America is one of the richest, most progressive countries in the world. Shouldn’t it be one of the healthiest too? The truth is that America is a country plagued with obesity. It is on the rise as many view food as a requirement and physical activity as an option. According to the fourth annual report of the research group Trust for America’s Health, adult obesity rates rose in 31 states last year, 22 states experienced an increase for the second year in a row, and no state had a rate decrease. The southern region is the bulk of the problem, possessing 10 of the 15 states with the highest rates of adult obesity. In addition, the South also had eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of overweight children, between the ages of 10 and 17. Louisiana has the fourth highest rate of adult obesity at 28.2 percent and the ninth highest rate of overweight youths at 17.2 percent in the nation, according to TFAH. “Down here we love to cook, therefore we love to eat” said Keith Brown, a New Orleans native. “The food is delicious, so why not eat it?” People today may be gaining weight because of unhealthy food choices such as fast food. In 2001, Americans spent more than $110 billion on fast food and $68.1 billion on carbonated beverages. “I get so caught up in the routine of work and school, it is easy to just grab something fast,” said Brown. High-calorie snacks and beverages, bigger portions of food, and less physical activity are all contributing factors to the obesity epidemic. The Department of Agriculture reports that food consumption rose by 8 percent, or about 140 pounds per person a year. In one year, an American adult consumes 40 pounds of white bread, 41 pounds of potatoes, 30 pounds of cheese, 52 gallons of carbonated beverages, and 77 pounds of added fats such as butter and cooking oil. Sometimes people turn to food for emotional reasons, such as when they feel upset, anxious, sad, stressed out, or even bored. When this happens, they often eat more than they need. “Food was my outlet as a teenager,” said Faith Brunett, a Dillard student. “I suffered from depression, so basically I ate my way out. Food became my best friend.” Approximately 60 million American adults are obese, including at least one in five young adults according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because Americans tend to gain weight as they age, being overweight is even more common in people of middle and older ages. Health care providers routinely screen patients of all ages for weight problems. A serious weight problem contributes to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and more. According to CDC, “the more overweight a person is, the more likely that person is to have health problems. Among people who are overweight and obese, weight loss can help reduce the chances of developing these health problems.” Studies show that if a person is overweight or obese, reducing body weight by 5 percent to 10 percent can improve one’s health. Jared Newchurch, a personal trainer at West Jefferson Fitness Center said that many people that are overweight come into the center for help. “They don’t know where to start,” said Newchurch. “The first thing they say to me is that they are too fat and need to lose weight. Exercising is one of the keys to losing weight, but eating healthy is number one.” Ultimately, obesity can even be life-threatening. In the United States, more than 300,000 deaths are linked to obesity. Making more healthy eating choices may reduce the obesity rate among Americans. Recommended by experts, including the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Dietetic Association (ADA), Americans need to eat more seafood. In addition to helping with weight control, a 2006 study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that eating fish twice a week reduces risk of dying of a heart attack by 36 percent. A study published recently in the International Journal of Obesity finds that in young adult men, a low-calorie diet that includes fish results in slightly more weight loss than a similar low-calorie diet without fish. Researchers think seafood can enhance weight loss because of the omega-3 fatty acids, which may decrease growth of fat cells, and special fish proteins, which may reduce body fat mass. Not only eating right, but exercising right is the way to go. “I suggest that everyone, no matter what age you are, to do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise everyday,” said Newchurch, “If not everyday, at least four times a week.” A combination of exercise and lifestyles can be the solution to the obesity epidemic.