(Host) Despite making new year’s resolutions to lose weight, many
Americans give up early in the year. Novelist and commentator Deborah
Lee Luskin has discovered new reasons for sticking to a weight-reduction
(Luskin) Every time I’ve lost weight, I’ve been motivated
by vanity. Since childhood, I’ve attempted and despaired of ever
achieving runway thin until recently, when I became resigned to a
widening waist as an inevitable part of middle age.
myself to get used to it and wear elastic. So I stopped weighing myself –
until I went to the doctor. It wasn’t just the scale that was
over-the-top; it was my blood pressure. I started taking medication.
heart disease runs in my family, so I’m genetically at risk for cardiac
disease. I know the garden-variety cardiac risks I have are largely
preventable. I could make myself better. But I’d have to lose weight. If
I didn’t, I’d be spending more time at the doctor’s office instead of
getting my work done and playing outdoors. I’d be enriching the
pharmaceutical companies – and I’d be using my health insurance
benefits, driving up costs for a preventable condition. I didn’t want to
For the first time in my life, losing weight was not
about aesthetics, but about my quality of life. So I ate less and
exercised more, and I’ve seen all my numbers go down: Not just my weight
and my waistline, but my blood pressure and my lipids as well. I became
dizzy with success – and had to stop taking the blood pressure meds.
know I’m privileged to have insurance coverage and access to care that
everyone should have, including care for health maintenance, care for
chronic illness and for emergency treatment. I grant you that such
universal health care comes with a cost, but so does being overweight.
person with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25 is overweight. A person
with a BMI over 30 is obese. About two thirds of the American population
is overweight, a group that included me until a few weeks ago.
2030, it’s estimated that 86% of the American population will be
overweight; 42% will be obese. And it’s already costing us big bucks. In
the past ten years, Americans have spent about four billion dollars for
the extra 938 million gallons of gasoline needed for our cars to carry
America’s weight problem costs more in jet fuel,
just to get us off the ground, and mass transit has started installing
wider seats, meaning they move fewer people at a time. Americans could
help reduce carbon emissions and save money – if we all just slimmed
In addition to the costs of medical treatments, America’s
weight problem has cost hospitals extra money for wider wheel chairs,
cranes to lift overweight patients from gurney to bed, and oversized
diagnostic machines. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in
2008 the medical care costs of obesity in the United States totaled
about $147 billion.
If health care is a right, then self-care is
a responsibility, just like voting and paying taxes. Achieving a BMI of
25 is a start: it saves money, it reduces carbon emissions, and it’s