The rates of American obesity have continued to increase over the past 10 years, according to the CDC, and St. Charles has not been immune to that rise in obesity.
42.1% of St. Charles County residents consider being overweight to be the most important risky behavior in St. Charles County, behind drug use– 69.9% (St. Charles County MAPP, 2019). And 28% of the adult population in St. Charles County report a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2– which is considered obese.
The truth is that people with obesity are at higher risk than people of healthy weight to develop many serious health issues and diseases, including, but not limited to:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cancers of the breast
- Colon and rectum cancers
- Endometrium cancer
- Esophagus cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Pancreas cancer
There’s also evidence that excess weight may lead to the following cancers:
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Multiple myelomas
- Prostate cancer
Excess body weight is thought to be responsible for about 8% of all cancers in the US and about 7% of all cancer deaths.
Considering these facts, it’s absolutely vital to take action to stop the dangerous rise of obesity. Here’s how we do it…
How to Prevent Obesity
Obesity can start at a young age, and obese children are more likely to become obese adults. In fact, the likelihood of obesity is thought to increase from 20% at age four to 80% by adolescence.
Preventing Obesity in Children
Obesity in young people typically occurs because they have poor eating habits and don’t get enough physical activity. However, genetics and lifestyle of their parents can also heavily contribute to a child’s weight and health.
Here are some ways to prevent overweight and obesity in your children to live healthy lives:
- Encourage physical activity– Children need a minimum of an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week. More than an hour can help with weight loss. Play outside with your children so you be that role model for exercise.
- Less screen time– Screens keep us all living lifestyles that are too sedentary. Limit TV, computer, tablet, and phone time to less than two hours a day.
- Keep the fridge stocked with healthy foods– Stock your refrigerator with more fresh fruit and vegetables, and low-fat or fat-free milk. Cut back on soft drinks and high-fat, sugar-heavy snacks.
- Encourage slow-eating– and only eat when hungry. Eat meals slowly together.
- Don’t use food as reward or punishment– it’s for our nutrition, not a tool for guiding behavior. Spend time cooking together so your children can appreciate their food.
- Encourage water-drinking– Discourage sugary beverages such as fruit juice drinks, soft drinks, and sports drinks.
- Change family eating and activity habits slowly– Weight gain is the symptom, not the cause. Treat the cause– which is nutrition and level of physical activity
- Be the example– Good eating and exercise habits start with the parents. If you have healthier habits, they’re more likely to do the same.
Preventing Obesity in Adults
Many of the above tactics will also help adults lose weight and prevent obesity. Here are some additional, adult-specific ways to keep a healthy weight:
- Weigh yourself regularly– Don’t fixate on it as the key to your perfect health, but it will keep you accountable and help you track your weight.
- Eat five to six servings of fruits and vegetables daily– Cooked is good, but raw is even better. One fruit serving is a piece of small or medium fresh fruit or one-half cup of fruit. One vegetable serving is one cup of raw vegetables or one half-cup of cooked vegetables (or veggie juice).
- Eat whole grain foods and avoid high-processed foods– Brown rice and whole wheat bread are good whole grains. Avoid flour, saturated fats, and refined white sugar.
- Avoid calorie-dense foods– Foods with high calories in small amounts are particularly unhealthy. Ex. cheeseburger with fries, chocolate cake. Choose low-fat, low-calorie alternatives.
- Understand portion sizes– Measuring your food can help you understand what healthier portions and serving sizes look like.
- Balance your energy intake/output– If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. But if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight.
- Exercise for half an hour a day– At least half an hour each day of moderate-intensity physical activity can seriously impact weight loss. It doesn’t have to mean going to the gym– it can mean going for a walk in your neighborhood with family or on your lunch break with coworkers or doing yard work. Just 10 or 15 minutes of calorie-burning activity each day is impactful. Ex. cooking in your kitchen, taking a few flights of stairs, parking farther away from destinations and walking, walking with family or friends.
Obesity is a pressing issue that can be treated with gradual habit changes in nutrition and physical activity, as well as education. So please share this article to help educate the local community about preventing obesity.
Join Community Strong St. Charles County to celebrate the healthy lifestyle changes you and your family make!