Obesity is a chronic disease that affects an increasing number of children, adolescents and adults. Child obesity rates have doubled in the United States since 1980 and tripled for adolescents. About 17% of children ages 2 to 19 are considered obese, compared to more than 35% of adults who are obese.
Healthcare professionals often see the onset of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity-related depression and social isolation in children and adolescents. The longer a person has been obese, the greater the risk factors associated with obesity. Given the diseases and chronic conditions associated with obesity and the difficulty of treating obesity, prevention is very important.
The main reason why obesity prevention in children is so vital is that the likelihood of childhood obesity continuing into adulthood increases as the child ages. This puts the person at risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Obesity prevention for Infants
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC, breastfed babies are less likely to be overweight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports that the longer babies are breastfed, the less likely they are to be overweight as they age. However, many formula-fed babies grow up to be adults of a healthy weight. If your baby is not breastfed, this does not mean that he cannot reach a healthy weight.
Obesity prevention for children and teens
Young people generally become overweight or obese due to poor eating habits and lack of physical activity. Genetics and lifestyle factors also contribute to a child's weight status.
Recommendations for preventing overweight and obesity during childhood and adolescents include:
- Gradually work on changing your family's eating habits and activity levels rather than focusing on the child's weight.
- To be a role model. Parents who eat healthy foods and engage in physical activity set an example so that the child is more likely to do the same.
- Encourage your child to be physically active. Your child should get an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week. More than an hour of activity may promote and maintain your child's weight loss.
- Limit your "screen" time in front of the TV and computer to less than one to two hours per day.
- Encourage children to eat only when hungry and slowly.
- Do not withhold food as a punishment or use food as a reward.
- Keep your fridge stocked with fat-free or low-fat milk and fresh fruits and vegetables instead of sodas and snacks that are high in sugar and fat.
- Offer at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Encourage children to drink water instead of drinks with added sugar. These include sports drinks, fruit juice drinks, and soft drinks.
Obesity prevention for adults
Several strategies that lead to successful weight loss and maintenance help prevent obesity.increasing physical activity and Improving eating habits play an important role in preventing obesity. Recommendations for adults include:
- Keep a food diary of what you ate, where you ate, and how you felt before and after eating.
- Eat 4 to 8 servings of vegetables and fruits daily. A vegetable serving is one cup of raw vegetables or ½ cup of cooked vegetables or vegetable juice. A fruit serving is one piece of small to medium-sized fresh fruit, ½ cup of canned or fresh fruit or fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit.
- Choose foods made with whole grains, such as brown rice and whole wheat bread. Don't eat foods processed with refined white sugar, flour, high-fructose corn syrup, and saturated fats.
- Weigh and measure the food so you know the correct portion sizes. For example, a 3-ounce serving of meat is the size of a deck of playing cards. Don't order bulky menu items.
- Learn to read and use nutritional nutrition labels, and really keep the number of servings you eat in mind.
- Don't eat foods that are high in "energy density" or that contain a lot of calories in a small amount of food. For example, an average cheeseburger with french fries and an order can contain up to 1,000 calories and 30 grams or more of fat. By ordering a grilled chicken sandwich or a plain hamburger and a small salad with a low-fat dressing, you can avoid hundreds of calories and eliminate a lot of your fat intake. For dessert, have a serving of fruit, yogurt, a small piece of angel food cake, or a bar of dark chocolate instead of frozen cake, ice cream, or pie.
- Using a smaller plate and reducing portion sizes can help you lose weight.
- Aim for an average of an hour or more of moderate to intense physical activity 4 to 5 days each week. Examples of moderate-intensity exercise include a 15-minute walk or weeding and hoeing in the garden. Running or playing individual tennis are examples of more intense activities.
- Find ways to get 10 or 15 minutes of some type of activity during the day. Walking around the building or up and down several flights of stairs is a good start.
Why does prevention matter?
Obesity prevention plays an important role in good health. Obesity is linked to a long list of chronic health conditions, many of which become more difficult to treat over time. These conditions include:
- metabolic syndrome
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- high triglycerides
- heart disease
- sleep apnea
- gallbladder disease
- sexual health issues
- nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- mental health conditions
By focusing on lifestyle changes and obesity prevention, it may be possible to prevent or slow the development of these diseases.
Taking care of obesity prevention in your life is a great first step. Even small changes, such as visiting the gym several times a week and eating more vegetables, can help prevent obesity.
If you're interested in taking a more personalized approach to your diet, a dietitian or dietitian can provide you with the tools to get started.
In addition, meeting with a personal trainer or fitness trainer can help you find the physical activities that work best for your body.