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Americans and Dieting

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 34 percent of adult Americans are obese whereas just 15 percent were in the 1970s. And remember, were talking about being obese, not being overweight.

Diet. Its a word that any woman and many men have incorporated and applied into their own lives in some form or another. On any given day in this country, almost half of all American women are on a diet. On any given day, one in four men are on a diet. We spend 40 billion dollars each year on diets or diet-related products. When polled, 80 percent of ten-year-olds are afraid of being fat.

It is safe to say that not only is dieting and the American lifestyle about as common as a coupling as peanut butter and jelly but also given these staggering statistics, its also safe to assume that weve gone a bit overboard with our obsession with being thin and the means we will employ to get there. It is not that dieting is bad alone in and of itself. In fact, there are certain diets which are safe and successful to creating long-term weight loss and to making life-saving health changes. But the problem lies more in what we do with the diet and the power we relinquish to it rather than the actual diet.

According the National Eating Disorders Association, about 25 million Americans struggle with binge-eating disorders. And according to a 2005 study by Neumark-Sztainer, girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who dont diet. Additionally, because eating disorders carry so much shame with them and the woman or man usually goes to great lengths to keep their patterned ways of eating a secret from those around them, it is estimated that many eating disorders go undiagnosed and unaccounted for.

Here are some other eye-opening statistics to ponder: The average American woman stands at 5 4 tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 511 tall and weighs 117 pounds.

It would be encouraging if we could at least have some health benefits, both physical and mental from all the dieting we do and the amount of money we spend on diets each year. But the sad truth is that 95% of dieters will gain their lost weight back within five years (Grodstein, et al., 1996). What is even more perplexing are the obesity statistics in this country. The prevalence of obesity has doubled since 1976 to 2004.

So what do we do with these facts? How do we as Americans and obvious enablers of the dieting craze and obesity epidemic reconcile our role as consumers with our role as having the power to invoke a small dent of change in this disturbing picture of American health?

Blame it on the media. Blame it on the lines of donut and burger places not even two blocks from your house. Blame it your parents divorce. Anyone who has a dysfunctional way of eating has their own unique and special story for how they got to the place where dieting and their preoccupation with weight and eating has taken a stranglehold on them, even if just for a momentary period of time. But there must be some way of slowing down and then reversing these growing trends that if not thwarted, will continue to wreak emotional and physical havoc on the adults and children of this country.

Sources: Crowther et al., 1992; Fairburn et al., 1993; Gordon, 1990; Hoek, 1995; Shisslak et al.Business Management Articles, 1995.

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