March is National Nutrition Month and more than 40 percent of American adults are considered obese.
WalletHub released its report on 2023’s Most Overweight and Obese Cities in the U.S. to call attention to the communities where weight-related problems are most relevant.
The personal finance website compared 100 of the most populated American metro areas across 19 key metrics. Data includes share of physically inactive adults, projected obesity rates by 2030 and access to healthy foods.
The most overweight and obese cities in the U.S. are McAllen, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., Mobile, Ala., Knoxville, Tenn. and Jackson, Miss.
Richmond, Va. is no. 37. Virgina Beach, Newport News and Norfolk are at no. 41. At no. 91 are Washington D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, Va.
The report revealed that McAllen has the highest share of obese adults with 44.90 percent, which is 2.4 times higher than in Asheville, N.C., which has the lowest at 18.50 percent. The highest share of physically inactive adults, 36.90 percent, is also in McAllen, which is 2.4 times higher than in Provo, Utah, where the lowest share of inactive adults, 15.20 percent, can be found.
Eating healthy does not have to break your bank account. According to Dr. Travis Masterson, a professor at and Director of the Health, Ingestive Behavior, and Technology Laboratory the Pennsylvania State University, simple changes to store purchases can help. Buying large amounts of supplements and expensive products, such as grass-fed beef and oat milk, is unnecessary.
“I would first start by adding in more fruits and vegetables that you are already familiar with and like. This will ensure that you will actually use them and they will not go to waste. Increase the amount that you use or provide yourself within a meal and reduce the amount of less healthy foods. For example, I have a really simple rice, chicken, and broccoli bowl that I love to eat. Over time I have reduced the amount of chicken and rice in the bowl and increased the amount of broccoli. I still get to enjoy the dish as a whole but provide myself with more of the nutrient-rich and low-calorie part of the meal. Looking for low-cost fruits, vegetables, and grains at your grocery store can also be a good way to approach healthy eating. Exploring new foods and experimenting with adding them to your diet can be fun and you can start by buying small amounts of them to test so that you do not end up with a lot of food waste or wasted money,” Masterson said.
Dr. Tanya M. Halliday, an assistant professor at the University of Utah, said keeping food costs down can be a challenge, but is possible with meal planning and creating a grocery list before you shop so you can stick to a food budget.
“This helps to avoid impulse purchases as well as over-purchasing food and having it spoil before being used. Second, preparing and consuming food at home and packing lunches for the work day vs. eating out will lower food costs. Third, decreasing reliance on pre-prepared meals (such as frozen dinners). And fourth, utilizing coupons and other savings in your grocery store app. Unfortunately, many of the money-saving tips require spending extra time on food procurement and preparation, so often people need to pick between efficiency and time savings vs. cost savings. However, it is also possible to lower food costs without extra time costs in a few ways as well. For instance, switching from name-brand to store-brand items, incorporating more vegetarian meals into your weekly rotation, and buying in bulk,” Halliday said.
What are the biggest mistakes people make when trying to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle?
“There are three main mistakes people make when trying to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The first is that they do not think they need to worry about the calories from drinks. This can be soda, alcohol, or even sports drinks. These are fine as once-in-a-while treats, but they provide little to no benefit and contribute excess energy. Secondly, it is important to figure out a plan that is maintainable in the long term, not just the here and now. Many ‘diets’ can support short-term weight loss but are not manageable over one’s lifetime. The third mistake people make is that they focus only on nutrition or physical fitness. It is important to understand that a healthy lifestyle should incorporate healthy eating, and regular movement and should also address psychological well-being,” Dr. Lisa MB Salinas, Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas: Rio Grande Valley, said.
Dr. Lina Begdache, an associate professor at Binghamton University, said most information is gained for social media, which can be damaging information. Another mistake is people expect supplements are an easy fix, but they are not FDA regulated.
“For weight loss, most people go full force on restrictive diets and heavy exercise. Restrictive diets mean that the body is being deprived of nutrients and calories which teaches the brain that the body is going through ‘starvation’ and activates the starvation mode. The latter means that your body will store any energy it gets and reduce energy expenditure (i.e., metabolism). Exercising while under-fueled leads to muscle loss which adds to the decrease in metabolism. People by then are tired and develop cravings. Binge eating with a reduced metabolism leads to rapid weight gain. It is essential to gain knowledge from reputable sources, weight management and achieving health can be obtained through a change in lifestyle (healthy diet, good sleep quality, regular exercise, and stress reduction),” Begdache said.
Masterson said that employers should play a role in helping employees maintain healthy lifestyles.
“We know that our environment plays a critical role in our eating and physical activity behaviors and we spend the majority of our time each day at work. Employers can provide onsite resources to their employees to encourage healthy behaviors,” Masterson said. “For example, providing free fruit and vegetable snack options in breakrooms or encouraging employees to take breaks for walks are simple first steps. Some companies provide incentives for participating in worksite health promotion programs or providing onsite support through health coaches and gyms and more workplaces should strive to adopt these programs. The potential for these programs to improve productivity and reduce the burden on insurance makes them a win-win for companies. Corporations should also look to ensure and negotiate that their insurance programs are comprehensive and provide support for obesity prevention and treatment, including medications and surgery when necessary.”
Halliday said this is a controversial topic because of some inappropriate and ineffective “workplace wellness” practices.
“Personally, I think the best thing that employers can do for the physical and mental health of their workers is to provide greater flexibility with work responsibilities. Allow people to work from home a day or two per week. Alter work start/end times on an individual basis. Allow for long lunch breaks. Providing people greater freedom in how they spend their time will hopefully lead to better overall health and well-being,” Halliday said.