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United States Department  of Veterans Affairs

Reduce Your Risks: Six Ways to Avoid Obesity

Nearly 36 percent of U.S. adults are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), an alarming 77 percent of all Veterans receiving care through VA are overweight or obese.

Obesity is measured using a ratio of your weight over your height to determine your body mass index, or BMI. An adult with a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. An adult with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is classified as overweight.

Avoiding obesity is important to your health and overall quality of life. Certain health conditions that can shorten your life are related to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain kinds of cancer, according to the CDC. Obesity also can affect your confidence, sleep, energy levels and everyday activities.

The following tips can help you avoid obesity and stay healthier. Doing what's best for your health may not always be easy. But setting healthy goals and trying to stick with them, even if you can't do so every day, will help you feel better throughout your life.   

Feet on a bathroom scaleChange your thinking and behavior. Your weight and health need to be front and center in your thinking. Remind yourself that maintaining your weight and living a healthy lifestyle are a permanent commitment, not a one-shot deal. Remember the many benefits that come with having a healthy weight – and the physical and health limitations that carrying too much weight can impose.

Start by weighing yourself and computing your BMI  to see if you are at risk. According to VA's National Director for Weight Management, Dr. Ken Jones, "research is showing that weighing yourself every day is a great tool for all aspects of weight management, including avoiding weight gain, losing excess weight, and making sure you are keeping weight off if you lose it.   We used to think getting on the scale every day was too stressful, but that just isn't the case. One study showed people doubled their weight loss just by weighing themselves daily." 

View of multiple treadmills in useStay active. The human body is made to move, yet so many of our daily activities keep us from doing just that: driving, working at the computer, watching television. People of all ages and body types benefit from physical activity. Even if you have not been active in a long time, there are safe ways to get moving. VA's MOVE!® Weight Management Program helps Veterans become and stay active so they can lose extra pounds and maintain a healthyweight. Check out My HealtheVet's Healthy Living Center on physical activity for ideas on how to get started and stay active. You can use the online activity journal to record and track your progress.


Dinner plate with healthy portions of proteins, starch, vegetablesEat Wisely. A healthy diet goes hand-in-hand with an active lifestyle for avoiding weight gain. Eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; drinking plenty of water and avoiding too much alcohol, soda and other sugary drinks; and replacing fats with lean protein is the way to go. MOVE!® can also help you plan a healthy diet. And you can use My HealtheVet's online food journal to track what you're eating and whether you're meeting your nutrition goals.




Man sleeping with head on pillowGet enough sleep. Research has shown that not getting a good night's rest can put you at greater risk for a host of health problems, including obesity. The My HealtheVet Sleep Center has tips and guidelines for getting the sleep you need to stay healthy. Let your health team know if you have trouble sleeping.





My Goals logo of stick figures approach of stepsSet goals. Setting goals and rewarding yourself when you meet them can be a good motivator. Buy a new pair of sneakers if you meet your goal of walking five days a week for three months in a row. New Year's resolutions are another way to set goals. But they can fall by the wayside if you make too many or have unrealistic expectations. Having a couple of achievable goals that you could realize in a reasonable timeframe is more likely to yield success. "Part of an ongoing effort to improve and transform VA health care has been teaching primary care teams to help patients set goals and make plans to improve their health," said Jones. "So be sure to talk with your provider or nurse care manager."   If you are a registered user of My HealtheVet (open to anyone),  the My Goals feature can help you identify and set your goals.

Group of older men and women at rest on treadmillFind support. Meeting goals can be easier if you have friends or family members cheering you on. Having someone to walk or take a fitness class with can make it more fun – and more likely that you'll stick with your routine. Get together with friends to exchange or try healthy recipes. If you would like more formal support, check with your local VA Medical Center or see if there is a weight loss group in your community.  Your primary care team is also ready to help support you in meeting your goals to protect your health.

Avoid obesity and the health problems that go with it. You deserve to live a healthy, active life. VA can help!

Learn More

A New Year, A New You … with a Little Help from My HealtheVet
More information about staying trim and fit

Greening Your Diet
Tips for adding fruits and vegetables to every meal

Olympic Sports Even You Can Do
Suggestions for activities to get you moving


Updated/Reviewed: August 1, 2013

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