Last week, I tweeted on several studies that focus on times in life when people are at risk for obesity. A great deal of obesity-related research today explores the period of time from infancy through the teen years. Children are receptive to behavior change and, frankly, usually present a better return on investment of resources. For example, consider the growing rate of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in young children. Preventing these diseases early makes sense on so many levels.
As important as research on children and teens is, however, we can't short-change other population segments and here is why: Who provides children with healthy food and who influences children by example? Parents and other adult authority figures.
We are not going to solve this country's obesity problem unless we reach out to all age levels. So let's not spend any more research dollars trying to establish who is most at risk. We're all at risk. Our focus should now shift to action - what works. What can people do to achieve and maintain a healthy weight at any age? What are the common denominators for people of all ages? What are the key messages? That's where our focus should be.
We already have an abundance of studies suggesting "appropriate" messaging. For example, skip one meal; eat smaller meals more frequently. Limit certain foods; eat more fruits and vegetables. How do we use all this information? My opinion is that we need to take a page out of the books of leaders like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. These two great communicators advised that leaders who get things done focus on just a few key issues or messages.
As nutrition advisors, so should we. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) offers us some help here. In its recently released report, Leveraging Food Technology for Obesity Prevention and Reduction Efforts, the IOM authors make three points concerning strategies that work: Focus on portion size, frequency of snacking (especially among teens) and meals eaten outside the home. The IOM report provides the evidence to support these three strategies. Take a look. As the German writer/poet, biologist and physicist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe famously said, "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do."