Q: In high school I was overweight. The more people shunned me, the more ice cream I ate. But once I graduated, I lost about 45 pounds. I did it along with a friend, and I’ve kept it off for over 20 years. Now, fat shaming is back in the news, and I hope people realize it doesn’t help anyone. With two-thirds of Americans overweight, why don’t they knock it off? -- Amanda P., Wichita, Kansas
A: Unfortunately, to quote The New York Times, fat shaming is “one of the last bastions of acceptable discrimination.” Most fat shaming these days comes from cyber-bullying. It’s a way for cruel, ignorant people to pick on someone at a distance. Entire online fat-shaming communities have been set up; Reddit shut down a forum called r/fatpeoplehate.
Recently, however, there has been a vocal protest against fat shaming -- and we’re glad to see fat shaming coming under fire. Study after study shows that when overweight people are made fun of, they don’t lose weight. Instead it triggers emotional eating and weight gain.
The most effective way to combat our country’s obesity problem is to offer people support, encouragement and the means to adopt healthy behaviors. Good health and nutrition has always been the aim of this column, of Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic Wellness Center and “The Doctor Oz Show.” Cable TV is filled with healthy cooking shows, and yoga and exercise programs. It’s also smart to talk to a nutritionist, find a support group that provides encouragement and increases your self-esteem, and team up with a healthy-living buddy, like you did, Amanda. The buddy element is key, whether it’s a coach, a friend or someone at work. And always remember, getting healthy is a long-term life change, not a quick-fix diet plan.
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We hope anyone who has felt the pain of fat shaming is able to dismiss the fat-shamers for the weak, hurtful people they are. Then decide how YOU will get healthy, stay healthy and become a happier person. We’re proud of you, Amanda. Thanks for sharing.
Q: I just turned 50 and started thinking about getting older. The way things are going, my friends and I could live another 40 years! How can we make sure that those are good years? -- Nancy S., Cleveland
A: Great question, and one that everyone should be thinking about. In Colonial America only 2 percent of the population was 65 or older. Today it’s 15 percent, and could hit 24 percent by 2022.
These days, it’s smart to think about life’s stages as Young Age, Middle Age and Third Age -- not old age. And it’s never been more important to make sure your RealAge is younger than your calendar age. That’s how you’ll stay healthy and cognitively engaged with mental, emotional and physical resiliency into your 80s and beyond. (Go to sharecare.com to determine yours.)
True, you won’t be the same at 70 as you were at 40, but that doesn’t mean your options are limited, just different. You may not jog anymore, but you can cycle or swim. You may not work full time, but you can stay engaged and challenged. Studies show volunteering to help others is associated with lower blood pressure and increased lifespan!
So stay positive: An Irish study found that older adults with negative attitudes toward aging ended up with slower walking speeds and worse cognitive ability than those who viewed aging more positively. And (literally) take steps to stay strong and agile. Even in your 80s you can build muscle with exercise! Get in your 10,000 steps (or the equivalent) daily.
And staying at a healthy weight protects you from many chronic conditions and diseases. Eat 5-9 servings of produce daily, ditch red and processed meats, added sugars and syrups, and processed grains.
You’ll open the door to a world of exciting possibilities for your Third Age if you pay attention to your body’s health every day.
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. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.