- Cover: Erin DeMoss
Chairs are killing you.
And so is fast food. Plus, youre not exercising enough. Your body is full of toxins that need to be flushed out. Put down that soda. Cut the carbs. Go vegan. Eat whole foods. Go paleo. Try CrossFit. Is that salad dressing low-fat? Actually, its all genetics.
If that last one is true, then Oklahoma is in trouble, because a full 33 percent of the states adult population is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not overweight. Obese. Not a little chubby around the belly, but an excessive amount of body fat compared to lean mass.
As if that statistic wasnt sad enough, Oklahoma isnt even the most obese state in the union. Five states weigh in ahead of us.
How did it get so bad?
We eat crap
This probably isnt the smartest thing for a personal trainer to say, but exercise isnt our biggest problem, said OKC Mobile Fitness owner Rick Thomas. Diet is more important than exercise on the whole.
- Garett Fisbeck
- Rick Thomas trains Ben and Ashley Sellers at their home in Oklahoma City.
Thomas doesnt discount the importance of working out, but when it comes to obesity, what we eat has more impact than how we exercise.
Fitness level can change things for the better, but fixing the diet is the No. 1 thing that has to change, he said.
Simply put, said Oklahoma State University professor and registered dietitian Deana Hildebrand, we eat too much. Calories matter.
If I eat 3,000 calories of carrots and broccoli every day, Im going to gain weight, she said.
Of course, to get that many calories from those two foods, youd need to eat a combined 18 pounds of them. But the principle is the same.
Not that any of us need to worry about a sudden shortage of those vegetables or any others. The 2014 State of the States Health Report said one in four Oklahomans eat less than a vegetable per day: It bottoms out at No. 44 in the nation.
Oklahoma ranked No. 6 in obesity and No. 44 in vegetable consumption. Maybe theres a link?
Nourished Food Co. owners Lindsey Riddle and Jamie Conway think so.
There are so many experts out there saying different things, Conway said. It can be confusing for anyone.
But theres one type of food that everyone agrees should be eaten, and it is one Nourished Food Co. specializes in: dark, leafy greens.
Theyre full of micronutrients and fiber and protein, Riddle said. They fight obesity.
Why isnt everybody eating this stuff?
Cooking is more work than not cooking, Thomas said. And thats our downfall.
When people want me to design a meal plan for them, thats a specific process, he said. But if you want to make one change that will have an immediate impact, stop eating out so much.
When you prepare your own meals, using fresh ingredients, not just processed food from a box, Thomas said, you can control what youre eating. Restaurants make things easy, but they also use a lot of ingredients people wouldnt normally cook with.
If someone is looking to increase the amount of time in a day, food is one of the first things to go. Order something quick! he said. And if they are looking to cut costs, theyll bargain shop for food.
Eating well isnt just an investment in future health; Thomas said it also requires an investment of time and money.
And the fruits and vegetables we do get dont always taste like theyre worth it, Hildebrand said.
A lot of fresh fruits and vegetables are grown in California or Mexico and theyre picked before theyre ripe, she said. When you dont get foods picked at the optimal time, theyre not full of flavor.
To get vegetables that taste better, consumers often need to visit farmers markets, but that produce costs more. For the states economically challenged residents, the time and expense that often requires also means shopping local often isnt an option.
We could grow our own, Hildebrand said, but in addition to the space and time needed, Oklahomas seasonal growing periods are tough for novice gardeners to master. Besides that, extreme temperatures in the summer and winter keep people inside.
(That might also contribute to that lack of exercise thing.)
- Garett Fisbeck
- Lindsey Riddle and Jamie Conway prep kale at Nourished Food Co. in Oklahoma City.
Health food sucks
Theres a problem of perception when it comes to eating better, Conway said. People start working more vegetables into their diets, eating whole foods, and then it gets old.
Eating the same thing over and over again gets boring after a while, he said. We update our menu on a weekly basis, but big changes happen seasonally.
