When the level of overweight Americans reaches epidemic proportions, we really must sit up and take notice. According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index1, more than 6 in 10 adults in the U.S. were either overweight or obese in 2010. Individual BMI values of 30 or above are classified as “obese,” 25 to 29.9 as “overweight,” and 18.5 to 24.9 as “normal weight.”

It appears that Black Americans face the greatest struggle with their weight, with 36% obese in 2010. Low-income Americans and adults aged 45 to 64 also rank among the most obesity-prone. However, the likelihood of becoming overweight decreases as income rises. The groups least likely to get fat are high-income Americans, young adults, and Asian Americans.

We might speculate that greater income is linked to a higher level of health/nutrition education, which clearly helps combat this issue. The lack of health information, on the other hand, appears to be harmful not only from a wellness standpoint, but from an economic one too.

With obese people at risk for a plethora of chronic illnesses, we see a shocking increase in healthcare spending. In fact, a Gallup analysis2 found that if the 10 most obese U.S. cities reduced their rates to the national average, they could collectively save about $500 million in annual healthcare costs.

But there may be good news. The recently enacted healthcare law requires some health insurance plans to offer free preventive services─including weight loss counseling─which may yet have a positive influence on American eating/exercise habits─especially among the low-income Americans who are most likely to be both obese and uninsured.

Additionally, the International Food Information Council Foundation 2010 Food & Health Survey3 found that 70% of Americans are concerned about extra pounds, and nearly 80% are actively trying to lose─or at least maintain─their weight. How? Mostly by changing the amount and type of food they eat, as well as excercising more.

We can spot progress in other directions too. For example, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are now communicating to an overweight/obese American population, advocating a “total diet” approach for improving health. And, in early 2010, new healthcare legislation was enacted requiring calorie counts at restaurant chains─a very big step.

So, while we seem to be in a downward spiral, there are some positive, viable indicators that we will get American weight and health back on track. For the optimistic among us, hope─as always─springs eternal.

2 http://gmj.gallup.com/content/145778/Cost-Obesity-Cities.aspxFirefoxHTML%5CShell%5COpen%5CCommand