Diminishing Health Across the US Shows COVID is Not the Only Epidemic We Need to Address


At least 2.8 million people die from obesity-related illnesses every year. Around the same amount of people died from COVID in 2020, and while we shut down everything, we still barely teach young kids how to be healthy. We are teaching kids advanced math and science, and we are teaching them how to write poems, but we don’t teach them how to keep their bodies healthy so they can live a long life. This is astounding since, according to the CDC, 6 of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. can be prevented by having a healthy lifestyle. Even though we do have a health class in middle school and high school, these classes barely teach you the basics you need to know, and also give out some information that has been proven wrong for decades.

There are two major aspects of health: fitness and nutrition. Using both can drastically change your life in a short amount of time. Results can be achieved through just nutrition, but can not be achieved with only fitness. Therefore, if you only have time to choose one, most experts agree you should fix your nutrition first.

First, nutrition can be very simple or very complicated. The simplest way to look at nutrition is calories. According to Medical News Today, without exercise, the average person burns 2,000-3,000 calories going through their everyday life. So, if you want to be healthy you have to keep a consistent diet of eating under 2,000-3,000 calories every day.  However, just because you are not overweight doesn’t mean you are healthy. According to the CDC, you should eat 1-1/2 to 2 cups of fruit, and between 2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day along with other whole foods. According to Alina Petre, a dietary specialist, there are ways to keep yourself satisfied throughout the day such as drinking more water, eating fiber and protein dense foods, and getting the proper amount of sleep.

The major thing that will improve diet and keep you healthy is eating fiber dense foods. According to Kris Gunnars, these foods take up more room in your stomach, but have lower calories. They are also great for lowering blood sugar levels and helping with constipation. Some everyday foods to consider are avocados, bananas, lentils, and sweet potatoes. If you get hungry for a snack, dark chocolate and popcorn are  great choices.

Another thing to look into is the many delicious healthy high fiber meals on the internet. A lot of people think on a diet, you can’t eat out. However, according to Helen West, a gastro-dietitian specialist, its just a matter of looking at the menu and finding healthier meals that still look good, and then focusing on not over eating. To start off, it’s recommend trying to do three meals a day at 600 calories each, and if you get hungry, snack on a little bit of popcorn, fruit, or vegetables.

Second is fitness, according to MedlinePlus, fitness is important for health, however it is also important for mental health. Starting with physical health benefits, any type of exercise can lead to improved fitness because you are burning calories. However exercise is related to numerous other health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease and regulating blood sugar. On the other hand, frequent exercise can improve mental health, and according to Walden University, exercise can help depression, help anxiety, decrease stress, increase self esteem, and help you sleep better. Frequent exercise increases dopamine levels and according to Healthline positive changes can be seen with as little as 10 minutes of exercise however 30-45 is recommended for maximum benefits.

There are a lot of different ways to exercise, from yoga, weightlifting, to cardio and much more. A great way to start exercising is to find the thing that you enjoy the most. This can be riding a bike, hiking, running, lifting weights, playing a sport, almost anything active works. Making exercise enjoyable is very important. It should be something you want to do, not something you have to do.

Even after implementing nutrition and fitness into your life, the journey of becoming healthy is very slow and difficult, and won’t happen overnight or even in a couple months. It can take years. So, it is important to make goals for yourself. Your goals could be to exercise for a whole hour for one day, or eat healthier for a whole month. As long as you make a goal, and work hard to complete that goal, the progress will seem to go by a lot faster. However, it is important to take your time and understand that over-exercising or losing over 2 pounds in a week is considered unhealthy by many experts across all medical fields.

When it comes to health, there are a lot of myths and bad information out there. It is crucial to avoid these habits, because some of them can be very dangerous for your mind and body. Some diets suggest eliminating entire food groups, such as carbs. According to the University of Chicago, diets that attempt to cut out all carbs can be very dangerous (especially for teenagers) because carbs are the main energy source of the body. This type of diet could cause low blood pressure, kidney stones, constipation, nutrient deficiencies and an increased risk of heart disease. Balance is key for a healthy diet for young people, and eating a variety of fresh, whole foods is the healthiest option, according to most experts.

The second most important thing to understand is not to base health off of weight. This is something you will hear everyone talk about, however this has very little to do with health at all. The important number to look at is fat percentage. Something else to keep in mind is females have a higher essential fat percentage, according to Healthline less then 32% body fat is healthy for woman and less then 25% for men is healthy. This data is way more important than one’s weight, which can fluctuate daily.

In conclusion, poor nutrition and lack of fitness are two of the greatest problems in the U.S. right now, and we are doing very little to fix it. Schools are lacking with gen-ed health classes, and as a society we have started praising people for unhealthy behaviors, and I, for one, think its time to stop.

Being healthy is a choice everyone has to make for themselves, but as a country, its our responsibility to at least get the correct information out to people who need it. We have ignored this problem for way to long and it has caused way to many deaths. We need to start doing something about it.