How to overcome obesity?

Contents

Encouraging Progress on the State of Obesity in the United States

Yet over the past several years, we’ve started to see a change. Obesity rates among adults and kids have started to level off. And, a growing number of states and cities have actually started reporting declines in their obesity rates among some subgroups of children. Slowly but surely, a new story began to emerge: that we’re starting to turn the corner.

That didn’t happen by accident, or by coincidence, or by the efforts of only one person or organization. In many places across the country, we’re seeing a team approach not only to reversing the obesity epidemic, but to building a Culture of Health where all of us—no matter who we are or where we live—have the opportunity to be healthy. And we’re beginning to witness the exciting results of parents, policymakers, community leaders, health officials, educators, business owners, and industry executives coming together.

Schools are setting a great example. Updated nutrition standards for school foods are working, and several districts are implementing minimum time requirements for physical education.

Communities are innovating. Grocery stores and other healthy food retailers are receiving incentives to locate and expand in underserved neighborhoods, and 33 states have implemented policies to encourage walking and biking.

Rates have steadied nationally for both adults and kids, and childhood obesity declines are popping up all over the map. Our 2016 State of Obesity report revealed even more good news: For the first time in the past decade, adult obesity rates actually declined in four states between 2014 and 2015.

And today, we’re sharing another encouraging sign of progress: New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-olds from low-income families who are enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) declined in 31 states between 2010 and 2014. This is important because kids from lower-income families are especially vulnerable and often face higher risk for obesity.

Let’s be clear—while we’re hopeful about the future, our work is far from over. We still have a long way to go. In four states, obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-olds enrolled in WIC actually increased. And rates remain above 15 percent in 18 states. Nearly one in three kids remains overweight or obese nationally, and in every state, more than one in three adults is obese. Racial, ethnic, and income disparities persist or are actually growing for some segments of our young population. Too many families still lack access to healthy food in their neighborhoods or safe places to play.

RWJF’s $500 million commitment to helping all kids grow up at a healthy weight underscores the belief that achieving a healthy weight is much more than just hitting a number on a scale; it’s in many ways central to kids’ academic, social, and emotional development as well. So let’s redouble our efforts to ensure we’re giving all kids a healthy start from their very first days.

Learn about what your state is doing to promote nutrition and physical activity for children in early child care settings.

How to Avoid the Obesity Epidemic

As we continue to modernize our lifestyles — riding instead of walking, working in a cubicle instead of in a field, playing iPods instead of sports — more people are becoming overweight and, worse, obese. In fact, there are so many overweight and obese people that some public health officials now call it an epidemic, particularly because of the many resulting health problems.

Obesity: A Worldwide Problem

Around the world, more than one billion adults are overweight and about 300 million of them are obese. In the United States, 66 percent of all adults are overweight and, of those, 32 percent are obese.

Obesity levels in Japan and some African nations are below 5 percent, but they’re rising. Obesity rates in China overall are not high, but in some of that country’s larger cities, rates are up 20 percent.

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, too. The number of overweight children in the United States has doubled since 1980, and for teens, it’s tripled. And the problem with children is now a global issue as well.

Obesity: Why It’s Happening

Although your genes play a role in your body weight, there are other factors involved. In many places around the world, particularly the United States, we have plenty of nutrient-rich food to eat and easy access to fattening fast foods and sweets. Also, because of our modern lifestyles, we are not as active as we once were. The end result: We’re eating more calories than we can burn.

Being overweight or obese can cause a whole cascade of health problems, from heart disease and diabetes to stroke and even some types of cancer. These diseases can seriously impact a person’s quality of life and lead to premature death.

Obesity: How It Differs From Being Overweight

Obesity and overweight are terms used to describe a level of excess weight that’s considered unhealthy for your body size. One way to determine if you are overweight or obese is to figure out your body mass index (BMI), a calculation you make by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters (kg/m2). Don’t worry — you don’t have to do the math; you can find BMI calculators online.

Note that for adults:

  • A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight
  • A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese

When assessing teens and children, BMIs that are higher than normal weight ranges have other labels, such as “at risk of overweight” and “overweight.” Also, health professionals take into account the differences in body fat between boys and girls as well as changes in body fat at different ages.

Obesity: Finding a Solution

Getting our obesity and overweight epidemic under control will involve more than just telling everyone to go on a diet. The World Health Organization says it requires an integrated approach that includes:

  • Promoting healthy eating habits and encouraging exercise
  • Developing public policies that promote access to healthy, low-fat, high-fiber foods
  • Training healthcare professionals so that they can effectively support people who need to lose weight and help others avoid gaining weight

Here’s what you can do to lose weight or avoid becoming overweight or obese:

  • Eat more fruit, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
  • Exercise, even moderately, for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Cut down your consumption of fatty and sugary foods.
  • Use vegetable-based oils rather than animal-based fats.

So walk a little more, eat a little less — and do what you need to do to maintain a healthy BMI.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Healthy Living Center.

Talking with Patients about Weight Loss: Tips for Primary Care Providers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved several new devices for obesity treatment that cause less weight loss than bariatric surgery. Researchers don’t know the long-term risks and benefits of these devices.

What type of patients may be best suited for bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery may be the next step for patients who continue to have severe obesity after trying lifestyle changes to lose weight‚ especially if they have one or more comorbid conditions linked to obesity.

