It's official. Obesity is an American epidemic. Nearly 70 percent of American adults are overweight; one third of them are obese. Even scarier, some 15 percent of schoolchildren are overweight-three times more than 20 years ago. More then 10 percent of pre–schoolers are overweight, a rise of 7 percent in only 7 years. Diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease are on the rise among adults, while pediatricians who once focused on measles and mumps must now deal with high cholesterol counts, kids who have trouble breathing and walking, even Type 2 diabetes, the form usually found in adults. The cost both now and in the future–in health care expenses, lost productivity, and individual tragedy–can only be imagined.
How did it happen? We all know that to stay thin, fit and healthy, we must eat right and exercise regularly. So why do Americans continue to get fatter, more out of shape, and sicker year by year?
The answer to this question has been drowned out by a deafening confusion of "silver–bullet" theories. In the 1970s, we were told to give up sugar. So we did—and continued to get fat on high–calorie sugar–free foods. In the 80s and 90s, the mantra was to give up fat. We gained weight on at-free foods. Now the talk is of giving up carbohydrates. And the numbers of overweight Americans continues to rise.
Deprivation does lead to weight loss—temporarily. Give up carbohydrates, and you lose calories from those carbohydrates and thus the pounds those calories represent. But you don't keep the weight off. Why not? Living without carbs is simply not comfortable—not to mention that you lose the health benefits of certain foods—nor does it address the root cause of being overweight.
What is the root cause of America's obesity epidemic? Our lifestyle. We barely move anymore. We drive everywhere, click the remote, use voice–activated cell phones. Families with two working parents rarely sit down together for a healthy, relaxing meal. Instead, we eat health–busting fast foods. We favor supersized portions. The 5.7 ounce burger has morphed into the 7–ounce burger for an additional 97 calories; the typical soft drink, once 13 ounces, is now nearly 20 ounces—and 49 more calories. We eat when emotional triggers are pulled: we're stressed, or lonely, or worried. What's making Americans fat? A whole package of issues. To end obesity, we'll need to address all of them.
The first step we need is an awareness of what we eat and why we're eating it. Then we must change our relationship with food so we're in charge, empowered to choose low–calorie foods that will take off the weight and keep it off, while we gain the health benefits of the great variety of food out world offers—and enjoy the pleasure of eating into the bargain.
This is the theory behind Dr. Shapiro's Picture Perfect Weight Loss program, now systemized in the book Dr. Shapiro's Picture Perfect Weight Loss: The Visual Program for Permanent Weight Loss.