Learn how to prevent adult and childhood obesity

The obesity is defined by excess fat in the body , causing the patient to become more susceptible to disease.

More than 90 health problems have been described that can be caused or aggravated by obesity. Among them are type 2 diabetes , cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attack and stroke), some types of cancer , sleep apnea , infertility and depression .

To find out if an adult is obese or not, it is customary to calculate the Body Mass Index, or BMI . BMI is a relationship in which the individual’s weight (Kg) is divided by height (m) squared, and if the result is equal to or greater than 30, the patient can be considered obese.

For children it is recommended to use the child obesity calculator .

Obesity can happen for several reasons, including thyroid problems, for example. However, only about 5% of cases have an identified cause, 2% of which are associated with rare genetic syndromes, and the remainder with endocrine or secondary causes.

Obesity, in general, results from the interaction between genetic, behavioral and environmental factors. When this relationship results in a higher caloric consumption than the daily energy expenditure, weight gain prevails.

From an administrative point of view, it makes sense to save more than to spend, but when it comes to weight and health, the game changes. Health is balance.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, more than half of the adult Brazilian population is overweight, and approximately 18.9% suffer from obesity. This represents an approximate number of 39 million people. When looking at the world scene, the situation is not much different.

Among children, the situation is also alarming, as one in three is overweight. For this reason, there is no lack of suggestions as to individual and collective measures to live a life without obesity and to reduce the incidence of this condition in the population.

Find out how to prevent yourself from one of the biggest causes of death in the world, in the following text!


What to do to prevent obesity?

Preventing obesity is not like going on a weight-loss diet. Much more than that, it is necessary to adopt life changes, which involve changing the diet, exercising and reducing stress levels .

As society is structured, this can be a difficult task, given that markets and supermarkets are filled with high-calorie products at low prices. For this reason, willpower is your main ally.

Check now the main life changes to be adopted to prevent obesity:

Do family planning

Perhaps this is the most effective measure for the prevention of obesity, and the only one with the possibility of “cutting the disease from the root”.

Ideally, when planning to have children, future parents take care of their health, trying to reach an appropriate weight through the practice of healthy habits even before pregnancy occurs.

We know that the weight of the parents (that’s right, both the father and the mother) influences the risk that their child will have to develop obesity and other chronic diseases throughout life. The mother’s weight gain during pregnancy should also be controlled.

Avoid processed and ultra-processed foods

Processed and ultra-processed foods, as the name implies, are those that have undergone several industrialization processes, in general with the objective of manipulating the flavor and texture of food, as well as its durability (resisting long periods on the shelves), until reaching the dish.

Examples of processed foods are those that have received the addition of salt, sugar, oil or vinegar to increase the preservation time, while still maintaining the characteristics of the food in natura . This list includes canned foods, canned vegetables, fish, cereals, legumes, syrup fruits, salted meats and cheese. This is also where the main foods sold in bakeries, such as breads, cakes, pies, etc., enter.

Processed products are less harmful to health than ultra-processed ones, however, they should also be consumed with caution, as large amounts of salt, sugar and preservatives can have harmful health effects.

On the other hand, we have ultra-processed foods, which are those that have undergone many modifications, and have very high amounts of salt, sugar and fats, in addition to various chemical substances, such as flavor enhancers, dyes and texturizers.

In addition to having a harmful nutritional profile for health, they contribute a lot to weight gain and the development of obesity. They are hyper-palatable, which means that they greatly enhance the acceptance of the taste of the majority of the population.

The big problem is that they damage the processes that signal appetite and satiety, causing the consumer to eat large amounts of sugar, salt and fat without realizing it.

Examples of ultra-processed foods are sausages, snacks, biscuits or biscuits, instant prepared foods (lasagna, pasta), industrialized gelatines, soft drinks, box or powdered juices, ice cream and several other goodies.

For those who want to prevent obesity, ultra-processed foods are practically prohibited, and should be avoided as much as possible. This rule applies to both adults and children.

