A Story About How to Fight the American Obesity Epidemic

This article is published as part of Nutri Inspector's scholarship application by Chima Enwere who studies at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

My longtime friend, Jeffrey, spent his childhood through his early 20s suffering from the American obesity epidemic. Around 65 percent of Americans suffer from this life-threatening disorder. At age 13 he was a whopping 200 pounds. He tipped the scale at 270 pounds at age 18. To make things much worse, was only 5’5”. After he moved out from his mother’s home and on his own in his early 20s, Jeffrey decided to make a huge life change. He decided to lose the weight that has been weighing him down both physically and emotionally.

Since his mother was no longer responsible for buying his groceries, he used this new opportunity to completely change his “diet”. Both my friends and I doubted that his new “diet” would last long. He proved us wrong, however. Jeffrey tried to incorporate physical activity into every aspect of his life. For example, he would park his car as far away from the store to increase the walking distance, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do pushups and sit-ups during commercial breaks, and stand instead of sitting at a sporting event.

At the time, he was working for a fast food restaurant, so to avoid the impossible-to-resist temptations, he left the job and sought a solely physical job away from fast food temptations. He landed a job as a truck loader which has a high demand for physical activity. One tip he always gives to me is, “Create a no-fail zone”. Do not set yourself up for failure. For Jeffrey, his fail zone was his previous workplace. He also suggests that you adopt this principle in your home. He says that when you go grocery shopping, make sure to stock up on plenty of healthy snacks because there will be some late nights in which you will raid the fridge, and if there are only healthy options available, you will be forced to have a healthy snack.

Jeffrey always stresses that you should not be too hard on yourself. There were days every once in a while where he would purposefully cheat and skip workouts. Taking a break to indulge every so often can be just as crucial to the weight loss process as the whole journey itself. Nevertheless, there were extended periods where he “fell off the wagon”. Jeffrey did not let those falls keep him down. He would just pick up where he left off and tried even harder. His unfailing persistence got him to his goal. He plummeted to 160lbs! Jeffrey is 30 now which means it has been about 10 years since he has reached his goal, and he has kept all of the weight off when everyone else thought he would gain it all back. “I did not go on a 'diet'. I made a lifestyle change. Diets are short term. They will always fail, and you will end up where you started. You have to make up in your mind that what you are doing is going to become part of your daily life.”

“Eat your veggies. Exercise regularly. Drink plenty of water. Limit your junk food intake!” I’ve heard the same things over and over and over again… yet, I did not listen. “If you don’t exercise, you’ll gain weight, and there are many health consequences that come with excess body fat”. Not only did I hear this from my parents but from friends, TV, radio, and the internet. I did not want to believe any of it. It was so easy and fun to habitually indulge in unhealthy fast food. It was so easy to just lie around and surf the web all day long without getting proper exercise. Now, at age 22, this is beginning to catch up with me. No, I do not have health issues that are associated with being overweight... yet But, I do feel unhealthy. I know that is not how I am supposed to look and feel. I now realize that everything they told me is true. A healthy lifestyle consisting of a balanced diet and exercise truly is the best lifestyle. Recently, I analyzed my life, and realize it is time for a "lifestyle change." I have since begun an exercise routine, and I have begun eating smart. No, I am nowhere close to my ideal weight, but I already feel a difference. If I could do it all over again, I’d go back to my childhood and adopt a healthy lifestyle so I would not be battling these issues now. I think of Jeffrey's journey every step of the way to get me through this.​

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