Friday, June 25, 1999

Obesity called No. 1
health problem

By Helen Altonn


A specialist on weight management, John P. Foreyt says he tries to jog 45 minutes every day.

Still, when asked what he weighs, he said, "I weigh more than I want to, of course. But I'm healthy. The bottom line is not weight -- it's health."

Foreyt, a medicine and psychology professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, is among key speakers at a free public symposium on weight management tomorrow.

The American Heart Association of Hawaii is presenting the event from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at Kuakini Medical Center.

Also speaking will be Dr. William Dang Jr., cardiologist and president of the heart association in Hawaii; Dr. Leonard J. Kryston, medical director of Joslin Center for Diabetes at Straub Clinic & Hospital; Mae Isonaga, public health nutritionist at the state Health Department; and Anne DiCello, master's candidate at Case Western Reserve University.

Obesity is the No. 1 health problem in the country -- related to diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, Foreyt stressed in an interview.

More than 55 percent of the population is overweight or obese, he said. "It's a very serious issue and no one is dealing with it. Where are the big campaigns?"

The American Heart Association of Hawaii is "ahead of the game" in starting a program to fight obesity, Foreyt said.

Blood pressure screenings, body fat measurements and heart attack and stroke risk assessments will be offered at tomorrow's symposium, along with weight management information and techniques.

While many islanders are seen running, swimming, walking, kayaking or involved in other activities, more than half of the state's adults do no exercise, according to the association.

Foreyt said it has become harder and harder for people to control their weight because they're working harder, under a lot of stress and food is relatively cheap and easy to get with fast-food chains.

Also, there's no reason to exercise because of remote controls, automatic garage doors and other conveniences, he said. Consequently, Americans are eating more and exercising less, he said.

Foreyt said he wrote an article a few years ago predicting all Americans would be obese by 2230. "Luckily, that is two years after the comet hits, so it won't matter," he laughed.

Meanwhile, excessive weight and obesity are contributing to about 300,000 deaths a year, he said.

Caucasian males are the most active Americans, yet half report no exercise, he said. Hispanic and black females, about 80 percent, are the most sedentary people, he said.

"The point is, nobody's very active in this country," he said.

Foreyt says small changes over time seem to work best for weight management. He offers a simple formula: the 100/100 plan.

Whatever you're eating now, cut out 100 calories daily, such as less butter or margarine or salad dressing.

Then shave off another 100 calories with 20 minutes of walking or other physical activity every day.

"You'll lose 20 pounds in a year and you won't even notice it," Foreyt said.

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