When behavior change is your business and childhood obesity, adolescent obesity, adult obesity, or any other kind of obesity is your target, you learn to celebrate the small victories that come your way, no matter how miniscule they may seem. Childhood obesity in particular is widely accepted as one of the most difficult issues to influence, with a slew of hard-to-reach audiences and countless contributing behavior change obstacles to overcome, from income and education levels to race, gender and geographic diversity.
So when Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released their annual report, F as in Fat, there was cause for tempered celebration by behavior change professionals across the country.
According to the report, the obesity rate among pre-school children from low-income families actually dropped in 18 states and one U.S. territory. It’s news that’s even more promising when you consider the overwhelming majority of obese children who grow up to be obese adults.
They also reported that for the first time in 30 years, overall obesity rates across the country appear to be stabilizing, with Arkansas the lone state continuing to loosen its collective belt.
Big news in behavior change for a country with a penchant for fast food, sitting, and astonishing ability to pack on the pounds. But before we start patting ourselves on the back too enthusiastically, here’s where the tempered part of the celebration comes in: as a whole, we’re still really, really fat. OK, obese.
The report also stated that despite the promising progress, 13 states currently have an adult obesity rate above 30 percent, 41 states have rates of at least 25 percent, and every state in the union has a rate above 20 percent. As of 2010, the percentage of Americans considered obese stands at nearly 36 percent. And overall, the average American in 2013 is roughly 24 pounds heavier than in 1960.
Sobering stats to wrap up a behavior change blog that began so uplifting, wouldn’t you say? The moral of the story and the thing to take away from this for behavior change professionals is that we are making progress in the fight against obesity. Behaviors are changing. Programs are working, or at the very least beginning to work. Our freefall into unfathomable levels of fatness seems to have been halted, if only momentarily. There is still an unbelievable amount of work to be done, information to be spread, habits to teach, and healthy decisions to be encouraged. A very wise man once said, “You have to slow the bus down before you can turn it around.” And it appears that’s exactly what we’re doing.
So congratulations, behavior changers. Now get back to work.
What’s your take on the battle against obesity? On the slow road to progress or fighting a losing battle? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this most timely of topics.