Obesity or overweight is a complex disorder affecting millions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity has nearly tripled since 1975 worldwide and in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight and 650 million were obese. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that, as of 2015-16, about 40% of U.S. adults and more than 18% of children nationwide were considered obese. Being overweight is not just a cosmetic concern – it is associated with serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and certain types of cancer.
Both internal and external factors contribute to obesity:
- Genetic factors: A family history of being overweight or having diabetes and obesity
- Excess calorie intake: When you eat more calories than they burn through exercise and normal daily activities, you are prone to get obese or overweight. This is because your body will store these excess calories as fat.
- Gender, age, income, and other socio-demographic factors: According to an article from Food Research and Action Cente (FRAC), all of these factors play a role in this complex health issue.
- Being inactive or sedentary lifestyle: People living a sedentary lifestyle have a higher risk of being overweight and obese, because if you’re not active, you don’t burn many calories. This also raises your risk of other serious health issues such as coronary heart disease, increased BP, diabetes, colonic cancer and many other health problems. According to the government’s 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
- Environmental factors: Where you live is a major reason for obesity. The environment you are in is significant because if you don’t have easy access to healthy foods, can’t walk around outside, and are constantly surrounded by sources of stress, it can lead to obesity.
- Medications: Certain medications (antidepressants, antipsychotics and diabetes medications) promote weight gain.
- Emotional factors: Depression and emotional eating are known to provoke weight gain.
FRAC also reports that recent evidence suggests inadequate sleep, prenatal and post-natal influences (e.g., maternal pre-pregnancy weight status, maternal smoking during pregnancy), chemical exposure, and stress may also affect energy balance or obesity risk.
Getting obesity and overweight epidemic under control involves many other than diet. The World Health Organization says it requires an integrated approach that includes:
- Encouraging healthy eating habits
- Promoting routine exercise to burn extra calories
- Developing public policies that endorse 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 are some things you can do to lose weight or avoid becoming overweight or obese:
- Eat more healthy foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
- Manage your food cravings
- Don’t skip meals
- Develop a healthy sleep regimen
- Exercise 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
Sticking to your healthy-weight plan as much as possible will increase your chances of long-term success.