This past week, on March 4th, we observed World Obesity Day which has been commemorated since 2020 to raise awareness of the global obesity epidemic while encouraging practical solutions to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, seek practical solutions and work towards reversing the obesity crisis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is one of the main risk factors for numerous chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and stroke, as well as several types of cancer. In 2022, 1 in 8 people in the world were living with obesity. And while worldwide adult obesity has more than doubled since 1990, adolescent obesity has quadrupled.
Additionally, overweight children have a higher risk of being overweight or obese as adults. Globally, an alarming 390 million children and adolescents aged 5–19 years were overweight in 2022, including 160 million who were living with obesity. And it’s only expected to get worse. In fact, childhood obesity is expected to increase by 100% between 2020 and 2035.
With the face of the obesity crisis changing and growing faster for the young than for adults, it’s more important than ever to address this global epidemic. Beyond strictly focusing on weight loss, it is essential to adopt habits that foster a healthy relationship with food and promote an active lifestyle and are sustainable in the long-term.
Obesity and overweight are both largely preventable, according to the WHO. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight while working towards a healthy and active lifestyle, here are several doable and specific steps you can take:
1. Don’t focus on just weight loss: Prioritize daily habits of following a healthy diet and staying active, and maintaining these practices throughout your life.
2. Set and celebrate your goals: Recognize each achievement, large and small – whether it’s achieving your weekly minutes of activity, cooking more meals at home or staying within your daily calorie limit - as this allows you to see how far you have come, and not how far you have to go. When it comes to losing weight, a slow and steady pace is best, although it can feel frustrating at times.
3. Avoid fad diets: These could make you lose weight temporarily but may eliminate healthy foods or food groups which may result in nutritional deficiencies or increase the risk of losing muscle mass, instead of losing body fat. Remember that the goal should not only be to lose weight, but it should also be changing your habits to help you maintain your target weight.
4. Make sure you eat enough protein: Protein plays an important role in weight management, as it helps control hunger by keeping you full longer.  Protein also supports muscle growth and repair and can help preserve lean body mass as you lose body fat.
5. Incorporate healthy snacks: Today, snacks contribute almost a third of daily energy intake, but many typical snack foods are high in calories, sugar, fat and salt. Choose nutrient-dense, protein-rich snacks to help keep you from being hungry until your next meal. Some yogurt with fruit, hummus with baby carrots or a hard boiled egg with a few whole grain crackers would fill the bill.
6. Don't reduce calories too much: Extremely low-calorie diets can slow metabolism and inhibit weight loss and are not sustainable in the long term.  Instead, focus on including healthy foods in your daily diet – lean proteins, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans, and small amounts of healthy fats from foods like nuts, seeds and avocado.
7. Get moving: Try to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate activity every day. Even small changes such as choosing the stairs over elevators or getting off the bus two or three stops before your reaching your destination and walking the rest of the way can make a difference.
8. Plan and prepare healthy food: Planning your meals in advance will help you determine what ingredients you need to buy and help you stock your refrigerator and pantry with healthy foods. Additionally, prepping your meals and storing them in the fridge or freezer can help prevent you from opting for fast food or take out.
9. Control portions: To reduce portions, try using smaller plates, glasses, utensils, and serving spoons. It's also good to put your portion on a plate or bowl, rather than eating directly from large packages or storage containers.
10. Read the nutritional label: Knowing exactly what you eat and drink is important when you are watching your weight. Reading labels arms you with information surrounding the calories, nutrient content and serving size of the food you’re eating.
11. Choose balanced breakfasts: Breakfast not only helps you control your weight and concentrate at school or work, but also helps you stay focused on your activities. Breakfast should include a balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. If you're on a tight schedule, consider making yourself a healthy smoothie instead of relying on fast food or skipping breakfast altogether.


Susan Bowerman