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Obesity has reached the point of being a serious public health crisis globally, killing at least 2.8 million people every year.  The World Health Organization (WHO) laments how obesity has reached epidemic proportions over the years.  Obesity used to be a problem of high-income countries but in the recent years, even middle and low-income countries have been reporting a high incidence of obesityAmerica is showing no signs of slimming down.  In the past 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a dramatic spike in obese cases, with numbers doubling between 1990 and 2010.  Latest available data of the CDC show that one-third or 35.7% of Americans and 17% or roughly more than 12 million of children and adolescents aged 2 – 19 are obese.

The WHO defines obesity as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.”  It is usually the result of an imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended.  Anyone with a body mass index (BMI) equal to or more than 25 is considered overweight while those with a BMI equal to or more than 30 is obese.

But is being obese just a matter of body weight?  A new report by the Mayo Clinic is pushing for a new definition of obesity.  It suggests measuring weight based on adiposity or the state of being fat or accumulation of fats.  It argues that there people with normal body weight but are nonetheless considered obese because high body fat percentage.

Skinny-fat

The phenomenon known as normal-weight obesity, Mayo researchers found, is to be blamed for a higher risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and early death.  It also shows a high degree of metabolic deregulation. This is the reason why external appearances may not be used as a barometer for external health.

A 2007 study funded by Britain’s Medical Research Council involved scanning 800 people under an MRI machine to create “fat maps.”  Results show 45% of people with normal BMI have too much internal fat.  They are what are now being called as skinny-fat or a TOFI (thin outside, fat inside) or having supermodel-like proportions but still unhealthy. Note also that being skinny-fat does not refer to thin women with wide hips or big bums.  It is having too much fat around the organs or the bloodstream.

According to Dr. Jimmy Bell, the leader of the research team, people who are fat on the inside are usually those whose diet consists of mostly fatty and sugary foods and exercise too little.  The difference is that they are not eating enough to actually be fat.

Bell adds that fat active people may, in fact, be healthier that skinny ones.  For example, sumo wrestlers may have a better metabolic profile under those ripples of fat.  This is because a sumo wrestler’s fat is mostly formed under the skin and not around vital organs.

Despite this, doctors are careful not to mislead that it is better to be fat.  Remember that you can’t be too fat and still claim to be fully fit.  Whatever your body size or body fat is, you are not supposed to treat your bodies badly.

Exercise is Key

Bell’s study also reveals that people who maintain their weight through diet rather that physical activity are more likely to have major deposits of internal fat.  “If you want to look thin, then maybe dieting is enough.  But if you want to actually be healthy, then exercise has to be an important component of your lifestyle,” Bell says.

The keyword there is lifestyle.  Staying healthy and fit is a commitment, not only among adults but also to kids.  Whether a kid is obese on the BMI front or TOFI standards, encourage them to move a little more.Among the many initiatives to combat

Among the many initiatives to combat these unhealthy lifestyles among children is “Let’s Move,” a campaign led by First Lady Michelle Obama.  In its website, it noted how calorie intake has changed over the years. Thirty years ago, kids ate just one snack a day as opposed to an average of three snacks at present, resulting in an additional 200 calories a day.  It added that kids are now eating two to five times bigger portions of food and are drinking 20 ounces of sugar from beverage.

Thirty years ago, kids walked to and from school, played during recess, interacted at the playgrounds, and ate home-cooked meals.  Today, children spend almost eight hours that 8 – 18-year-olds spend in front of the TV or the computer.   The campaign is pushing for at least 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity for children to maintain a healthy weight and grow up physically fit.

These physical activities can be and should be fun.  When was the last time you and your kids had a trip at a local playground or played in the backyard?  If it looks like a long time ago, it’s time to make your move.  Playground fitness is cool and fun.  Children get fit at the playground by climbing a slide, balancing at the beam and jumping up down the trampoline.  Aside from the whole body workout, children also get a dose of cardio exercise when running from one playground equipment to another.  Aside from physical fitness, playground activities also enhance a child’s motor and sensory skills for brain development. Seeing your kids make new friends is also priceless.

You may also consider purchasing commercial playground equipment.  At the backyard, you can have a mini-slide, a swing, monkey bars, hula-hoop, and jungle gym.  You can also build a playground indoors and never have weather distract playtime ever again.  Aside from this, you can be sure that your purchased equipment is safe and you can monitor your kids better.

Being truly healthy, whether for adults or kids or whether in terms of body weight or adiposity, requires lifestyle changes and sticking to them.  Eating healthy coupled with regular exercise is still key to a healthy body.  They never go out of style.  Remember that physical activities do not have to be extremely vigorous or boring.  Be creative and have fun doing them.  A healthier America will not happen overnight, but as soon as everyone agree to treat obesity as a serious threat to public health and that it must be fought together, it can happen pound after pound.

Author's Bio: 

Anna Rodriguez is a manager and a passionate writer. She owns Homey Guide Blog. You can follow her at @annrodriguez021