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How to Prevent Obesity

With all of the enticing restaurants lining the local downtown strip, the quick on-the-go meals, or the hearty family get-togethers on Sunday, the issue of obesity is promoted by a wealth of unhealthy lifestyle habits. The problem of obesity is believed to affect more than 2/3 of the American population, who are overweight, while about one in three American adults fall under the category of obesity. Today, the issue of carrying around extra pounds far exceeds the visual appearance of unhealthiness, but can lead to serious complications. In the majority of obesity cases, just following a few prevention measures could have stopped a small issue from becoming a major health concern.

How to Prevent Obesity

What is Obesity?

Obesity is the condition characterized by a natural energy reserve that is stored in the fatty tissue of humans and other mammals, where a constant increase in weight causes a slew of health conditions and increased mortality [1]. In simpler terms, obesity is when a person possesses a high proportion of body fat that can affect their overall health and increase the chances of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and many other serious health concerns.

When it comes to obesity, most cases could have been prevented and even when a modest amount of weight gain has taken place, there are plenty of dietary changes, increased physical activity, behavior modification techniques, as well as more extreme measures, such as medications and weight-loss surgery that can help ease the problem.

The issue of obesity is widespread and in the United States, numerous strides have been made to curb the problem. Sadly, the obesity trends in the United States during the past 20 years have revealed a dramatic boost in numbers that shows a constant climb [2]. Today, a little more than 64% of the population in the U.S. is overweight or obese, where women face a higher rate than men. This is often attributed to the hormonal changes of pregnancy and menopause, which act as significant obesity factors. It is also believed that fewer years of education and poorer economic conditions also add to the growing obesity problem.

Financially, obesity not only costs those it affects more money, but also the government and insurance companies, as billions of dollars in medical expenses are attributed to the condition. For example, in 2003, the estimated total of state-level expenditure showcases ranges of $87 million in Wyoming to $7.7 billion in the state of California [3].

The Negative Effects of Obesity

When it comes to obesity, the negative effects of the condition are seen in the emotional, physical, psychological, financial, social, and mental stress that strikes the affected. A variety of consequences to becoming overweight or obese are seen in a variety of commonalities that victims of obesity portray. The negative effects of obesity include:

a) Physical Effects:

The effects of obesity on health is responsible for the development or complications of a wide-range of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol [4]. Obesity also contributes to congestive heart failure, an enlarged heart, varicose veins, and pulmonary embolisms. The gastroinstestinal system may develop gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), fatty liver disease, gallstones, and colorectal cancer.

Lower back pain, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome are some of the symptoms an obese patient may experience. The respiratory system may become compromised by obstructive sleep apnea and asthma. Stretch marks and cellulite start to decorate the skin. In women, obesity may cause menstrual disorders, ovary concerns, breast cancer, stillbirths, and infertility.

b) Emotional Effects:

Deep sadness, isolation, and guilt may affect the lives of obese patients, who may only increase their problems by overeating to make themselves feel better.

c) Psychological Effects:

An obese individual may face long bouts of depression, a lowered self-esteem, suffer from body dysmorphic disorder, and feel less of himself or herself.

d) Social Effects:

Socially, obese individuals are often looked upon as lazy, sloppy, tired, lifeless, and dirty. They often face discrimination, ridicule, and limitations that affect their ability to secure high-paying jobs, as well as being treated fairly in many everyday situations.

e) Financial Effects:

Not only does the cost to treat obesity create great financial distress, but also simple tasks and purchases showcase a monetary increase affected by extra weight. Obese patients often pay more for their clothing, as more fabric is needed to accommodate “plus-size” creations. In some cases, obese individuals must pay more to receive equipment and everyday objects that cater to their size. Often, customization is a solution, which almost always reflect higher costs.

The financial effects of obesity are seen in many different arenas of life, as the foods geared towards weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight often costs more, as “fat-free,” “reduced-fat,” and “low-fat” selections carry a higher price tag. Obese patients are sometimes even charged the price of two seats when riding on an airplane. Also, health insurance coverage for obese individuals also reflects glaring monetary differences.

Obesity Risk Factors

In order to prevent obesity, it is important to learn why it occurs in the first place. In regards to the condition, there are certain risk factors that increase the chances of becoming obese. Contrary to popular belief, overeating is not the only way one may suffer the symptoms and complications of extra weight. Common obesity risk factors besides overeating include:

a) Genetics:

There are some genetic disorders, such as Prader-Willi syndrome, which causes a person to gain an extreme amount of weight.

b) Family History:

If your mother, father, siblings, and grandparents are obese, chances are you may face the same fate if prevention measures are not taken in time. The two maim culprits of this risk factor involves a shared genetic pool, as well as a shared environment, where overeating is a common event within the household.

c) Age:

The older you get, the less active you are likely to become. Additionally, the amount of muscle in the body tends to decrease with age, which is a component that helps burn fat. Lower muscle mass also equates to a lower metabolism.

d) Gender:

Since women possess less muscle mass and tend to burn fewer calories than their male counterparts, they become more susceptible to gaining weight and reaching the status of obesity [5].

e) Calorie Consumption:

There are many different things that influence calorie consumption, which starts with the way individuals makes their food choices and follows eating habits. Grocery stores are filled with a wide-range of edible selections that pose many problems for some when it comes to choosing healthy meal options. Some of the outside influences that affect calorie consumption include portion control, fast food dining, and unhealthy food preparation habits (such as deep-frying).

