Obesity Prevention

Unfortunately in the past there has been no primary resource for the person with obesity.  There are thousands of websites on losing weight, general wellness, fitness, nutrition, etc.  We here at the AOA will bring all the best available and up to date information for you to make informed choices.  Just remember there are many different opportunities to prevent weight gain.  It doesn’t really matter how you got to this point.  All you need now are the best ways to feel better about your overall health and wellbeing.

Regular exercise—just 150 to 300 minutes a week—can prevent weight gain.  Every town in America has bike paths, walking trails, fitness centers, recreation department programs, etc.  It is your job to find all these opportunities and see what best fits your lifestyle and available time.  Exercise should be moderately intense, like swimming or speed walking.

How many diets have you been on?  How many have failed?  There is no magic formula but eating right is another important component to preventing weight gain. Low-calorie and nutritious foods, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, eaten in sensible portions, are essential for weight control. Alcohol and foods high in saturated fat and sugar should be avoided or limited.

Emotional eating can be a problem for some people. Boredom, stress, and depression are sometimes triggers for eating. Identifying these behaviors can help plan ways to overcome these bad habits.

Create an action plan of measurable goals.  A good plan is 1-2 pounds a week of weight loss.  Our recommendation is to not try for more than that.  Of course there are wild claims of losing more weight in a shorter period of time but that will probably in the long run require more of an effort and a desire to really change your foods which you may not like to do.  Many other times you will read about a 4 week fast or 6 week and done plan.  That might seem like the way to go but in the end if the eye is not on the long term prize it will be just another lost diet plan on the notch.  Keep a scale accessible in your home to check your weight regularly.

The Initial Overview

Doctors test a few things before diagnosing obesity. A patient’s health history may reveal eating and exercise habits, prior weight losses, medications, conditions, and psychological factors that can affect weight. Family history may also be important.

During a physical exam, a doctor will record weight, height, vital signs, and  usually perform an abdominal exam. With weight and height measurements, your doctors will calculate your BMI, something that should be done at least annually.

Other physical measurements such as waist circumference will indicate that amount of abdominal fat, something that can lead to heart disease and diabetes.  Your doctor should know about other health problems, and may recommend further testing, such as an electrocardiogram.  Blood tests may also be ordered and can test for cholesterol levels, liver function, thyroid problems, and more.

Once you and your doctor have an outlook on your overall health, it will help establish a weight loss plan that is healthy and safe.

Plan of Action

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is the goal of obesity treatment, and with weight loss, associated risks and secondary conditions also improve.  Successful weight loss programs often include several professionals, including a dietitian and a counselor who can help with establishing new eating habits.  Weight loss programs should combine a change in eating habits with an increase in exercise.

Losing even a small amount of weight—5%-10% of total body weight—has medical benefits. For those suffering from obesity, the benefits of weight loss increase as the loss itself increases.

Diet changes

The dietary changes needed for successful weight loss include reducing the total number of calories consumed and ensuring that the food that is consumed is nutritious and low in fat, such has vegetables and lean protein. It is healthy to lose weight at a slow and consistent rate, and working toward permanent habits will ensure long-term success. A successful weight loss scenario will typically take about six months of losing weight and a year of more of maintenance for permanent success.

To lose weight, most women should consume 1200-1500 calories per day, and men 1500-1800. Height, activity level, and starting weight are factors your doctor may consider when recommending a daily caloric intake. Learning to keep a diary of the foods and beverages you consume and how many calories are in each is important to keep track of your total caloric intake per day.

The quality, not just the quantity, of the calories consumed is important for weight loss to succeed. Sugary and fatty foods contain more calories per portion, and they don’t tend to satisfy hunger. A successful weight loss diet will include fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, and larger portions of food with fewer calories. Plant-based foods like whole grain carbohydrates and lean protein, like beans and lentils are healthy choices. Fish twice a week is a healthy choice for protein as well.

Added or processed sugar (see our articles on the dangers of added sugar) and salt should be avoided, and cooking oil should be olive or canola. There is no place in any diet for sugary soda, and fruit juices also contain a lot of sugar and should be avoided. In some cases, doctors may recommend eliminating or reducing other foods such as those high in carbohydrates and fat.

There are many other replacements foods or plans—such as weight loss shakes – that may be an option, but to be successful, they have to be combined with healthy eating and exercise, like any other weight loss plan. Meal replacement plans may not encourage the permanent changes in lifestyle required for healthy, sustained weight loss.  

Regular Exercise

At first everyone needs motivation to get up and exercise.  Every successful weight loss plan has an exercise component. Even increasing daily walking outdoors or even indoors helps maintain weight loss for long term success.

We all know how life changes everything.  We have the job or jobs, the kids, parents that are getting older and need help, plans with friends, errands and anything else can just change our day completely.  But, at some point there comes that breaking point of will I or won’t I.  Have you ever looked at the wide variety of free or low cost programming offered by local recreation departments?  In our small city the recreation department comes out with a 50 page booklet every quarter and it’s packed with exercise options.  Most of these activities are just the right amount of time to start – usually lasting from 4-8 weeks.  After that you can stick with it or try something new.  In order to lose a modest amount of weight, or to maintain a weight loss, 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise, like fast walking, is recommended.  Increasing physical activity to 300 or more weekly minutes will increase your weight loss.  As you exercise, you stamina and fitness will improve, and you may need to increase your exercise to burn the same number of calories.

In addition to moderately intense exercise that elevates your heart rate, small changes in your daily routine can increase movement and burn calories. You could get out of your seat at work and do more walking, or you could take the stairs at work instead of the elevator, or parking a little farther away from your office to add movement to your day. Fitness trackers can track steps to help you set goals.

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