Knowing how these foods can interfere with our metabolism, it is easier to say no to everyday temptations. See below the main characteristics of these products, which even have very little food:

  • Hypersabor: with the “help” of sugars, fats, salt and various additives, ultra-processed foods are formulated so that they are extremely tasty, if not to induce habit or even to create dependency;
  • Most are formulated to be consumed anywhere and without the need for plates or cutlery, whether at home or even walking on the street. This promotes consumption without attention, and impairs the body’s ability to “record” properly the ingested calories;
  • It is common for many ultra-processed foods to be marketed in giant packaging at affordable prices, which increases the risk of involuntary calorie consumption.
  • Sweetened drinks such as sodas, soft drinks and many other products ready to drink, lead to an increase in the consumption of empty calories (low nutritional value);
  • In order to be long-lasting and not to become rancid early, ultra-processed foods are often made with fats that resist oxidation, but that tend to clog the arteries that carry blood within our body;
  • Ultra-processed foods tend to be very low in fiber, which are essential for the prevention of heart disease, diabetes and various types of cancer;
  • In addition to deceiving the satiety system, they can cause stomach and intestinal disorders;
  • They favor the development of food allergies and intolerances;
  • They can cause malnutrition, as well as anemia, since they favor a low intake of nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, since they are often consumed in place of fruits, milk and water;
  • Reformulated versions of these products, called light or diet, are often seen as healthy products, but don’t be fooled. For example, when the fat content of the product is reduced, that of sugar increases, or vice versa. The addition of synthetic fibers or micronutrients to these products does not guarantee the same benefits as those naturally present in food;
  • The unbalanced nutritional composition seen in ultra-processed foods favors heart disease, diabetes and various types of cancer. Although each additive used in these products has to be tested and approved by health authorities, the long-term effects on health and the cumulative effect of exposure to various additives are not always well known.

As a consequence, when we consume ultra-processed foods, we tend, without realizing it, to ingest more calories than we need. Calories ingested and not spent inevitably end up stored in our body in the form of fat. The result is obesity.

Eat healthy food

If the processed and ultra-processed are the villains, fresh foods, minimally processed and culinary ingredients are your allies.

The idea is to eat foods that have not undergone industrial changes or that have only been minimally altered after leaving nature. In other words, fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats (sausages and condiments, such as ham, do not make the list) and milk.

In addition, foods used as seasoning or for preparation, such as salt, sugar and oil, are released, whenever used with caution.

In other words, the rule is simple: if it seems that it came from nature for the dish, then it is released, as long as in moderation.

Practice physical exercises

Practicing physical exercise is essential not only to prevent obesity but to live a healthier life. By exercising you are increasing your caloric expenditure, which means that the energy you have consumed in the form of food is spent, instead of being stored in the body in the form of fat.

Physical exercise also helps to keep your metabolism going faster, which is essential for obesity not to settle. In addition, it helps in the prevention and control of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, fat in the liver, osteoporosis , and even some types of cancer. Short-term effects can be seen in improving quality of life and general well-being.

Any body movement that results in energy expenditure is worth, whether it be programmed exercises or day-to-day activities such as climbing stairs, domestic or leisure activities.

Read more:  What is Pilates, what is it for, benefits, exercise, lose weight?

Stop eating in front of the television

Eating in front of the television takes the attention away from the food. That way you end up eating more, because you fail to notice the feeling of satiety, also by eating more quickly and incorrectly, impairing the chewing process.

Therefore, for those who want to take care of their health, eating on the couch is prohibited!

Eat only when you are hungry

Studies have found that thinner people eat only when they are hungry, not when they feel like it.

Unfortunately, consumption – especially of ultra-processed foods – interferes with the brain’s reward system, making the act of eating junk food very pleasurable.

So be strong-willed and learn to say no when you are in front of that chocolate. Even more effective than that is to avoid stocking goodies in your home, because what is not seen, in general is not remembered.

Stop smoking

Often, the act of quitting smoking is related to weight gain, which usually hovers around 4.5 kg, but can reach 13 kg, as a result of increased appetite and lower energy expenditure.

Still, quitting smoking has more health benefits than not quitting. If you want to avoid the risk of gaining weight, talk to your doctor and / or nutritionist and do a close monitoring, even trying to follow a diet.

Read more:  How and why to quit smoking?

Have a good night’s sleep

Lack of sleep alters our biological rhythm and interferes with the balance of various hormones such as leptin, ghrelin, cortisol and GH. These hormonal changes can increase your appetite and desire to eat more caloric foods.

As if that were not enough, energy expenditure during the day is reduced, even by the fatigue of the day after a poor night’s sleep. This ends up leading to a reduction in physical activity, contributing to the increased risk of obesity.

Read more:  How to sleep fast? Techniques and tips for good sleep

Do not stock treats

It is very important not to have ultra-processed foods at your disposal at home, because if so, when that urge to eat at dawn comes, you will have a chocolate or a soft drink to kill the urge.

