The estimated annual health care costs related to obesity are over $210 billion, or nearly 21 percent of annual medical spending in the United States. Americans spend $60 billion on weight loss products each year, trying everything from expensive meal replacement products to do-it-yourself programs on the latest cell phone apps. We gather weight loss advice, voluntarily or involuntarily, from news outlets, social media and just about everyone.
Americans have known for 15 years that obesity is an epidemic; the surgeon general declared it so in 2001. Despite intense efforts to prevent and treat obesity, however, studies published June 7 in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that 35 percent of men, 40 percent of women, and 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese. Even more worrisome, the rates continue to rise among women and adolescents.
In fact, experts predict that this generation of children may be the first in 200 years to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, likely due to obesity.
So what is our society doing wrong? Clearly, what doctors and policy makers have been doing for the last 15 years to address this epidemic is not working.
Weight Loss Myths Have Broad Appeal
An article from 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) identified common myths surrounding obesity from popular media and scientific literature. The authors defined myths as ideas that are commonly held, but go against scientific data. Could these myths be keeping us from treating obesity effectively? As family physicians who treat overweight patients every day, we believe they do. Not only can these myths discourage people, they also provide misinformation that can prevent people from reaching their weight loss goals.
You might be surprised to hear some of these myths: