.
When the world’s population passed seven billion, it was a useful reminder of the fact that human beings may be our most valuable resource. After all, the value of every natural resource—from oil to water—depends on how effectively and efficiently they are used by human beings. But human beings also must also take care of themselves. How well we live, how long we live, how much we cost the health-care system, and how much we get to contribute to society depends largely on how well we look after ourselves.

Increasingly, one of the biggest challenges to our health is obesity. The problem is especially acute in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 70 percent of Americans are overweight. About half of them are obese. The trend is getting worse. Obesity rates in the United States soared by more than a third just between 1998 and 2006.

The problem is by no means restricted to Americans. The World Health Organization projects that in five years about 1.6 billion adults around the world will be overweight, and about 400 million will be obese. Obesity is truly a problem without borders.

And it is a problem with significant economic costs. In fact, the U.S. spends or $147 billion a year treating obesity-related ailments. That comes to 1 percent of GDP. To get a sense of the economic impact of cost, just consider that the last recession caused the U.S. economy to contract by 1.9 percent. In other words, the annual economic cost of obesity-related ailments is a little over half of the last recession. And unlike the last recession, the cost of obesity doesn’t end as part of the business cycle.

The economic consequences of obesity show up every day in American offices, factories, and other places of work. Over the course of a year, obesity-related disorders are responsible for nearly 40 million lost workdays, 239 million restricted activity days, and 63 million doctor visits by employees across the country, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported.

There are obviously a number of factors contributing to the growth of obesity, in the United States and elsewhere. But probably the most important overall reason is the fact that too many people of all ages suffer from a basic imbalance in the energy quotient of our lives. As the World Health Organization has put it: “The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed on one hand, and calories expended on the other hand.”

Too many calories in and not enough calories out. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation was created to address this imbalance. We have taken several steps we believe will help deal with the problem by supporting programs for families, schools, and children.

In the marketplace, we are providing families with more choices. With First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House press event, we announced a new pledge by Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation food manufacturing members to reduce annual calories by 1.5 trillion calories from the marketplace by the end of 2015. In the schools, we are partnering with Discovery Education to provide an energy balance curriculum that promotes nutrition and physical activity education. This curriculum reaches into tens of thousands of U.S. schools, and is available online free of charge.

One of the most important things we are doing is conducting the Together Counts™ program, encouraging families to eat meals and engage in physical activities together. We’ve found this is an effective way for families to counter obesity and promote good health. A number of academic studies demonstrate that. A study by the University of Minnesota, for example, found that adolescents who eat with their families grow up to be healthier adults, eating more fruit, dark-green and orange vegetables, and key nutrients. Girls are more likely to eat breakfast as adults. Boys are more likely to consume more calcium, magnesium, potassium, and other fiber.

When it comes to family participation in physical activities, academics at University of Northern Iowa have found that is helpful because children model the behavior of the adults in their lives. Actions speak louder than words.

A family meal or a family activity is a teachable moment—an opportunity to pass on lifelong, healthy habits to children. When families eat together and engage in physical activity together, parents get the opportunity to teach in the most effective way possible: by example, on a regular basis.

Our future depends on our children, and our children depend on our guidance. Their health—physical and economic—depends largely on how well we address the problem of obesity together.

Lisa Gable is President of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a first-of-its kind coalition that brings together over 185 retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, sporting goods and insurance companies, restaurants, professional sports associations, trade associations, and NGOs.

This article was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier's January 2012 issue.

About
Lisa Gable
:
Lisa Gable is a Diplomatic Courier Advisory Board member and WSJ and USA Today best-selling author of "Turnaround: How to Change Course When Things Are Going South" (IdeaPress Publishing, October 5, 2021).
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

Healthy Weight Can Lead to a Healthy Physical and Economic Future

January 21, 2012

When the world’s population passed seven billion, it was a useful reminder of the fact that human beings may be our most valuable resource. After all, the value of every natural resource—from oil to water—depends on how effectively and efficiently they are used by human beings. But human beings also must also take care of themselves. How well we live, how long we live, how much we cost the health-care system, and how much we get to contribute to society depends largely on how well we look after ourselves.

Increasingly, one of the biggest challenges to our health is obesity. The problem is especially acute in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 70 percent of Americans are overweight. About half of them are obese. The trend is getting worse. Obesity rates in the United States soared by more than a third just between 1998 and 2006.

The problem is by no means restricted to Americans. The World Health Organization projects that in five years about 1.6 billion adults around the world will be overweight, and about 400 million will be obese. Obesity is truly a problem without borders.

And it is a problem with significant economic costs. In fact, the U.S. spends or $147 billion a year treating obesity-related ailments. That comes to 1 percent of GDP. To get a sense of the economic impact of cost, just consider that the last recession caused the U.S. economy to contract by 1.9 percent. In other words, the annual economic cost of obesity-related ailments is a little over half of the last recession. And unlike the last recession, the cost of obesity doesn’t end as part of the business cycle.

The economic consequences of obesity show up every day in American offices, factories, and other places of work. Over the course of a year, obesity-related disorders are responsible for nearly 40 million lost workdays, 239 million restricted activity days, and 63 million doctor visits by employees across the country, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported.

There are obviously a number of factors contributing to the growth of obesity, in the United States and elsewhere. But probably the most important overall reason is the fact that too many people of all ages suffer from a basic imbalance in the energy quotient of our lives. As the World Health Organization has put it: “The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed on one hand, and calories expended on the other hand.”

Too many calories in and not enough calories out. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation was created to address this imbalance. We have taken several steps we believe will help deal with the problem by supporting programs for families, schools, and children.

In the marketplace, we are providing families with more choices. With First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House press event, we announced a new pledge by Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation food manufacturing members to reduce annual calories by 1.5 trillion calories from the marketplace by the end of 2015. In the schools, we are partnering with Discovery Education to provide an energy balance curriculum that promotes nutrition and physical activity education. This curriculum reaches into tens of thousands of U.S. schools, and is available online free of charge.

One of the most important things we are doing is conducting the Together Counts™ program, encouraging families to eat meals and engage in physical activities together. We’ve found this is an effective way for families to counter obesity and promote good health. A number of academic studies demonstrate that. A study by the University of Minnesota, for example, found that adolescents who eat with their families grow up to be healthier adults, eating more fruit, dark-green and orange vegetables, and key nutrients. Girls are more likely to eat breakfast as adults. Boys are more likely to consume more calcium, magnesium, potassium, and other fiber.

When it comes to family participation in physical activities, academics at University of Northern Iowa have found that is helpful because children model the behavior of the adults in their lives. Actions speak louder than words.

A family meal or a family activity is a teachable moment—an opportunity to pass on lifelong, healthy habits to children. When families eat together and engage in physical activity together, parents get the opportunity to teach in the most effective way possible: by example, on a regular basis.

Our future depends on our children, and our children depend on our guidance. Their health—physical and economic—depends largely on how well we address the problem of obesity together.

Lisa Gable is President of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a first-of-its kind coalition that brings together over 185 retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, sporting goods and insurance companies, restaurants, professional sports associations, trade associations, and NGOs.

This article was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier's January 2012 issue.

About
Lisa Gable
:
Lisa Gable is a Diplomatic Courier Advisory Board member and WSJ and USA Today best-selling author of "Turnaround: How to Change Course When Things Are Going South" (IdeaPress Publishing, October 5, 2021).
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.