Obesity Hits All-Time High: How to Combat It

Despite health trends picking up speed, there are no signs of obesity rates slowing down. According to the latest research by the CDC, nearly 40% of adults and 19% of youth are obese in the U.S., the highest it’s ever been for adults.

Based on the data, it seems that obesity increases as we get older. Among youth, adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 had the highest rates (20.6%). Among adults, middle-aged individuals had higher rates than younger adults (42.8% compared to 35.7%). Additionally, women, Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks are more at risk. The groups with the highest rate of obesity? Women aged 40 to 59 (44.7%) and Hispanic adults (47%).

There are also genetic factors at play with obesity. While not common, obesity can be caused by genetic mutations, with one rare form of obesity known as “monogenetic obesity,” which is caused by spontaneous mutations in genes linked to appetite control. The genetic syndromes Prader-Willi and Bardet-Biedl are also linked to obesity. However, for most people, their genes won’t cause obesity. Diet, exercise and understanding your body’s needs are most important for managing weight.

The Problem with Obesity
Being obese and being overweight are not the same. A BMI (body mass index) between 25 and 30 falls within the overweight category, while a BMI above 30 falls within the obese range. Your BMI is your weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. There are a number of calculators that help you determine your BMI.

There are serious health implications of obesity. Potential health effects include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Strokes
  • Endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder or liver cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol, high triglyceride levels or low HDL cholesterol
  • Kidney disease
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea
  • Gout
  • Breathing problems
  • Pregnancy problems (such as increased risk for cesarean delivery or high blood sugar)
  • Low quality of life

Preventing or Combating Obesity

Even if you’re predisposed to obesity, you can prevent obesity and maintain a healthy weight simply by making a few healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle.

  • Exercise regularly. Exercising doesn’t just help you lose weight and stay fit. Physical activity helps prevent stroke and heart disease and can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Moderate exercise includes fast walking and swimming, whereas vigorous would include running, playing basketball or high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
  • Weigh yourself. If you’re trying to lose weight or have trouble maintaining a steady weight, consider weighing yourself more often. Weighing yourself once a week can help you monitor your weight more closely and keep yourself accountable.
  • Manage stress. Several studies link stress with obesity, showing that a higher level of stress was associated with less healthy dietary behaviors and with higher body weight. When stressed, some people turn to eating comfort foods or avoiding exercise in favor of curling up on the couch. When feeling stressed, use exercise as an outlet, whether it’s gentle yoga or a run around the block.
  • Sleep. There are also studies that have linked a lack of sleep with hormonal changes that can result in weight gain. Your body and mind both need sleep. Aim to get at least 7 but preferably 8 hours of sleep each night. Feeling well-rested can also help reduce stress rates.
  • Follow a healthy eating plan. Some people call them diets, others a meal plan. Whatever you prefer to call it, aim to transform your eating habits. Every meal should include a mix of vegetables, carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein. Instead of a cheeseburger, opt for grilled salmon with fresh vegetables. Remember, healthy food can be delicious, too! There are a number of food blogs that create healthy versions of your favorite meals, from tacos to pizza.
  • Cut back on saturated fats, alcohol and sugar. These three vices can significantly impact your health and weight. Avoid fried foods, limit your sugar intake and drink moderately. Most doctors recommend no more than a glass of wine per night. You can still enjoy dessert, but when you reach for something sweet, go for a healthier alternative, such as oatmeal cookies or a frozen fruit bar.
  • Kick smoking to the curb. We all know smoking is bad for your health. It’s also bad for your weight. Not only do both smoking and obesity contribute to heart disease, but a recent study found that cigarette smoking could lead to excess fat and calorie consumption among women.

Even if you have genetic variations that may make it more difficult for you to keep weight off, it doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight or reach your fitness goals. Practicing healthy lifestyle habits can help you manage your weight and fight against obesity.

As recommended diets and exercise regimens will partly depend on your genetic makeup, you may consider getting a DNA test, such as the Pathway Fit. This can help uncover the genetics behind your eating habits, find out how your body reacts to certain types of foods (such as lactose and sugar), uncover the ideal type of exercise for your body type and more. Through this test, you and your doctor can evaluate which diet and fitness regimen may make the most sense for you.