Among adults, bariatric surgery may be an option if the patient has

  • a BMI ≥40 kg/m2
  • a BMI ≥35 kg/m2, along with a serious health problem linked to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or sleep apnea
  • a BMI ≥30 kg/m2 with a serious health problem linked to obesity, for the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band only

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you.

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov.

Childhood Obesity and Weight Problems

Does your child have a weight problem? These tips can help your child reach and maintain a healthier weight.

As a parent, few things are cuter than your full-cheeked baby or the chubby knees of your toddler. For some children, however, that adorable baby fat may turn into a health concern.

Today, nearly 1 out of 4 children and teens in developed countries are overweight or obese. Those extra pounds put kids at risk for developing serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. Childhood obesity also takes an emotional toll. Overweight children often have trouble keeping up with other kids and joining in sports and activities. Other kids may tease and exclude them, leading to low self-esteem, negative body image, and even depression.

If you’re watching your child struggle with their weight, you may feel alone or helpless; in reality, you are neither. There’s plenty you can do to help your kids. Diagnosing weight problems and obesity in children as early as possible can reduce their risk of developing serious medical conditions as they get older. And by getting the whole family involved, you can break the cycle of weight problems and obesity, boost your children’s physical and mental health, and help them establish a healthy relationship with food that will last a lifetime. Whatever your children’s weight, let them know that you love them and that all you want to do is help them be healthy and happy.

Is your child overweight?

Children grow at different rates at different times, so it is not always easy to tell if a child is overweight. Body mass index (BMI) uses height and weight measurements to estimate how much body fat a child has. However, while BMI is usually a good indicator, it is NOT a perfect measure of body fat and can even be misleading at times when children are experiencing periods of rapid growth.

If your child registers a high BMI-for-age measurement, your health care provider may need to perform further assessments and screenings to determine if excess fat is a problem.

Causes of weight problems and obesity in children

Understanding how children become overweight in the first place is an important step toward breaking the cycle. Most cases of childhood obesity are caused by eating too much and exercising too little. Children need enough food to support healthy growth and development. But when they take in more calories than they burn throughout the day, the result is weight gain.

Causes of weight problems in children may include:

  • Busy families cooking at home less and eating out more.
  • Easy access to cheap, high-calorie fast food and junk food.
  • Bigger food portions, both in restaurants and at home.
  • Kids consuming huge amounts of sugar in sweetened drinks and hidden in an array of foods.
  • Kids spending less time actively playing outside, and more time watching TV, playing video games,
    and sitting at the computer.
  • Many schools eliminating or cutting back their physical education programs.

Myths and Facts about Weight Problems and Obesity in Children

Myth 1: Childhood obesity is genetic, so there’s nothing you can do about it.

Fact: While a person’s genes do influence weight, they are only one small part of the equation. Although some children are more prone to gaining weight than others, that doesn’t mean they’re destined for weight problems. Most kids can maintain a healthy weight if they eat right and exercise.

Myth 2: Children who are obese or overweight should be put on a diet.

Fact: Unless directed by your child’s doctor otherwise, the treatment for childhood obesity is not weight loss. The goal should be to slow or stop weight gain, allowing your child to grow into his or her ideal weight.

Myth 3: It’s just baby fat. Children will outgrow the weight.

Fact: Childhood obesity doesn’t always lead to obesity in adulthood, but it does raise the risks dramatically. The majority of children who are overweight at any time during the preschool or elementary school are still overweight as they enter their teens. Most kids do not outgrow the problem.

To combat weight problems, get the whole family involved

Healthy habits start at home. The best way to fight or prevent childhood obesity and weight problems is to get the whole family on a healthier track. Making better food choices and becoming more active will benefit everyone, regardless of weight.

You can also make a huge impact on your children’s health by getting involved with the details of their lives. Spending time with your kids—talking about their day, playing, reading, cooking—can supply them with the self-esteem boost they may need to make positive changes.

Leading by example

If your children see you eating your vegetables, being active, and limiting your TV time, there’s a good chance that they will do the same.

What you eat: Tell your child about the healthy food you are eating, while you are eating it. You might say, “I’m eating broccoli with garlic sauce. Want a bite?”

When you cook: Cook healthily in front of your children. Better yet, give them an age-appropriate job in the kitchen. Tell them about what you are making and why it’s good for your body.

How you move: Exercise in some way, every day. Be authentic—do things you enjoy. Tell your kids what you’re doing, and invite them to join you.

Your free time: Avoid the television or too much computer time. Kids are much less likely to turn screens on if they are off and you are doing something they can get involved in.

Strategies for Real Life

  • Recognize that you have more control than you might think. You can turn off the TV, computer, or video game. You can choose to get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the rest of the way, especially when you are with your kids. You can give your family more vegetables for dinner.
  • Think about the immediate benefits. If reducing the risk of future heart disease seems abstract, focus on the good things that can happen right now. You won’t feel uncomfortably full if you have a smaller portion or skip dessert. Going hiking with your teenager might lead to a wonderful talk that neither of you anticipated. Dancing or playing with your kids is lots of fun and can give you a great workout.
  • Make small, easy changes over time. Suggesting that family members take a run together every day will probably get you lots of eye-rolling. It’s easier and more appealing to start out with some new approaches to nutrition and physical activity that the whole family is really willing to try. For example, take a walk after dinner a couple of nights a week instead of turning on the TV.

