GAPA Health Watch: Obesity - Georgia’s Most Serious Health Problem

In the past twenty years, obesity rates have doubled for adults and tripled for children.

Online PR News – 03-April-2012 – Atlanta, GA – Obesity is a health problem that affects every people every day and everywhere. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, more than one-third of adults and one sixth of children in America are obese. In the past twenty years, obesity rates have doubled for adults and tripled for children. No state had prevalence of obesity less than 20% in 2010 and, according to its Department of Public Health; the State of Georgia had an obesity rate of approximately 30%. That report confirmed that two million Georgia adults are obese and the State exceeded the Healthy People 2010 national goal for children and youth in every age, sex, race and ethnic group.

“If these trends continue, by the time today’s generation reach adulthood, obesity will be the norm for all Georgians,” said Ben Taylor, PA-C, PhD. Taylor is the public information chair for the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA) and works in multiple emergency departments in Georgia and South Carolina.

GAPA’s focus during 2012 to help reduce and reverse Georgia’s alarming increase in obesity rates through the Get Fit with GAPA initiative, which promotes better fitness and eating habits. GAPA is also working with the Georgia State Park system to promote healthy hikes by distributing free State Park passes to patients through the Rx for Fitness program.

“GAPA is also committed to helping patients understand what obesity is and how it may put them at risk for other medical conditions,” Taylor added. “Obesity is often associated with an increased risk of frequent illnesses, disability, and death.”
Two RAND researchers, health economist Roland Sturm and psychiatrist Kenneth Wells examined the comparative effects of obesity, smoking, heavy drinking, and poverty on chronic health conditions and health expenditures. Their finding: Obesity is by far the most serious problem. It is linked to a big increase in chronic health conditions and significantly higher health expenditures. And it affects more people than smoking, heavy drinking, or poverty.

Definitions for Adults

Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height (usually 20% or more over an individual's ideal body weight). Being overweight means having an excess of body weight, by comparison with set standards. This excess weight may come from too much muscle, bone or body-fat. In contrast, being obese means having an abnormally high proportion of body-fat. So, someone can be overweight without being obese, as in the example of a bodybuilder or other athlete who has a lot of muscle. However, in practice, many people who are overweight are also obese.

Overweight and obesity ranges are typically determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the "body mass index" (BMI). BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat.
• An adult who has a BMI between 18.5 and 25 is considered normal.
• An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
• An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

For example:

Height 5'9"

Weight Range = BMI = Considered

124 lbs or less Below = 18.5 = Underweight
125 lbs to 168 lbs = 18.5 to 24.9 = Healthy weight
169 lbs to 202 lbs = 25.0 to 29.9 = Overweight
203 lbs or more = 30 or higher = Obese

Why Crash diets don’t work

The foods people eat each day are meant to contribute to the body’s well being. They should provide the nutrients needed for healthy bodies and the calories needed for energy.

“But if we take in more calories than we burn, the extra food turns to fat and is stored in our bodies,” cautioned Taylor. “If we overeat regularly, we gain weight, and if we continue to gain weight, we may become obese.”

Some people counteract overeating by going on a crash diet, but crash dieting has a negative impact on metabolism. Being overly restrictive with food and severely limiting calories can send signals to the body to go into conservation mode.

“When your body is in conservation mode, the tendency is to hold onto fat, so it becomes much more difficult to lose weight over time.” Taylor added. “Crash diets never work.”
The American Diabetic Association (ADA) has labeled these five diets as the worst of the worst:

1. Diets that focus on only a few foods or food groups (like the cabbage soup diet, grapefruit diet, strict vegan diets, raw food diets, and many low-carb diets). Beware of any diet that rules out entire food groups. We need to eat a variety of food groups to get all the daily nutrients we need.

2. "Detox" diets (like Master Cleanse, the Hallelujah Diet, and The Martha's Vineyard Diet Detox). Extreme regimens calling for procedures like liver flushes, bodily cleanses, colonics, hormone injections, and more are always highly suspect, experts say.

3. Diets with “miracle” foods or ingredients (like supplements, fructose water, bitter orange, green tea, apple cider vinegar). Dieters are always searching for the food, pill, or potion that will help them lose weight, but unfortunately, there is no such miracle. Be leery of any plan that recommends a shelf full of supplements, enzymes, or potions (especially if you purchase them from the diet book author or company).

4. Fasting and very low-calorie diets (like the "Skinny" vegan diet, Hollywood Diet, and Master Cleanse). Fasting has been a cultural and religious tradition for centuries, and is fine for a day or so, but fasting for weight loss is counterproductive. Low to no calorie dieting slows your metabolism making it progressively more difficult to lose weight and keep it off. Quite simply, your body goes into “starvation mode”. This mechanism means the body becomes very efficient at making the most of the calories it does get from food and drink. The main way it does this is to protect its fat stores and instead use lean tissue or muscle to provide it with some of the calories it needs to keep functioning.

5. Diets that sound too good to be true (like The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About.) If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Diet plans that claim to have a "secret," that make dramatic statements against respected health authorities, or make recommendations that contradict those of scientific organizations are suspect.

While the average person may lose a few pounds quickly, as soon as they go back to eating normally, the weight will come right back on within a few days. Over 90% of dieters regain the weight they lost.
“When a person diets, their metabolic rate slows down,” Taylor explained. “When they finish dieting their metabolic rate is still slow even though they've returned to their old eating habits. If you are serious about losing weight you need to adopt a lifestyle change and a diet that can be maintained. It's better to pick a diet where you lose the weight gradually and you still enjoy eating.”
Taylor recommended these tips to remain healthy while dieting:

• Stop eating junk food and make fresh fruit and vegetables the main part of your diet.
• Replace red meat with fish.
• Reduce dairy products as much as possible and if not possible, switch to the low fat version of whatever you are eating.
• Avoid fried food.
• Choose energy sources such as complex carbohydrates found in vegetables and fruit.
• Avoid simple carbohydrates such as sugar and honey, which can increase your weight.
• Eat food with enough fiber to fill you up.

“The best way to lose weight and lose it for good is to eat a diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains like brown rice, oats and quinoa, and three-to-four ounce portions of lean protein at every meal,” he added. “It’s also best to eat five smaller meals everyday instead of three large meals. That way you will keep your metabolism burning at a steady, even pace.”

Taylor concluded by explaining the importance of keeping hydrated by drinking seven to eight glasses of water a day, which also helps flush out toxins. “And last, but not least, exercise. A half hour of cardio every day and 15 minutes of yoga type stretching will make a big difference if you do it on a consistent basis.”

The mission of the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants is to promote high quality, cost-effective, accessible healthcare as part of a physician-directed PA/physician team in Georgia. To learn more about how PAs make health care more affordable and accessible in Georgia, please visit and click on “Patients.” GAPA also offers “Find a PA,” a free searchable database for healthcare consumers with listings of Physician Assistant providers throughout the State. Learn more about Get Fit with GAPA and the “Rx for Fitness” program at


Since 1975, GAPA has represented the PA profession among state and national legislators, helped PAs find jobs in Georgia, promoted public awareness and understanding of PAs among prospect employers and the general public, kept PAs up to date on reimbursement and legislative news, given PAs chances to earn CME credits, and more.

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