An unhealthy tipping of scales

There has been much talk lately about the girth of the New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Well, he’s not alone. There are very few of us who can afford to ignore our own images when looking in the mirror and sizing up our waistline. Nor can we ignore the readout from the bathroom scales.

Weight is gained gradually, but is lost even slower. It is true, it is much more difficult to take weight off than it is to put it on. Old habits are hard to break, and our children are suffering! We have become a nation of overweight – dare I say, fat – people.

According to the World Health Organization, one in three American children are overweight or obese and more than one third of all adults are right there with them. Our lifestyles are too often made up of fast foods and sedentary activities. Both of these lead to a myriad of health problems to include low self-esteem and depression, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and even more seriously, obesity leads to higher and earlier death rates.

When it comes to obesity, 34.3 percent of whites are obese compared to 49.5 percent non-Hispanic blacks and 40.4 percent of Mexican Americans. Income and education are also factors.

According to statistics reported by Healthy New York, the Chautauqua County rate for obesity among pregnant women who participate in the WIC Program was 29.3 percent compared to the state rate of 22.8 percent; overall, 79 percent of adults in Chautauqua County are considered to be obese while the state rate is 77 percent. Our coronary, stroke, diabetes and arthritis rates were also higher than the overall state rates. Guess what, we’re fat! And it too often starts in childhood.

Our children go to school and have pizza, chicken nuggets, macaroni & cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and fatty snacks – and then come home and have more of the same. According to a recent health assessment conducted by the state Education Department, more than 66 percent of students in the Dunkirk School system are receiving free breakfasts/lunches – that too often means they are eating food that is filling, but not necessarily nutritious.

It is not my intent to berate the Chautauqua County schools, they do the best they can and are not alone. However, we need to look at what our children are eating.

One serving of chicken nuggets consists of 340 calories, 15g fat, 20mg cholesterol, 670mg sodium, 39g carbohydrates, 3g sugars, 13g protein, zero vitamins. One piece of cheese pizza contains 240 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10g fat, 4g saturated fat, 20mg cholesterol, 530mg sodium, 26 carbohydrates, 2g sugars, 10g protein. And if it is macaroni and cheese, one serving contains 207 calories, 6.2g fat, 15mg cholesterol, 1061mg sodium, 29g carbohydrates, 1.3g sugars, 8.5g protein. (These measurements were taken directly from the website listing nutritional values in the above listed foods based on a typical serving size).

We have become a fast food, quick and easy, lazy society. It is easier to put a hot pocket in the microwave than to prepare a healthy meal. It is easier to buy a frozen pizza and a box of sugary flavored water than it is to prepare a meal of healthy foods. A family of four can have a roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and rolls for less than $10, but the kids would rather have pizza or chicken nuggets – all the while watching television, playing video games or texting! It is time to parent!

Believe me, I don’t say this lightly – we are fat people! And, it isn’t OK. Gov. Christie is not the only person who needs to eat more healthfully and exercise. Just look around you, go down any street or take a trip to any shopping mall and look around. You will see people who are in need of a brisk walk and fewer calories. I know there are those who can’t exercise or who have gained weight due to a medical condition, and they have my heartfelt sympathy. But for the rest of us we need to do something – liposuction, facelifts, tummy tucks or botox won’t do it. We need to take control, make a plan and follow through.

We need to challenge our school systems to feed our children more healthful foods and get them in the gym or on the playground more regularly. We must challenge ourselves to eat more healthfully, exercise more and drink alcoholic beverages in moderation so that we can live longer healthier lives.

We need to grow old, not out! Spring will be here soon, let’s greet it with just a few less pounds. Of course, it is always easier to say it than to do it, but do it we must at least try.

(By the way, Honey, would you please pass those nachos; and did you say you wanted another margarita?)

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident and author. Send comments to