For years now, we have watched as the number of obesity cases in both adults and children has grown and grown, ultimately reaching a level at which obesity represents a real-life epidemic in the United States. Obesity, with its number of health issues, also poses a problem that needs to be removed as soon as possible. Luckily, there are more than enough prevention methods that can help us hold this problem and prevent its occurrence in the future.
Why we need to prevent obesity
Obesity is officially considered to be an epidemic in the United States, with statistical data that reveals around 93.3 million adults and around 13.7 million children being affected by this condition (1, 2). We say someone is obese when his/her BMI (Body Mass Index ). is 30 or higher, which means that a person has an excess amount of fat distributed around the body. BMI is easily calculated using the person’s height and weight, and it should be followed regularly.
If these numbers did not frighten you, then the health risks that are often brought by obesity alone might as well do the trick. There is clear scientific proof that links obesity to a long list of health issues including diabetes type 2, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, liver disease, and even a few types of cancer that can potentially put an end to your life. A 2010 review revealed that obese individuals are struggling with an increased risk of stroke by 64% as compared with individuals with healthy body weight (3). Overweight and obese women are also exposed to the risk of infertility (4). And there is more from where this has come, in terms of the much horrifying health issues that obesity brings you closer to. So you see, there are quite a few reasons why you should say no to that bag of potato chips and say yes to regular physical activity and a healthy diet instead. As for a number of illnesses, prevention is the key to obesity as well.
Preventing obesity in children
No parent would like for their child to struggle with the number of health risks that we have mentioned because of their childhood obesity. And yet, the numbers are higher than we would like them to be and they do seem to grow with each year passed. If you have decided to change your child’s life, maybe you will be interested to hear about the much effective prevention methods that we have to share with you today.
Breastfeeding is important
Prevention needs to start from the earliest days of your children’s lives. You might not have known, but the simple act of breastfeeding does more than delivering nutrients to your little one. Breastfeeding is one of the first steps that you can take to prevent childhood obesity.
It has been scientifically proven on multiple occasions that breastfeeding is the key to childhood obesity prevention (5). Although more research needs to be done to discover the exact reasons why breastfeeding acts as such a good childhood obesity prevention method, the results are promising enough for every mother to use this method to protect her children. Breastfeed your child when possible and avoid using formulas to reduce the risk of childhood obesity that your child will probably face when no breastfeeding has been implied.
Teach children about healthy eating habits
After breastfeeding, the next thing on the obesity prevention list is teaching your children about healthy eating habits. We are well aware that children are not the biggest fans of eating their greens and being prone to replacing them with sweets instead, but that is all to be taught at home.
You, as a parent, need to act as a role model and set an example of what healthy eating habits look like. In addition, what those healthy eating habits will result in later in life. Your children need to understand the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber, clean protein, and healthy fats, instead of snacking on sweets, chips, and whatnot. Seek help if needed to explain these concepts of clean eating in terms that your children are bound to understand.
Serve home-cooked meals
What is a better teaching method when it comes to teaching about healthy eating habits than serving healthy, delicious home-cooked meals? We understand – parenting is not easy, nor does each parent has the time and energy to provide home-cooked meals each day. But the price for serving frozen meals or fast food is a price that your children are going to pay in the future to come.
Use this opportunity to feed your whole family, and yourself for that matter, with fresh ingredients that you are going to use to prepare delicious meals at home. Cooking at home might take a toll on your time, but it will surely improve your budget and allow you to actually decide on the ingredients that you will use, instead of hoping that there is some kind of a vegetable in that burger that you have just now served to your children. Healthy eating needs to start at home, and home-cooked meals are the best way to do it.
Feed your children proper meal portions
One of the easiest ways to become morbidly obese is by overeating. The trick is to teach yourself when you are actually full and when you need to stop eating if you do not want to overeat. In order to do that, you need to eat slowly, with actually chewing your food instead of just swallowing it while it is all arranged in a proper sized meal.
And you will need to teach your children the same thing. At the end of the day, they are only children, and they can be only taught so many little and big things that involve obesity prevention. But you are there to act as a parent and determine the small steps that they are about to take. So why not determine a proper meal portion for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including snacks in between to allow your children to feel full, but also healthy and happy in the process as well.
