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Get in shape Alabama

By Staff
Rep. Ronald Grantland, Guest Columnist
One of the best things about the start of a New Year is the chance to make resolutions and better ourselves. If you are like many Americans, losing weight is at the top of the list.
Unfortunately, we often find that some of our resolutions are quite tough to keep. As February approaches, chances are a few of your New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. However, losing weight is much more than a one-month commitment, so make 2007 the year that you stay healthy all year long.
Obesity has become a major problem across our nation. Our daily food intake has increased over several decades. Meanwhile, physical activity levels have declined. As a result, the American population has experienced a 10-to-12 pound weight gain over the past 20 years. While this problem is affecting our entire country, the problem is even worse in our state.
According to recent report by Trust for America’s Health, Alabama has an adult obesity rate of 28.7 percent; we’re the second heaviest state in the nation. Sweet tea and fried chicken are staples of our diet, yet the days of working the farm that used to sustain a diet like that are gone. Nowadays, folks sit behind a desk during the day and go home to watch TV in the evenings. We’re just not getting enough exercise, and it’s showing.
Those extra pounds don’t just affect your appearance, they can also be dangerous. Diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and Type II diabetes are some of the many diseases related to excess weight gain. Other health problems such as stroke, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, prostate cancer and depression have been linked to obesity, as well. Currently, our state ranks fifth in the nation for adult diabetes levels, and third for rates of hypertension—both diseases that are directly related to obesity.
Obesity is also expensive for state and private employers. In 2003, the state spent a total of $1.32 billion, an estimated $293 per person, on medical costs related to obesity. The National Business Group on Health found that obesity costs U.S. companies a total of almost $13 billion annually and accounts for more than nine percent of total annual medical care expenses. In addition to hurting employers’ checkbooks, obesity also hurts productivity and is associated with 39 million lost workdays and 63 million physician visits.
In response to this growing epidemic, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Hospital Association, and Barber Dairies embarked in a joint venture to help Alabamians fight the bulge: it’s called Scale Back Alabama.
Scale Back Alabama, which features American-Idol winner Ruben Studdard, is an eight-week weight-loss program that utilizes a team concept to help participants lose weight. The competition involves teams of three to five people who are competing to see who can lose the most weight on a percentage basis. The winning team will receive $1000 per person. The competition began with a statewide weigh in on January 22 and will end with a similar weigh in on March 19.
During the eight-week period, participants can take part in weekly lessons either in person or via webcast. The lessons are designed to help people lose weight in a healthy manner by eating sensibly and exercising. The aim is to modify lifestyle behaviors such as portion control, reading nutrition labels, cutting fat and calories, and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables.
So far, Scale Back Alabama has had thousands of entries, and the contest looks to be an overwhelming success. But even if you’re not part of the contest, you can still be part of Scale Back Alabama. Go to www.scalebackalabama.com; you can take part in the lessons and follow the program at your own pace.
If you have already started slacking on your New Year’s resolution to lose weight - or even if you didn’t make a resolution - do your part to get in shape and stay healthy in 2007. It might just save your life.

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