Source: We Can! Families Finding the Balance, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services

Make healthier food choices

While you may need to make major changes to your family’s eating habits, changing everything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up. Instead, start by making small, gradual steps towards healthy eating—like adding a salad to dinner every night or swapping out French fries for steamed vegetables—rather than one big drastic switch. As small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices.

Eat the rainbow. Serve and encourage consumption of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This should include red (beets, tomatoes), orange (carrots, squash), yellow (potatoes, bananas), green (lettuce, broccoli) and so on—just like eating a rainbow.

Make breakfast a priority. Children who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight or obese than those who skip the first meal of the day. It’s important to focus on healthy choices, though, like oatmeal, fresh fruit, whole grain cereal high in fiber and low in sugar, and low-fat milk instead of sugary cereals, donuts, or toaster pastries.

Look for hidden sugar. Reducing the amount of candy and desserts you and your child eat is only part of the battle. Sugar is also hidden in foods as diverse as bread, canned soups, pasta sauce, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, low-fat meals, fast food, and ketchup. The body gets all it needs from sugar naturally occurring in food—so anything added amounts to nothing but a lot of empty calories. Check labels and opt for low sugar products and use fresh or frozen ingredients instead of canned goods.

Schedule regular meal times. The majority of children like routine. If your kids know they will only get food at certain times, they will be more likely to eat what they get when they get it.

Limit dining out. If you must eat out, try to avoid fast food.

Don’t go no fat, go good fat

Not all fats contribute to weight gain. So instead of trying to cut out fat from your child’s diet, focus on replacing unhealthy fats with healthy fats.

Avoid trans fats that are dangerous to your child’s health. Try to eliminate or cut back on commercially-baked goods packaged snack foods, fried foods, and anything with “partially hydrogenated” oil in the ingredients, even if it claims to be trans fat-free.

Add more healthy fats that can help a child control blood sugar and avoid diabetes. Unsaturated or “good” fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts, fatty fish, soy, tofu, flaxseed, Brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach.

Choose saturated fat wisely. The USDA recommends limiting saturated fat to 10 percent of your child’s daily calories. Focus on the source of saturated fats consumed: A glass of whole milk or natural cheese rather than a hot dog, donut, or pastry, for example, or grilled chicken or fish instead of fried chicken.

Be smart about snacks and sweet food

Your home is where your child most likely eats the majority of meals and snacks, so it is vital that your kitchen is stocked with healthy choices.

Look for hidden sugar. Reducing the amount of candy and desserts you and your child eat is only part of the battle. Sugar is also hidden in foods as diverse as bread, canned soups, pasta sauce, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, and low-fat meals. Check labels and opt for low sugar products and use fresh or frozen ingredients instead of canned goods.

Don’t ban sweets entirely. While many kids’ consume too much sugar, having a no sweets rule is an invitation for cravings and overindulging when given the chance. Instead, limit the amount of cookies, candies, and baked goods your child eats and introduce fruit-based snacks and desserts instead.

Limit juice, soda, and coffee drinks. Soft drinks are loaded with sugar and shakes and coffee drinks can be just as bad. Many juices aren’t any better nutritionally, so offer your child sparkling water with a twist of lime, fresh mint, or a splash of fruit juice instead.

Keep snacks small. Don’t turn snacks into a meal. Limit them to 100 to 150 calories.

Go for reduced-sugar options. When buying foods such as syrups, jellies, and sauces, opt for products labeled “reduced sugar” or “no added sugar.”

Focus on fruit. Keep a bowl of fruit out for your children to snack on—kids love satsuma or tangerine oranges. And offer fruit as a sweet treat—frozen juice bars, fruit smoothies, strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream, fresh fruit added to plain yogurt, or sliced apples with peanut butter.

Experiment with herbs and spices. Use sweet-tasting herbs and spices such as mint, cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg to add sweetness to food without the empty calories.

Check the sugar content of your kid’s cereal. There’s a huge disparity in the amount of added sugar between different brands of cereal. Some cereals are more than 50% sugar by weight. Try mixing a low sugar, high-fiber cereal with your child’s favorite sweetened cereal, or add fresh or dried fruit to oatmeal for a natural sweet taste.

Snacks at home
Snacks to stock up: Snacks to cut back:
Fresh fruit and vegetables that can be taken on the go or packed in a lunch. Soda, sweetened lemonade, fruit punch, and fruit juice with added sugar.
Milk and dairy products, including string cheese. Hot dogs, fatty lunch meats, sausage, chicken nuggets.
Whole grain breads and cereals, pretzels, nuts, olives. White bread, sugary breakfast cereals, chips.
Greek yogurt, frozen fruit juice bars, fig bars, ginger snaps. Cookies, cakes, candy, ice cream, donuts.

Watch portion sizes

There are strategies you can employ to retrain you and your family’s appetites and avoid oversized servings when eating out.

Learn what a regular portion size looks like. The portion sizes that you and your family are used to eating may be equal to two or three true servings. To keep calories in check, try to limit portions to the size of your fist.

Read food labels. Information about serving size and calories can be found on the backs of packaging. You may be surprised at how small the recommended portions are or how many calories are in the dish.

Use smaller dishes. Portions will look bigger and you’ll eat less when you use small bowls or plates.

Dish up in the kitchen. To minimize the temptation of second and third helpings, serve food on individual plates, instead of putting the serving dishes on the table.

