Fight rising obesity rates with these tips from Monument Health
RAPID CITY, S.D.– According to a national survey, obesity rates across the country have moved in an upward trend and increased 10 percent in the last four years. For South Dakotans, the last five years have brought a 30 percent increase in obesity rates, bringing the number of residents medical professionals consider obese to almost 40 percent. Monument Health Physician Stephen Neabore, M.D. explains some ways to lead healthier lifestyles and fight back against obesity.
How is obesity defined?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), obesity is screened for based on a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) found to be above a particular number. BMI is measured based on a person’s height and weight and can be calculated here.
According to Dr. Neabore, the first part of fighting obesity is understanding that there is not just one singular cause of it. “There is a balance almost between what you’re eating, your activity level, the amount of calories you’re burning,” he explained. “What you do for a living may play a role. Some of us are seated at desks throughout most of the day. Some people are more active. Mental health also factors into it. Sleep factors into it. There are a lot of things that go into reflecting the body weight.”
How can I start to make a lifestyle change?
One of the best things to do is to start simple, Dr. Neabore says. Find what kinds of healthy options you prefer, such as fruits and vegetables and begin there. “Not everybody has the same preferences. If you like an apple, great, eat an apple. If you prefer strawberries, grab some strawberries next time you’re at the grocery store. Just kind of look around that area and see what’s of interest to you. Could be something that you’ve been eating for years. Or maybe it’s something that you’re not really used to. So give it a try,” he said. “The important thing is we want to keep it in its natural form. So not freeze-dried fruit, not frozen fruit or dehydrated fruit. You want to actually eat fresh fruit.”
For vegetables, however, buying frozen products is okay. He adds that making sure they are thawed is important to do, but also recommends fresh vegetables over frozen. He also suggests looking over current recipes made at home and thinking about adding or substituting healthier ingredients to meals as another part of the process of developing a healthier lifestyle.
What about exercise?
For exercise, Dr. Neabore says 150 minutes a week or about 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, as originally recommended by the American Heart Association. “It doesn’t have to be all-out, breathing so hard. We are not expecting people to go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds. Same if you want to build up your muscles and lift weights. That does not happen after going to the gym once. We need to continually work on that,” he said. However, when figuring out what works best for you, do not be afraid to look into something new or re-visiting a sport or activity you enjoyed before. Something that you will be able to stick with, he suggests.
If doing something for the first time in a while, ease into it and listen to your body. If you begin to feel tired or experience more serious symptoms after exercising such as chest pains, stop immediately to give yourself a break. If the symptoms continue, contact a medical professional right away.
I have a job that involves sitting at a desk for much of the day. How can I keep myself active during the day?
Whether you work at a desk or maybe a job that also limits your activity during the day, Dr. Neabore recommends trying to get your daily exercise in the early morning. And for people sitting at a desk, giving yourself intervals throughout the day to get up can help. “Try to get up every maybe 30 to 60 minutes– you might have to set a timer. Drinking water can be helpful. That forces you to get up to have to use the restroom,” he said. “Otherwise, just maybe going to talk to somebody in person rather than making a phone call. That could be helpful as well.”
What about skipping a meal?
While there is evidence that fasting can be beneficial, he adds that the best thing to do is to not skip any meals. “So if you have a choice to eat food, that’s actually good for you versus just not eating altogether, I would always go with a healthy meal,” Dr. Neabore said. “For most people, most of the time, eating consistently healthy meals throughout the day is just going to be fantastic.”