According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016 more than 1.9 billion adults worldwide were overweight, including 650 million who were obese. Within the Unites States, obesity is a common, serious, and costly disease with obesity prevalence at 42.4% in 2017 – 2018. Per the CDC, over 70 million U.S. adults are obese (35 million men and 35 million women) and 99 million are overweight (45 million women and 54 million men). According to a new report released September 15, 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to exacerbate the nation’s obesity epidemic.
As recently as 2012, no state had an adult obesity rate above 35%. Yet, in 2020, 16 states had adult obesity rates at or above 35%, up from 12 states the previous year. The changing numbers can partly be tied to the coronavirus pandemic. It is believed that the pandemic changed eating habits, worsening levels of food insecurity, creating obstacles to physical activity, and heightening stress. According to a Harris Poll conducted in February 2021, since the pandemic began, 42% of adults in the U.S. reported gaining an undesired amount of weight – an average reported weight gain of 29 pounds.
Regrettably, rising obesity rates are also a problem among children and adolescents. According to the 2017 – 2018 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 19.3% of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 are obese. These data more than tripled since the mid-1970s. According to the survey, Black and Latino youth have substantially higher rates of obesity than do their white peers.
Those of us who suffer with obesity are advised that it is associated with a range of diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, sleep apnea, and many types of cancers. It is estimated that obesity increases healthcare spending by $149 billion annually (about half of which is paid for by Medicare and Medicaid). Furthermore, obesity is one of the underlying health conditions associated with the most serious consequences of COVID-19 infection, including higher risk of hospitalization and death.
For some of us, obesity is the result of Binge eating disorder (BED) – a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder. It is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating significantly large quantities of food (often very swiftly, and to the point of physical discomfort), a feeling of a loss of control during the binge, and the experience of shame, distress or guilt afterwards. Typically, it is not associated with unhealthy compensatory measures, such as purging, which may be undertaken to counter the binge eating. It is, however, the most common eating disorder in the United States.
For all of us who suffer from obesity or binge eating disorder, life becomes more and more difficult. Our increasing body size proves to be more and more challenging as we attempt to navigate a world that fails to understand or accept us, and that cannot comprehend our extreme behaviors or obsession with food. Increasing isolation becomes the norm.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you struggling with obesity or binge eating?
- Do you have recurrent episodes of excessive and/or rapid food consumption (not triggered by actual hunger)?
- Do you experience a lack of control when you eat, finding yourself consuming food well beyond the point of fullness?
- Do you steal or horde food in strange places in order to ensure that you have your desired supply of food at the ready?
- Are you finding yourself eating, and thinking about, possibly even obsessing about sugary, doughy, chocolatey, fatty fast food, junk food, or heavily processed foods?
- Do you often eat alone or in secret because of feelings of embarrassed regarding how much you consume in one sitting or over the course of a day?
- Do you feel like your eating is on an endless loop where no matter how much you consume, it seems never to be enough?
- Do you feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating?
- Is your weight and size causing mobility problems, health concerns, or limiting your ability to function or navigate the world around you?
- Does your weight tend to fluctuate widely, either up or down?
- Do people you live with notice the disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or complain of frequent evidence of numerous empty wrappers and containers?
- Are your loved ones or physician concerned with your excess weight and/or excessive food consumption?
If you found yourself answering ‘yes’ to any one of the above questions, and are ready to accept help, then you can benefit from attending an OA meeting, finding a sponsor, and working our Twelve Step program of recovery. We hope you will join us and come to experience the gifts of the OA program: happiness, joy, and freedom!