Following a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent overweight and obesity. Many lifestyle habits begin during childhood. Thus, parents and families should encourage their children to make healthy choices, such as following a healthy diet and being physically active. Make following a healthy lifestyle a family goal. For example:
Follow a healthy eating plan. Make healthy food choices, keep your calorie needs and your family’s calorie needs in mind, and focus on the balance of energy IN and energy OUT.
Focus on portion size. Watch the portion sizes at home, in fast foods and other restaurants. The portions served often are enough for two or three people. Children’s portion sizes should be smaller than those for adults. Cutting back on portion size will help you balance energy IN and energy OUT.
Be active. Make personal and family time active. Find activities that everyone will enjoy. For example, go for a brisk walk, bike or train together for a walk or run.
Reduce screen time. Limit the use of TVs, computers, DVDs, and videogames because they limit time for physical activity. Health experts recommend 2 hours or less a day of screen time that’s not work- or homework-related.
Keep track of your weight, body mass index, and waist circumference. Also, keep track of your children’s growth.
Successful weight-loss treatments include setting goals and making lifestyle changes, such as eating fewer calories and being physically active. Medicines and weight-loss surgery also are options for some people if lifestyle changes aren’t enough.
1. Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes can help you and your family achieve long-term weight-loss success. Example of lifestyle changes include:
Focusing on balancing energy IN (calories from food and drinks) with energy OUT (physical activity)
Following a healthy eating plan
Learning how to adopt healthy lifestyle habits
Over time, these changes will become part of your everyday life.
2. Healthy eating plan: A healthy eating plan gives your body the nutrients it needs every day. It has enough calories for good health, but not so many that you gain weight. A healthy eating plan is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar. Following a healthy eating plan will lower your risk for heart disease and other conditions. Healthy foods include:
Fat-free and low-fat dairy products, such as low-fat yogurt, cheese, and milk.
Protein foods, such as lean meat, fish, poultry without skin, beans, and peas.
Whole-grain foods, such as cereals.
Fruits, which can be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried.
Vegetables, which can be fresh, canned (without salt), frozen, or dried.
Olive oils, and soft margarine made from these oils, are heart healthy. However, you should use them in small amounts because they’re high in calories. Foods that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol such as butter, hard margarine, egg yolks, liver, shrimps, cream, whole milk, cheeses, ice cream, poultry with skin, palm oils, ground beef etc. raise blood cholesterol levels and also might be high in calories. Fats and cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease, so they should be limited. Limiting foods and drinks with added sugars, like high-fructose corn syrup, is important. Added sugars will give you extra calories without nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Added sugars are found in many desserts, canned fruit packed in syrup, fruit drinks, and non-diet drinks. Check the list of ingredients on food packages for added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup. Drinks that contain alcohol also will add calories, so it’s a good idea to limit your alcohol intake.
3. Physical activity: Being physically active and eating fewer calories will help you lose weight and keep weight off over time. Physical activity also will benefit you in other ways. It will:
Lower your risk for heart disease, heart attack, diabetes, and cancers (such as breast, uterine, and colon cancers)
Strengthen your heart and help your lungs work better
Strengthen your muscles and keep your joints in good condition
Slow bone loss
Give you more energy
Help you relax and better cope with stress
Allow you to fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly
Give you an enjoyable way to share time with friends and family
The four main types of physical activity are aerobic, muscle-strengthening, bone strengthening, and stretching. You can do physical activity with light, moderate, or vigorous intensity. The level of intensity depends on how hard you have to work to do the activity. People vary in the amount of physical activity they need to control their weight. Many people can maintain their weight by doing 150 to 300 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours) of moderate-intensity activity per week, such as brisk walking. People who want to lose a large amount of weight (more than 5 percent of their body weight) may need to do more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. This also may be true for people who want to keep off weight that they’ve lost. You don’t have to do the activity all at once. You can break it up into short periods of at least 10 minutes each. If you have a heart problem or chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about what types of physical activity are safe for you. You also should talk with your doctor about safe physical activities if you have symptoms such as chest pain or dizziness. Children should get at least 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. Most physical activity should be moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Activity should vary and be a good fit for the child’s age and physical development. Many people lead inactive lives and might not be motivated to do more physical activity. When starting a physical activity program, some people may need help and supervision to avoid injury. If you’re obese, or if you haven’t been active in the past, start physical activity slowly and build up the intensity a little at a time. When starting out, one way to be active is to do more everyday activities, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and doing household chores and yard work. The next step is to start walking, biking, or swimming at a slow pace, and then build up the amount of time you exercise or the intensity level of the activity. To lose weight and gain better health, it’s important to get moderate-intensity physical activity. Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit into your daily life.
Weight-loss medicines: If you’re not successful at losing one pound a week after 6 months of using lifestyle changes, medicines may help. You should only use medicines as part of a programme that includes diet, physical activity, and behavioral changes. Weight-loss medicines might be suitable for adults who are obese (a BMI of 30 or greater). People who have BMIs of 27 or greater, and who are at risk for heart disease and other health conditions, also may benefit from weight-loss medicines. Weight-loss surgery might be an option for people who have extreme obesity (BMI of 40 or more) when other treatments have failed.
The author is the health secretary of the University of The Gambia Medical Students Association (Unigamsa)]]>