At home, keep only healthy foods, just so you don’t fall into temptation. That way, you start to re-educate yourself and, over time, you start to prefer healthy foods to unhealthy ones.

Use technology to your advantage

There are several apps that help you control your caloric intake and the quality of the calories you eat and your weight. Many of them even offer the number of steps you have taken each day, an important number to know if you are as physically active as you need to be healthy.

Examples of applications like this are:

  • Monitor your weight;
  • Samsung Health;
  • Nutra Bem;
  • Tecnonutri;
  • Diet and Health;
  • MyFitnessPal;
  • FatSecret;
  • iOS Health.

Go to the doctor at least once a year

Going to the doctor regularly is very important both to prevent obesity and to check if there are no health problems, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or even the presence of cancer.

Problems in the thyroid gland, for example, can be factors that increase the chances of obesity. The specialist doctor best suited to check this problem is the endocrinologist.

By going to the doctor and having regular checkups, you can identify issues like these before they become a major problem.


Sometimes people confuse the lack of water in the body with hunger and end up eating too much, which can increase the chances of obesity.

Therefore, drink the recommended daily amount of water, which is about 8 to 10 glasses a day.

How to prevent childhood obesity?

Obesity during childhood and adolescence is also a major challenge. This is because it may be associated with unfavorable metabolic changes, such as increased blood cholesterol and glucose levels, increased blood pressure, insulin resistance, and a tendency to form atherosclerotic plaques.

Read more: Atherosclerosis: what it is, symptoms, treatment and consequences

Being obese as a child results in a high probability of being obese as an adult.

The time that a person remains overweight during his life plays an important role, therefore, the sooner the problem appears, the greater the chances of health complications, and the progressive increase in overweight and obesity rates in this age group represents a sign danger to future generations.

This issue is so big that it is even speculated that children who were born in the contemporary food environment, flooded with foods harmful to health, such as stuffed crackers and snacks, will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Check out the main ways of prevention:

Be a good example

First of all, you need to be a good example. It is always necessary to remember that children are experiencing the world for the first time and see their parents as an example to be followed. So, if you don’t want to see your child eating junk food, don’t eat junk food.

Studies show that children have a 75% less chance of becoming obese in childhood or adolescence when mothers, during this period, maintain a set of five habits: having a healthy diet, keeping their weight under control, exercising regularly, if you consume alcohol do so in moderation, and do not smoke.

Encourage sports

In a world with excessive stimuli (television, cell phone, computer), it is increasingly difficult for children to play outside, to run, to hang themselves, to fall to the floor.

Today it is much more common for children to be in front of the video game, which means they are not exercising.

An alternative for your child to start exercising is to encourage sport. Enrolling him in a swimming class or soccer school is a good alternative for your child to exercise at least a few times a week.

Likewise, you need to be a good example and exercise as well. A good tip is to do activities with your children, such as hiking and sports. That way, both will benefit.

Know how to say no

It is quite difficult to say no at the supermarket, where ultra-processed foods are at children’s eye level and come packed with the most charismatic characters in the children’s universe. But it is necessary to establish limits.

This does not mean that you should never give your child a cookie, but that you should educate your child from an early age to deal with the frustration of not always being able to eat your favorite character’s chocolate so often.

Do not use food as a reward

It may seem to make sense to give a chocolate or cookie as a reward for a child for good behavior or even for eating all the broccoli on the plate. However, this idea is not so good in practice.

That’s because children will relate that high-calorie food to something good, and that relationship can encourage them to eat poorly, which increases the chances of obesity.

Take your child to the doctor

Like adults, children can suffer from certain problems that facilitate the onset of obesity. Therefore, taking the child to the pediatrician regularly is an effective way to prevent obesity.

Decrease the child’s time in front of the television and computer

Studies show a direct relationship between the time spent watching television and obesity rates, that is, the longer a child watches television, the more likely he is to gain weight.

Therefore, it is important to establish discipline and limit the number of hours in front of screens, such as cell phones, tablets, television and computers, also because the child will be exposed to various advertisements for foods that are harmful to health, which make him feel like eating. them.

Encourage nutrition education

Perhaps one of the most important practices to prevent childhood obesity is nutrition education. Talk to your child about what he eats, so that he is aware of his own food, about what this or that food does inside the body and what its consequences are.

There are those who argue that nutrition education should be part of the curriculum, because, unlike algebra, for example, eating is something we do every day, at least 3 times, which can make nutrition education a very useful practice.