Obesity is a complex disease that involves an excessive amount of body fat. It is a common issue that is defined by
having a high percentage of body fat. Obesity is indicated by a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and above.
In the past few decades, obesity has become a significant health concern to the extent that it has been declared an
epidemic in the United States. The statistics by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that
about 13.7 million children and teens and 93.3 million adults in the US are obese.
Prevention of Obesity
Obesity prevention from a population perspective means lowering the mean body mass index (BMI) level and
decreasing the rate at which people enter the upper end of the BMI distribution. To achieve this, it is required that
adults at a healthy weight maintain that status and that children maintain a healthy weight trajectory and avoid excess
Obesity prevention occurs in various settings which give access to whole populations or high-risk subpopulations.
Despite the increasing number of people with obesity, there are numerous ways of obesity prevention among
children and adults.
- Children and Teens
Individuals in their childhood and teen generally become obese due to bad eating habits and physical inactivity. The
weight status of the child is also contributed to by genetics and lifestyle.
Various strategies have been recommended to prevent obesity among children and teenagers including:
- Infants should be breastfed when possible. Research has established that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of childhood obesity.
- Encouraging physical activity. Children need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day, most days of the week. Exceeding 60 minutes of activity could lead to weight loss and offer weight maintenance.
- Feeding children with the appropriate portion sizes. According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, for children aged 1-3, every inch of height should be equal to about 40 calories of food consumption.
- Encouraging children to eat only when hungry and to eat slowly.
- Gradually working to modify the family eating habits and the levels of activity instead of focusing on the weight of the child. When children get to experience healthy eating early on, it will be easier to continue following good eating habits as they grow into adults.
- Serving at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Building early relationships with healthy foods- children should be encouraged to try a variety of different fruits, vegetables, and proteins from an early age. These healthy foods will be incorporated into their diet as they grow older.
- Encouraging children to drink water rather than beverages that have added sugar including soft drinks and fruit juice drinks.
- Role modeling- parents who eat healthy foods and take part in physical activity provide a good example to be imitated by the children.
- Minimizing “screen” time in front of the computer and television to below 2 hours a day.
- Not using food to reward or withholding food as punishment.
- Ensuring everyone gets enough sleep. Research has suggested that both children and adults who do not get enough sleep could end up weighing more. Healthy sleep habits as proposed by the National Sleep Foundation entail having a sleep schedule, a bedtime ritual, and a comfortable pillow and mattress.
Most of the strategies that yield successful maintenance or loss of weight help in obesity prevention. Improvement of
eating habits and more physical activity are essential in obesity prevention.
Some of the strategies recommended for weight prevention among adults are:
- Avoid eating foods that are high in “energy density” or that have a lot of calories in a small amount of food
- Consume less “bad” fat and more “good” fat. Not all fat is bad. Healthy dietary fats like polyunsaturated fats can enhance the levels of cholesterol and reduce the risk of obesity.
- Eat more dietary fiber as these are important in weight maintenance.
- Engaging in regular aerobic activity. 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly is important for maintaining or losing weight.
- Eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The vegetable serving should be 1 cup of raw vegetables or a half cup of cooked vegetables or vegetable juice. The fruit serving should be 1 piece of small-medium fresh fruit or a half cup of canned or fresh fruit or fruit juice.
- Eat whole-grain foods like brown rice and whole-wheat bread. Avoid highly processed foods particularly those made with refined white sugar, flour, high-fructose corn syrup, and saturated fat.
- Ensure the food “checkbook” is balanced. Eating more calories than you burn will lead to weight gain.
- Reduce daily stress- stress could trigger a brain response that alters the patterns of eating and leads to cravings for high-calorie foods.
- Get the family involved in your journey. Social support when cooking with family or going on walks with friends can help to encourage a healthy lifestyle.
- Weigh and measure food to be able to learn the correct portion sizes
Importance of Obesity Prevention:
The prevention of obesity is vital for good health. Obesity is associated with various chronic health conditions, most of
which are usually difficult to treat over time. Some of these conditions are:
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Sexual health issues
- Sleep apnea
The development of these diseases can be slowed or prevented by focusing on the prevention of obesity and lifestyle changes.