Today, more than two-thirds of adults in the country are considered overweight or obese, putting them at risk for coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, joint problems, some forms of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
The number of obese adults in the United States has doubled since the early 1960s.
Today, more than two-thirds of adults in the country are considered overweight or obese, putting them at risk for coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, joint problems, some forms of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. The most recent five-year survey found that more adult women in the United States are obese than men, a trend that Women’s Health Research at Yale hopes to understand and help to remedy.
There are many reasons for the obesity epidemic, including sedentary lifestyles with people watching TV or playing video games for many hours and sitting in cars for long commutes to a job where many spend hours at a desk, unnecessarily large portions for meals served at restaurants and at home, the ubiquity of fast food advertising, the popularity of soft drinks and other food and beverages with added sugar, and lack of access to healthy foods due to convenience or price.
But it is not necessary to redesign modern society or completely overhaul diets to make significant improvements in health.
“Small changes can make a big difference,” said Dr. Margaret Grey, the Annie Goodrich Professor of Nursing at Yale School of Medicine and the Deputy Director of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation.
Studies have shown that eating a little healthier and exercising for about 30 minutes five days a week can reduce weight and delay and maybe even prevent type 2 diabetes, which involves higher risks of heart disease and depression for women.
“People should aim for losing about 5 percent of their total body weight to start,” Grey said. “Every little bit counts, and it’s never too late.”
Grey recommends that people seeking to control their weight set small, attainable goals such as taking three 10-minute walks each day. It’s helpful to actually set the time aside in a calendar or daily planner, she said. “Any type of exercise will do,” Grey said. “The idea is to get your heart rate up. Take the stairs instead of taking an elevator. Dance at home with your kids. It can be fun.”
In addition, Grey recommends that people pay attention to portion sizes when they eat. Use smaller plates instead of filling up a big one with food. Make sure to eat breakfast so the day starts with a full stomach. Indulge in small, healthy snacks over the course of the day instead of holding out for big meals.
Making small changes when shopping and cooking can also lead to better health, she said. Buy low fat instead of whole milk. Bake or grill food instead of frying it.
The idea isn’t to starve yourself or deprive you of the things you like, Grey said. But to make a tweak here and there to gradually improve overall eating habits. And so that treats become something you actually treat yourself to and not an everyday habit.
“Obesity is a big problem that requires serious attention,” she said. “But we can all get to a healthier place while taking small steps.”
*Source: Yale University