CHARLOTTE – Obesity numbers are rising each day in our young adults. Research shows that more than half of young adults are now overweight. The issue has more than one factor. Over the last few years, lifestyle changes and environmental issues surrounding the promotion of activity have decreased significantly; diet changes are also a factor. The change in diets seems to be overshadowing the increase because research shows that young adults are consuming more high fat, sugary, and fast food. This along with the decrease in activity has caused an increase in the number of young adults with weight issues; in fact, weight issues have increased by nearly 33% in the last two years.
Along with the nation being in a health crisis because of the lack of proper healthcare and health management during the pandemic, there has also been an increase in one of the largest obstacles to weight management: screen time. The increase in screen time has been significant enough to impact the health and weight of young adults across the nation, especially in Southern communities. Currently, in our town, the number of young adults combating weight issues is higher than the national average. Southern style meals tend to be higher in fat and have more calories; additionally, when the “clean your plate” methodology is used with young children and adults, it is easy to take in more calories without even realizing it. Less movement combined with more screens has caused the increase that we have not seen in decades. This is the first time in history that we may see a decrease in lifespan because of these factors.
“The increase in young adult obesity will lead to higher incidences of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers and carry over into adulthood 80% of the time,” says Dr. David Voellinger, Bariatric Surgeon for Novant Health Bariatric Solutions. “For the first time ever, the current generation may have a shorter lifespan than their parents.” Dr. Voellinger works with patients in the area to help educate young adults on how to manage their weight. Moderation and balance along with an active lifestyle are what he advocates for. Lifestyle management starting from a young age is one of the best practices to have.
There are four pillars of lifestyle management: good nutrition, exercise, behavioral health, and sleep. Always making sure that each meal that is consumed is healthy is ideal, but making sure that your diet consists of lean proteins and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables is a great way to start. Making healthier choices when able, like swapping out white bread, rice, and pasta for whole-grain versions is another way to start being more conscious of your daily intake of nutrients. Good nutrition goes a long way, but exercise is another key element that promotes not only better physical health but also goes a long way with behavioral health. Moving burns calories, build muscle, and produces endorphins that help with stress management. Aiming to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day is ideal for young adults. Sleep is also a huge factor in obesity in young adults. Many are not getting nearly as many hours as they need to be healthy. A good night’s sleep lowers stress levels, boosts emotional stamina, and improves concentration. Without sleep, the body does not function at a level that it would normally be able to. Young adults should focus on getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night. The four pillars of lifestyle management are not only important for young adults to help combat obesity, but it are also a lifestyle change that many generations could also benefit from.
The four pillars of lifestyle management is a change that we could all use to help promote better health, but when it comes to diet and nutrition many young adults can benefit from using the 8-5-2-1-0 diet plan: at least 8 hours of sleep, 5 fruits and vegetables, less than 2 hours of screen time, 1 hour of activity, and 0 sugary drinks per day. Statistically, 80 % of obese children will become young adults that will also struggle with weight management. Starting today is the best way to begin the new year with a new outlook and goal. The young adults in our lives need our support in many ways. Making sure they are healthy and have an active lifestyle outside of their screen time is one of the best gifts they can receive.