Prepare healthy snacks
Children need their energy. After all, they end up running around all day long, and we would very much prefer that instead of them sitting in front of the TV. But to do that, they need proper energy sources apart from the three main meals that you have been feeding them. And that involves tasty snacks.
Your choice of snacks also plays a big role in obesity prevention. Choose healthy snack options that you can offer your children. Prepare homemade chips, hummus and veggies, rice crackers, and homemade granola bars to make it all more acceptable to the little ones. And do not forget to be creative – after all, they are only children, and how do their food look actually makes a difference for them.
Build a positive relationship towards physical activity
Physical activity is everything in life. It helps us remain fit, healthy, and live a longer, better life. But the habit of being regularly physically active is one that needs to be taught in the earliest ages of our life.
Reduce your child's screen time to no more than 2 hours a day and allow them the opportunity to spend their free time being physically active. Sign them up for a sport, or enjoy the nice weather outside as a family while you participate in physical activity of your choosing that will bring you together as a family, but also keep all of you fit and active (6).
Represent healthy beverage options
We all know what a growing child needs and sugary beverages are not it. Although they are loved by millions of children around the globe, sugary drinks represent a real hazard when it comes to our health.
Healthy beverages include freshwater, homemade juices and smoothies, hot tea and well, let's be honest – a cup or two of hot coffee for mom and dad, just for the purposes of them staying sane. You and your children should definitely drink as much water as you can throughout the day as a way to help them create this healthy habit for later in life.
Prevention methods for adults
All of the prevention methods that we have mentioned until now can be applied for both children and adults. However, there are certain prevention methods that involve adults only, and we need to discuss them if we are really serious about preventing obesity and reducing those high numbers.
Reduce excessive drinking
Excessive drinking alcohol has its own negative effects on the body, including the risk of multiple health issues, one of them being obesity. It is no secret that alcoholic beverages come with more calories than we can count, especially sweet cocktails, wine, and beer. In addition, it is a known fact that drinking stimulates eating, especially eating “empty” calories (7).
To protect your health in general, but also keep obesity as far away from possible from you, reduce the excessive drinking to one or two glasses a week. Or simply save the alcohol for a special occasion and relay on drinking fresh water all day long. Plus, you get to snack on delicious veggies, or some mixed nuts and fill in the blanks that you now have with all of those empty calories out of your way.
Get enough sleep
It is a known fact that humans need around 8 hours of sleep each day if they are to function properly and fill well. Another reason why you would like to hit the bed tonight a bit early is that it is a great way to shield your body from obesity.
Staying up late in front of the TV, snacking on some chips is the perfect example of how you are delivering waste to your body and preventing it from taking the much-needed rest at the end of the day. Not to mention that the lack of sleep has been linked to obesity and is now listed as an official risk factor for obesity by science itself (8). Create a sleep schedule that will allow you to get your beauty sleep each night, and your body will thank you for it.
Stress has a great toll on our bodies and minds. Its link to multiple health issues, including obesity, has been confirmed on more than enough occasions. Chronic stress can cause emotional eating, changes in metabolism, insulin production, and fat storage, among many other negative effects, bringing its victims closer to becoming obese (9).
Try some of the much effective stress-fighting methods that involve meditation, yoga, outdoor walks, and psychotherapy to cope with your stress better and ultimately win the fight and remove it from your life entirely. Not only will you protect yourself against morbid obesity, but you will also feel more relaxed, happier, and more fulfilled each day.
Introduce weight training in the workout session
You cannot go wrong while being physically active. All types of physical activity such as walking, jogging, running, swimming, cycling, hiking, etc. will help you keep your health intact and your mind relaxed. But there are some physical activities that you need to make sure to include in your workout sessions if you want to lose weight more efficiently or manage your weight better.
One perfect example would be weight training which is easily done in the gym. You do not have to do it each day, but a session or two on a weekly basis is recommended. Weight training has been proved in the past to help obese individuals in their fight against obesity and help them maintain a healthy weight in the long run (10).
Children and adults need to unite in the battle against obesity. The toll that this disease is taking on our health – both mental and physical, on the short and long run only points out to the importance of having this problem eliminated. With the simple, yet effective prevention methods that we have discussed today, we get to control this problem better and faster. Now, the decision to change our lives is in our hands only.