Archived Story

Obesity series begins

Published 9:10pm Monday, January 14, 2013

Dowagiac Seventh-day Adventist Church, 410 Hill St., hosts a free screening of the four-part HBO documentary “The Weight of the Nation” tonight at 7.

Parts two, three and four follow on Jan. 22, 29 and Feb. 5, also at 7.

The first film, “Consequences,” examines the scope of the obesity epidemic and explores serious health consequences of being overweight or obese, which includes 69 percent of American adults.

The film blends scientific evidence with personal stories and a heart study in Bogalusa, La., that illustrates health consequences of poor nutrition and exercise habits — even at an early age.

In 2009, 35.2 percent of Michigan’s adult population was overweight — men (42 percent) more than women (29.3 percent).

In Michigan, Hispanics (42.6 percent) and blacks (41.6 percent) had significantly higher obesity prevalence than whites (28.7 percent), according to the state Department of Community Health.

Obesity contributes to leading causes of death, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and stroke.

An unhealthy diet can trigger Alzheimer’s disease, February’s Reader’s Digest reports.





“If everybody decided to eat recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, there are not enough growers to supply the need,” Melody Wallace, a registered nurse, said. “There are government subsidies to grow corn and soybeans, but none to help fruit and vegetable growers. I didn’t make that up. That’s what DVD No. 4 says.”

Wallace, moderating the screening of HBO’s “The Weight of the Nation” at Hill Street Seventh-day Adventist Church with Terry Perkins, Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital chaplain, is a registered nurse who for 14 years worked at a lifestyle education center in Maine.

She worked at a doctor’s office in Berrien Springs for four years.

“We followed my daughter and son-in-law, who moved to this area for Adventist schools,” she said of moving to Dowagiac.


‘People need support’


Her 5-foot-10 father weighed 400 pounds and died at 51.

Because he worked hard on a farm and nights in a factory, “he never got enough sleep. Sleep is a huge factor with being obese,” Wallace said. “He worked hard all day, but hit vending machines at night.

“I struggle with my weight and have to be conscious of what I eat. There may be a genetic component, but lifestyle boils down to what you do with your body and what you put into your body. We live in such a health information-oriented society, people are on overload. What they need is support.”

That is why a 10-week weight-management program, similar to four the church sponsored previously, follows “The Weight of the Nation” from February to April.

“Willpower alone won’t do it,” she said.

“Maybe the bigger issue is that we are a society that tends to go to excess, whether it’s what we eat or with guns. Some people exercise to excess.”

“Or drinking or pornography proliferation,” Perkins added. “Sex sells and some movies are all violence, without character development.”

Perkins fills a public relations function for the hospital because he lives here and is out and about in the community. In larger hospitals, chaplains spend their whole time making rounds within the facility.


Obesity economics

as well as health


Michigan ranks 10th in U.S. obesity. In 2009, three of every 10 adults were obese. Approximately 35 percent of adults were overweight.

Obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more.

BMI between 25 and 29 is considered overweight.

Obesity results from an energy imbalance from consumption of too many calories and not getting enough physical activity.

It’s an economic issue as well as a health issue.

By 2018, Michigan is expected to spend $12.5 billion on obesity-related health care costs if rates continue to rise at current levels.

Keeping 2008 obesity rates constant, Michigan could save $867 per adult in health care costs — almost $6.9 billion.

“The obesity problem, with diabetes as a secondary outcome, could bankrupt the health care system,” Wallace said.

According to Perkins, Southwest Michigan has an unusual amount of respiratory and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“When you think of obesity, you’re fighting human nature because the trend is to satisfy self,” Perkins said. “Everything’s advertised with beautiful girls and ‘this will make you happy,’ so that’s what kids see: foods that aren’t good for you.”

Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables help control blood sugar, lower bad cholesterol, lower triglycerides and displace fat and cholesterol intake in the diet.

Yet in 2009, 77.4 percent of Michigan adults did not consume adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables. Men consumed significantly lower amounts of fruits and vegetables than women.

Community gardens, which Niles and Dowagiac both have, increase access to fresh, healthy produce, exercise and recreation opportunities.

Regular physical activity is a key factor in maintaining a healthy weight, but in 2009, the prevalence of inadequate physical activity among Michigan adults was 48 percent — a 7.2-percent drop since 2001.

Males (53.7 percent) had higher physical activity rates compared to females (49.1 percent).

“I went to the Council on Aging and will promote its exercise facility. And they’re more than willing to show this there. For a little town, we have four exercise facilities,” Wallace said, including Southwestern Michigan College, Curves and Strength Beyond, 105 Sheldon St., plus dance and martial arts facilities.

“We have access to facilities and information, yet we don’t change and still have a problem,” she said. “We’re going against societal pressures, but I think we’re also going against economic pressures. Poverty promotes obesity.”

In Dowagiac, 70.46 percent of district students qualify for free and reduced lunches.

“A lot of people in this community cannot take advantage because of cost, yet they spend money at McDonald’s,” Wallace said. “In a grocery store, it’s still cheaper to buy non-healthy food in huge quantities. Diet soda can give you heartburn and migraine headaches, so you could drink water when you become thirsty. You can grab an apple as fast as a (burger). My husband and I happened to be in Mishawaka, and we went to Country Buffet. Every Thursday night, 5 to 8, bring your kids. All they can eat for 99 cents.”

“You should do some resistance, but walking itself is a God-given exercise you can do anywhere, any time,” at no cost, Perkins said.

“The Amish have horrible diets with a lot of meat and lard, but they walk 14,000 to 18,000 steps a day, with gardens and orchards, balancing out some of the bad stuff,” Wallace said.






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