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5 Reasons You May Be Obese, Say Experts

Know how you can avoid or reverse it.

The statistics behind obesity may seem shocking: Today, 40% of Americans are obese, compared to only about 15% in the 1970s. But weight gain to the point of being unhealthy doesn't have to be a surprise—it's a process, and it's one you can avoid or reverse if you know the right pitfalls to steer clear of. Here are five reasons why you may be obese, according to experts. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


You've Let the Pounds Creep On

weight loss

"One of the best ways to stop obesity is to prevent slow, creeping weight gain that can occur over an extended period," says Kirsten Davidson, Ph.D., professor and associate dean for research at Boston College. "We are all vulnerable to this if we are not vigilant. In today's environment, it is easy to consume 100 to 200 calories beyond what your body needs on a daily basis—this could be two cookies, for example—but over an extended period, this leads to weight gain." How to avoid it: Weigh yourself regularly, and if you see the numbers on the scale rising, know it's time to make some healthy lifestyle changes.

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You're Counting Calories

Man counting calories on table

Many experts—including 16 who published a research letter in The Journal of Clinical Nutrition this month—say that the time-worn focus on "calories in, calories out" is misdirected when it comes to weight loss. The focus should be on the quality of your diet, they say. Read on to find out why. 

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You're Eating Too Many Processed Foods

fast food

Processed foods are often low in nutrients and high in calories, simple carbs and added sugar—three things that spike and crash insulin, leaving you hungry for more and encouraging your body to hang on to fat. Avoid those and focus your diet on nutritious foods that will fill you up, like the basics of the Mediterranean Diet: Fruits and non-starchy vegetables, lean protein like salmon, and good fats like olive oil. Replace sugar-sweetened drinks with seltzer or spa water, and swap snacks like cookies and chips for healthy options like nuts, fruit, vegetables and yogurt.

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You're Starving Yourself

Tired African-American man having headache after hard day, feeling exhausted

The reason starvation diets don't work? The body knows when it's not being fed and downshifts metabolism to compensate. "There is evidence that metabolism changes as part of an evolutionary adaptation to starvation and the body sensing the reduction in calories," says JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of preventive medicine at Brigham & Women's Hospital. "You don't want the body to feel deprived, because it is going to make changes in metabolism that will sabotage your efforts to control your weight."

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You're Sitting Too Much and Moving Too Little

Obese woman laying on sofa with smartphone eating chips

Regular exercise is crucial for overall health, including a healthy weight. (The CDC says 80% of Americans don't get enough.) Resistance-based exercise—whether that's using free weights, weight machines, or your own body weight—is especially important: It builds lean muscle, which boosts the metabolism and helps it burn fat. Experts including the American Heart Association say that to maintain good health, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking, casual biking, dancing or gardening) every week. To lose weight, you may need more. Make it a regular aspect of your routine. 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 whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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