Genetic factors do play a role in obesity but you can generally prevent obesity with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Recommendations for a healthy diet change periodically as research evolves—and fads come and go. Current dietary recommendations from the Department of Agriculture can be found at ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Consult your doctor or a dietitian about an appropriate number of calories for you to eat each day. Ask for ideas that will help you maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if necessary.
If you have special dietary needs because of a medical condition, consult with your doctor. Ask for a referral to a registered dietitian for more personalized help.
Exercise burns calories, takes your mind off eating, and helps prevent a number of medical conditions. It also increases your metabolic rate long after you are done exercising, which helps you to burn more calories throughout the day, even when you are at rest.
Regardless of your weight and health status, there is an exercise program that will work for you. Talk to your doctor or a qualified exercise professional about working physical activity into your daily life. This may include walking more on your errands, going to the gym, or taking up activities such as biking, swimming, golf, or tennis. You do not have to be an athlete to stay in shape. If you are not used to exercise, aim for a moderate intensity of physical activity, but do it regularly.
Consider counseling or behavior therapy if you feel that stress or emotions are playing a role in your eating habits. Obesity is often associated with unhelpful thought patterns related to your social image and frustration with attempts to lose weight. Often these thoughts can be a barrier to success. Consider counseling if you think such attitudes stand in your way.
Behavior therapy may help you understand:
Sleep is very important for good health, especially in children. Studies have found that shorter sleep duration in children has been associated with increased risk for obesity. Ten-year-olds should be getting at least nine hours of sleep every night, and five-year-olds should be getting at least 11 hours of sleep. On weekends and holidays, many children and teens want to sleep late to make up for their lack of sleep during the school week. Studies have found that this extra sleep may reduce your child's risk of being overweight or obese.
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Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services.; 2005.
Explore overweight and obesity diagnosed. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe. Updated July 13, 2012. Accessed February 27, 2014.
Obesity in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 16, 2012. Accessed August 28, 2012.
Obesity in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 25, 2012. Accessed August 28, 2012.
Public Health Service. Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Washington, DC: President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports; 1999.
12/14/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Wing YK, Li SX, Li AM, Zhang J, Kong AP. The effect of weekend and holiday sleep compensation on childhood overweight and obesity. Pediatrics. 2009;124(5):e994-e1000.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Kim A. Carmichael, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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