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Achieving and sustaining appropriate body weight across the lifespan is vital to maintaining good health and quality of life. Many behavioral, environmental, and genetic factors have been shown to affect a person's body weight. Calorie balance over time is the key to weight management. Calorie balance refers to the relationship between calories consumed from foods and beverages and calories expended in normal body functions and through physical activity. People cannot control the calories expended in metabolic processes, but they can control what they eat and drink, as well as how many calories they use in physical activity. Maintaining a healthy body weight and preventing excess weight gain throughout the lifespan are highly preferable to losing weight after weight gain. Once a person becomes obese, reducing body weight back to a healthy range requires significant effort over a span of time, even years. People who are most successful at losing weight and keeping it off do so through continued attention to calorie balance.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States is dramatically higher now than it was a few decades ago. This is true for all age groups. One of the largest changes has been an increase in the number of Americans in the obese category. In the 1970s, the prevalence of obesity was 5% for children ages 2 to 5 years, 4% for children ages 6 to 11 years, 6% for adolescents ages 12 to 19 years, and 15% for adults. As of 2008, the prevalence of obesity has reached 10% for children 2 to 5 years, 20% for children 6 to 11 years, 18% for adolescents 12 to 19 years, and 34% for adults. In the early 1990s, no state had an adult obesity prevalence rate of more than 25%. Since 2008, 32 states have an adult obesity rate more than 25%.1

Why It's Important

Research has shown that as people become "overweight" and "obese,"* their risk for developing the following conditions increases: 2
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and Gallbladder disease
  • Gynecological problems (abnormal periods, infertility)

What Is Known

During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese. Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years decreased significantly from 13.9% in 2003-2004 to 8.4% in 2011-2012. Obesity affects some groups more than others.
  • People who identify as Non-Hispanic African American/black had the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity (47.8%) followed by Hispanics (42.5%), non-Hispanic whites (32.6%), and non-Hispanic Asians (10.8%).
  • Obesity is higher among middle age adults, 40-59 years old (39.5%) than among younger adults, age 20-39 (30.3%) or adults aged 60 or above (35.4%).

How To Reduce Risk

For complete recommendations, please refer to Chapter 2 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010: The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn't about short-term dietary changes. It's about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses. Staying in control of your weight contributes to good health now and as you age. Prevent and/or reduce overweight and obesity through improved eating and physical activity behaviors. Control total calorie intake to manage body weight. For people who are overweight or obese, this will mean consuming fewer calories from foods and beverages. Increase physical activity and reduce time spent in sedentary behaviors. Maintain appropriate calorie balance during each stage of life-childhood, adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and older age.

Healthy eating habits
  • Follow a healthy and realistic eating pattern. You have embarked on a healthier lifestyle, now the challenge is maintaining the positive eating habits you've developed along the way. In studies of people who have lost weight and kept it off for at least a year, most continued to eat a diet lower in calories as compared to their pre-weight loss diet. For more suggestions regarding a healthful diet, visit Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight.
  • Keep your eating patterns consistent. Follow a healthy eating pattern regardless of changes in your routine. Plan ahead for weekends, vacations, and special occasions. By making a plan, it is more likely you'll have healthy foods on hand for when your routine changes.
  • Eat breakfast every day. Eating breakfast is a common trait among people who have lost weight and kept it off. Eating a healthful breakfast may help you avoid getting "over-hungry" and then overeating later in the day.
Be physically active
  • Get daily physical activity. People who have lost weight and kept it off typically engage in 60-90 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week while not exceeding calorie needs. This doesn't necessarily mean 60-90 minutes at one time. It might mean 20-30 minutes of physical activity three times a day. For example, a brisk walk in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evening. Some people may need to talk to their healthcare provider before participating in this level of physical activity.
Stay on Course
  • Monitor your diet and activity. Keeping a food and physical activity journal can help you track your progress and spot trends. For example, you might notice that your weight creeps up during periods when you have a lot of business travel or when you have to work overtime. Recognizing this tendency can be a signal to try different behaviors, such as packing your own healthful food for the plane and making time to use your hotel's exercise facility when you are traveling. Or if working overtime, maybe you can use your breaks for quick walks around the building.
  • Monitor your weight. Follow a healthy eating pattern regardless of changes in your routine. Plan ahead for weekends, vacations, and special occasions. By making a plan, it is more likely you'll have healthy foods on hand for when your routine changes.
  • Get support from family, friends, and others. People who have successfully lost weight and kept it off often rely on support from others to help them stay on course and get over any "bumps." Sometimes having a friend or partner who is also losing weight or maintaining a weight loss can help you stay motivated.

How It's Tracked

Weight status is tracked at the national and state levels primarily through two surveys:
  • Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adolescent and School Health.
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services.
National information is also tracked through the National Health And Nutrition Survey (NHANES) and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), CDC/NCHS For more information on tracking obesity health objectives, please visit the Nutrition and Weight Status topic at
1. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, downloaded on 7/5/2014 from
* Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher.
2. NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Available online:

The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Wed, 24 July 2024 13:30:23 from Utah Department of Health and Human Services, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Wed, 26 Jun 2024 10:27:17 MDT