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Resisting Our Dangerous Obesogenic Environment: The 5 Key Steps

It's official: the environment we live in today is "obesogenic," according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). In short, this means that the very culture we love and accept is encouraging us--tempting us, even--to gain weight. And unless we take active measures to prevent it, we are all going to tip the scales over the edge, and, yes, that includes those of us who are currently skinny.

The forces tempting us to gain weight are many, and, quite simply, are causing us to take in more calories and burn up fewer, which is a surefire way to pack on extra pounds. Says the AICR, "Food is abundant and relatively inexpensive, so we tend to eat a little more. Since we are always in a hurry, we tend to eat processed foods, which are often oversized and full of added fat and sugar. Modern conveniences make physical exertion unnecessary, and TV and computers keep us inactive for long periods of time."

Fast  Food

It's no wonder, then, that obesity is fast becoming a greater health threat in the United States than even smoking and alcohol abuse. Already, obesity and overweight account for 20 percent of U.S. female cancer deaths (14 percent for males), and overall lead to at least 300,000 deaths per year due to related health problems. Along with various types of cancer, weight gain is linked to:

  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Gallstones
  • Asthma
  • Cataracts
  • Infertility

Fortunately, there is a light at the end of this ever-widening tunnel: Taking preventive measures to not gain weight in the first place, and making some diet and lifestyle changes if you already have some weight to lose, can help. The AICR has released a brochure titled, Don't Let it Happen: Preventing Obesity in Adulthood, that helps people do just that.

Weight Scale

Adding 11 pounds to your current healthy weight, and keeping your weight within that range for life, is a great way to stay fit, says the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Here are the steps they suggest to keep your weight a healthy one.

1. Limit your weight gain during adulthood to less than 11 pounds. This means, if you're currently at a healthy weight, add 11 pounds to that number, and, no matter what happens, don't let yourself slide over it.

"Say that number aloud. Write it down on a piece of paper. Memorize it. You've drawn a line in the sand you can use it as a life-long guide," said AICR Nutrition Advisor Karen Collins.

2. Move toward a plant-based diet. Eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans helps you to eat fewer calories while still feeling satisfied. Plus, these foods give your body plenty of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber that fight cancer.


Adding more fruits and veggies to your diet helps you feel full without a lot of calories, and gives your body cancer-fighting nutrients.

3. Watch your portion size. Overeating will lead to weight gain, even if you're overeating healthy foods. When you take your next meal, try serving yourself a little less than you usually eat, and then stop eating when you're full--not when your plate is clean. Also, avoid the temptation to overeat by not ordering oversized meals or buying "king-size" snacks.

4. Keep physically active. Not only does exercise burn calories, but it also may reduce your urge to eat because it relieves stress. The AICR recommends one hour per day of moderate exercise, which could be digging in the garden, going for a walk, etc., and one hour per week of vigorous exercise (jogging, taking a dance class, playing sports, etc.).

Proper stretching is also recommended , and is also an excellent means to reduce stress and improve your body's visual tone and appearance.

5. Be aware of "high-risk" weight gain periods. Men and women are more prone to weight gain during certain periods in their lives. During these times, you may need to be especially careful about what you eat or sticking to your exercise routine to keep the weight off. For women, these periods are related to hormonal changes and occur after menstruation begins, after pregnancy and after menopause. For men, these periods are related to a less active lifestyle and occur after marriage, after taking a sedentary job and after no longer playing team sports.

Following these steps should be enough to help most people gradually return to, or maintain, a healthy weight. The key, according to the AICR, is to act as soon as you suspect weight gain is occurring, or, better yet, to incorporate these changes into your daily routine now, so they become an integral part of your lifestyle.

Recommended Reading

Stress Now Proven to Cause Weight Gain in Women: Five Key Stress-Reduction Tips

17 New Substances Added to the Most Dangerous Cancer-Causers List: The Six Keys to Help You Prevent Cancer

Alcohol Consumption--How Much is "Too Much" and "Too Little?"


Don't Let it Happen: Preventing Obesity in Adulthood

HealthOrbit May 6, 2005

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