Divide food from large packages into smaller containers. The larger the package, the more people tend to eat without realizing it.

Cut up high-calorie treats such as cheese, pizza, or chocolate into smaller pieces—and offer your child fewer pieces.

Downsize orders. When eating out, share an entrée with your child or order just an appetizer instead. Order half-orders or a medium size instead of a large.

Get your kids moving

Children who sit too much and move too little are at the highest risk for becoming overweight. Kids need an hour of exercise daily for optimum health. This may seem like a lot, but exercise doesn’t have to happen in a gym or all at once. Instead, try to incorporate movement into your family’s regular routine.

Exercise ideas for kids

It used to be commonplace to find children running around and playing in the streets of their neighborhoods, naturally expending energy and getting exercise. In today’s world, that’s not always an option, but you still have options for boosting their activity level.

Play active indoor games. Put the remote away and organize some active indoor games. You can play tag (perhaps crawling tag, so that you keep messes to a minimum), hide-and-seek, or Simon Says (think jumping jacks and stretches).

Try activity-based video games, such as those from Wii and Kinect which are played standing up and moving around—simulating dancing, skateboarding, soccer, bowling, or tennis. Once your child gains in confidence, get away from the screen and play the real thing outside.

Get active outside with your child. Take a walk together, bike around the neighborhood, explore a local park, visit a playground, or play in the yard. If it makes sense for your neighborhood and schedule, walk to and from activities and school.

Do chores together. Perhaps it’s not your child’s first choice, but doing household chores is a very effective way to get exercise. Mopping, sweeping, taking out trash, dusting or vacuuming burns a surprising number of calories.

Enroll children in after school sports or other activities. If your budget allows, sign children up to play a sport or get involved in an activity where they are physically active. The local YMCA, YWCA, or Boys’ and Girls’ Club are safe places for children to exercise and play.

Sign up for a 5 or 10K walk/run with your child. Sometimes having a goal in mind can motivate even the most reluctant exercisers. Find a kid-friendly event in your area and tell your child you’ll be “training” for it together. Be sure to celebrate when you accomplish this feat.

Reduce screen time

The less time your children spend watching TV, playing video games, or using computers or mobile devices, the more time they’ll spend on active pastimes. Remember how important it is for you to be a positive role model—so you may have to cut down on your own viewing habits, too.

Limit daily screen time. Studies show a link between screen time and obesity, so set limits on your child’s TV-watching, gaming, and web surfing. Experts recommend no more than two hours per day.

Stop eating in front of the TV. Limit your child’s calorie intake by limiting time spent eating in front of the tube. Tell your child that, starting now, your family does all their eating at the table.

Pick a different reward or punishment. Instead of rewarding your child with more time in front of the television or computer, promise something different, such as an outing or an activity of their choice.

Encourage your child to develop new hobbies

Making major lifestyle changes has the potential to add more stress to a child’s life. At times, your overweight or obese child might feel singled out, sad, angry, embarrassed, or discouraged. In the past, they might have dealt with stress by eating or zoning out in front of the TV. Since this is no longer an option, help them find a healthy alternative. Ask your child what he or she might like to take up as a hobby. Hobbies can help kids boost their self-esteem, relieve stress, and provide a positive outlet.

What causes obesity? Essay

What is Obesity? What Causes Obesity? How to Prevent Obesity? Obesity is a condition characterized by the excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body (Merriam). Obesity is unhealthy for humans and causes many other bad health conditions to occur. Almost 2 million (1.9) people worldwide are now obese (Facts…) and 35.7 % in the United States are classified obese (Overweight…). Obesity is a disease than can be prevented, or if you are obese it can be treated and you can become healthy once again.
Obesity can also be defined as 20% above a person’s ideal weight. A person’s ideal weight is found using the person’s age, height, and gender(Obesity). Obesity can be broken down into 3 subcategories that are mildly obese, moderately obese, and morbidly obese. Being over the ideal weight can lead to many health problems including death. It may lead to hypertension (high blood pressure), Type II Diabetes, heart attack, hyperlipidemia, infertility, and possibly breast cancer (Olendorf). Hypertension, diabetes, and heart attack are the most common effects of obesity. Type II diabetes is also known as non-insulin-dependent because insulin is ineffective when you have type II diabetes. A person may go for years with diabetes and not know it until they go for a routine check-up and sugar shows in the urine. It causes a person to tire out quick and leads to various infections. Also if it is uncontrolled it can cause retinopathy, blindness, kidney disease, and heart disease (Virginia). You can help prevent diabetes by eating the right foods and exercising regularly. A positive side of type II Baldwin 2 diabetes compared to the other symptoms is that there is prescription medicine to help treat diabetes(Virginia). Obesity is caused by a variety of different things. Not exercising regularly and eating bad foods can cause a person to become obese. You should exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes for 5 to 6 days. The types of exercises you can do is walk, run, jump rope, dance, power walk, and weight exercises. One odd way that people can exercise is by having sex. People don’t think having sex will help you lose weight but sex burns a lot of calories. Sex curbs carbs and fat cravings. It also can double your fat loss. Sex causes hormones to rage and the action of sex causes a person’s heart to pump faster which is healthy for you. Power walking or running is also effective in trying to lose weight. Any type of physical activity that gets your heart beating and your blood flowing is good for you. Eating the right foods is another way to prevent obesity. Eating greasy foods such as fried chicken, sausage, or pizza is bad for your body and will add extra weight if you do not workout. Eating processed foods can cause harm to you because they are high in sugar, sodium, and fat. Canned foods, meats in the grocery store, and bagged salads are all examples of processed foods. A person should try to shop for organic foods because they are not processed and are fresh. Organic foods do not have any added hormones or extra sugars in them because they are natural. You should try to shop at fresh markets or visit your local farmer’s market. You can also buy natural or organic foods at a nutrition store. You should try to eat green leafy foods as much as possible and stay away from fried greasy foods. You should try to bake all your meats and use salt alternatives when cooking. You should also try to drink less sugary drinks like sodas, juice, and energy drinks. Water and 100 % juice are the best drinks for a person
Baldwin 3 trying to lose weight. A 20 ounce soda contains 16 tablespoons of sugar and 258 calories from sugar. When you are thirsty water is the best thing to drink. Water is the best thing to drink because it contains no sugar at all. Water is all natural and pure Hydrogen Oxygen molecules. If you do not like plain water you can add of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon to it to give…

What Can We Do?

In the wake of the obesity epidemic, government and local organizations are mobilizing to reverse the trend. While the onus is on every individual to regulate their weight, there are also initiatives to champion at the community level.

Health Education

The most critical initiatives in the battle against obesity are aimed at combatting obesity in kids and teens. The most notable of these is the federal Let’s Move program. Launched in 2010 by Michelle Obama, the project aims to cut obesity rates in kids, primarily through the following initiatives:

  • Physical education: Despite the growing obesity crisis, many schools are not giving kids the exercise they need. The CDC reported in 2012 that half of the nation’s high school student take no physical education course. The most common culprit behind this lack of exercise is budget cuts, as reported in the New York Times the same year. The Let’s Move initiative, on the other hands, says kids should have 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
  • Recess: With more and more attention given to standardized test results, treating them as the ultimate metric of a school’s success, recess times are being cut short across the country. This, in turn, impacts a child’s ability to exercise as much as is recommended.
  • Sports programs: With school budgets being slashed over recent years, even sports are on the chopping block. In many cases, schools are charging parents additional fees for their children to participate in sports teams. This policy, called “pay to play”, makes it harder for lower-income kids, already disproportionately affected by obesity, to participate in athletics. According to one study from the University of Michigan, 61% of middle school and high school athletes pay fees out-of-pocket to play.
  • Healthy meals: A major pillar of the federal Let’s Move initiative is getting healthier food in American schools. So in 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released new rules to boost the nutritional quality of hot lunch and school breakfasts. Many school districts have also moved to ban junk food and sugary sodas.

Healthcare

The Harvard School of Public Health advocates using health care providers as a counterforce to the growing obesity and weight gain trends. Doctors can provide useful information and encouragement, and health insurance companies can incentivize enrollees to stay in shape, through covering weight-loss and wellness programs. It is no surprise that the Affordable Care Act is now requiring insurers to take on obesity.

Food and Exercise

Unfortunately in America today, we are surrounded by junk food, which is usually extremely high in added sugars. And even worse, this food is often easier to prepare and more accessible than healthy options, like fruits and vegetables. To meet this challenge, Harvard University School of Public Health recommends restricting easy access to junk food, making healthy options more available through subsidies, increasing labeling standards, and taxing sugary drinks.

According to a study conducted by Kaiser Permanente, one third of Americans say they don’t walk even ten minutes at any one time during the week, and another third don’t walk enough to meet the minimum threshold for physical activity set by the CDC. As a result, Harvard School of Public Health recommends communities pursue living environments that encourage walking and biking rather than car dependence.

Preventing Obesity in Children, Teens, and Adults

Facts about prevention

Obesity is a chronic disease affecting increasing numbers of children, teens and adults. Obesity rates among children in the U.S. have doubled since 1980 and have tripled for teens. About 17% of children aged 2 to 19 are considered obese, compared to over 35% of adults who are considered obese.

Earlier onset of type 2 diabetes, heart and blood vessel disease, and obesity-related depression and social isolation in children and teens are being seen more often by healthcare professionals. The longer a person is obese, the more significant obesity-related risk factors become. Given the chronic diseases and conditions associated with obesity and the fact that obesity is hard to treat, prevention is extremely important.

A primary reason that prevention of obesity is so vital in children is because the likelihood of childhood obesity persisting into adulthood increases as the child ages. This puts the person at high risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Infants

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC, breastfed babies are less likely to become overweight. The CDC also reports that the longer babies are breastfed, the less likely they are to become overweight as they grow older. However, many formula-fed babies grow up to be adults of healthy weight. If your child was not breastfed, it does not mean that he or she cannot achieve a healthy weight.

Children and teens

Young people generally become overweight or obese because of poor eating habits and lack of physical activity. Genetics and lifestyle also contribute to a child’s weight status.

Recommendations for prevention of overweight and obesity during childhood and teens include:

  • Gradually work to change family eating habits and activity levels rather than focusing on a child’s weight.

  • Be a role model. Parents who eat healthy foods and participate in physical activity set an example so that a child is more likely to do the same.

  • Encourage physical activity. Children should have 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. More than 60 minutes of activity may promote weight loss and provide weight maintenance.

  • Reduce “screen” time in front of the television and computer to less than 1 to 2 hours daily.

  • Encourage children to eat only when hungry and to eat slowly.

  • Don’t use food as a reward or withhold food as a punishment.

