Obesity is a chronic disease affecting more and more children, adolescents and adults:
Over 60 percent of adults are considered overweight or obese
A primary reason that prevention of obesity is so vital in children is because the likelihood of obese becoming obese adults is thought to increase from about 20 percent at four years of age to 80 percent by adolescence.
Healthcare professionals are seeing earlier onset of Type 2 diabetes normally an adult-onset disease, cardiovascular disease and obesity-related depression in children and adolescents. The longer a person is obese, the more significant obesity-related risk factors become. Given the chronic diseases and conditions associated with obesity, and the fact that obesity is difficult to treat, prevention is extremely important.
Preventing Obesity in Infants
The longer babies are breastfed, the less likely they are to become overweight as they grow older. Breastfed babies are 15 to 25 percent less likely to become overweight. For those who are breastfed for six months or longer, the likelihood is 20 to 40 percent less.
Preventing Obesity in Children and Adolescents
Young people generally become overweight or obese because they don’t get enough physical activity in combination with poor eating habits. Genetics and lifestyle also contribute to a child’s weight status.
There are a number of steps you can take to help prevent overweight and obesity during childhood and adolescence. (They’ll help you, too!) They include:
Gradually work to change family eating habits and activity levels rather than focusing on weight. Change the habits and the weight will take care of itself.
Be a role model. Parents who eat healthy foods and are physically activity set an example that increases the likelihood their children will do the same.
Encourage children for physical activity. Children should have an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week. More than an hour of activity may promote weight loss and subsequent maintenance.
Encourage children to eat only when hungry, and to eat slowly.
Avoid using food as a reward or withholding food as a punishment.
Keep the refrigerator stocked with fat-free or low-fat milk and fresh fruit and vegetables instead of soft drinks and snacks high in sugar and fat.
Encourage children to drink water rather than beverages with added sugar, such as soft drinks, sports drinks and fruit juice drinks.
Preventing Obesity in Adults
Many of the strategies that produce successful weight loss and maintenance will help prevent obesity. Improving your eating habits and increasing physical activity play a vital role in preventing obesity.
Things you can do include:
Eat five to six servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Choose whole grain foods such as brown rice and whole wheat bread. Avoid highly processed foods made with refined white sugar, flour and saturated fat.
Weigh and measure food to gain an understanding of portion sizes. For example, a three-ounce serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards. Avoid super-sized menu items particularly at fast-food restaurants. You can achieve a lot just with proper choices in serving sizes.
Balance the food “checkbook.” Eating more calories than you burn for energy will lead to weight gain.
Avoid foods that are high in “energy density” or that have a lot of calories in a small amount of food. Crack a sweat: accumulate at least 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activity on most, or preferably, all days of the week.
Make opportunities during the day for even just 10 or 15 minutes of some calorie-burning activity, such as walking around the block or up and down a few flights of stairs at work. Again, every little bit helps.