The United States’ obesity epidemic has been on the forefront of health and wellness news for what feels like ages now — and with all of the new public information, the new health studies, the big push for a healthier culture, what can be said for the efforts? According to the most recent survey in 2016, rates of obesity now exceed 35 percent in four states, and others are slowly trailing behind. People in general still don’t understand the reasons for eating clean and exercising — even though both offer so many more benefits than just losing weight.
According to Arizona State University, around 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, while 27.6 million suffer from some form of heart disease, and 37.9 percent of adults over 20 are considered obese. Despite all of the free fitness-tracking apps, the trendy and affordable diet plans, the constant warnings against eating too much processed food, it seems few things are really making that big of a difference in changing those numbers. Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative helping fight childhood obesity seemed to stall the growing numbers for a bit, but without a bigger change in overall societal expectations, it can’t be expected to stay.
This includes society’s discomfort in discussing the truth of the matter, that being the fear that bringing up someone’s dangerous weight, even in a healthcare setting, is somehow inappropriate. Bradley University explains it specifically: “Health care providers do not always feel comfortable advising obese patients to lose weight. The [American Nurse Practitioner Foundation] ANPF reported on a study finding that weight loss is advised for roughly less than half of obese patients visiting care providers.”
More Than the Physical Weight
More than with just the physical weight a person suffering from obesity has to struggle with, is the added mental health issues that are found to sometimes correlate. PsychCentral.com lists a few specifically, including depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, and overall low self-esteem. As it turns out, an overhaul in a person’s diet has much more potential for benefits than just losing a few pounds and taking the stress off one’s joints— it can even better their overall mental well-being.
PsychCentral goes on to say, “Obese people have been found several times to have higher rates of depression. For example, David A. Kats, MD and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison assessed quality of life in 2,931 patients with chronic health conditions including obesity. They found that clinical depression was highest in very obese participants (BMI over 35).”
Anyone who has switched from the “standard” American diet to an alternative one, whether that be vegetarian, vegan, paleo, what have you, can surely attest to finding relief from at least one mental health struggle or another from that list. In fact, The Flaming Vegan has a number of different stories speaking to exactly this.
Exercise Gives You Endorphins …
… and endorphins make you happy. If you aren’t familiar with this saying, I suggest you take a break from reading this article and watch Legally Blonde. I’ll wait for you to get back.
As it turns out, though, there are plenty of things that can give you endorphins; exercise doesn’t have a monopoly on them. Laughing with friends, reading a good book, eating a tasty meal, anything that makes you smile is filling you with happy vibes. Naturally, one of those things I listed is more likely to lead to a struggle with obesity, that being the “eating a good meal” aspect of it. Endorphins and food are what make emotional and binge eating such an issue amongst many otherwise healthy people, offering them the good-vibes for all the wrong reasons.
When people learn to find their endorphins elsewhere, ideally in healthier options like going out for a run or preparing a yummy, spicy meal, they unlearn old habits that might have been hurting them. Old habits like overeating, old tastebuds that wanted nothing but meat, dairy, candy, and ice-cream — old habits, like old cravings and old dietary staples. Once they’ve been replaced with better, healthier, happier alternatives, it’ll be no time at all before suddenly, they start feeling better about themselves, too.
The majority of people who have taken part in “alternative dieting,” as it’s called, know of the benefits that come from it — and, especially, know that those benefits reach far past just dropping some pounds. Whether it be increased energy, better skin, better hair, or, best of all, a better overall mindset and more ammunition to use against a mental illness. While eating better and getting a run in after work aren’t always going to be the only thing people need, of course — they certainly aren’t going to hurt, either. Strap on some shoes, grab an apple, and feel those endorphins filling your body!
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