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The Obesity Problem: How Did We Become So Fat?

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The facts are undeniable. The waistlines of Americans are increasing, and as a result we're facing super-sized health care costs. Diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues related to weight and obesity are costing Americans more money every year.

A recent CBSNews.com report on a study conducted by Dr. Ken Thorpe, a health care economist at Emory University, reports that if current obesity trends continue, more that 40% of adults in the United States will be obese by 2018. The report, "The Future Costs of Obesity," estimates that spending on the epidemic will quadruple to $344 billion.

So how did we become so fat?

Recently I spoke with Howard Fuchs, an Integrative Nutrition graduate who has lost over 300 pounds, to get his insights. Howard tipped the scales at 505 pounds and has been featured on the Tyra Banks show and in People Magazine for his amazing weight loss story. He has completely turned his life around and now works as a health counselor helping others to lose weight and improve their health.

Howard shared: "Obese people are always doing for others, not caring enough for themselves, until it comes time to comfort themselves by putting something in their mouth. I worked crazy hours, and did not take enough personal time to enjoy life. When clients come to understand how the excess weight affects their lives, they sometimes have a breakthrough."

Howard shared that overweight people are "lacking in areas of primary food," meaning that they're out of balance in the areas of relationships, career, spirituality, and exercise. When people have imbalances in these areas, they often try to make up for it by overeating.

Howard and his wife Colleen now run a weight loss support group and lead cooking classes on how to make delicious, healthy food. He teaches clients the concept of "crowding out" - by adding more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and water into the diet, you can naturally crowd out the unhealthy processed, junk foods. This concept works well because people can enjoy food without counting calories and feeling restricted.

"When they try new foods they like, it's amazing," Howard says. "They start losing a little weight and that works to keep them going. A restrictive, calorie-counting diet puts people in starvation mode. When they eat nutrient-dense food, they are not craving the other stuff." When you eat processed food with little nutritional value, your body feels hungry and you crave this food more often. When you eat whole foods, you feel satisfied.

Howard also asks his clients to look at three things in their diets: sugars, fats, and MSG (monosodium glutamate) which is found in many chemicalized processed foods. He asks them to experiment and go two days without these and see how they feel. "When you experiment with what you eat, you gain crucial insights," Howard says.

And finally, the most important step is to seek support. Having a support system to provide encouragement and guidance is key. Howard tells his clients to start slow - "Rome wasn't built in a day."

Healthy food and lifestyle choices are the foundations of weight loss. No pill or fad diet is going to cure our country's obesity problem. It begins with getting support, taking personal responsibility and making changes that will positively affect our health and happiness.

How would you fix the obesity issue in America? Do you have suggestions for long lasting weight loss? Please comment and let us know your thoughts.

Joshua Rosenthal is the founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the largest nutrition school in the world. Visit the site for a free "14 Days to a Healthier You" coaching program.

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