NOTE: The following is an excerpt from TeleVox’s Healthy World report, “The Obesity Epidemic: Unhealthy Habits Result in a Growing Problem for Americans”, which discusses both the patient and provider views on the fastest-growing health problem in America. Download it HERE!
In a region where the sun is shining throughout the year, bringing on warmth and outdoor activities alike, the South is full of endless possibilities for recreation. Unfortunately, a good portion of the South doesn’t take advantage of the weather and resources available. Furthermore, many Southern residents consume a diet that consists largely of salty, high-fat foods and sugary drinks. This type of diet has been proven to pack on the pounds, leading to an increased risk for obesity and the numerous health conditions that come along with it.
While many in this region do not take advantage of the moderate weather the region has by exercising regularly, the good news is that Southerners understand that they need to make changes in order to better manage their weight. According to The Obesity Epidemic: Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits Result in a Growing Problem for Americans, 77 percent of the South believes they could benefit from losing weight right now. And there is plenty of weight to be lost across the region. Furthermore, 21 percent of the region reports that they have experienced obesity in their life.
The obesity epidemic has historically hit this region harder than many other parts of the country, and the bad news is that the situation has been getting worse in recent years. Currently, 54 percent of Southerners describe their weight as overweight or obese, the second highest total in any region next to the Midwest. It is going to take lifestyle changes among Southerners in order to reverse the trend of increased obesity. This means more Southerners need to take advantage of the myriad of outdoor activities available to become more active, while consuming a healthier diet that contains less of the traditional comfort foods.
Lack of Physical Activity
The increase in obesity in this region is not surprising given the amount of Southerners reporting a lack of physical activity. According to The Obesity Epidemic, nearly half of Southerners (49 percent) said that not getting enough exercise or physical activity has negatively impacted their health. The South also has the lowest numbers, 88 percent, that believe diet and exercise, and not genetics, are the biggest cause of obesity. While that is still the majority of people, it shows there are more people in this region than others that consider their obesity to be a direct result of who they are and the genes they were given, rather than something they can control by what they eat or how much exercise they get.
Recognizing Obesity as a Problem
The South also reported the lowest percentage (57 percent) that feels obesity is a significant problem in the America. Yet, the region also ties with the Northeast with 50 percent reporting that they could currently do a better job of managing their weight. This suggests that some do not realize how much of a problem the obesity epidemic has become. But what steps can the region take to manage their weight effectively? Communication that starts with doctors and healthcare providers about lifestyle changes, including proper diet and exercise, is a great start. As mentioned above, most Americans believe that diet and exercise are the best ways to combat obesity. The average American has attempted to diet or lose weight nine times, yet just 36 percent of the South reported being completely successful with a diet or attempt to lose weight, according to The Obesity Epidemic. Getting information, support and encouragement from doctors on how to best manage weight is something that Americans need, as it can help in the fight against obesity.
Taking the First Step by Talking
Rather than jumping into a fad diet, managing obesity must involve lifestyle changes incorporating both better eating habits and an exercise plan. Talking with a doctor or healthcare provider can be a crucial first step. Less than half of the South (39 percent) has taken the step of discussing weight management with their doctor. But the interest is there. Sixty-three percent of Southerners said they would be interested in and/or happy to receive communication from their doctor with tips to help manage their weight, and 23 percent of Southerners said that communication from their doctor between office visits, such as email, text messages, or voicemails, would help them better manage their overall health.
The moderate weather and widespread recreational activities give Southerners a unique opportunity to spend time outside and have active lifestyles nearly year round. By incorporating more exercise into their daily routine, Southerners could, quite literally, make great strides in reversing the obesity trend in their region. Additionally, regular communication between patients and healthcare professionals about the benefits of a healthy diet can slingshot this region back on the right path.