Obesity is often difficult to address because it has so many contributing factors and causes. Genetics, behavior, the community in which people live and food marketing are all contributing factors to the obesity epidemic. To start dealing with this epidemic, it’s essential for people to make the right lifestyle choices and take personal responsibility for their health.
This past weekend I attended the Orange County Fair where food was a major component. Stands were selling mainly fried foods, such as chicken, turkey legs, funnel cakes and fried Twinkies. This illustrates one of the key problems healthcare professionals and policymakers have when trying to address the obesity epidemic. It takes bravery to put pressure on people to make the right decisions – ones that will reduce obesity through dietary choices and physical activity.
Obesity needs to be taken very seriously because it is associated with some of the leading causes of death worldwide, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. It is also associated with poor mental health outcomes and decreased quality of life.
Preventing excess weight gain involves balancing the number of calories consumed with the number of calories the body uses for activity. A healthy diet emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low fat or fat-free dairy products. It also means drinking enough water. Physical exercise is very important, with a combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity activity being optimal.
Obesity in children
Obesity in children has become a problem due to changes in family structure and the fact that they have become more sedentary due to watching TV, playing computer games and using iPhones. Easy access to fast foods has made things worse.
Obese children are more likely to become obese adults and obesity is harmful to them in many ways. The risks of high blood pressure and high cholesterol increase. They are more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes and have breathing problems like asthma and sleep apnea. Experiencing heartburn and problems with joints and muscles is common. Then there are the psychological problems they suffer due to social problems like bullying and low self-esteem.
Dr. Stephen Shapiro, medical doctor and Chairman of the board of Nuzuna Zone Fitness, says the key to dealing with the obesity crisis comes in fighting it from an early age. When a child becomes heavy between the ages of 5-10 years the fat cells don’t budge and it means a lifetime of problems battling with weight.
When children eat a healthy diet and they are physically active, it is possible for them to maintain a healthy weight throughout their growing years and become healthy adults. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americansrecommends that children of six or older do at least an hour of physical activity each day.
Environment and community
Families often make decisions based on their environment. Where they live affects their ability to make healthy choices. Settings such as the home, school, childcare, or the workplace all have an influence. Creating environments conducive to eating healthily and getting physical exercise is important. Several community initiatives are taking place to reduce and prevent obesity, but many more are needed.
Genetics and family health history
You can’t change your genes, but you can create a family environment that encourages physical activity and healthy eating habits. These changes can improve the health of family members – and improve the health history of the next generation.
Normalizing obesity through so-called “body positivity” or “fat acceptance” is a mistake and represents dangerous pandering by the media. Making the right lifestyle choices and taking personal responsibility is essential if we want to deal with the obesity epidemic and this starts with our children.