Local dietitian gives input on reducing obesity

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff

This summer U.S. Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) introduced legislation designed to reduce the nation's fight with obesity. Frist joined Democratic Senators Jeff Bingaman and Christopher Dodd in the attempt to curb the nation's fastest growing health problem.
   Nearly one quarter of Americans have been diagnosed with morbid obesity. The steady increase in the number of overweight Americans has made obesity one of the leading causes of death in the nation, and a growing regional concern.
   Obesity is now recognized as a disease because it increases the risk for developing high blood pressure, type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder complications, and cancers of the breast, prostate and colon.
   With obesity on the climb, professionals are scrambling to find an answer. Legislatures and those in the health profession are working to reverse the trend locally.
   Danielle Moze is a registered dietitian with the Johnson City Medical Center and works with local individuals battling diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Moze and a team of dietitians at the MedCenter see patients that have had coronary surgery and those considered to be morbidly obese. A healthy body mass index (BMI) should be between 19 and 25. Dietitians at the MedCenter educate patients with a BMI over 40 on how to follow low fat and low cholesterol diets. Moze sees people in their 40s who have suffered heart attacks and strokes and believes it is a wakeup call for our society.
   Moze believes by the time individuals come to see her they have already developed a lifestyle of poor eating habits. She stated that eating habits start in childhood and that children learn habits by watching their parents. "A lot times if you have overweight parents, then children tend to become overweight, or they become overweight adults," Moze said. An estimated 13 percent of American children are overweight, and today there are three times the number of obese adolescents than there were 30 years ago.
   "We are a convenient society. We eat too much and we do not do enough to burn it off. Calories are energy and we take in all of this energy, and yet we don't expend any," Moze said. "No matter what your size or what your age just be more active. Remember what you take in has to equal what you put out."
   Although the solution to obesity seems simple, it is much more difficult to put into action. Moze stated when individuals have been used to eating a certain way their entire lives, it is hard for them to change eating habits overnight. According to Moze the solution to obesity is an ongoing process with a slow start. "Doing small things in the beginning, just like changing from regular soda to diet soda, is a great change. If you start out with small changes then as you get those down, you can make bigger changes. Once people start to see results they get motivated," Moze said.
   Small eating changes can begin in homes by changing from whole to a one or two percent milk, and by buying low fat dairy products. "Cheese is one of the highest fat foods. As far as your heart goes and obesity, it is probably one of the worst foods you could possibly eat," Moze said. Moze recommended eating cheese that is made with skim or one percent milk.
   The government's guideline for a healthy diet and for maintaining a healthy weight is the food guide pyramid located on all cereal boxes. The pyramid recommends eating five fruits and vegetables, and at least six servings of whole wheat and grains each day. Moze stated that following the food guide pyramid as closely as possible and increasing activity levels are the most important factors in avoiding obesity.