  • Keep the refrigerator stocked with fat-free or low-fat milk, fresh fruit, and vegetables instead of soft drinks and snacks high in sugar and fat.

  • Serve at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

  • Encourage children to drink water rather than beverages with added sugar. These include soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juice drinks.

Adults

Many of the strategies that produce successful weight loss and maintenance help prevent obesity. Improving eating habits and increasing physical activity play a vital role in preventing obesity. Recommendations for adults include:

  • Keep a food diary of what you ate, where you ate, and how you were feeling before and after you ate.

  • Eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. A vegetable serving is 1 cup of raw vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables or vegetable juice. A fruit serving is 1 piece of small to medium fresh fruit, 1/2 cup of canned or fresh fruit or fruit juice, or 1/4 cup of dried fruit.

  • Choose whole grain foods, such as brown rice and whole wheat bread. Don’t eat highly processed foods made with refined white sugar, flour, high-fructose corn syrup and saturated fat.

  • Weigh and measure food to be able to learn correct portion sizes. For example, a 3-ounce serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards. Don’t order supersized menu items.

  • Learn to read food nutrition labels and use them, keep the number of portions you are really eating in mind.

  • Balance the food “checkbook.” If you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight. Weigh yourself on a weekly basis.

  • Don’t eat foods that are high in “energy density,” or that have a lot of calories in a small amount of food. For example, an average cheeseburger with and order of fries can have as much as 1,000 calories and 30 or more grams of fat. By ordering a grilled chicken sandwich or a plain hamburger and a small salad with low-fat dressing, you can avoid hundreds of calories and eliminate much of the fat intake. For dessert, have a serving of fruit, yogurt, a small piece of angel food cake, or a piece of dark chocolate instead of frosted cake, ice cream, or pie.

  • Simply reducing portion sizes and using a smaller plate can help you lose weight.

  • Aim for an average of 60 to 90 minutes or more of moderate to intense physical activity 3 to 4 days each week. Examples of moderate intensity exercise are walking a 15-minute mile, or weeding and hoeing a garden. Running or playing singles tennis are examples of more intense activities.

  • Look for ways to get even 10 or 15 minutes of some type of activity during the day. Walking around the block or up and down a few flights of stairs is a good start.

To fight obesity, USA needs a plan

  • CDC’s Frieden: ‘We are seeing signs of hope’
  • ‘Improve school foods,’ says CSPI’s Wootan
  • NIH’s Collins: ‘Families are crucial’

What will it take to reverse the current obesity epidemic? Two-thirds of adults and a third of children in the USA are overweight or obese, government statistics show. Three national experts weighed in on what it will take to solve the obesity problem.

Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Communities must experiment, urge healthy choices

“I am very confident we can reverse the obesity epidemic. I don’t think we are going to treat our way out of the epidemic with pills or surgery.

“We will solve this by empowering communities and individuals to make the healthier choices the easier choices.

“It starts with a healthy pregnancy, breast-feeding, early childhood healthy feeding. We are increasingly recognizing that early childhood experiences are very important for health throughout life.

“It’s crucial that communities try different things to reduce the obesity epidemic and that they rigorously study the impact of those efforts. Forty years ago, we didn’t know how to reduce the tobacco epidemic, but because communities tried different things, we now have a strong list of things that reduce tobacco use. We (the CDC) are helping dozens of communities try things and rigorously evaluating their impact. The more things we try, the more we’ll know how we can support people.

“We are seeing signs of hope. We are seeing communities throughout the U.S. that are seeing childhood obesity not only stabilize but decline. We are not out of the woods, but there is real progress.

“We can reverse the epidemic by making healthier choices easier at every stage of life and every place.”

STORY:We’re fighting fat, but odds long

STORY:Readers weigh in on obesity epidemic

MORE:Want to join Family Fitness Challenge?

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

Let’s work on school foods, better restaurant options

“The solutions to addressing obesity will have to be as multifaceted as is the problem itself. Some ways to reverse the epidemic:

“Improve school foods. This school year, schools are working hard to implement new healthier school lunch standards. The new standards mean that school lunches should have twice the fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, less salt and unhealthy saturated and trans fats, and more appropriate calorie levels. But these are tough changes — for schools and kids. We need a major nationwide effort to support school food service to serve healthier foods and encourage children to eat them. Another important solution to addressing obesity is to get sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks out of vending machines, school stores and other school venues.

“Clean up food marketing to kids. Studies show that food advertising and marketing affects children’s food preferences, choices, diets and health. Thanks to some industry efforts, there has been a modest reduction in unhealthy food ads. However, still over 80% of food advertising to children is for foods of poor nutritional value. Food companies should strengthen their nutrition standards and cover all media used to market food to kids. Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and other media companies should follow the lead of Disney and Ion Media and limit unhealthy food advertising during its children’s television programming and on its websites.

“Improve options at restaurants. Dozens of studies link eating out with obesity. Most of the time, we should try to eat healthfully at restaurants. To help, Congress passed a national law in 2010 requiring chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets to list calories on menus and menu boards.

“Restaurants also could help by normal-sizing portions of foods and drinks, promoting and reducing the prices of healthier options to make them more competitive choices. Restaurants should have meals come automatically with healthy sides and low-calorie beverages.

