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Forty-one isn’t exactly a great number.

On a test, it is a failing grade. If it is your body temperature, you’re dead. As an age, it’s the perfect time for a mid-life crisis, especially if your Body Mass Index is also 41.

That is currently where I reside, as a “severely obese” 41-year-old struggling to reduce the BMI despite the inevitable increase in birthdays.

For those who are not overweight, it likely is easy to hold onto to old stereotypes – that obese people are lazy overeaters who lack motivation to exercise as much as they do discipline in the buffet line. For some, that may be true. For most, it’s a dangerous prejudgment that can only worsen the problem.

Unlike alcoholism and an addiction to nicotine, you can’t mask obesity with breath mints, eye drops and a few cups of coffee.

For many, the addiction to overeating is tied into depression, shame and a general feeling of worthlessness.

As Dr. Christopher Motto, of Evangelical, stated in The Daily Item’s series on obesity – food is the most overused antidepressant.

You eat to try to feel better, gain weight and feel even more guilty and shameful, which leads to more junk food and a vicious, hard-to-break cycle continues.

I’m in the midst of cutting weight via a low-carb meal plan, and the pounds have been coming off fairly steadily.

Unfortunately, the 55 pounds I’ve dropped in the past three months are the same I’ve lost several times before – and then gained them back.

Yo-yo dieting isn’t safe.

Dieting itself isn’t recommended by many of the health professionals who contributed to this package.

What it takes is a full lifestyle overhaul beyond the “eat healthier, move more” mantra many health professionals share.

Dr. Steven Barrows, of UPMC Susquehanna, offered a unique perspective — that it will require a societal shift in how we see obesity.

“Ten to 15 years ago, we decided as a society that tobacco use was no longer acceptable. It has taken a lot of time and changes in standards across society, but we’ve seen the number of tobacco users drop dramatically,” he said. “If we can get obesity to be as unacceptable in the eyes of society, than maybe, over the course of a generation, we can change the trends, curb the statistics and make a real change in the health of our nation.”

The question is how do we get to that point without attacking those who are already in a self-destructive downward spiral? And how do we confront the food industry for marketing low-cost junk food while healthier alternatives cost so much more? And how do we tackle insurance companies that fuel a reaction-based medical paradigm vs. one where people receive proactive tools such as gym memberships, cooking classes and other resources?

Take it from someone trying to lose 100-plus pounds — the only real way to tackle such a big change comes in the small day-to-day decisions.

How do we change society’s view of the destructive obesity epidemic?

One pound at a time.

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