Waging a Kind and Healthy War on Obesity

Obesity is the plague of the 21st century. It is battle for a healthy body and lifestyle that Americans in particular seem to be losing in droves. While obesity rates disproportionately affect different demographics and geographic regions, there is substantial evidence that it continues to be a nationwide problem. Poverty and a lack of education comprise the two largest risk factors. The good news is that finding creative ways to fight obesity through a wellness-centered lifestyle does not require a degree or a specific income level; it just requires some changes of your daily habits.

weight scale machine and tape

Get moving. Regular physical activity is the critical component of wellness. No medications, no surgery, and certainly no diet can replace activity. Even thin individuals who do not exercise regularly are subject to the health problems that come with leading a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of physical fitness affects the heart, the immune system, and the metabolic system. It has a significant impact on strength and performance, mental health, and a person’s overall risk for certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. If you are not able to make any other lifestyle changes, make this one. Many activities, including walking, are free and require no special equipment, training, or location. Find a routine you enjoy, and get 30 minutes or more of moderately strenuous physical activity per day. Be sure to visit your doctor first If you are completely sedentary, have any physical limitations or injuries, or if you have other health concerns.

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Sleep like a baby. Strangely enough, there does seem to be some connection between the loss of your baby teeth and the loss of sleep. The older you get, the more challenging it is to get sleep, let alone get good sleep. Sleep is critical to optimal wellness, and its importance should not be disregarded. Finding a way to get seven to nine hours per night can seem impossible for busy students and adults, but the consequences of not devoting enough time and attention to sleep are dire. Not only does sleep deprivation diminish our ability to learn and decrease our efficiency at work, but it also leads to a number of health risks including obesity. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day is the best way to ensure you get enough sleep. Eliminating distractions such as electronic devices, which can prevent you from falling asleep, can also help you achieve an optimal sleep duration. Adding curtains to block ambient light and addressing other issues that might disrupt your sleep are also good ideas. You should see a doctor if you or your partner suspect a health problem such as sleep apnea or chronic snoring might be impacting your sleep patterns.

Eat a nutritious diet. This is harder than it sounds because it takes effort, and misleading food labeling practices make it that much more confusing. Convenience foods and processed foods in general are significant contributors to the nation’s obesity problem, but when they are labeled as healthy, it can be difficult to know what to avoid. Remember that healthy and nutritious should not be conflated either. For example, there is an assumption that a vegan diet is inherently healthy. The fact is that a vegan diet lacks important nutritional components that must be supplemented for those who follow it strictly. Vegans are also not immune to exposure to processed or convenience foods; after all, Oreo cookies are vegan. Nutritional needs vary greatly based on genetics and lifestyle, so it is important to focus on your dietary needs and not on what is trendy. Consulting a dietician or nutritionist can make this process easier, but this can be cost prohibitive for many suffering from obesity. For those without the means to hire out the task, using the USDA site ChooseMyPlate.gov can help make eating a nutritious diet something everyone can accomplish.

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Set aside the scale. While you are at it, take your measurements and then disregard the size of your clothing for the time being. It’s important to know your size and weight to help you set goals, measure progress, and celebrate achievements. However, constantly monitoring your weight or waistline can actually sabotage your efforts. On the one hand, it can lead to unhealthy weight-loss practices and a competitive desire to drop pounds or sizes faster. On the other hand, it can be defeating, especially if one or the other plateaus. Both of these scenarios can negatively affect mental health and can lead to bigger problems. Limit weights and measures to no more than once per week at most. If you want to monitor progress to keep you motivated, try using trackers that measure nutritional value of the food you consume or the number of steps you walk each day. While these too can lead to compulsive behavior, when used as intended, they can be positive collaboration tools that help you accomplish more. If you are concerned about the effects tracking your progress might have, focus on tracking your water intake instead. Consuming at least 10 eight-ounce glasses of water per day will enhance the benefits of all your other fitness efforts.

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Obesity is a major problem but not one that is impossible to overcome. Awareness has helped level off the obesity rates in most states, but progress still needs to be made. As the health effects are more widely known, the desire to address obesity is now more than just vanity. Focusing on wellness and its specific elements, like fitness, nutrition, sleep, and mental health, increases the likelihood of a long-term solution.

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