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health:

Problem is one of misperception, not of willpower

“How do we turn this situation around? We didn’t get here quickly or easily. Don’t let anyone tell you that there is just one simple solution. At the National Institutes of Health, we have a vigorous ongoing research program to test interventions and to determine what works and what doesn’t. Here are some of the lessons we have learned:

“For the individual, we need to overcome the perception that obesity is just a matter of willpower — blaming the victim doesn’t help. And for real change, individuals need to get past the crash-diet mentality to a lifestyle plan of healthy eating and increased physical activity. People need tools that can assist them in making these changes, including support groups and Web- or cellphone-based tools that allow tracking of diet and exercise to provide feedback.

“Families are crucial — unless the whole family gets involved in a plan to adopt a healthier lifestyle, it will be difficult for the individual to succeed.

“Communities are essential to success. Public education programs are critical. Redesigning the built environment to promote active lifestyles and access to healthy foods needs to be a priority; schools need to develop healthier lunch programs and access to physical education.

“Businesses that get engaged in providing incentives for a healthy lifestyle are finding that this yields results in productivity and reduced health care costs.

“National policies need to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles instead of working against them.

“America, we have a weight problem. But don’t despair, we can beat it. We have faced other challenges as a nation, and we can overcome this one, but we’ll have to do it together.”

With the daily crush of media coverage about obesity, weight, and health, it’s easy for people to feel overwhelmed. But there are simple steps you can take to help keep weight in check and lower the risk of many chronic diseases.

The Healthy Weight Checklist-is a resource not only for individuals but also for those helping others stay healthy: Parents, caretakers, teachers, healthcare providers, worksite coordinators, public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and healthcare policymakers.

Eat Well

Calories matter for weight-and some foods make it easier for us to keep our calories in check. Healthy eating is a key to good health as well as maintaining a healthy weight. It’s not only what and how much we eat but also, it seems, how we eat that’s important.

What to Eat

Choose minimally processed, whole foods:

  • Whole grains (whole wheat, steel cut oats, brown rice, quinoa)
  • Vegetables (a colorful variety-not potatoes)
  • Whole fruits (not fruit juices)
  • Nuts, seeds, beans, and other healthful sources of protein (fish and poultry)
  • Plant oils (olive and other vegetable oils)

Drink water or other beverages that are naturally calorie-free.

Limit these foods and drinks:

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks)
  • Fruit juice (no more than a small amount per day)
  • Refined grains(white bread, white rice, white pasta) and sweets
  • Potatoes (baked or fried)
  • Red meat (beef, pork, lamb) and processed meats (salami, ham, bacon, sausage)
  • Other highly processed foods, such as fast food

A good example of an overall healthy diet is the Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Pyramid and Healthy Eating Plate. The Nutrition Source, a companion website to The Obesity Prevention Source, also offers a quick guide to choosing healthy drinks, as well as recipes and quick tips for eating right.

How Much to Eat

Age, gender, body size, and level of physical activity dictate how many calories you need each day to lose weight or to stay at a healthy weight. With two out of three U.S. adults overweight or obese, it’s clear that many of us need to eat fewer calories.

Online calorie-needs calculators are a bit over-generous with their recommendations. And, in practice, it’s hard for people to track the amount of calories they take in each day.

A better approach: Adopt habits that will help you avoid overeating (see below)-and skip some of the high-calorie, low-nutrient foods that are most strongly linked to weight gain, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains, and potatoes.

How to Avoid Overeating

  • Eat breakfast. While it seems like skipping a meal is an easy way to cut calories, skipping breakfast usually backfires when hunger comes raging back mid-day, often leading to overeating.
  • Choose small portions and eat slowly. Slowing down at meals and choosing smaller portions can help avoid overeating by giving the brain time to tell the stomach when it’s had enough food. Limiting distractions-turning off the television, computer, or smartphone-can also help us focus on the food.
  • Eat at home. Fast food, restaurant meals, and other foods prepared away from home tend to have larger portions and be less nutritious than the foods we cook for ourselves.
  • Eat mindfully. Taking time to think about why you’re actually eating is an easy way to avoid needless calories. Hungry? Make the healthiest food and drink choices possible. Not really hungry? Choose something else to do or have a piece of fruit instead of a full meal. When you do eat, focus all of your senses on the food, so that you can truly enjoy what you are eating. More information about mindful eating can be found at The Center for Mindful Eating and the website for the book Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.

Stay Active

Besides eating a healthy diet, nothing is more important to keeping weight in check and staying healthy than regular activity. If there ever were a magic bullet for good health, physical activity would be it.

How much activity is recommended depends on whether you’re a child or an adult and what your goals are: good health or weight control. There are a lot of ways to get moving. Choose activities you enjoy.

In addition to staying active, it’s important for all age groups to minimize “sit time” (sedentary time), especially time spent watching television.

Physical Activity Recommendations for Adults:

For good health: 2.5 hours a week of moderate activity (brisk walking, slow bike riding) or 1.25 hours a week of vigorous activity (running, fast bike riding).

For weight control: 1 hour a day of moderate to vigorous activity. This activity can be pieced together from short bursts of 10 minutes or more.

Physical Activity Recommendations for Children:

  • At least 1 hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, which can be pieced together from short bursts of 10 minutes or more.
  • Muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week.

Key to these recommendations is that all activities should be age appropriate and fun, and keep kids moving and breathing at an increased rate.

