By Carole Carson, contributor
March 29, 2010 - More young adults ages 20 to 45 are suffering disabling strokes than ever before. Almost 6 million hospitalizations each year are due to cardiovascular disease. And there is an epidemic of diabetes among children and teens, reports the National Institutes of Health. These and other alarming trends are the result of a harsh reality: two-thirds of American adults and one-third of American children are overweight or obese, according to government statistics.
Nurses and medical personnel know the personal toll behind these impersonal statistics. They also know what the statistics portend: an overweight population is increasingly subject to predictable, lifestyle-induced medical conditions such as diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease.
In the face of an impending tsunami of illness and expense, each of us is compelled to do our part.
The American Public Health Association is taking the lead by declaring “A Healthier America: One Community at a Time” its theme for National Public Health Week, April 5-11, 2010.
If you have the skills and are willing to become a “general contractor,” you can construct a life-altering community event that will encourage individuals to adopt healthier habits and, as a by-product, lose surplus pounds. In the process, you'll make new friends, form partnerships with people from all walks of life and reinforce the unity in community.
In 2004, a few of us pioneered the concept of community weight-loss programs by creating the Nevada County Meltdown, an eight-week program during which over a thousand neighbors and friends lost nearly four tons of surplus weight. The ideas, instructions and sample forms are captured in The Fat to Fit Meltdown Manual, and the program is based on three key principles (FIT):
F: Focus on fun. Creating the event needs to be as much fun for organizers as it is for participants. Contributing to others will help you stay in touch with your vision, and the experience will lift the spirits of participants.
I: Innovate and improvise. Every community and every individual is unique: one size will not fit all. To achieve maximum impact, your program must be relevant, timely and tailored to your community, and the content must be responsive to the particular needs of the individuals.
T: Team up. Everyone needs to participate: medical experts, media, fitness clubs, food markets, hospital personnel, employers, government officials, educators, religious leaders, employees and family members. The goal is promoting community-wide fitness for everyone.
In the past few years, over 300 community weight-loss events have occurred in communities across the United States. For example, Marge Delozier organized a spring 2010 community weight-loss program in Lewistown, Penn. With the project in its third week, Marge says, “We are all so excited. It has been a great exercise in pulling talents from the whole community. If anyone is thinking about creating an event, just do it!”
We are at a crossroads. We can view obesity as an overwhelmingly intractable trend and throw in the towel. Or, like Marge Delozier, we can take concrete, practical actions to help our neighbors and friends adopt healthier lifestyles and lose those surplus pounds.
When you step forward in this way, I can assure you that, just as our Nevada County Meltdown did, your actions will reverberate beyond your community's borders and touch people’s lives.
Carole Carson is the author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction and the national coach for the AARP Fat 2 Fit online community. Visit the From Fat 2 Fit site for more information.