Obesity used to be a niche diagnosis. Yes, there were always those who were considered overweight, but individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher were by no means the norm.

Now, however, American society is experiencing its third decade of obesity as an epidemic.

Obesity is an Epidemic That Affects More Women Than Men

According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), an epidemic, “refers to an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population.” Rapidly increasing numbers of obese individuals, especially women and teens, is considered an epidemic by multiple medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, CDC, and the American Heart and Diabetes Associations.

Until now, obesity rates between men and women were relatively equal – roughly 35 percent. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has jangled the alarm bells for those focusing on women’s health. According to the study, women’s obesity rates have exceeded male obesity rates by a shocking five percent in the past decade.

Currently, obesity rates remain at 35 percent for men, but have jumped to 40 percent for women. Of those who are considered obese, as many as 10 percent are in the Type 3 obesity category, meaning they have a BMI of 40 or higher. Also alarming are the findings that 17 percent of children and teens are considered obese.

One thing is certain: in order to significantly reduce these statistics, Americans need to take a fresh, new look at what it means to live a healthy lifestyle.

A Healthy Living Paradigm Shift

Obviously, diet and activity levels are critical when it comes to battling obesity. However, many will find that losing weight – and keeping it off – requires a paradigm shift. Healthy living must permeate every aspect of one’s life.

The shift is worth it since women who are obese are at significantly higher risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Respiratory problems and sleep apnea
  • Some cancers
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem

So what can women do to fight obesity?

Re-think your diet. Sometimes, changing what you’re eating, rather than how much you’re eating, makes all the difference. Trade foods with processed sugars for those that are naturally sweet, such as fresh or dried fruit. Have healthy snacks at the ready, like chopped veggies and hummus, or cheese slices and multi-grain crackers, rather than processed salty snacks. Ditch sodas and sugary beverages (even the diet-versions) and drink water or fruit-infused water instead.

The more your diet focuses on whole foods and grains, rather than processed and sugary foods, the better off you will be.

Shift your daily patterns. Do you drive an extra five minutes in order to find the closest parking spot? Achieving a more physically active life  can be as simple as consciously re-thinking your everyday patterns. Park at the opposite end of the parking lot so you walk further. Take a flight of stairs or two before hopping on an elevator. March-in-place or do crunches during television commercials, and cut TV time to 10 hours a week or less. Make it a game for your family to move more rather than less.

Work with a health professional you trust. Obesity is often linked to depression, low self-esteem, and other negative states of mind that are difficult to escape without the help of a trusted counselor or health professional. This can be a critical step in healing your emotional well-being as well as your physical one, so healthy changes you make become permanent.