Obesity is a risk factor for so many serious health problems that it has been declared a chronic disease in its own right. In the United States, more than 75% percent of obese people suffer at least one other major health problem, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, some cancers, respiratory problems, or other difficulties. But despite this toll, the ranks of the dangerously overweight have gone up by 50 percent in the past 20 years.
Experts say that there's more obesity partly because most people exercise infrequently, and labor-saving devices and entertainment such as computers and television have helped make us increasingly sedentary. We're also eating more packaged, processed, and fast foods that are high in fat and calories. One sign of this is a trend toward "colossal cuisine," with portion sizes for many foods, notably hamburgers and sodas, often double or more what was typical two decades ago. Ironically, some studies suggest that Americans are including less fat in their diets. Some experts say that this is small consolation because we're eating much more of everything, so the absolute amount of fat consumed is still going up.
Obesity is a complex disorder with a combination of causes. One theory suggests that your body determines and works to maintain a set point for weight that makes any effort to lose and maintain weight difficult. Thus, while obesity in Americans is caused largely by what and how we eat, it is also governed to some degree by genetics, by an intricate system of chemical signals that tell the body when it's hungry and when it's not, and by social or psychological factors.
Some people assume that obesity is all due to genetics and other uncontrollable factors. Genetics plays a role, but there's a great deal you can do to work toward a healthier weight. In fact, experts say that the pounds you lose first have the greatest impact on improving overall health. It's wise to start by taking small steps and building on success with these strategies:
Balance Calories--Crash diets make the body think it's starving, so it actually conserves calories. You must eat, but what? Experts say it's important to get a healthy balance of foods: The bulk of your daily calories (about 60 percent) should come from complex carbohydrates such as whole-wheat pasta, potatoes, and brown rice. Fat should account for no more than 30 percent of the diet.
Control Portions--How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. As a rule, aim for small portions of many different foods; studies find that variety will help make you feel satisfied more quickly, especially if you're eating healthy vegetables. Note that the USDA Food Guide Pyramid's suggestions for serving sizes in a healthy, balanced diet tend to be quite small: a single slice of bread, for example, or 1/2 cup of raw or cooked vegetables. Keep in mind that contrary to what you may have been told as a child, you really don't have to eat everything on your plate.
Dine Out Wisely--When eating out, order an appetizer as your entree: Often, appetizer fare is portioned large enough to make a decent meal. If you do order off the main menu, share dishes to avoid eating more than half. Order dishes that combine ingredients such as cut-up meat with a variety of vegetables, and resist the temptation to order lots of different dishes--too much sampling may lead to overeating. Be sure to ask for a pitcher of water on the table: Studies have found that the "I'm thirsty" signal that the brain sends out is often mistaken for "I'm hungry."
Graze--Eating several small meals or snacks throughout the day instead of "three square" can help you keep hunger at bay. At work, home, or when traveling, keep portions of baby carrots, berries, raisins, graham or animal crackers, and other healthful treats within easy reach.
Respectfully submitted by Idaline Hall. For more useful insider weight loss tips you might find informative, visit: http://weightlossthatfits.com/