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70% obesity in L.A.

County launches portion control and healthful eating campaign after numbers skyrocket

Posted: October 9, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 9, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Concerns over a rising obesity rate have prompted a countywide campaign asking residents to pinch portions at the table, officials said Monday.

 

Concerns over a rising obesity rate have prompted a countywide campaign asking residents to pinch portions at the table, officials said Monday.

The campaign comes after county officials revealed that seven of every 10 adults in Los Angeles County are obese, officials said.

“The amount of food (served at a meal) has gone up about four-fold since the 1950s, and plate sizes have gone up 36 percent since the ’60s ... and there’s been a focus on ‘super-sizing,’” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Public Health Department, explaining how unhealthful habits have evolved. “People think they’re getting more for less, but they’re really getting less for more,” he said, referring to the low health value in many “deals.”

The campaign, first announced last week, is part of Choose Health LA. The goal is to raise awareness about the amount of calories one consumes in a sitting, as well as the health side effects of consistently going with a “super-sized” meal.

The numbers are eye-opening: The overall obesity rate has increased 74 percent over the last 14 years. The rate increased dramatically among young adults.

Among those age 18-39, the rate has gone up 104 percent in the last 14 years. It’s highest among Latinos (31.6 percent), then blacks (31 percent), whites (18 percent) and Asians (8.9 percent).

The campaign is a $1 million effort funded by a federal Community Transformation Grant awarded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, according to program officials.

Locally, experts expressed concern about how the message will be taken by younger residents, as well as more active residents.

“I don’t want to minimize a very real health problem,” said Sheri Barke, sports and wellness dietitian at College of the Canyons. “But I’d like to see a campaign about healthful eating habits, instead of making it about weight and obesity.”

There are many dietary problems beyond the extremes associated with health risks, Barke said.

She worries the campaign might encourage disordered eating — a term for both under-eating or over-eating habits that are not severe enough to be clinically diagnosed as anorexia or bulimia — which presents a health risk.

The campaign doesn’t list specific goals, Fielding said. It’s really about urging people to give themselves an honest assessment and think twice on portions.

“One thing to do is to look in the mirror,” Fielding advised for people who wonder if the campaign may be directed at them. “Let’s use some common sense here, and be honest with yourself, OK?”

It’s not about a formula, it’s about exercise, eating right and eating within one’s dietary needs, he said.

“All these things are important. There’s no magic bullet,” Fielding said. “But what we’re trying to do is there’s so much emphasis on what you eat. But most of us would just be better off if we had less of what we’re eating.”

psmith@the-signal.com

661-287-5526

 

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