Although some people eat too little, eating too much is also a major problem. Obesity is amedical condition in which so much excess bodyfat has accumulated in thebodythat it begins to havean adverseimpact on health. In addition to causing people to be stereotyped and treated less positively by others (Crandall, Merman, & Hebl, 2009), 1uncontrolled obesity leads to health problems including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and some types of cancer (Gustafson, Rothenberg, Blennow, Steen, & Skoog, 2003). 2 Obesity also reduces life expectancy (Haslam & James, 2005). 3
Obesity is determined by calculating the bodymass index(BMI), a measurement that compares one’s weight and height. People are defined as overweight when their BMI is greater than 25 kg/m2 and as obese when it is greater than 30 kg/m2. If you know your height and weight, you can go to http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi to calculate your BMI.
Obesity is a leading cause of death worldwide. Its prevalence is rapidly increasing, and it is one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century. Although obesity is caused in part by genetics, it is increased by overeating and a lack of physical activity (Nestle & Jacobson, 2000; James, 2008). 4
There are really only two approaches to controlling weight: eat less and exercise more. Dieting is difficult for anyone, but it is particularly difficult for people with slow basal metabolic rates, who must cope with severe hunger to lose weight. Although most weight loss can be maintained for about a year, very few people are able to maintain substantial weight loss through dieting alone for more than three years (Miller, 1999). 5 Substantial weight loss of more than 50 pounds is typically seen only when weight loss surgery has been performed (Douketis, Macie, Thabane, & Williamson, 2005). 6 Weight loss surgery reduces stomach volume or bowel length, leading to earlier satiation and reduced ability to absorb nutrients from food.
Although dieting alone does not produce a great deal of weight loss over time, its effects are substantially improved when it is accompanied by more physical activity. People who exercise regularly, and particularly those who combine exercise with dieting, are less likely to be obese (Borer, 2008). 7 Exercise not only improves our waistline but also makes us healthier overall. Exercise increases cardiovascular capacity, lowers blood pressure, and helps improve diabetes, joint flexibility, and muscle strength (American Heart Association, 1998). 8 Exercise also slows the cognitive impairments that are associated with aging (Kramer, Erickson, & Colcombe, 2006). 9
Because the costs of exercise are immediate but the benefits are long-term, it may be difficult for people who do not exercise to get started. It is important to make a regular schedule, to work exercise into one’s daily activities, and to view exercise not as a c ost but as an opportunity to improve oneself (Schomer & Drake, 2001). 10 Exercising is more fun when it is done in groups, so team exercise is recommended (Kirchhoff, Elliott, Schlichting, & Chin, 2008). 11
A recent report found that only about one-half of Americans perform the 30 minutes of exercise
5 times a week that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests as the minimum healthy amount (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007). 12 As for the other half of Americans, they most likely are listening to the guidelines, but they are unable to stick to the regimen. Almost half of the people who start an exercise regimen give it up by the 6-month mark (American Heart Association, 1998). 13 This is a problem, given that exercise has long-term benefits only if it is continued.