According to projections just released by researchers at Northwestern University, obesity and diabetes are on the rise. Based on their calculations by the year 2020: 72 percent of women (up from 63 percent today) and 83 percent of men (up from 72 percent) and will be overweight or obese. 53 percent of women (up from 43 percent) and 77 percent of men (up from 62 percent) and will have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
In other words, in about eight years, among your 50 friends, family members, and co-workers only 10 to 15 of them will be at a healthy weight and 25 to nearly 40 of them will have diabetes or be on their way to a diagnosis. That's scary, but the truth is it's not too late to reverse the trend. In fact, just three consistent changes could put America on a losing track:
Eat Real Meals
A report in USA Today revealed that America is in an "eat what I want when I want" rut. According to recent data, only five percent of consumers eat three square meals, and we tend to graze all day. One researcher at the University of North Carolina found that it's now the norm for kids to eat every few hours. The average child today downs 586 calories a day from snacks, an almost 200 calorie increase compared with the previous generation, and about 1 in 5 school aged kids snacks up to six times a day. Snacking itself isn't inherently fattening, but if it results in eating more than your body can burn or use it essentially means that more food shows up for work than your body needs, and the surplus gets sent straight to your fat cells. Check out my previous post about how to set up an eating schedule, and why just this one change can get the scale moving.
Shift Your Proportions
According to the latest data we're eating more now than we did 30 years ago, especially women, who consume 22 percent more, mostly from refined carbohydrates. At the same time roughly 75 percent of Americans fall short of the recommended two daily fruit and three daily veggie servings. A simple swap in the ratio of your meals can make a huge impact on getting less of what you don't need and more of what you do. For example, if you normally sit down to two cups of cooked pasta, try limiting it to just half a cup, and add in a cup of chopped veggies. You'll save about 60 grams of carbs, the amount in about four slices of bread, and you'll still get a big, filling meal. Or if you replace one cup of cooked spaghetti with the same amount of spaghetti squash, you'll slash your intake by about 35 grams of carb and increase your intake of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.
Ditch the Sugary Drinks
I know you've heard it before but this one is hugely important. The average American drinks 19 ounces day (1.5 cans) of sugary soda a day. That's nearly 550 cans a year. With about 12 tsp of sugar per can we're talking more than 6,500 tsp per person, per year, the amount in 14 four pound bags of refined sugar. Kicking the soda habit and reaching for good old H2O instead is one of the easiest, most impactful changes you can make. For more about water and weight loss, check out one of my previous posts.
So what do you think? Can we get the stats moving in the opposite direction? What are your biggest barriers to healthy eating and weight control? Please share your thoughts or tweet them to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.