everything that was once normal, obesity lies in wait like the embers left in its wake of a forest fire. Instead of bringing about new life, the embers linger only to be reignited later. While obesity is a problem, it is a problem that can be solved.

I can't stress to you enough how important your health is, not only to you but to those around you. It's important to those that love you and want to see you live a long and healthy life. Good health brings one happiness and both can be yours with a little bit of elbow grease, a different perspective, and a strengthened resolve.

We must choose to make the change now. The reckoning has come and we have two choices. Make the sacrifices now for our long term well-being or we can choose to die in coffins that we can't squeeze into. The choice is ours.

References

  1. (2017, August 29). What Is the Definition of Obesity? | Obesity Medicine Association. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://obesitymedicine.org/definition-of-obesity/
  2. (1991, June 1). Health implications of obesity - Oxford Academic Journals. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/53/6/1595S/4732416
  3. (2020, March 3). Obesity and overweight - World Health Organization. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight
  4. "Age and obesity are the biggest risk factors for COVID-19 ...." 13 Apr. 2020, https://nypost.com/2020/04/13/age-and-obesity-are-biggest-risk-factors-for-covid-19-hospitalization/. Accessed 16 Apr. 2020.
  5. "99% of Those Who Died From Virus Had Other Illness, Italy Says." 18 Mar. 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-18/99-of-those-who-died-from-virus-had-other-illness-italy-says. Accessed 16 Apr. 2020.
  6. "The High and Rising Costs of Obesity to the US Health Care ...." 7 Mar. 2017, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-016-3968-8. Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.
  7. "New Data Shows Obesity Costs Will Grow to $344 Billion by ...." https://www.fightchronicdisease.org/latest-news/new-data-shows-obesity-costs-will-grow-344-billion-2018. Accessed 16 Apr. 2020.

Header image credit: axsimen © 123rf.com


Tyler Curtis, CSCS, is the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at G-Strength in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He's earned his M.S. in Sports Administration at Canisius College in  2019, and his B.S. in Exercise Science at Ithaca College in 2015. In recent years, he has coached at the D1 (Syracuse), D2 (Shippensburg), D3 (RIT) levels, and now in the private sector.

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