In 1900, the average weight of a college-age male and average woman in the United States was 133 and 122 lbs. respectively. By 2000, the numbers had risen to 166 and 144 pounds. The data collected shows that about two-thirds of Americans are overweight. "We've defined an American version of what it means to succeed…And a big part of that is access to an environment in which there is a lot of food to be consumed." and so begins Jeffrey Kluger's article "How America's Children Packed On the Pounds" which appeared in the June 10th issue of Time.
Sadly, this weight gain isn't just affecting adults. In 1971 only 4% of American children, ages 6 to 11, were obese yet by 2004 the percentage had risen to 18.8% The number of 2- to 5-year-olds climbed from 5 to 13.9%. It's amazing to think that 13.9% of preschoolers are overweight.
"Obese boys and girls are already starting to develop the illnesses of excess associated with people in their 40s and beyond: heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, gallstones, joint breakdown and even brain damage as fluid accumulation inside the skull leads to headaches, vision problems and possibly lower IQs. A staggering 90% of overweight kids already have at least one avoidable risk factor for heart disease, such as high cholesterol or hypertension. Type 2 diabetes is now being diagnosed in teens as young as 15."
So what's a family to do? According to Kluger, parents are fighting the battle against obesity by preparing healthier meals, managing self-esteem, setting good food choice examples among other things – but the battle is a difficult one as even schools may be of little help. Many American schools have been forced to shut down any physical education programs due to lack of funding.
Acting U.S. Surgeon General Steven Galson adds, "If we got this way over the last 30 years, it's not going to take us centuries to get back. We could reverse things at the same speed or even faster."
What do you think? Will it be easy to get Americans – especially children -- back into shape?
To read the entire article, visit Time's Web site.