He and Riddle are firm believers in experimentation, especially with different spices and foreign cuisines.
If it doesnt taste good, we dont want to eat it, Riddle said.
Thomas said most people assume that healthy eating and enjoying food are mutually exclusive.
If someone tells you that theyre eating healthy, its almost like, Im sorry, he said. Eating healthy doesnt mean eating things that dont taste good. Unhealthy doesnt equal tasty.
Neither Thomas, Hildebrand, Riddle nor Conway advocate for a vegan lifestyle just a more balanced diet.
Nourished sells kale chips and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, but the proprietors still enjoy indulging in a cheeseburger now and again. (Though they opt for grass-fed beef and gluten-free buns.)
Thomas encourages the consumption of real foods: fewer fake fats, artificial sweeteners and premade foods and more of the good-for-you dishes that also taste good.
When I think about how I am now and how I was before, the difference is the awareness level, he said. I just didnt think about it a whole lot. I shoveled it into my mouth and didnt equate what I was eating to my physical condition. Increasing awareness about what youre doing in your diet goes a long way.
Hildebrand subscribes to the advice of noted food writer Michael Pollan who said, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
But she also said its naive to expect everyone to be on the same footing when it comes to making food choices.
I once talked to a low-income mother who was buying a tray of vegetables for her family once a week, she said. When others criticized her for being wasteful or not thrifty enough, she told them her home had no running water, no cabinets and no refrigeration.
She was doing the best she could with what she had, Hildebrand said.
We all have different situations. Its easy to say, You should do A, B, C, D and E, she said. But thats not going to work for everyone.
Hildebrand said people who want to shrink Oklahomas obese population must make their own changes at home and work as a community to give others the same opportunities.
Are we making the healthy choice the easy choice? she asked.
One project shes working on is a program to bring scratch cooking back to schools by bringing chefs into cafeterias for one-on-one consultations. Much like nutrition at home, she said theres no one-size-fits-all solution.
Our goal is to increase basic food preparation skills with regional trainings. We did 15 across the state last summer, she said. The next step is to work with the schools individually by putting a chef in the school to look at their menus, facilities, equipment and staffing.
We wont change
Incremental changes at the school level can also work at home, Hildebrand said.
Drink one less sugar-sweetened beverage per day. Eat out one meal less per week. Skip one dessert, she said. Hopefully, when people start to see positive changes, theyll be like, Yeah, this works! and figure out their next step.
That next step might be taking more steps, Thomas said. Though diet has more impact on obesity than exercise, it definitely has its place in a healthy lifestyle. But people have to get out of the no pain, no gain mentality.
People seem to think with exercise, if you suffer, youll be rewarded for it. Or that if youre resting, youre dying, he said. Thats the negative mythology of our society.
The key is finding an exercise thats enjoyable, Thomas said. If you hate running, youre not going to run every day. The best exercise is the one you dont realize is work because youre having too much fun.
We dont sleep enough
Even more important than diet and exercise, Thomas said, is sleep. Thats the bedrock of health.
Think about it. If you dont sleep, youre definitely not going to exercise, he said. If you dont sleep, youre going to make bad diet choices.
So before you get off your butt to exercise, make sure youre on your back enough the night before.
Does it matter?
Obesity is killing us, Hildebrand said. Worse, people think they dont have a choice.
People feel hopeless, she said. They say, I dont have time to take care of myself because Im too busy taking care of my family. But you cant take care of your family if you dont take care of yourself first.
It takes a toll on families, but our excessive weight is also weighing down society. Hildebrand said unhealthy workers take more sick days, require more expensive medical care and die younger.
Theyre also unhappy, Riddle said.
Health affects everything, she said. Before I changed the way I ate, I wasnt a good human. I wasnt nice. Im really nice now.
Print headline: Growth industry, Diet, not lack of exercise, is behind Oklahomas ballooning waistlines.