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Where to start? Your health? Your happiness? Your future? Your pocketbook?

Let's go for the bank account first. The shocking reality of the actual cost of obesity might get the attention of public health officials, government regulators and you — and you and you.

Psst! This rant was set off by the new finding published in the New England Journal of Medicine that half of American adults will be obese 10 years from now. That makes us very worried about the physical and financial health of each person and our country's economic health. Here are some facts:

Fact: Obesity costs an estimated $149 billion a year in directly related health care spending, and another $66 billion in the loss of economic productivity.

Fact: According to Mission: Readiness (an organization made up of 750 retired admirals, generals and other top military leaders), excess weight prevents nearly a third of young adults from qualifying for military service and the Department of Defense is spending more than $1 billion annually on obesity-related issues.

Fact: For women with a BMI above 30, the yearly price tag for added health care costs is almost $5,000, and for men that heavy, it's just above $2,600. A study out of Emory University found that over their lifetime, obese older males spent $190,657 more than normal-weight peers and older obese women spent $223,629 more on health care.

But the costs are not just financial, not by a long shot. The risks to your health are profound.

Fact: Every year, obesity is associated with 100,000 premature deaths in the U.S. Severe obesity may shorten your life span by almost 14 years.

Fact: According to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Columbia University, obesity in pregnant moms is linked to a lag in their sons' (and, we bet, daughters) development and IQ in middle school. In fact, the harm done to the child is as great as that caused by lead exposure in early childhood.

Other ripple effects from maternal (and in some cases paternal) obesity include causing a child to be obese and suffer, often prematurely, from coronary heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and asthma, and it can increase the child's risk of having a less robust immune system.

Fact: Obesity increases your own risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, depression, tooth loss, nerve damage, joint pain and a roster of chronic, inflammation-related diseases, including chronic intestinal woes and liver disease, not to mention premature death.

We're hoping this one-two punch is enough to motivate you to battle back against overweight and obesity. But we know how hard it is. So let's approach it in a slightly new way: Don't start with weight loss as your goal; start with zeroing in on making yourself happier — after all, that's key to sustaining life changes that improve your health. To that end:

Step 1: Volunteer twice weekly to help those in your community who are in need. Study after study shows that will increase your happiness and ease depression.

Step 2: Do one thing for yourself every day that gives you joy. Take an hour a day to read. Take your sketch pad to the park and draw. Go for a walk. Cook a broth-based veggie soup. Call your best friend.

Step 3. Keep doing those things as you take steps to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. For example:

Do a food inventory. Choose three unhealthy, overprocessed or sugary items to banish from your shelves or fridge — and don't buy them again. The next week, choose another three to kick out of your kitchen (red meat, for example, and bacon and cheese)!

Choose three veggies and two fruits to buy at the grocery store. Next week try some others!

Step 4. Set a goal of 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent. Put a pedometer on your phone, and walk on! Start slowly by doing what you can for 20-30 minutes, then increase speed and distance as you can week to week.

 

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit sharecare.com.

 

(c)2020 Michael Roizen, M.D.

and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

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