Friday, December 11, 2015

Grim obesity rate prompts health conscious advocate to launch weight loss initiative

Anniece Robinson and the youngest team members of UBABY (U Be A Better
You) prepare to show Channel 24's Mary Jo Ola how to do "The UBABY Shuffle."
     It was difficult – but not altogether impossible – but Anniece Robinson managed to drop from a 28 dress-size down to a 14 in a year and a half and gained control of a weight problem that had tugged at her for quite some time.
The weight was a constant reminder that Robinson needed to take the necessary steps to avoid the potential threat of a medical malady on down the road. So with a diet change and a razor focus on health and wellness, she shaved off a whopping 130 pounds.
The euphoria was short-lived, though. Why? Because Robinson gained 40 of those pounds back over the course of a few years after she quit smoking. She also went up another dress size or two – 16 or 18, one or the other – which she has maintained since.
“I picked the weight back up because I digressed in my behavior. I lost my way,” said Robinson. “Now I have to fight my way back.”
Robinson is not alone in her fight to lose weight and to keep it off. There are countless men, women and children in the United States grappling with this widespread problem. In Tennessee alone, the adult obesity rate is 31.2 percent, according to a 2015 report, The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America.
Dozens of UBABY team members and others from the audience
performed "The UBABY Shuffle" amid a throng that came out for
The Tom Joyner Morning Show at the Liberty Bowl Memorial
Stadium on Sept. 11. (Photos by Wiley Henry) 
That percentage, which reflects the combined effort of Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), has Tennessee saddled with the 14th highest adult obesity rate in the nation.
Tennessee has struggled with its adult obesity rate over the years – up from 20.9 in 2000 and from 11.1 percent in 1990. The obesity rate fluctuates from state to state. According to the report, Arkansas tips the scale at 35.9, the highest percentage in the country, while Colorado comes in at the lowest – 21.3 percent.   
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of RWJF, and Jeffrey Levi, executive director of TFAH, stressed in a letter accompanying the report that obesity remains “one of the biggest threats to the health of our children and our country.”
By 2030, it is projected that 68 percent of Tennesseans will be obese. That grim forecast is the precursor to a number of deadly diseases and chronic illnesses on the horizon, which is troubling and often leads to a shortened lifespan.
Obesity is expected to cause 939,564 new cases of type 2 diabetes; coronary heart disease, 1,896,993; strokes, 1,714,690; hypertension, 1,117,321; and arthritis, 260,360. The current tab in Tennessee for obesity related illnesses and diseases is more than $6 billion annually.
“There are no quick fixes,” said Robinson, who didn’t hesitate to hit the reset button to get her weight-loss regimen back on track. “You just got to psychologically make those adjustments; then you have to do it.”
Robinson is doing just that. She’s trying to unyoke the heavy burden of carrying around too much weight. But not all people with weight problems have the resolve to “trim the fat” or the dogged determination to keep it off.
In 2013, Gov. Bill Haslam launched the statewide “Healthier Tennessee” initiative “to encourage Tennesseans to be more physically active, to eat nutritious foods in healthy portions, and not to use tobacco products.”
Robinson was appointed the health ambassador for the Shelby West Tennessee area. She was one of 22 individuals who completed 14 weeks of training in the whole person wellness model across Tennessee, which tied as the second fattest state in the nation according to the “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America” 2010 report.
With those dismal facts in the forefront of Robinson’s mind, she founded UBABY, Inc. (U Be A Better You), a community-based, 501c3 corporation that promotes and facilitates wellness via “edutainment-formatted” opportunities. She is the organization’s executive director.
The goal, said Robinson, is to encourage individuals and organizations to practice and sustain healthy lifestyles in an effort to reduce health disparities in minority communities. She essentially wants individuals to “keep it moving.”
“Gotta Keep It Movin,’” in fact, is a catchphrase Robinson is using to brand a new six-month health and wellness campaign called The WOW (Wisdom of Wellness) Challenge. Three churches in the Memphis area have accepted the challenge. Others are pending. Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI), a global health service company, is sponsoring the “Challenge.”
A number of activities are slated throughout the six-month campaign, including weigh-ins, a culinary challenge for chefs, a red carpet showcase production and other activities that will coincide with the participating churches’ in-house wellness program.
Keeping the body in motion is important, but changing or adjusting the portions of one’s diet is just as important, said Robinson, adding, “We are the fun and fresh side of fitness and the delicious side of nutrition.”
During the early morning of Sept. 11, Robinson and the UBABY team introduced The WOW Challenge on The Tom Joyner Morning Show at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in conjunction with the 26th Annual Southern Heritage Classic.
Robinson and her team challenged the audience to keep it moving to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and to make better nutritional choices. Dozens rose from their seats to perform “The UBABY Shuffle,” an original line dance Robinson created specifically to get people moving.
The UBABY Shuffle is a rhythmic form of exercise designed to increase flexibility and motor movement. It keeps the body in motion without the use of heavy equipment. Everybody can participate, Robinson said.
“I want people to be better than they were in terms of their health. We want people to take ownership in improving their health. When you lose weight, it decreases chronic diseases,” said Robinson, noting that not all people taking the challenge are overweight or obese. But everybody, she said matter-of-factly, needs to take care of their “earth suit,” a term denoting the human body.
“If you adopt a healthy mindset, eat healthy, and get the required physical activity, you’re going to achieve optimum health,” said Robinson, taking incremental steps to get the obesity rate lowered in Memphis and Shelby County and subsequently in Tennessee.
“We’re building a wellness community,” she said. “We’re going to keep everybody engaged.”

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