Taking Control of Obesity: Diet, Exercise, Surgery, and Beyond

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Control of Obesity

Obesity significantly impacts your health and well-being. However, the fight to regain control is winnable! Control of obesity requires a multi-faceted approach encompassing a healthy diet, exercise, and, in some instances, medical support. Discover the tools to achieve a healthier you.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is defined by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. BMI is calculated using your height and weight. Here’s how BMI classifications break down:

  • Underweight: BMI less than 18.5
  • Normal weight: BMI between 18.5 and 24.9
  • Overweight: BMI between 25 and 29.9
  • Obese: BMI of 30 or higher
    • Class 1 Obesity: BMI of 30 – 34.9
    • Class 2 Obesity: BMI of 35 – 39.9
    • Class 3 Obesity: BMI of 40 or higher (sometimes called extreme obesity)

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Obesity Prevalence

Sadly, obesity is a widespread problem in the United States. According to CDC data, approximately 40% of American adults met the criteria for obesity in 2015-2016. While obesity affects all socioeconomic groups, it’s more prevalent among those with lower socioeconomic status and less education.

Causes of Obesity

Obesity is a complex condition with multiple contributing factors:

  • Energy Imbalance: The primary cause is an energy imbalance – consuming more calories than your body expends through activity.
  • Unhealthy Diet: Diets high in processed foods, sugary drinks, and large portions contribute significantly.
  • Lack of Physical Activity: A sedentary lifestyle without regular exercise increases the risk.
  • Genetics: Your genes can play a role, making you more susceptible to weight gain.
  • Medical Conditions: Medical disorders like hypothyroidism (low thyroid) or Cushing’s syndrome may lead to obesity.
  • Medications: Some medications (e.g., steroids, certain antidepressants) can cause weight gain.
  • Psychological Factors: Stress and emotional eating can be contributing factors.
  • Environmental Factors: Limited access to healthy food options, large portions, and aggressive marketing of unhealthy foods make it harder to maintain a healthy weight.

Obesity and Children

Obesity and Children
Obesity and Children

Childhood obesity is an alarming concern with steadily increasing rates. Obese children face heightened risks of both immediate and long-term health problems. These include asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint issues, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even early heart disease. Additionally, childhood obesity often leads to obesity in adulthood, perpetuating the cycle of health risks.

Causes of Childhood Obesity

Many of the factors contributing to adult obesity also apply to children:

  • Unhealthy eating habits: Consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks, and oversized portions.
  • Lack of physical activity: Sedentary lifestyles, excessive screen time, and limited opportunities for active play.
  • Family environment: Parental eating habits and behaviors strongly influence children’s choices.
  • Marketing of unhealthy foods: Children are heavily targeted by advertising for processed snacks and beverages.
  • Socioeconomic factors: Limited access to fresh, healthy food and safe places for physical activity can be barriers in some communities.

Dealing with Childhood Obesity

Addressing childhood obesity requires a multi-faceted approach focused on the whole family:

  • Healthy eating: Emphasize whole foods, control portions, and limit sugary drinks. Involve kids in meal planning and preparation.
  • Increased activity: Aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity daily. Limit screen time and encourage outdoor play.
  • Family involvement: Parents serve as role models for healthy behaviors. Making lifestyle changes together supports success.
  • Sleep: Children need sufficient sleep for healthy metabolism and weight regulation.
  • Professional support: If needed, consult a pediatrician or registered dietitian for personalized guidance.

Important Note: Avoid focusing solely on a child’s weight. Instead, emphasize healthy habits and build a positive relationship with food and exercise.

Health Consequences of Obesity

Obesity significantly increases the risk of various chronic diseases, including:

Prevention of Obesity

While obesity is a serious issue, it’s largely preventable! Here are key strategies:

  • Healthy Eating: Choose whole-food options like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit processed foods and sugary drinks.
  • Portion Control: Be mindful of how much you’re eating.
  • Regular Exercise: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity weekly exercise.
  • Sleep: Lack of sleep disrupts hormones, affecting hunger and metabolism.
  • Manage Stress: Find healthy coping mechanisms for stress.

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Carbs Requirement Women Men
Recommended amount: 20-25% 8-14%
Adults in United States, average : 22-25% 15-19%
Obese : 30+% 25+%

Managing Obesity

If you are obese, losing a small amount of weight (5-10%) can improve your health.

Strategies include:

  • Lifestyle Changes: The same as those for prevention – a healthy diet, exercise, etc.
  • Medication: FDA-approved medications might be used in addition to lifestyle changes.
  • Bariatric Surgery: For severe obesity or obesity-related health problems, surgery might be an option.

Overcoming Stigma

Sadly, negative social stigma surrounds obesity. It’s essential to remember that obesity is a complex medical condition deserving of compassion and support.

Resources

Websites

“Bariatric Surgery.” Mayo Clinic. November 22, 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bariatric-surgery/about/pac-20394258 (accessed December 2, 2018).

“Overweight & Obesity.” CDC. September 17, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/index.html (accessed November 28, 2018).

“Overweight and Obesity.” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/overweight-and-obesity (accessed December 3, 2018).

Remember, if you are concerned about your weight, consult your healthcare provider for guidance.