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Surefire Ways to Stop Obesity, Says Science

Follow these scientifically proven ways to stop yourself from becoming obese, according to top experts.

Obesity is a national health crisis. Not only are more Americans obese than ever before—the latest figures put the number at more than 40%—the numbers are expected to rise significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That's a problem because obesity is associated with an increased risk of many serious health problems, including heart disease, cancer and dementia, and a shorter lifespan. These are the scientifically proven ways to stop yourself from becoming obese, according to top experts. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Is Obesity?

Overweight woman discussing test results with doctor in hospital.

The Mayo Clinic defines obesity as "a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat." This can lead to a wide spectrum of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

According to the World Health Organization, overweight and obesity are defined as "abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health." A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese. 


Be Aware of Your Waist Size

measuring waist

"The best measure of obesity is changing waist size," says JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "People will notice if their clothes are fitting differently, if their waist seems to be larger. We often recommend that people maybe once every month or so, take a tape measure around their waist and monitor circumference because that is such a good measure of whether they're gaining weight."


Cut Down on Processed Foods and Sugary Drinks

processed foods

Ultra-processed food—defined as "foods with decreased fiber and increased fat, simple sugar, salt, and increased calories," wrote Caroline M. Apovian, MD, FACP, FACNC, in the American Journal of Managed Care—and drinks with added sugar are major contributors to obesity. 

Ultra-processed food contributes to obesity because it's not satisfying. Simple carbs like chips and cookies increase blood sugar, which can cause insulin to spike and crash, leading to frequent feelings of hunger. That can encourage overeating—and weight gain.

According to the CDC, sugar-sweetened drinks include regular soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, and coffee and tea beverages with added sugars.  "One soda a day, depending on the size (8 oz to 20 oz), could provide 270 to 690 calories a day," wrote Apovian. "Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with an increase in the risk of obesity; the risk increases 1.6 times for each additional serving of sugar-sweetened drink consumed daily."

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Don't Underestimate Calories

Woman reading ingredients and nutrition information on juice bottle's label.

Experts say people underestimate the true number of calories they consume each day, often by the hundreds. In fact, a study published in BMJ found that one-quarter of people underestimated their daily intake by 500 calories or more. It sounds like a lot—and it is; 500 calories is 25% of the total recommended daily calories for most people—and it's all too easy to pack on the pounds if you're consuming too many calories from sources you're not considering, like sugary drinks.


Get Regular Exercise

2 stairs walking workout

The UK's National Health Service says it plain: "Obesity is generally caused by eating too much and moving too little." Experts say the easiest thing you can do to prevent obesity is to exercise regularly. Incorporating resistance training (via free weights or bands, weight machines or your own body weight) is key—it builds lean muscle, which helps your metabolism burn more calories at rest. Experts advise that all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking, biking or gardening) each week. To lose weight, you may need more.


Get Enough Quality Sleep

woman sleeping on bed in bedroom

Experts say not getting enough sleep alters the production of leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that regulate appetite. That can increase feelings of hunger. Not sleeping enough can also increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which tells the body to hold on to fat. How much sleep is enough? Seven to nine hours a night. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael