Benton County- Obesity Rate Is On The Rise

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Weight loss may be high on the list of New Year’s resolutions for 2019. According to a report issued in December 2018, by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), adult Americans are struggling with an obesity epidemic and are getting even heavier. According to Missouri has the 17th highest adult obesity rate in the nation and is currently at 32.5 percent while Benton County is at a 31 percent level. However, there is hope for some who are fighting hard to lose weight, even if it means surgery.
Carrie Rieman, of Warsaw, has had problems with her weight since third grade, and began emotional eating as early as first grade when her parents divorced.
“I remember my mother putting me on diets, and calling my school to ask that I not be allowed to have chocolate milk or desert during lunch time,” said Rieman. “It was very embarrassing. As I got older, I had many books on diets, and would order weight loss equipment that I saw on TV.”
Rieman said that as an adult she taught cardio dance weight loss classes, walked and worked out without much success. She became immersed in a cycle of "insane determination followed by feelings of failure,” and would give up and gain more pounds. She began thinking about bariatric weight loss surgery years ago, but insurance didn’t cover it until recently. On June 18, 2018, she finally had the surgery and is remarkably thinner.
“I have lost 108 pounds so far, and have 100 more to go,” said Rieman. “I can not only wear smaller clothes now, but I have gone from having Type II Diabetes to a point where I  have almost non-diabetic sugar levels, and before long may be off Diabetes medication. My cholesterol level is better, I have more energy and my joints don’t hurt as much as they did.”
According to, many people seem to think that weight gain and obesity are caused by lack of willpower.  But, that’s not entirely true. The site reports that overeating is driven by various biological factors like genetics and hormones. Of course, people can overcome their genetic disadvantages by changing their lifestyle and behavior, but it takes a lot of willpower, perseverance and dedication. The site also lists ten factors, with details, that are leading causes of weight gain that have nothing to do with willpower. They include engineered junk food, food addiction, sugar, aggressive marketing, and certain medications.
A nutritionist in Benton County said that statistics she is familiar with report that a relationship is sometimes found between a person’s level of education and adult obesity. She said that one report states that obesity occurs in 32.9 percent of adults with a high school education and 22.7 in college graduates. She also said that the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables can have an effect on weight, especially in Benton County which has fewer resources for healthy foods than a more populated area. 
A nutritionist from Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare said that people who are overweight might be that way from eating out too much, and eating convenience foods. She said that some people say that they cannot afford fresh fruits and vegetables, but they will buy chips and sodas. She said that it would be better to find healthy options on sale such as a bag of oranges. The nutritionist also said that many people do not seek treatment for obesity because insurance plans do not usually cover the problem. She said that unfortunately, some people go in for fad diets that can get them into trouble, because these diets don’t teach them how to eat properly.
The NHANES report uses data from 47,233 Americans over the age of 20 gathered from surveys during the period 1999 to 2016. The average weight of American men in 2015-16 was 197.6 pounds, and 170.6 pounds for women. This is up from 189.4 pounds for men and 163.8 pounds in 1999-2000. The only groups in the report that did not show a significant increase in weight over the period of the surveys were Black men, Mexican-American women and Asian men and women.
The report showed that Body Mass Index (BMI), a formula using height and weight to compare to a chart that places the subject into normal, overweight, or obese classifications, has also increased. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. Americans average BMI is now almost 30 which is the cutoff for obesity.
According to the NHANES report, while weight is going up, height is going down. The overall height for women decreased slightly from 5 feet, 3.8 inches in 1999-2000 to 5 feet, 3.7 inches in 2015-16. In 1999-2000, the average height for men was 5 feet, 9.2 inches, and it increased until 2003-04 when the average was 5 feet, 9.4 inches. Then, in 2015-16, it decreased to 5 feet, 9.1 inches.
WebMD reported that health risks linked to obesity include heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, some cancers, gallbladder disease and gallstones, osteoarthritis, gout and breathing problems. Not everyone who is obese has these problems, but the risk is higher if there is a family history with one of the conditions.  There is also a higher risk to health if the extra weight is mostly around the hips and buttocks (making the body look pear shaped).