What is a fat girl? A fat girl is the vernacular for an overweight or obese female. In the United States, she is your sister, mother, girl friend, aunt, best friend, or stepmother. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that 66%, or two-thirds, of the adult population aged 20 and over is overweight or obese. Of those who are actually obese (one-third of the population), women are the majority at 35 million.
A definition for the condition comes from The Center For Disease Control and Prevention: “Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.”
These problems range from chronic diseases, osteoporosis, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and to even some types of cancer. The CDC also reports that the average woman weighed 140.2lbs in 1960, but by 2002 the weight had risen to 164.3lbs.
Why women? Researchers don’t claim to have all the answers, but they do have some. The American Heart Association reports that while one drink a day for a woman has no negative effects, excessive and binge drinking leads to obesity, cancer, and high triglyceride levels.
Sometimes weight gain begins early. Assistant Professor Kristen Davison of the University of New York, Albany has reported that adolescent girls lose interest in activity more quickly than their male peers. She adds that exercise, even just walking, needs to be parent-supported and encouraged.
Jennifer Wider, M.D., from the Society for Women’s Health Research, states that adolescent weight issues lead to health problems as an adult. Even later, as adult females, women experience reproductive hormone fluctuations during pregnancy and menopause, which can possibly lead to weight gain.
It is difficult in today’s society of easy transportation, automated machines, and sedentary lifestyles to lose weight and keep it off. The lure on every corner of sugary drinks, hamburgers, and fries doesn’t help much. Considering that many women are on the go with work, children, and extracurricular activities, it takes some pretty strong willpower to take a pass on the sugar and unhealthy fats.
The CDC’s Report At A Glance, 2007 states that in 2005, only one-fourth of Americans ate the five or more daily servings of recommended fruits and vegetables. A gap exists between what we should eat and what we actually consume. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have traditionally required preparation in the kitchen. Recognizing the need for healthier but quick alternatives like prechopped and diced vegetables and roasted chicken, supermarkets have jumped in to provide availability to working families.
Scientists tell us genes do play a role, but not completely. All is not lost. We still have control over what goes into our mouths and how we exercise. The National Weight Control Registry has some surprising statistics about their participants, 45% who lost weight on their own, and 55% of losers who used a program.
Among their findings: 98% of Registry participants report modifying their food intake in some way to lose weight. 94% increased physical activity, with the most frequent activity being walking. There is variety in how NWCR members keep the weight off. Most continued a low calorie, low fat diet and doing high levels of activity. 78% eat breakfast every day and 75% weigh themselves at least once a week. 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week and 90% average about one hour of exercise per day.
Weight loss for the overweight or obese woman is a combination effort, perhaps guided by a program or doctor, which will include exercise, eating breakfast, using a scale, and food modification. It’s a lifestyle change. How healthy our nation is begins with each of us. We need to set an example for the next generation – one mouthful and one step at a time.