The new global health threat

Not long ago, the biggest health problem in many parts of the world was too many people with not enough to eat.

Today, in many areas, it's now just the opposite: We've got too many people eating too much food and obesity rates on the rise.

Obesity has replaced hunger and malnutrition as the world's leading medical crisis, with new obesity rates from 50 nations showing that it's on the rise just about everywhere except for sub-Saharan Africa.

It's not a little increase in obesity rates, either. Globally, it's up 82 percent over the last two decades -- and in some places, it's up even more. In the Middle East, for example, obesity rates have shot up by 100 percent.

Closer to home, not a single U.S. state had obesity rates above 20 percent 20 years ago. Today, the national average sits at 36 percent -- and there's not a single state with an obesity rate below 20 percent.

Since obesity is the leading cause of pain and disability, that means we now have more people spending at least part of their lives crippled. And since obesity is the leading cause of chronic disease, it means we now have more people living with diabetes, heart disease, and more.

With numbers like that, you'd think people would be dying younger than ever. In reality, it's just the opposite: Life expectancies are up by an average of 10.6 years in men an 12.7 years in women.

But while we're living longer, we're not living better -- because all those gains in life expectancy and then some are being wiped out by years lost to disease and disability. On average, men and women alike now spend their last 14 years fighting chronic pain, chronic disease, or both.

Some people will tell you that's just a consequence of better medicine. Drugs get better, so people live longer with the diseases that used to just kill them outright.

But I don't buy it.

You can live longer and live better, too -- and all you have to do is commit to the healthy changes you should've made years ago.

Forget the gimmicks, the Hollywood weight-loss schemes, fad diets. and whatever trendy new diet book is burning up the sales charts. These things always fail because they always rely on limits or restrictions that make them impossible to stick to over the long term.

That's why I recommend a Mediterranean-style diet for both weight loss and overall good health. Not only is this back-to-basics approach great for your body, but it includes a wide range of enjoyable healthy foods such as healthy grains, lean meats, fish, tons of vegetables and fruits, and even some healthy fats.

There's so much variety in this diet that you can stick to it for life without getting bored. And it's so easy to follow that you can do it on your own if you can commit to it.

Of course, that's a lot easier said than done -- so not everyone can go it alone on this. And if that's you, don't be afraid to ask for help. A holistic physician can help come up with a plan that meets your needs, and help give you the motivation you need to stick to it.

And for a comprehensive and fully customized approach to weight loss and good nutrition, make an appointment to see me at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine.