An Alarming Trend

By Pete Mercer

March 2024 – The Journal of Healthcare Contracting

America’s busy lifestyles, food and diet habits, and societal influences are leading to poor health outcomes. As a result, obesity has become an increasing concern throughout the United States. Case in point: the prevalence of adult obesity in 22 states rose above 35% of their respective populations in 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Yet, ten years ago, there weren’t any states that had an adult obesity prevalence above 35%.

The impacts of obesity are costly for the American healthcare system. Health conditions associated with obesity include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, according to the CDC. These conditions, when associated with obesity, require patients to seek healthcare for preventable chronic disease. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity, according to the CDC in 2019, was nearly $173 billion.


The dramatic increase in the prevalence of obesity within the last 10 years is a result of a variety of factors, including national mental health issues, changes in the American lifestyle, diet culture, socioeconomic status, and more. A 2023 study conducted by Batash Endoscopic Wellness, titled “Beyond the Scale: Insights Into Weight Loss Trends and Challenges,” explored the causes of the obesity crisis in the U.S. by surveying 1,000 U.S. adults who identify as overweight.

“This alarming trend of increasing obesity rates is the result of a confluence of factors. Sedentary lifestyles, high-calorie diets, and an abundance of processed foods have become the norm,” said Dr. Batash.

Survey respondents were asked about their experiences with weight loss, weight gain, and the challenges associated with being overweight.

The study provided a nuanced look at weight loss to include stress, perception, and societal trends to have a large influence on weight gain and loss struggles. For example, over 60% of respondents said they wanted to lose weight to address both mental and physical concerns, and over half of survey respondents reported stress as the number one reason they struggle to successfully lose weight, according to the Batash Endoscopic Wellness study.

“The result that nearly half of overweight Americans are uncertain about their control over weight gain suggests that there is a significant role of perceived helplessness in the face of obesity. Additionally, mental health challenges, including stress and depression, contribute to weight gain by promoting behaviors like emotional eating,” said Dr. Batash.

Proper management

Obesity is a very complex disease, with a variety of social and environmental factors contributing to a greater risk for some individuals, according to a National Library of Medicine Study, “Social and Environmental Factors Influencing Obesity.” Effectively addressing obesity in the U.S. requires an understanding of these complex relationships.

According to Dr. Batash, obesity doesn’t just hurt the body; it also makes it harder for people to be productive in their personal lives and at work. “To address this issue, we need to teach people about healthy choices, and help each person adjust to a healthy lifestyle in a way that works for them,” he said.

Nearly 50% of individuals surveyed in the study struggled with personal control their over weight loss journeys, indicating that genetics, activity levels, and environmental factors are critical considerations in weight management.

“Individuals embarking on a weight loss journey navigate several personal factors. To determine the individual factors impacting weight loss, one must assess their dietary habits, exercise routines, and psychological barriers such as stress and emotional eating,” said Dr. Batash. “Understanding these personal influences is crucial, as 35% of overweight Americans avoid healthcare scenarios due to the negative impact on their mental health, highlighting the need for personalized and compassionate weight management strategies.”

Achieving a healthy weight reduces an individual’s risk for developing serious disease. According to the CDC, some ways to maintain a healthy weight include physical activity, proper sleep, stress reduction, and healthy eating. Behavior changes such as walking, swimming, making nutritious food choices, and getting enough rest, when combined, can assist patients with the journey of weight management.

According to Dr. Batash, “It is important to approach weight loss with a multi-pronged approach, and to make lasting, long-term changes in how we eat, exercise, and take care of our mental health.”

Managing weight is critical to an individual’s overall health, as it directly impacts both personal and community-wide well-being. With the prevalence of weight-related illness increasing in the U.S., healthcare professionals must consider the root cause of obesity, and address risk factors and concerns with patients during doctor’s visits.

“Weight loss contributes to better mental health and overall energy levels,” said Dr. Steven Batash of Batash Endoscopic Wellness. “Proper weight management supports joint health, decreases the likelihood of sleep apnea, and enhances mobility.”


Weight’s emotional toll

Recently, doctors and health systems have begun considering the emotional and environmental impacts associated with obesity and have integrated lifestyle changes and emotional well-being into care routines for patients with obesity.

“Additionally, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight often leads to improved self-esteem and a positive body image,” according to Dr. Batash. “By adopting healthy lifestyle habits, individuals not only prevent health complications but also promote a higher quality of life and longevity.”

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