Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese. The issue has grown to epidemic proportions, with more than 4 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese
According to the CDC, obesity impacts 49.6% of African Americans and 44.8% of non-white Hispanic Americans, compared to only 42.2% of white Americans. Black and brown children are also disproportionately affected by childhood obesity. 2017 CDC data indicates that among racial groups, obesity impacts 25.6% of non-white Hispanic children and 24.2% of African American children, compared to only 16.1% of white children. These obesity disparities result from a complex confluence of socioeconomic, environmental, cultural, and psychological factors.
Obesity is like a wheel with multiple smokes — the spokes being diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, malnutrition, stroke. Being obese increases your risk of acquiring these conditions.
Obesity is largely a lifestyle disease. However strong evidence is emerging that there may be a genetic component, as well. For example, it is a well-known fact that entire families are usually obese, pointing to a strong dietary choice that family is making. Child obesity is especially troublesome as it is much more difficult to reduce weight later in life.
Here are five simple things that you can do to start making a difference today
- Cut down on fast food to once a week as cooking at home gives you control over what goes in your food. When a family sits down together for at least one meal a day it has been shown to encourage healthy eating habits.
- You may have heard that “sugar is the new cigarette.” It is true that sugar has an addictive hold on your brain. Children used to consuming sugar in the form of juices and soda from an early age tend to stay on them, thus consuming huge amounts of “empty calories.” Those empty calories can be difficult to burn off. Avoiding sugars and unhealthy carbohydrates is the key to losing and maintaining healthy weight. Ideally, avoiding carbohydrates after 5 or 6 p.m. helps and fighting obesity as calories tend to accumulate during periods of inactivity.
- Watch your portions: Simple measures like eating a salad and having smaller portions of high-calorie food go a long way and weight control. Avoiding fried and sugary food (pasta, rice, bread) can reduce your calorie intake by as much as one-third.
- Exercise: Even a 10-minute walk after dinner has been shown to cut down the risk of obesity and diabetes. Walking for 30 minutes at least three times a week is a good starting point. If you find a friend or partner to accompany you, this may no longer seem like an exercise!
NO SODA: Soda seems to be the single most important factor responsible for the vast proportion of childhood and adult obesity. You may seem to consume very little food, but drinking any amount of soda adds empty calories to your body. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends water and milk for kids as part of their daily diet. Soda also erodes the dental enamel and can be responsible for dental caries later in life.