Limit Screen Time

Watching television (TV) can be enjoyable and informative; unfortunately it can also be double jeopardy when it comes to weight. It’s a completely sedentary activity that also seems to promote unhealthy eating though the ads, product placements, and other promotions that constantly pitch high-calorie, low-nutrient food and drinks.

Try these tips for curbing exposure to TV and other screen media (video games, recreational computer use, and similar pastimes):

All adults:

  • Keep television/screen media time to no more than two hours a day. The less, the better.

Parents:

  • Limit children’s screen time to no more than two hours per day. The less, the better. Children under 2 years old should watch none.
  • Make children’s bedrooms TV-free and Internet-free.
  • Turn off the TV during meals.

Schools and caregivers:

  • Put in place policies that limit recreational screen time.

Healthcare providers:

  • Ask parents about their children’s screen time and counsel parents to limit their children’s screen time.
  • Become advocates for stricter regulations on TV/media food and beverage advertising to children.

Get Enough Sleep

There is more and more evidence that a good night’s sleep is important to good health-and may also help keep weight in check. How much a person needs can vary a great deal, but there is good evidence that a lot of children and adults don’t get enough. Here are some general recommendations for sleep duration.

Adults:

  • 7 to 8 hours a night

Children:

1-3 years old: 12 to 14 hours a night

3-5 years old: 11 to 13 hours a night

5-12 years old: 10 to 11 hours a night

Adolescents: 8.5 to 9.25 hours a night

Source: National Sleep Foundation

Give Kids a Good Start

It’s almost never too early to lay the foundation for good health, and there is good evidence that a child’s early years, and even time during pregnancy, can have an important impact on their weight later in life.

Together with the help of their healthcare providers, women of childbearing age, pregnant women, and new mothers can take steps that could help improve their own health as well as the health of their children.

Tips:

  • Try to start pregnancy at a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke during pregnancy.
  • Aim for a reasonable weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Breastfeed (preferably without other liquids for 4 to 6 months and some breastfeeding for at least 12 months).
  • Ensure infants get adequate sleep during the first few years of life.
  • Help children gain weight at a healthy rate (discuss at doctor’s visits).

Relax

Today’s world is full of daily stresses. This is a normal part of life, but when these stresses become too much, they can take a toll on health and contribute to weight gain by leading to unhealthy eating and other unhealthy activities.

One of the best ways to control stress is also one of the best ways to combat weight gain: regular physical activity. Mind body approaches, such as breathing exercises, can also be beneficial.

For more on stress and tips on controlling it, visit this Medline Plus article on Stress Management or, for employers, the University of Massachusetts website on Stress at Work. The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital also offers a variety of resources for stress management.

Obesity and overall health: How to help your child

How common is childhood obesity?

The number of children who have obesity has steadily increased since the 1970s. Recent research showed that almost 1 in 5 children ages 2-19 has obesity.

How do doctors figure out if a person has a healthy weight?

How doctors determine a person’s weight status (whether their weight is healthy for their age, height and gender) depends on their age. Doctors use the Body Mass Index (BMI), or BMI calculator, to determine if a person has a healthy weight. BMI compares a person’s age to their height, weight and sex. You cannot figure out if a person has a healthy weight just by looking at them.

For children, teens and young adults (ages 2-20), doctors determine weight on a growth chart for males or females.

For adults age 21 and over, different BMI measurements include:

What are the risk factors for developing childhood overweight or obesity?

  • Maternal and paternal history of obesity
  • Introduction of solid foods before 4 months of age
  • Sleep deprivation (not getting enough sleep) and poor sleep quality
  • Poor eating and physical activity habits
  • Too much screen time (time spent in front of a screen, such as a television, tablet, computer or smart phone)

How do our bodies control weight?

Weight control begins in the first moments of pregnancy. Our bodies control weight in different ways. It is not always a matter of how many calories we take in and how many calories we use. Other ways our bodies control weight include:

  • Genetics
  • Environmental (where we live, work and play)
  • Developmental (how our bodies develop and grow)
  • Behavioral (the habits and actions we have around food, physical activity and wellness)
  • Sleep

What are the effects of childhood overweight and obesity?

There are short-term and long-term effects of childhood overweight and obesity:

Short-term:

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease
  • Higher risk of type 2 diabetes (when the body does not use a hormone called insulin properly)
  • Problems with breathing, joints and bones
  • Fatty liver disease (too much fat in the liver)
  • Mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Higher risk of bullying from others

Long-term

  • Higher risk of overweight or obesity as an adult, which can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many cancers

How can I help my child if they have overweight or obesity?

  • Set a good example with your eating and physical activity habits. Children learn from the people closest to them.
  • Praise your child for positive behaviors around eating and physical activity. Do not focus on your child’s weight.
  • Encourage your child to focus on things they are good at or things they like about themselves.
  • Do not comment on your weight, your child’s weight or the weight of others. Children pick up on how others’ think about weight and physical appearance.
  • Use “person first” language when talking about weight. This means saying a person HAS a certain medical condition, such as overweight or obesity. This is different from describing a person as overweight or obese.

Did you know…?

Physical activity helps maintain a person’s weight more than it helps to lose weight. We should pay close attention to our diet quality. We need foods from all major foods groups to stay healthy. This includes whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and very few sweets.

The effects of being teased about weight can have lifelong effects. Research shows that being teased about weight leads to a higher BMI, overweight and obesity about 15 years later after the first instance of teasing.

Rev. 10/2018

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