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Watching Weight of the Nation

Did you know 68% of Americans are either classified as obese or overweight?

As unreal as this may seem, it is true! After watching Weight of the Nation on HBO, it seems much more real than I could ever imagine! More than half of the population is overweight or obese. This proportion doesn’t just include adults but sadly children too. Children alone have a statistic of 18+% whom are overweight. 

I would imagine I am not the only one who thinks these numbers are disheartening. To me, the consequences of being overweight far outweigh any “benefits” – If there are any! Some of the consequences I CHOOSE not to associate with are:

  • Diabetes
  • Sleep Apnea
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Hurting/Dizziness
  • Rejection from society
  • Heart Disease


These life-threatening consequences have been directly linked to obesity. I understand this is much easier said than done. What I can say without a doubt, if you showed me a list like the one above and told me I was in danger of the following, it wouldn’t matter what it was I would figure out a way to stop what I was doing. 

I would be lying if I told you the 68% statistic is entirely the responsibility of each individual. I would say though, that society plays an enormous role, but not enough to blame. The fact that we have become a car dependent society, screen time has sky rocketed, eating out has doubled, the development of a cheap food model, 135% increase in sweetened beverages and the billion of dollars spent on advertising all in the last 30 years hasn’t helped society make wise choices.

Now that I have told you a few statistics in hopes that you will be intrigued enough to keep reading, I will tell you more about me personally.

Even though I like to think different, most would classify me as short because of my 5’2” frame. My BMI is 21.9. Body Mass Index is what categorizes you as underweight, normal, overweight, obese, or even morbidly obese. A healthy BMI is between 18.5-24.9. According to the sight I calculated my BMI, 100 pounds is the cut off between underweight/normal and 136 is the tipping point between normal/overweight. Because body frames are so different it only makes sense to allow for a range in weight depending on ones height, but I could not imagine weighing 136 pounds and still be on the verge of a normal weight. 

Luckily, I have never personally struggled with weight, but oddly enough my family struggles with being overweight. Both my parents are carrying a little extra baggage as well as both sides of grandparents and most aunts and uncles. It scares me to see my surrounding and what I have to look forward to, but I have also made it a goal of mine to continue to be healthy. I may have to work a little harder than others, but I really don’t want to be a victim of society or myself (for lack of control). 

One way that I continue to maintain the healthy weight I am, is by eating right. I eat as little starchy and sweet carbohydrates as possible - without depriving myself. I eat tons of protein, nuts and fruits/veggies. I encourage my friends to not count calories or go on crash diets since these never deliver long-term solutions. Because my peers and myself are so busy running from class to class, work and social activities going to the gym isn’t as crucial, as long as they can maintain a healthy food intake. 

Dr. Deborah:  I can see the HBO program affected you strongly, Meghann. The really essential question is: what makes people overweight and have the worlds of medicine and public health been helping or aggravating the problem? 

We have always assumed that caution (Dr. Oz suggests 100 fewer calories every day) could result in a net weight loss, because, well…because it should! As scientists, though, physicians should be asking, “Is that really true?” 

Think about evolution: would it really be likely we evolved to require absolutely tight control of our calorie intake to avoid constantly gaining and losing weight? Or is more likely, as with many conditions, that our bodies mostly know how to maintain equanimity, or homeostasis, or weight at a fairly constant set-point. 

Weight loss requires lowering your body weight set-point, by sending effective messages to your internal control center.  

So your job is to keep your own individual health in balance, but medicine’s job is to consider what is the most effective therapy to reverse overweight, obesity, and all the health problems associated, so we can give the right advice to everyone. Right now, the field of medicine is getting ready to change a fifty-year mindset. We’re getting ready to throw out calories and consider weight messaging instead.

I understand it seems like society (peers, advertising agencies, US Farmers, McDonalds, media, advertised research, etc) is working against every healthy move you try to make, but ultimately the choice is yours and avoiding hard social and health consequences is completely preventable. 

What is it that enables us to be overweight? Is it marketing? Is it because we are lazy and unwilling? Is society to blame? Is it because of our individual genes? 

Where do you think the real answer lies?