The national obesity problem affects all generations—20 percent of adolescents and 40 percent of adult Americans are obese. In most cases, obesity starts with genetics and is exacerbated by poor diet, little or no exercise, and poor sleep habits. We can tackle obesity, but it won’t happen overnight. Obesity isn’t just about your weight. It’s the foundation for your overall health. Obesity can lead to disease, a shorter lifespan, higher healthcare premiums, and is even linked to mental health disorders.
A healthy body needs exercise and a balanced diet, which can be difficult—but not impossible—to maintain in today’s hectic world. At Triborough GI, we are dedicated to helping people tackle obesity in order to live a better life.
Getting the obesity problem under control entails much more than telling everyone to get on a weight-loss diet. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it requires an integrated approach that includes three important things:
- First is promoting healthy eating habits and encouraging exercise
- Second is developing public policies that promote access to healthy, low-fat, high-fiber foods
- Lastly, training healthcare professionals so they can effectively support people who need to lose weight and help others avoid gaining weight
On an individual level, there are a multitude of small but significant changes that you can do to help combat obesity.
Here are some simple, non-drastic steps you can take to ensure that you continue to live a healthy life. More importantly, these are things you can start NOW rather than later.
1. Avoid processed foods
Consumption of processed foods is linked to a higher risk of obesity. Foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar are not only unhealthy but it also encourages overeating. So lay off the chips and start substituting water for soda for starters then start tweaking your diet to ensure that you integrate more whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks.
2. Get Physical
There are many benefits to living an active lifestyle. Activity gives us purpose, makes us feel good, and burns excess calories. But exercise is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Some people despise going to the gym, while others need a structured setting to feel motivated.
Experts suggest starting small by identifying fun exercises and activities that grab your interest. Once your personal workout preferences are determined, work on turning them into a habit that leads to other lifestyle changes.
For instance, exercise may encourage you to drink more water, smoke fewer cigarettes and strive for more fitness goals. If it’s in your budget, consider working with an exercise wellness consultant. This professional will be able to customize workouts which can help you reach your health goals. And as time goes on, they can also revisit your workouts and adjust them for new goals.
3. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
Sleeplessness can lead to obesity in many different ways. According to Harvard University’s School of Public Health, people who lack enough sleep become too tired to exercise, decreasing the “calories burned” side of the weight-change equation. Sleep-deprived individuals may take in more calories, simply because they are awake longer and have more opportunities to eat. Moreover, sleeplessness also disrupts the balance of key hormones that control appetite, so people who lack sleep may be hungrier than usual.
4. Make happiness a priority
For many of us, food is a source of comfort. Food can feel like a companion when we are alone, depressed or isolated. That’s why having a plan in place to address mental health issues is critical in the fight against obesity.
Try to stay social; when you want to turn to food for comfort, turn instead to a friend. Whether you meet up for a walk or talk on the phone, spend your time with someone who brings positivity into your life. If you are using food to fill a void or emptiness, talk with someone to help you understand what you are really missing in your life. That person can be a friend, a doctor, your pastor or a mental health professional. There are also lots of books on the topic; check out a few at your local library to see if any of their solutions resonate with you.
Art therapy is another great way to express your emotions and divert your attention from unhealthy comfort food. There are many different options to explore, such as painting, textiles, pottery, and photography. Not only does art therapy provide an outlet that helps you avoid emotional eating, but it could spark a whole new chapter in your life.
Making changes for your health is the most effective weapon against obesity, but it takes more time than crash dieting or workout fads. It may seem hard at first, but after a few weeks, you’ll start to see the physical and mental health benefits of these healthy habits. Get active, plan your meals accordingly, and find healthier forms of comfort. With these simple changes, you’ll already be well on your way to overcoming obesity.