Location also matters in regards to obesity. For example, cooking preferences in the South differ from those in the East. Regional favorites, such as smothered pork chops, French fries and gravy, fried chicken, crabcakes, clam chowder, and other local specialties also influence calorie consumption.

f) Environment:

People are known to make decisions based upon their environment, as well as their community. A walk to the store to increase daily exercise might not be possible when the neighborhood lacks sidewalks [6]. A community that embraces food and excessive eating influences the adults and children in the area to follow suit. An unequal proportion of dining outlets per population also encourages obesity by temptation.

g) Illness:

Some individuals suffer from underlying illnesses that cause changes in the body that promotes weight gain, such as hypothyoidism.

h) Eating Disorders:

Psychological blocks are one of the main contributors to eating disorders that cause people to gain weight, such as suffering from a binge eating disorder.

i) Various Medications:

Some medications, such as atypical antipsychotics and some fertility medications are responsible for an increase in weight.

j) Lack of Exercise:

Following a sedentary lifestyle only encourages the accumulation of fat, which is a direct result of not “burning off” the excess calories your body does not use on a daily basis.

k) High Glycemic Diet:

An individual that follows a diet that results in high postprandial blood sugar may lead to obesity.

l) Yo-Yo Dieting:

The repeated attempts to lose weight by dieting may cause what is known as weight cycling, where the body begins to reject attempts to lose weight and responds by holding onto extra fat. Since a person follows a constant cycle of losing and gaining weight, the body is more likely to quickly gain the weight back as a result to previous patterns.

m) Stress:

Individuals with high stress levels tend to gain more weight, which is sometimes furthered by one’s habit of overeating during times of tension and great outside pressures.

n) Insufficient Sleep:

A lack of sleep may affect metabolism in such a way that the body begins to accumulate fat rather than lose it.

o) Former Smokers:

One of the major withdrawal complaints regarding the act of quitting smoking is the weight gain that seems to follow as a result.

How to Prevent Obesity

Since obesity is such a growing problem in the United States, more and more people are interested in the prevention tips that will help them maintain and control their weight. Below you will find a wide-range of preventive measures that go beyond healthy eating habits and participating in regular exercise:

a) Routine Exercise:

One of the most effective things to prevent weight gain is to partake in regular exercise. Usually, 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity is recommended to prevent obesity, which may include biking, running, jogging, swimming, fast walking, and engaging in sports.

b) Select Healthy Meals and Snacks:

When choosing meals and snacks, it is suggested to select foods that are low in fat, low-calorie, and filled with vitamins and nutrients. Some of the best options include fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Keeping the saturated fat content low and limiting the intake of sweets and alcohol are great ways to prevent obesity.

It is also important to choose a variety of foods throughout the day in order to gain the best range of nutrients that promote a healthy body and increased rate of metabolism. Snacking is one of the most damaging downfalls that an individual may face when trying to prevent weight gain. Instead of grabbing a cookie, candy bar, or other fat-rich snack, it is important to locate healthier alternatives that will lessen the chances of becoming obese.

c) Recognize Food Traps [7]:

There are certain triggers or circumstances that cause people to overeat. It could be a particular time of the day when hunger seems to strike or the tendency to eat ice cream when feeling stressed. When you are able to recognize the triggers and behavioral patterns associated with obesity, one is able to get more out of their prevention methods.

d) Monitor Your Weight:

Some people are fearful of weighing themselves on a scale, but careful monitoring of weight can serve as encouragement for when a decrease in pounds is seen or help dieters gauge their progress when weight loss is lacking. It may also serve as an alert to help individuals pinpoint the kinds of activities and habits that either encourages weight gain or loss. People should weigh themselves at least once a week, which helps to successfully prevent weight gain.

e) Consistency:

To prevent obesity, it is important to stick with a healthy weight maintenance plan that should continue throughout the week, during the weekends, and even while on vacation. This approach is also especially vital during the most tempting times of the year – holidays.

f) Understand Weight Monitoring Tools and Resources:

There are plenty of resources and weight loss/management tools that aid in preventing obesity. Understanding some of these options, including the Body Mass Index and body fat measurements is known to help people rate their progress and stay on track towards achieving healthy targets.

g) Invest in Home Equipment:

Whether you join Jenny Craig, order Nutrisystem over the Internet, or invest in home gym equipment (treadmill, weight machine, free weights, exercise tapes, exercise bike, jump rope), it is suggested to make your home the most comfortable environment to aid in your quest for weight maintenance.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity
[2] http://www.naaso.org/statistics/obesity_trends.asp
[3] http://www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/pressrel/r040121.htm
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity#Effects_on_health
[5] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/obesity/DS00314/DSECTION=3
[6] http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/contributing_factors.htm
[7] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/obesity/DS00314/DSECTION=8

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