How can overweight and obesity be prevented?

Marco Di Buono
Nutrition & Dietetics

At its essence, obesity is an imbalance between energy consumed and energy expended. In simple terms, if we eat more calories than we need to carry out our daily tasks, we'll put on weight.

So on the surface, the answer is to either eat less or exercise more. Sounds simple enough, but just beneath the surface lies a complex web of social, psychological, demographic, economic and other factors - including medical factors - that all come into play.

Decades of research shows us that focusing on body weight alone doesn't really get us anywhere. But focusing on the factors that lay beneath the surface holds the most promise to helping everyone make the healthy choices required to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

Obesity is a complex medical problem that requires help from health professionals, support from family and friends, and a commitment to a lifetime of healthy choices.

So what does this mean if we are to prevent obesity? If we're going to find as many ways as possible to help people make healthy choices, we need solutions to come from governments, industry, healthcare and, of course, the individuals themselves.

The answer could easily lie in the kinds of agricultural subsidies that governments put in place, as it could in the kind of food we choose to snack on at work.

There is no easy solution to preventing obesity. But there are many ways that we can encourage people to change their behaviors and adopt healthy lifestyles that will prevent many of us from having to deal with the adverse consequences of overweight or obesity.


Staying at a healthy weight and preventing overweight and obesity can be achieved through living a healthy lifestyle. Because lifetime habits begin in childhood, it's important for parents and families to create habits that encourage healthy food choices and physical activity early in life. Follow a healthy eating plan. Make healthful food choices, keep your 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 size of portions in fast food and other restaurants. The portions served are often enough for two or three people. Children's portion sizes should be smaller than those for adults. Cutting back on portion size is a sure way to help keep energy IN and energy OUT in balance. Be active. Make personal and family time active. Find activities that everyone will enjoy. For example, go for a brisk walk, bike or rollerblade, or train together for a walk or run. Reduce screen time. Limit the use of TVs, computers, DVDs, and video games, because they crowd out 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 weight and other measurements. Monitor your weight, body mass index, and waist circumference on a regular basis. Also, keep track of your children's growth. This answer is based on source information from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.