A Weighty Issue

Breaking the obesity cycle.

It’s a well-known fact that obesity is a growing and menacing epidemic in the United States. However, if society recognizes the problem and is concerned about its prevalence, why have obesity rates doubled in adults and tripled in children in recent decades?

In late 2010, HealthyWomen, the nation’s leading independent health information source for women, released the findings of its annual WomenTALK survey. The survey sought to assess a woman’s understanding of the impact of obesity— specifically, how a woman’s influence affects her family members and friends. The national survey showed there’s much to be done in helping women understand their role in breaking the cycle of obesity. Though the statistics are disconcerting, HealthyWomen believes it provides a call to action in line with the organization’s mission to educate and empower women about their health.

According to HealthyWomen, about 142 million Americans— up to 66.3 percent of the nation— are either overweight or obese. The statistics are even worse when it comes to people who aren’t able to keep excess weight off. Controlling the weight loss-weight gain roller coaster lies in managing one’s weight on a daily basis.

Bestselling author and chief medical correspondent for Discovery Health TV, Pamela Peeke, M.D., MPH, FACP, is a medical advisor to HealthyWomen. She says the survey findings bring new light to prior conceptions about obesity and emphasize the importance of personal responsibility. “Battling obesity is a matter of making smart decisions,” she says.

A practicing internist and author of Body for Life for Women (Rodale Books), Dr. Peeke advocates that women make simple changes, such as adding whole grains, fruits and vegetables to any diet, along with maintaining moderate weekly activity, to achieve a healthier lifestyle. “It’s a basic formula of eating less, making better choices and moving more,” she says. Peeke’s top tips for preventing or reversing obesity include avoiding refined sugars and processed foods, eating something every three to four hours to keep hunger pangs at bay and getting a solid seven to eight hours of sleep.

Your diet is ingrained in your lifestyle. To change your weight, whether you want to lose pounds and keep them off or prevent the expanding-waistline syndrome, it’s imperative to adhere to a healthy lifestyle.

Nutritional Advice to Nosh On

  • Swap a full-sized plate for a smaller salad plate.
  • Start every meal with a large glass of water to help you feel fuller faster.
  • Keep sugar-free breath mints on hand to prevent you from grazing post-meal.
  • Split a lunchtime wrap with your co-worker or cubicle companion. You’ll save both calories and cash without wasting a bite.
  • If you’re traveling, plan ahead by packing healthy snacks, such as trail mix, nuts and fruits with tough skins like oranges.

Fitness Pointers to Fight Fat

  • Use a pedometer, a step-counting gadget that clips onto your waistband, to count your steps. Work toward a goal of 10,000 steps a day.
  • If you're crunched for time, flex abdominal muscles and rock your hips while waiting at a red light, watching television or working at the computer.
  • For a cheap and easy workout, use the home fitness method: Walk up and down stairs, use canned foods as handheld weights, vacuum for some cardio and stretch while watching TV.

Maintaining Mind Over Matter

  • Constantly recite the mantra, “A moment on the lips, but a lifetime on the hips.”
  • Get rid of the all or nothing mentality that’s been tripping you up for years. Eliminating your favorite foods is not the answer. Portion control is.

Access additional pointers for making nutritionally smart choices at www.healthywomen.org/womentalk.