Obesity has increased alarmingly in the past 20 years, reaching epidemic proportions in the United States. Being obese is not only uncomfortable and embarrassing, it increases the risk of an alarming array of diseases and health conditions, including certain types of cancer, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems, and hypertension.
The obesity epidemic is not something that happened suddenly. Obesity is a disease, a chronic condition, caused by a wide assortment of factors. Because there are so many factors involved, it is complicated and difficult to treat the disease. For instance, genetics can increase the risk but behavior and environment also influence the risk.
To blame heredity for obesity is an easy excuse, but it is the choices a person makes that increases or decreases their risk. Is it possible for us to learn how to control obesity? All of us choose our own behaviors. The choice to be physically inactive and practice unhealthy eating habits rest with each of us, as does the choice to start living a healthier lifestyle.
CAUSES OF THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC
Why is obesity spinning out of control in the United States? There are three key causes. The first is the dramatic increase in food options that are available today. Grocery stores and supermarkets now offer a shocking number of choices that were not present ten years ago. Unfortunately, many of those choices are not healthy.
Most foods available today are pre-packaged and processed, high in fat, sugar and calories, with no nutritional value at all. Even foods that are labeled as healthy or low-fat may contain more calories and unhealthy chemicals and additives than the high-fat food they are supposed to replace. Always read food labels for nutritional information.
The second cause of obesity is the change in our eating habits. Fast-food restaurants (where portion size has increased dramatically) and pre-packaged foods are convenient, but they are not healthy. Yet when given a choice, we will eat what is quick and simple.
The third cause of obesity is our lifestyle. Technology has created many wonderful labor-saving inventions that reduce the amount of time and energy we use in our daily lives. Instead of walking or riding a bicycle to work or school, we drive. Instead of our children playing outside, they are watching television or playing video games.
REDUCE THE RISK OF OBESITY
There ARE ways to decrease the risk of obesity. The two essential building blocks for creating a healthy body are promoting regular physical activity and following a nutritious diet. You must create an environment around you that supports this way of life. How do you start? The first step is to increase your fitness level.
Adding physical activity to your daily regimen is not difficult. Remember, whatever activity you take part in does not have to be exhausting. It can be as simple as taking a 15-minute walk around your neighborhood, taking the stairs at work, riding your bike to work, or parking your car in the farthest parking space.
Small changes such as these will significantly benefit your body, physically and mentally. Physical activity reduces your risk for diabetes, some types of cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It keeps you at a healthy weight, relieves depression symptoms and alleviates the pain of arthritis.
The second step is to learn about healthy nutrition. Following a nutritious diet, like adding physical activity, significantly lowers the risk for obesity, diabetes, some types of cancer and heart disease. What is a healthy diet plan? A diet high in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean protein builds a healthy, fit body.
Even though most people know that they should follow a healthy diet, it is difficult for most to change their poor eating habits. Poor eating habits begin during childhood and are very difficult to change as adults. We are raising a generation of children who eat too much fat and do not get enough exercise, who will grow into obese, unhealthy adults.
The foundation for a healthy body is simple; a nutritious diet and regular physical activity. Most people fail at diet and exercise plans because they try to make too many changes too quickly. The key to success is to make small changes slowly. This will teach your body to accept these changes and make it possible to defeat obesity.