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August 30, 2001

Teaming up for lighter living

Nearly 97 million Americans are overweight or obese - almost 60 percent of the adult population - and one in 10 children are considered obese. Americans annually spend $33 billion on weight-reduction products including diet foods, products and programs so why is the problem spreading?

"Don't Weight! Teaming up For Lighter Living," an interdisciplinary community symposium on overweight and obesity hosted by California State University, Sacramento from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 29 plans to address the staggering impacts these issues have on health as well as society.

"The trend toward overweight and obesity is a growing problem in America," says Carolyn VanCouwenberghe, CSUS nursing professor and symposium organizer. "It affects children and adults, men and women and knows no ethnic boundaries. In this symposium health professionals and consumers will join together to tackle the problem. Whether your interest is personal or you wish to help someone else, you'll learn how even the smallest change can make a significant difference."

And VanCouwenberghe knows what she's talking about. About two years ago, weighing 210 pounds, she assigned her students to write papers on the topic of overweight and obesity and how to teach and motivate someone to lose weight. The project changed her life.

"After reading about 10 of these papers, I was starting to get the message," she says. "A consistent theme in their writing was to set small goals and set yourself up for success. So I tried it. People who have never struggled with weight may laugh, but my first goal was 5 minutes on the exercise bike twice a week. It had nothing to do with pounds lost, so I felt very much in control, and I reached my goal!"

Success is a powerful motivator, VanCouwenberghe says, and she gradually increased her goals and lost more than 50 pounds.

"I feel great. Anyone who thinks that a student writing assignment can't have a major impact needs to think again," she says.

The CSUS symposium on overweight and obesity was planned in response to what many of the nation's health authorities call a prevailing epidemic.

U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher has called for intensified efforts to combat obesity, which he identified as one of the few national health problems that are worsening.

"Obesity is a major public health problem in this country and one that deserves much more attention than it has received," said Satcher, who is only the second surgeon general to concurrently hold the position of Assistant Secretary for Health.

"The prevalence of overweight and obesity has nearly doubled among children and adolescents since 1980," Satcher told public health and industry leaders at a recent international nutrition conference. "It is also increasing in both genders and among all population groups of adults."

A growing obesity epidemic is threatening the health of millions of Americans in the United States, according to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in the October 27, 1999, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Overweight and physical inactivity account for more than 300,000 premature deaths each year in the United States, second only to tobacco-related deaths. Obesity is an epidemic and should be taken as seriously as any infectious disease epidemic," says Jeffrey P. Koplan, director of the CDC, and one of the authors of the article. "Obesity and overweight are linked to the nation's number one killer - heart disease - as well as diabetes and other chronic conditions."

Other health risks associated with overweight and obesity are hypertension, stroke, breathing problems, gall bladder disease, joint problems, blood circulation problems and certain cancers.

Speakers at the symposium include Thomas W. Hopkins, a board-certified internal medicine physician specializing in the practice of weight management, nutrition and obesity and the medical reporter for KCRA Channel 3; Len Kravitz, program coordinator of exercise science University of New Mexico and the author of four books who was awarded the 1999 Canadian Fitness Professionals "International Presenter of the Year" award; and Pepper Von, an internationally known fitness pro, choreographer and motivational speaker.

Discussions at the symposium will cover a wide range of topics including weight, physiology, genetics, behavior patterns, diets, drugs, surgical options and community resources. There will be cooking exhibits and body composition testing.

Tickets for the symposium range from $15 - 75 and lunch is included. Early registration is encouraged by Sept. 15.

For tickets, registration or more information call (916) 278-4969 or visit www.hhs.csus.edu/dontweight. Media assistance is available by contacting the CSUS public affairs office at 278-5085.



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