State's obesity rate rises for second straight year

State's obesity rate rises for second straight year

WASHINGTON — Illinois' obesity rate rose for a second year in a row, and the excess pounds are making people sicker.

In a report released Thursday, Illinois was ranked the 23rd fattest state in the nation, with nearly 28 percent of its adults obese, or at a body mass index of 30 or greater.

A body mass index is a ratio of height and weight, and under the standard BMI calculator, an adult who is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 197 pounds or more would be considered obese.

In 1995, 15.3 percent of Illinois adults were obese.

Among all 50 states, Mississippi had the highest rate of obese adults at 34.3 percent and Colorado had the lowest at 19.8 percent, but no states saw their obesity rates decline since last year's report, according to the report compiled by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Seven states saw their obesity rates double in 15 years and 10 other states had increases of at least 90 percent, researchers found.

Along with its growing obesity rate, Illinois' rates of hypertension and diabetes — two illnesses linked to obesity — have grown since 1995, according to the report.

Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said the findings reflect "kind of a sad commentary on the direction the country is moving."

While Illinois wasn't alone among the states in its failure to trim down, she said, the state has worked, through several programs and educational outreach in the schools, to reduce obesity.

"So, in a sense, we're disappointed," she said.

Dr. Nathan Walker, an internal medicine physician at Christie Clinic, warns there are good reasons for everybody to work harder to reverse the obesity trend.

America spends more than $150 billion a year on health care related to obesity. Obese people live poorer-quality lives and die sooner, he said.

"On average, 70-80 percent of medical problems down the road will be obesity-related," Walker said.

Some of the well-known obesity-related diseases are heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension, but Walker said doctors are also seeing more sleep apnea and fatty liver disease.

"Even dementia is linked to obesity," he said.

For patients to succeed at losing weight and keep it off, they need to keep two things in mind, he advises.

Many people fail at weight loss because they don't bring any accountability into it, Walker said.

Make yourself accountable to someone and you'll increase your chance of success by 300 percent, he said.

Secondly, he advises adding structure — either cook your own meals or buy packaged weight-loss meals from a program or store.

"I believe our lifestyles promote this hyper-busy state, and by the time we finish the day, we've consumed 5,000 calories," he said.

Melissa Smith, a registered dietician with Mettler Center, Champaign, said the top problem she sees with people trying to lose weight is looking for a quick fix instead of adopting a behavioral change.

"Maybe they keep the weight off for 16 weeks, then they slowly gain the weight back," she said.

Find your bad habit — for example, if you eat a lot in the evening to relieve daytime stress — and replace that with a good habit, Smith advises.

And when it comes to exercise, people often aren't doing enough, Smith said.

"I think they feel being active three times a week is enough," she said. "You need to be active five to six times a week."

Start out with a half-hour per session, and gradually work up to an hour, she advises, and be aware that the type of activity is important.

"Intensity truly matters," Smith said. "You can actually put less time in if you work out more efficiently. Utilize your time efficiently."

As for diet, Smith said she believes it's a misconception that all foods are created equal.

People need to eat appropriately for their age and where they are in life, she says, and it's possible to eat a reduced-calorie diet and still fail to lose weight if the wrong foods are winding up the plate.

"It's how many grains, dairies, fats and fruits for your state in life," Smith said.

She, too, believes people need accountability when they're trying to lose weight.

"You need a good accountability partner," Smith said.