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Half of us!


Just over half of us in Douglas County are obese. Marilyn Hull, executive director of LiveWell Lawrence pointed out that problem at a LiveWell meeting last night. To anyone who keeps up with news of any type, it's no mystery that obesity can lead to all types of health problems: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, back problems, knee problems...the list goes on.

The many solutions posed to reducing obesity include more exercise, better foods in schools, a community that's built to encourage walking, more education about eating right. And all those are important. But there's a group of people who are obese for which none of that makes much of a difference. To these people, being overweight is not a problem, it's a solution.

And fixing the obesity problem with diets, exercise programs, or advice about eating won't have any effect for this group of people. "Nutrition is a nice subject and has nothing to do with obesity," explains Dr. Vincent Felitti, a researcher who's part of the ACE Study (Adverse Childhood Experience study), a multi-year project by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. "Teaching people about nutrition is essentially predicated on the assumption that people get fat because they don't know any better."

By the ACE Study's estimate, there's a link between child abuse - physical, sexual and verbal - and obesity in at least 8 percent of the obese population. If there are 70 million obese Americans, as the CDC says, that means that more than five million obese people are likely to have suffered physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse during their childhoods.

Here's some math: About 115,000 people live in Douglas County. About 59,800 are obese. About 4,784 of those aren't like to be helped by the most-talked-about methods of reducing obesity. And, according to Felitti, these are likely to be the people that have the most intractable health issues, i.e., the ones that cost individuals and the community the most, economically and emotionally.

How can our HealthCommons project help these obese adults, and address issues that are difficult to talk about? How do we help children who are traumatized by emotional, physical and sexual abuse so that they don't engage in behaviors -- overeating, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, doing other drugs -- that hurt them? How do we make sure that we aren't inadvertently traumatizing them further in our schools or health care systems? How do we help parents and relatives of these children stop the emotional, physical and sexual abuse?


zettapixel 8 years, 10 months ago

I have the answer to ending obesity... send me $100 and I'll tell you what it is. It's helped me lose 40 pounds in 3 months!

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 10 months ago

This explains why so many people here complain about paying $0.50 an hour to park downtown when they could park for free and walk a couple of blocks instead.

Poor, fat and cheap... what a great city we live in.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 10 months ago

Eride, your comment is not the least bit helpful. Jane, until I read this I had not actually put a bit of the puzzle into place. I have lost ten pounds in ten weeks and that seems like slow going. But the longer I stay the course the less and less I want the foods I should not be eating. I swore I would not buy fresh fruit, and yet now there is always some in the house. I am 63 and just now doing the things I should have been doing all of my life. Jane, I want to thank you and those like you who are willing to hang in there with fools such as I who just don't get the message. It is strange to me how you can hear something again and again, and then one day it just clicks.

jestevens 8 years, 9 months ago

Multidisciplinary: Thanks for commenting. You're right-on that the types of stress are the same for obesity, for alcoholism, for smoking, for suicide, etc. ACE researchers don't know exactly why people opt for one behavior versus another, or why some people have more significant and long-term effects than others. My guess? It's a matter of different degrees of trauma, combined with whether and how a person was helped during and after the trauma. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is considering using PTSD therapies for some people grappling with mental health and drug addiction problems. These therapies might not erase a lifetime of trauma, but they might help people understand and deal with their health issues differently. This approach might also work for the medical community. What do you think? Irish: Congratulations! Isn't that just the way life works....hearing something again and again and then one day it clicks.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 9 months ago

Jane, I think that is a great idea. But the medical community has to work with people such as myself who are resistant. I would get angry at those trying to help me and then use that anger as an excuse to eat a pint of ice cream. I had to come to my own realization that I was making myself angry because that way I could justify my behavior. 11 weeks now. I am taking this week by week and not thinking any further ahead. I tell myself that today I am going to eat right and get some exercise.

beatrice 8 years, 9 months ago

Irish: "I have lost ten pounds in ten weeks and that seems like slow going."

Way to go Irish! That might seem like slow going, but those are pounds that are likely to stay off! I'm sure you know that If you try to lose a bunch of weight quickly, as soon as you start eating again it will come right back on, plus a little extra. No, it sounds to me like you are doing it the right way. It is amazing how much weight people can lose if they just cut out soda and packaged, microwave-type foods and replace it with water and fresh food. Throw in a bit of exercise, and you are on your way. Keep it up, and in a year you will be down 50 lbs and have a whole new lifestyle. Good for you!

I'd also say, don't discount Eride's comment too quickly. Walking rather than riding, or taking the stairs rather than the elevator when possible, helps. If you are still swimming, I'm sure that is helping as well. Keep it up!

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years, 9 months ago

Free, if insensitive, "professional" advice...


( remember to laugh... it'll burn calories )

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 9 months ago

Tange, thanks, loved it! Bea, it hurts so much when I walk. Water therapy is a godsend. I can do all kinds of things in the water and still feel comfortable.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 9 months ago

Everyone, and I do mean everyone looks like their peer group. It is a lie when women say they gained weight solely because they had a baby. Middle class women don't add weight with the baby. Why is that? In psychic terms that is called self-fulfilling prophecy. You are what you think you are. If you hear over and over that you are going to be a fat mother and you believe it, then you will. If you get a solid image in your mind of yourself as a thin person then you will begin to live as though you are, and then you will become that person that you want to be. It is never just about the body.

jestevens 8 years, 9 months ago

Multidisciplinary: In the 1980s, Dr. Vincent Felitti, the physician whom I mentioned above, was director of Kaiser Permanente's Department of Preventive Medicine in San Diego, and ran a weight-control clinic. When he found out that 55 percent of the 1,500 people who enrolled in his weight-loss clinic every year left before completing the program, he did some investigating to find out why. He was very surprised to find out that most had been losing weight! So, he did some more investigating. Long-story-short, he found out of the 286 people he interviewed and whose medical records he reviewed, none was born fat - all had normal or below normal birth weights. He also found that the people he interviewed who were severely overweight didn't gain 10 or 20 pounds a year over several years. In reviewing the records of 2,000 people who were significantly overweight (100 to 400 pounds overweight) he found that when they gained weight, they did so abruptly and then stabilized. If they lost weight, they often regained all of it or more rapidly, within weeks or months. Felitti believes for many people who are obese, it is likely that some type of trauma marks the starting point of the path to obesity. Felitti's work led to the CDC-Kaiser ACE Study that I mentioned in the post above. What this study told me was that there's not a one-size-fits-all solution to obesity. Don't you think that the best thing we can do to solve our health issues is to listen to people who have these issues? They probably have the solutions.

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